WBEZ | education http://www.wbez.org/tags/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Could truant officers return to Chicago Public Schools? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The podcast episode has two segments. The portion dealing with our update concerning what happened to truancy officers begins at 8 minutes and 45 seconds into the program. The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">original report details why CPS truancy officers were eliminated </a>and how the district has struggled with chronic truancy.</em></p><p>There are lots of reasons why kids cut class: issues at home, issues with friends, undiagnosed disabilities, etc. But for a while now, Chicago Public Schools has been without a consistent, district-wide mechanism to physically find those students and bring them back to school. Years ago, CPS had a specific job position to perform this work. This is a short update on a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">question we answered about the fate of those workers</a>.</p><p>To refresh your memory, here&rsquo;s the original question we received from Curious Citizen Saundra Oglesby:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&rsquo;t there truant officers, riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>While we <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282" target="_blank">answered Saundra&rsquo;s question</a> earlier this year, we learned that this job position was eliminated back in 1992. At that time, the district faced a $315 million dollar budget shortfall and, to close the gap, it laid off each one of its 150 truant officers.</p><p>So, if all of this is 20-year-old history, and we&rsquo;ve answered this question before, why look at it again?</p><p>Well, first off, we never heard from someone who actually did the work for CPS. We had tried to find a former CPS truant officer ... but failed. Luckily, though, a former truant officer found us after he heard our story, and he can now provide an account of the nitty gritty, pavement-pounding nature of his former job.</p><p>And, more importantly, we&rsquo;re tackling some news: A state task force took a hard look at this question, too, and it suggested some fixes for CPS to improve its record when it comes to keeping kids in class. It turns out the state of Illinois is interested in having truant officers return to CPS &mdash; at least in theory.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The trouble with truancy</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s clear that in the years since CPS let go of its truant officers, the district struggled to tamp down chronic absenteeism. A student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses nine or more days of school without a valid excuse. Back in the day, if a kid was missing much class, a principal could call on a truant officer to track the student them down. Since eliminating the position, the district has tried everything from robocalls to tasking traditional teachers with the work.</p><p>But truancy has remained a big problem. As <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf" target="_blank">Catalyst Chicago</a> magazine reported &mdash; and the district confirmed &mdash; a little more than a quarter of of CPS students were chronically truant during the 2013-2014 school year.<span style="text-align: center;">And a </span><a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html" style="text-align: center;" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a><span style="text-align: center;"> investigation revealed that one in eight elementary school students missed the equivalent of a month or more during the 2010 school year. In other words, if a student keeps at that pace, he or she could miss a year of schooling before beginning high school. Stats like that prompted the state of Illinois to create a task force to come up with fixes to CPS&rsquo; &ldquo;empty desk epidemic.</span></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe><span style="text-align: center;">&rdquo;</span></p><p>Among other things, the task force recommends that districts use consistent language and terminology when it comes to attendance and truancy. Task force members also want better, real-time attendance data that can be accessed by key stakeholders such as state agencies, district officials, school staff and and parents. They want better coordination between community and state service providers, so that families and students with insecure housing aren&rsquo;t lost in the system.</p><p>But number one on the task force&rsquo;s list: Bring back truant officers. According to the 150-page <a href="http://www.isbe.net/TCPSTF/pdf/tcpstf-final-report.pdf" target="_blank">Final Report of the Truancy in Public Schools Task Force</a>, &ldquo;the strategy most identified as necessary to combat absenteeism and truancy in CPS schools by reporters, researchers, community leaders and parents was the re-institution of truancy officers.&rdquo;</p><p>Again, Curious City tried to track one of those officers down for our first story &mdash; but we couldn&rsquo;t find one. True to form, one found us.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Meet officer Nelson</span></p><p>Patrick Nelson was right out of college when he applied to be a substitute teacher with CPS. But a chance run-in with the person in charge of the district&rsquo;s dropout prevention program steered him toward a full-time position as a truant officer. There were about 150 officers covering more than 600 schools at the time, so he was responsible for between five and seven schools. His territory was around the old Cabrini Green public housing development, which, in the early &lsquo;90s was overrun by poverty and crime.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pat%20nelson.jpg" style="float: left; width: 280px; height: 398px;" title="(Photo courtesy Patrick Nelson)" />&ldquo;It would often be the case that the parents themselves didn&rsquo;t have the way with all [sic] to understand the importance of education,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Life had given them such a thrashing, they&rsquo;re living in a situation of denial.&rdquo;</p><p>Nelson had to navigate those issues while also enforcing the compulsory education law, which states that every child age 6 to 17 be in a school setting. He describes one situation he had with a fourth grader living in the housing project. Every time he checked on the boy, he says, there were boxes &mdash; tons of them &mdash; just sitting inside the front door of the apartment.</p><p>&ldquo;She stated that &lsquo;I am only here temporarily,&rsquo;&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Well, I was at that school for two years and I would visit that kid off and on,those boxes were at that door. She was in a state of denial about where she was and what was important. I could only do what I could do to stabilize that particular student and make him feel welcome at school.&rdquo;</p><p>Nelson says he tried to be as positive and uplifting with children as possible, to show them that someone cared &mdash; and noticed &mdash; they were missing. He went to their homes and local playlots, but he steered clear of the kids who were getting into trouble or selling drugs on the corner. He believes his job called for the enforcement of one law, while the rest fell under local police&rsquo;s jurisdiction. And, Nelson says, he had a great relationship with the Chicago Police Department. If he saw a kid was up to no good, he filed the necessary paperwork; it worked both ways. He had his own safety to consider too.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t want to get in the way of someone&rsquo;s revenue stream,&rdquo; Nelson explains. &ldquo;Oftentimes in the community, the student who was out of the street, selling drugs or whatever, is one of the sole breadwinners of the family. And when you get in front of a family&rsquo;s revenue stream and you make trouble for them ... To me, that&rsquo;s not really positive.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A catch-all strategy?</span></p><p>Recall that a state task force recommended the return of truant officers to CPS. Actually, it&rsquo;s more complicated than that. The group does recommend the district re-commit itself to the idea of truant officers, but it&rsquo;s a new idea of truant officers. These attendance coordinators should do more than physically find students and return them to school; they should also have a background in psychology or social work, data analysis and training in counseling.</p><p>Jeff Aranowski with the State Board of Education says the task force did not get into the day-to-day function of the attendance coordinators, other than that they be &ldquo;the central person responsible for both community-basis, school-wide basis, a district-wide basis for those kids and tracking those kids.&rdquo; He says the task force didn&rsquo;t want to come up with a list of recommendations with price tags attached.</p><p>&ldquo;We were also cognizant that we didn&rsquo;t want to leave things off the list of recommendations that we thought would actually have a great impact,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>The task force shared its recommendations with CPS and the General Assembly at the end of July. In turn, the district shared a draft of its new <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_draft_report.pdf" target="_blank">attendance improvement and truancy prevention plans</a>. As for whether an attendance coordinator would have enough time in the day to pound pavement, crunch numbers, counsel families, report on and revisit individual cases ... Aranowski says he&rsquo;s not sure.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why we wanted someone where their role was attendance coordinator,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Whether that would mean an extra hat for an existing employee not having time to do that, I don&rsquo;t think that would be best practice. But again, putting the rubber to the road as it were, we&rsquo;re going to have to see what CPS comes up with in terms of their policy.&rdquo;</p><p>Aranowski says there are few statutory requirements of what an attendance policy would look like, and he thinks the task force will be able to weigh in, whether they agree with CPS&rsquo; policy or not.</p><p>As for Nelson, he thinks a catch-all position is doomed to fail.</p><p>&ldquo;You put too much plumbing in the works, you&rsquo;re gonna get clogs,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">Foll</a><a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101 Why so few white kids land in CPS — and why it matters http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 <p><p>Legal segregation may be over in Chicago, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/segregated-education-k-12-100456" target="_blank">racial isolation is well documented</a> in Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS can <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/MagnetSchoolsConsentDecree.aspx" target="_blank">no longer use race</a> as an admittance factor and more and more students are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604" target="_blank">eschewing their neighborhood schools</a> for other options. Education watchers argue there&rsquo;s a two-tier system in the district, and that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519" target="_blank">attracting middle-class families</a> is a Sisyphean task.</p><p>Our segregated school system compelled the following Curious City question from a woman who wanted to remain anonymous:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What percentage of white Chicago school age children attend public school?</em></p><p>Well, the short answer is 51 percent... according to the Census.</p><p>So roughly half of all white children who <em>could </em>go to CPS do, while the other half gets their education somewhere else. By comparison, the number of African-American school-age children who attend CPS is higher than 80 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>Part of this can be explained by a huge gap in the total number of eligible students based on race. More on that later, but first, let&rsquo;s take a closer look at how white parents decide where to send their kids to school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where should our kids go to school?</span></p><p>Of course, choosing where to enroll your child in school is an intense and private family decision. Some parents want their children to get a religious education, others want better resources, and sometimes where to go to school is simply a matter of logistics.</p><p>Alice DuBose lives in Andersonville and says she never had a problem with the neighborhood public school. But she did have a problem with its location relative to her job.</p><p>When her children were in elementary school, DuBose worked at the University of Chicago. She enrolled her three children in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;I could drop the kids off in the morning and go on to work and it was really great when I was working here because then I could just go over and see my daughters, participate in classroom activities to it was absolutely fantastic in that way,&quot; DuBose said.&nbsp;&quot;It was more convenient. If we had gone to a neighborhood school, I could&rsquo;ve never participated in classroom activities.&quot;</p><p>It also didn&rsquo;t hurt that Laboratory is a well-regarded private school with lots of resources. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s children go there.</p><p>&ldquo;Lab&rsquo;s terrific,&rdquo; DuBose continued. &ldquo;Great teaching, smaller classrooms. All the things that we all want for our children.&rdquo;</p><p>DuBose&rsquo;s daughters attended there until 8th grade and then went on to attend Whitney Young &ndash; a CPS selective enrollment school. Now DuBose hopes her son follows in their footsteps.</p><p>The reality is many middle-class parents, including those not initially in CPS, jockey to get their children in selective public high schools like Whitney Young.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools&rsquo;</span></p><p>Not far from Lab in Hyde Park, is a white family who was committed to CPS from the very beginning.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joy%20clendenning%20michael%20scott%20hyde%20park.jpg" title="Joy Clendenning, left, and Michael Scott, right, live in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. All four of their children have enrolled or graduated from a Chicago public school. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></div><p>Joy Clendenning and Michael Scott live in Hyde Park. They didn&rsquo;t choose the neighborhood because of the schools. Scott grew up there and has strong family ties and Clendenning loves the quirky intellectualism of the area. The couple say they believe in public education and always knew their children would attend CPS. A sign in their window says &lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools.&rsquo;</p><p>All four of their children attended Ray Elementary through sixth grade. The oldest went to Kenwood Academy&rsquo;s 7th and 8th grade academic center and stayed for high school. He&rsquo;s now a freshman at Occidental College. The second oldest is a sophomore at Whitney Young and started in its academic center. Their twins are currently in 8th grade at Kenwood. &nbsp;</p><p>Ray is a neighborhood school that also accepts students outside its attendance boundary through a lottery. 20 percent of its students are white and 55 percent black. Kenwood is the neighborhood high school and is 86 percent black. Their son was one of only a couple of white students in his graduating class.</p><p>&ldquo;Kenwood was a very good place for Sam and we never thought &#39;this was too black,&#39;&rdquo; Scott said.</p><p>Clendenning says they&#39;re concerned about how many schools and neighborhoods are segregated.</p><p>&quot;And we definitely think it&rsquo;s a problem that people in our neighborhood don&rsquo;t give the public schools a serious try,&quot; she added.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yearbookphoto1.png" title="Sam Clendenning was one of only a handful of white students in his graduating class at Kenwood Academy. (Photo courtesy of Joy Clendenning) " /></div><p>Our Curious City question asker &ndash; who again wants to remain anonymous &ndash; raised a similar point in a follow-up email:</p><blockquote><p><em>I asked this question because I&#39;ve noticed in my small sampling of visiting public schools, other than a few of the magnet schools, it seems that we have a segregated school system along race lines.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few school-age white children in the city</span></p><p>We know Chicago is almost equal parts black, Latino and white, but that&rsquo;s not the case when it comes to the city&rsquo;s youth. So while roughly a third of Chicago&rsquo;s total population is white, most of those numbers skew older. That means there aren&rsquo;t that many white school-age children to begin with.</p><p>Of the some 400,000 students enrolled in CPS K-12, 180,274 are Hispanic, 163,595 are black and just 33,659 are white. Even if all 65,259 eligible white students in the city went to CPS, they&rsquo;d still be far outnumbered by students who are black and brown.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/school%20age%20eligibility1.png" title="Data measures K-12 enrollment. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago Public Schools " /></div><p>Why does any of this matter?</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, when you look at the data, it&rsquo;s very disturbing,&rdquo; Elaine Allensworth told WBEZ. Allensworth is the director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I do think we think of ourselves as a multi-ethnic city, a city of racial diversity. But then when you look at the numbers and you see how many schools are one-race schools and how segregated schools are based on race, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s where we want to be as a society,&quot; she said.</p><p>Segregation is made worse by the low number of white students overall.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of neighborhoods in the city that are 90 percent or more African American or less than 10 percent African American. In fact, the vast majority of the city has that degree of racial segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.</p><p>In other words, if we don&rsquo;t live together, we don&rsquo;t tend to learn together.</p><p><a href="http://ec2-23-22-21-132.compute-1.amazonaws.com/chicagoschools" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolsPromo1_0_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Click to launch 2010 map. " /></a><span style="font-size:22px;">Segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools</span></p><p>Take Mt. Greenwood, for example, on the Southwest Side. 82 percent of the student body is white &ndash;&nbsp;the highest percentage in all of CPS. And that makes sense. Mt. Greenwood, the neighborhood, is a majority white community.</p><p>The same holds true for many majority black communities.</p><p>As a result, the schools that serve the neighborhoods are also highly segregated based on race,&rdquo; Allensworth continued. &ldquo;So we have many many schools in the district that are close to 100 percent African American.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Finteractive.wbez.org%2Fschools%2Fthe-big-sort.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEk2nK5oAwUsugvrZs7E0f7b8ZPzQ" target="_blank">Those poor-performing schools are typically in poor, black communities</a>&nbsp;that are suffering from substantial unemployment and lack of resources.</p><p>&ldquo;When we look at which schools are struggling the most, they are in the absolutely poorest neighborhoods in the city. &nbsp;We&rsquo;re talking about economic segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.&ldquo;There are other schools in affluent African-American communities that do not face the same kind of problems.&rdquo;</p><p>Segregated schools have always been an issue in Chicago, but it <em>looked </em>different back in the day.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20to%202013%20draft3.png" title="Sources: Chicago Public Schools Racial Ethnic Surveys and Stats and Facts" /></div></div><p>In the 1960s, CPS&rsquo;s student body was roughly 50 percent white and 50 percent black. Over time white students in the district steadily disappeared. Many neighborhoods transitioned from white to black. Depopulation also played a role.</p><p><span style="text-align: center;">In 1975, whites made up about 25 percent of the student body. By 2013 only 9 percent of CPS students were white.</span></p><p>WBEZ asked CPS officials to weigh in on these numbers. They failed to address the segregation issue and emailed some boilerplate language about &ldquo;serving a diverse population.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS 2013 pie chart3.png" style="height: 361px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Source: Chicago Public Schools Race/Ethnic Report School Year 2013-2014" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Where are the white students in CPS?</span></p><p>Again, we know half of white school-age children in Chicago attend CPS. But the question of where they go in CPS is also something that piqued the curiosity of our question asker.</p><p>She wondered if they are disproportionately attending magnet and other selective enrollment schools.</p><p>The answer appears to be, yes.</p><p>Overall, 9 percent of the CPS student population is white. But it&rsquo;s more than double that at magnet, gifted and classical elementary schools. And in the eight selective enrollment high schools &ndash; like Whitney Young &ndash; nearly a quarter of students are white.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very small number of students though because those schools don&rsquo;t serve a large number of students,&rdquo; according to Elaine Allensworth. &ldquo;We really haven&rsquo;t seen that much of a shift in terms of attracting more white students [overall].&rdquo;</p><p>Although our question asker focused on white students, there&rsquo;s another racial shift worth mentioning.</p><p>Beyond black and white, the real story of CPS today may be that it&rsquo;s becoming more Latino.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the requirements for attending Ray Elementary. It is a neighborhood school that accepts students outside its attendance boundaries through a lottery, not testing.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 High school students play Election Day role http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Andy Connen schools.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In second period AP Government at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, there are just four students eligible to vote today.</p><p>Daniel Mortge is one of them.</p><p>&ldquo;My dad wants to take a picture of me, but I told him, &lsquo;No, you can&rsquo;t do that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mortge says.</p><p>But the rest of the students in this class defy just about every stereotype you&rsquo;ve likely heard about teenagers and politics.</p><p>The class is taught by Andy Conneen and Dan Larsen, who are somewhat famous locally for getting high school kids involved in the political process. The two worked with past groups of students to get Illinois&rsquo; &ldquo;Suffrage at 17&rdquo; law passed. It allows 17-year-olds to vote in the primaries if they&rsquo;ll be 18 by Election Day.</p><p>On the day I visit, the day before Election Day, one student is sharing a stack of political mail with the other students at his table, three others are preparing for their live election night broadcast, others are debriefing with the teachers about the last-minute push for the campaigns they&rsquo;ve been working on.</p><p>And a handful are getting ready to work in jobs that are pivotal on the first Tuesday in November.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to be an election judge tomorrow in Lake Zurich,&rdquo; says Fathma Rahman, a 17-year-old student.</p><p>Rahman is one of about 50 Stevenson students serving as an election judge this year. Across the Chicago region, about 2,000 students are working as election judges. In Chicago, the Chicago Board of Elections and Mikva Challenge have teamed up for the past 15 years to get students working as judges.This year, nearly 1,500 students will work at city precincts.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175370854&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>All received the necessary training, but Rahman said she&rsquo;s still nervous.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just kind of a big deal, you&rsquo;re helping people, you&rsquo;re putting through their votes,&rdquo; Rahman says. &ldquo;For them, they&rsquo;re just filling it out and giving it to you. But then for you, it&rsquo;s like &lsquo;What if I mess up?&rsquo;&rdquo;<br /><br />Students do have an academic incentive to get involved: five hours of what Conneen calls &ldquo;political service&rdquo; in exchange for a take-home essay for a portion of the final exam.</p><p>But Conneen says the class is more than just a class.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We try to make Civics a lifestyle,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />He says many young people dismiss political participation altogether because they don&rsquo;t see a party that they&rsquo;d fit into.<br /><br />&ldquo;Both parties have become so polarized because those independents and moderates have left the parties, because they&rsquo;re upset with how polarized the parties have become,&rdquo; Conneen explains. &ldquo;So it actually makes the problem worse.&rdquo;</p><p>He says he thinks the solution to that polarization lies with young people, who tend to be moderates.</p><p>&ldquo;We feel strongly about connecting students with the political parties,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;They tend to have a lot of common sense solutions to policy conflicts. We hear it all the time when we&rsquo;re talking policy in class. And those voices should be heard by the parties.&rdquo;<br /><br />Conneen says students volunteer for both Republicans and Democrats, and the teachers try to keep a pretty even split. It isn&rsquo;t too hard in Lake County, he says.<br /><br />&ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins Governor,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins the 10th Congressional District, and so these are two of the most watched, highly contested contests in the country.&rdquo;<br /><br />Most of these Stevenson students may not get to cast a ballot in those contests, but living in an area with races that are a toss-up can be a good backdrop for teaching democracy.</p><p>Before the bell rings, Conneen reminds students who are election judging to bring both food and extra work.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hey Election Judges! For the first time ever in Lake County, they actually expect that more voters will vote early (rather) than on election day, which means there might be some down time tomorrow. Bring a little homework. Bring a little homework,&rdquo; Conneen tells them.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-de9644bd-7c90-a7f4-a511-d796c83d826a"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 14:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059 Half of all public school students in Illinois now considered low-income http://www.wbez.org/news/half-all-public-school-students-illinois-now-considered-low-income-111044 <p><p>Illinois has hit a milestone it was not trying for.</p><p>Numbers <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029">released</a> by the Illinois State Board of Education in its <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/">annual school report card</a> show that&mdash;for the first time ever&mdash;low-income children now outnumber middle-class students in the state&rsquo;s public schools. It&rsquo;s a trend that could affect everything from the state&rsquo;s economic competitiveness to college-going rates to concerns over upward economic mobility in a time of increasing income inequality.</p><p>Around 1.05 million kids qualified for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-14 school year.</p><p>&ldquo;Does that create challenges? Absolutely,&rdquo; says Illinois state school superintendent Christopher Koch. &ldquo;Students are coming with more needs to schools and this is at a time when of course we&rsquo;ve been having all the financial stresses in funding education&hellip;. There&rsquo;s a lot of lines in our budget that serve needy students that have taken significant reductions and we have not been able to get those back to 2009 levels.&rdquo;</p><p>The percentage of Illinois students who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch&mdash;long used by schools as a rough proxy for family income&mdash;has <a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/Classic/State.aspx?source=About_Students&amp;source2=Educational_Environment">climbed steadily since 2000</a>. In that year, 36.7 percent of Illinois public school students were considered low-income. Today, 51.5 percent are.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/Classic/State.aspx?source=About_Students&amp;source2=Educational_Environment"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/POVERTY-2-percentage-of-low-income-students-in-Illinois-public-schools-over-time.png" title="" /></a></div><p><em>In the 1999-2000 school year, 36.7 percent of Illinois public schoolchildren qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Today, 51.5 percent qualify. All the increase has occurred in suburban and downstate school districts. &nbsp;</em></p><p>According to <a href="http://www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/data.htm">federal guidelines</a>, which are adjusted for cost-of-living increases each year, a family of four earning less than about $31,000 annually would qualify for a free lunch at school; kids whose parents earn less than $44,000 would get a reduced-price lunch. &nbsp;</p><p>Illinois joins at least <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/10/study-almost-half-of-public-school-students-are-now-low-income/280664/">17 other states</a> in the dubious distinction of having a majority of its public school students considered low-income. Both Texas and California have topped 50 percent in recent years, and a majority of public school students are low-income across the entire South and West. Nationwide, the figure is 48 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;This has tremendous implications,&rdquo; said Michael Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University and the attorney who successfully sued the state of New York for more school funding for city kids. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have an education crisis in the United States, we have a poverty crisis.&rdquo;</p><p>Rebell says poor students need services&mdash;from before- and after-school opportunities to summer programs to health care and preschool&mdash;and all of it costs more. He says &ldquo;irrational funding systems&rdquo; for education in the U.S. mean affluent kids attend schools that spend more per pupil than schools serving poor kids.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Growth in poverty hits suburbs, downstate districts hardest</span></p><p>In Illinois, nearly all the increase in low-income students since 2000 has taken place outside Chicago. The percentage of students in Chicago Public Schools who are considered low-income has remained relatively stable since 2000, at about 86 percent. Two-thirds of the state&rsquo;s low-income kids now live outside the city.</p><p>In Community Consolidated School District 62 in Des Plaines, 57 percent of children in that 11-school district are now low-income&mdash; a 250 percent increase since 2000.</p><p>&ldquo;Every year we have been adding Title I schools. Even our schools that have typically been the more affluent schools in our neighborhoods are now also seeing that they qualify for Title I (federal poverty) funding,&rdquo; says District 62 superintendent Jane Westerhold.</p><p>Des Plaines schools have also become more Latino, another statewide trend. For the first time this year, white students dipped under 50 percent of the public school population as a whole.</p><p>Westerhold says she believes that much more than students&rsquo; racial or ethnic backgrounds, it is poverty that is challenging schools.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about our subgroups of students that are Hispanic students or Asian students or black students. It&rsquo;s really not about that. It&rsquo;s about poverty--that is where the achievement gap is.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/naeptools.aspx"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/POVERTY-3-achievement-gaps.png" title="" /></a></div><p>Advocates for low-income students believe states like Illinois must examine how well schools are doing with low-income kids. Daria Hall, the K-12 policy director at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., says Illinois is behind the national average both in terms of how low-income students perform, and the rate at which they are improving.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois is going to have to take a very serious look at what kind of supports and opportunities it&rsquo;s giving to low-income students. These students are no longer the minority. They are our public school population,&rdquo; says Hall. And she takes issue with another gap as well: &ldquo;When you look at the dollars that are spent per pupil in high-poverty versus low-poverty districts within Illinois, the gap is glaring. If Illinois is in fact committed to providing low-income kids with an equitable educational opportunity, they need to address that gap.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Challenging the numbers, looking beyond schools</span></p><p>Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank, says it&rsquo;s possible that free and reduced-price lunch counts may be inflated (<a href="http://educationnext.org/fraud-in-the-lunchroom/">http://educationnext.org/fraud-in-the-lunchroom/</a>). The lunch counts have risen faster than child poverty rates, and Petrilli notes they include both students living in poverty and children just above it.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of (this) almost certainly reflects what&rsquo;s been happening under the recession. It also reflects that a growing number of our students are coming from immigrant families that tend to be much poorer than the families that were going to the public schools 10 or 20 or 30 years ago,&rdquo; says Petrilli.</p><p>He says the country needs a better strategy for getting kids into the middle class. &ldquo;Right now I worry that too many of our reform efforts and our policies are focused on college as the only pathway to the middle class. We&rsquo;re not having much success getting low-income kids all the way through college.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.russellsage.org/blog/growing-college-graduation-income-gap">Studies </a>have shown that half of all higher income Americans have a college degree by age 25, while just 10 percent of low-income individuals do.</p><p>&ldquo;We have got to make sure that we have strategies for all the other kids as well,&rdquo; says Petrilli. He says that includes vocational programs that put high school graduates in the workforce right away and allow them to &ldquo;climb the ladder that way. That absolutely is still a good way to the middle class,&rdquo; says Petrilli.</p><p>Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and author of the book <em>Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black&ndash;White Achievement Gap</em>, says poverty wreaks its damage long before students ever show up at school. &ldquo;The best way to raise achievement with Illinois children would be to ensure that their parents had more secure employment, the unemployment rate was lower, they had a higher minimum wage, they &nbsp;could afford to live in stable housing--where children can flourish (and) where they had access to good health care. Those are the policy responses that are called for by these kinds of data. There is very little schools can do once children come to school unprepared to take advantage of what schools can offer.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, Steve Suitts, the vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, authored a report showing<a href="http://www.southerneducation.org/getattachment/0bc70ce1-d375-4ff6-8340-f9b3452ee088/A-New-Majority-Low-Income-Students-in-the-South-an.aspx"> the majority of all students in the South and West of the United States are now considered low-income</a>. He says growing inequality in the nation isn&rsquo;t produced in the short-term by schools, &ldquo;but if our education systems don&rsquo;t perform better in educating low-income students, it will in fact sustain, perpetuate, and grow the inequality.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Suitts says he worries about a society of the haves and the have-nots.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;m not sure that we can ask educators to tackle the problems of poverty in America on their own. There&#39;s got to be a broader community of people focused on this central question. If we continue to grow low-income students and we don&#39;t grow their achievement, then that is simply going to affect everybody&#39;s well-being in the future.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/llutton-0"><em>Linda Lutton</em></a><em> is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 08:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/half-all-public-school-students-illinois-now-considered-low-income-111044 State releases school test scores, other new data http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/7674804806_7bd5ff8688_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s 2014&mdash;the year when No Child Left Behind stated 100 percent of public school children in America were to be proficient in math and reading.</p><p>Spoiler alert: that didn&rsquo;t happen. Not here and not in any other state.</p><p>Scores released today by the Illinois State Board of Education show the percentage of grammar school children considered proficient in reading dipped to 56.8 percent from 58.5 percent, while the percentage of students meeting state standards in math inched up to 58.9 percent from 57.9 percent.</p><p>The percentage of high school juniors meeting standards in reading and math rose from 53.3 percent to 54.3 percent. The average ACT score increased slightly, from 20.3 to 20.4.</p><p>Next year, Illinois will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, for grammar school children and the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, for high school juniors with the PARCC exam, a computer-based test aligned to the Common Core.</p><p>But in a conference call with reporters, State Superintendent Christopher Koch said looking at only reading and math scores to measure a school&rsquo;s success isn&rsquo;t really healthy.</p><p>&ldquo;That was far too crude,&rdquo; Koch said. &ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have been doing that as a measure to indicate whether a school was good or bad. It&rsquo;s just not that simple or straightforward.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch pointed to the new data added to the report card this year&mdash;like how many students are enrolling in college within a year of graduation and how many teachers stay at a school each year. Statewide, 66.3 percent of high school graduates are enrolled in college within 12 months of graduation and overall, 85.6 percent of teachers stayed teaching in the same school they taught in last year. A school-by-school breakdown is available at <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com">illinoisreportcard.com</a>.</p><p>That information&mdash;and a lot more&mdash;was added this year after the federal government granted Illinois, and many other states, flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which focused almost entirely on test scores.</p><p>In order to get flexibility, states had to outline a specific plan for measuring school performance that would replace the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The federal government granted waivers to 41 states and the District of Columbia.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 06:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029 Global Activism: Sonia Shah Foundation Update http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Sonia Shah_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Accomplished, multilingual Winnetka teenager, Sonia Shah, traveled and studied around the world. She started the <a href="http://www.kulsoomfoundation.org/" target="_blank">Kulsoom Foundation for Girls</a> (now named the <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/#">Sonia Shah Foundation</a>) to build a school for girls in Pakistan. But before the school was completed, Sonia was tragically taken from us in a 2012 auto accident at age 18. Since then, Sonia&#39;s mother, Iram Shah, has taken the baton to continue her daughter&#39;s work. We <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-kulsoom-foundation-build-girls-school-pakistan-honor-late">first spoke with Iram</a> in 2013. For today&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, she&#39;s back for an update.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>The Sonia Shah Foundation&#39;s <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/join-us-september-20th/">annual gala</a> will be Saturday, September 23rd, 2014 at 5:30pm at the Oak Brook Hills Resort, 3500 Midwest Road, Oak Brook IL, 60523.</strong></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168326357&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe>In 2011, Sonia was the youngest intern at Capital Hill and in 2012, she was one of the youngest intern at Obama campaign headquarters. In his condolence letter, President Obama says &lsquo;although Sonia was one of the youngest interns at the campaign headquarters, she was one of the most determined&rsquo;</p><p><em>Iram reflected on Sonia and her mission ahead of a 2013 Foundation event:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">As we prepare for the big day, I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey&hellip;people who donated, people who contributed through their service, words of sympathy&hellip;you are all awesome!!...You are all part of this journey of helping to change lives of girls, who will change their communities and eventually our world!</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&hellip;For me personally it has been a very emotional but fulfilling journey. Sonia&rsquo;s legacy and mission continues. Although my dream for Sonia to grow up into a mature woman, get married and have children will never be fulfilled but I guess her dream of helping poor girls is more meaningful than my dream for her! I still long for Sonia but slowly beginning to feel that instead of mourning her death, I should celebrate her life more.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&ldquo;What moves through me is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, we may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget&rdquo;.</p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 What Robin Williams taught us about teaching http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching-110638 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_14.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Amid all the remembrances today of Robin Williams and the <a href="https://storify.com/shamani/oh-captain-my-captain" target="_blank">tributes to his many famous roles</a>, among the most commonly invoked are not one, but two memorable portrayals of great teaching.</p><p>The phrase &quot;<a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=oh%20captain%20my%20captain&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">Oh Captain, my Captain</a>&quot; is echoing across Twitter, a line from 1989&#39;s Dead Poets Society. In this role, Williams turns the stuffy conformity of a 1950s boarding school inside out. As a young, handsome, floppy-haired English teacher with the highly apropos name of John Keating, Williams makes the classroom a stage, pulling out all the stops to get his students excited about the wonders of poetry, and, by extension, life.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/vq_XBP3NrBo" width="620"></iframe></p><p>He whispers in the students&#39; ears, rips pages out of the textbook and leaps onto the desk to hail the vital necessity of great literature: &quot;In my class you will learn to think for yourselves again &mdash; you will learn to savor words and language!&quot;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/vdXhWS7lLvs" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We would all be lucky to have at least one teacher like this: a truly great lecturer whose passion for his subject is infectious. In the climactic scene, his students pay homage to a master who has changed their lives.</p><p>But this is not the only paradigm for great teaching.</p><p>In 1997&#39;s Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon is an autodidact &mdash; a primarily self-taught genius. He finds an academic mentor, an acclaimed mathematician played by Stellan Skarsgard. But his relationship with Robin Williams&#39; character is at the emotional core of the film.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/qM-gZintWDc" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Williams plays a therapist, not a teacher per se. But it&#39;s clear that he&#39;s there to teach Will Hunting what he really needs to know: how to get out of his own way, to grow past his abusive and lonely childhood and to put aside his guilt at moving beyond his rough background in South Boston. He does this by meeting Will on his turf, by opening up and by listening as much as he talks.</p><p>Back in 1993, California State University professor Alison King wrote an article for the journal <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27558571?uid=3739976&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=4&amp;uid=3739256&amp;sid=21104049910801" target="_blank">College Teaching</a> that became hugely influential. The title: &quot;From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In most college classrooms, the professor lectures and the students listen and take notes,&quot; she begins. She advocated updating this model with one of &quot;active learning,&quot; where understanding is constructed in the mind of the student. The teacher is there not to captivate his or her audience, but to get them talking, processing information and reformulating it in &quot;new and personally meaningful ways.&quot; This is the &quot;guide on the side&quot; model, with the student placed at the center.</p><p>In his blazing, virtuosic performances, Williams embodied the sage on the stage &mdash; a manic, wisecracking sage, sure, but one who always held the audience spellbound. As Good Will Hunting&#39;s Sean Maguire, a character who overcame his own rough upbringing and struggles with the loss of his wife, he risked vulnerability. This quieter, generous performance won him an Oscar. He was playing a guide on the side, the kind we would all hope to have in our lives.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/12/339735740/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching-110638 At 73, man finally gets diploma denied for defying segregation http://www.wbez.org/news/73-man-finally-gets-diploma-denied-defying-segregation-110630 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alva_earley-a17bdc9d17e8995d9664441c77e10fe34ab01d8f-s40-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Alva Earley shows off his diploma after receiving it from Galesburg Superintendent Bart Arthur. (Evan Temchin/Knox College)" /></div><p>There was no pomp and circumstance, no procession with classmates, but on Friday a school district in Illinois finally handed Alva Early his high school diploma &mdash; more than five decades after he attended Galesburg High School.</p><p>In 1959, Galesburg banned Earley from graduating and denied him a diploma after he and other African-Americans had a picnic in a park that was unofficially off-limits to blacks.</p><p>Earley, now a retired attorney, says he never thought the day would come, but as the Galesburg class of &#39;59 gathered for a reunion this weekend, the school superintendent called Earley forward, dressed in his college gown, to accept his diploma.</p><p>A school counselor had warned him in 1959 there could be a price to pay for challenging the city&#39;s entrenched segregation &mdash; but Earley went anyway.</p><p>&quot;We were just trying to send a message that we are people, too,&quot; Earley says. &quot;We just had lunch. For that, I didn&#39;t graduate.&quot;</p><p>Universities, including Northwestern and the University of Chicago, withdrew their acceptance letters. The president of Knox College in Galesburg later allowed Earley to enroll after learning about the park incident.</p><p>Earley went on to graduate from the University of Illinois, and earn a law degree and a doctorate of divinity. The lack of a high school diploma always haunted him, though. Growing up with an abusive father, Earley says, high school was both his home and a refuge.</p><p>&quot;The fact that I could not get a cap and gown on and march down the aisle with my classmates &mdash; it meant the world to me,&quot; he says. &quot;It hurt so bad.&quot;</p><p>He kept it a secret until a Knox College reunion last year, when he told some of those former high school classmates, including Owen Muelder.</p><p>&quot;Well, we were thunderstruck,&quot; says Muelder, a Knox College historian who runs the Underground Railroad museum on campus.</p><p>&quot;Here&#39;s this community and college founded before the Civil War, that was a leader in the anti-slavery movement,&quot; he says, &quot;and here it was that a little over 100 years later something so outrageous could have occurred in our community.&quot;</p><p>Muelder and another classmate, Lowell Peterson, turned to Galesburg school officials for help. Superintendent Bart Arthur says after a search, the district found Earley&#39;s transcript, which showed he had enough credits and was even marked with the word &quot;graduate.&quot;</p><p>&quot;He had A&#39;s and B&#39;s on his report card,&quot; Arthur says. &quot;I guess he did have a couple C&#39;s. One of them was in typewriting, and I can sure understand that.&quot;</p><p>In a sometimes-emotional speech during the ceremony, Earley thanked his former classmates.</p><p>&quot;The important thing was not that I got the diploma,&quot; he said. &quot;It was that they tried to get me a diploma. They succeeded. They cared about me.&quot;</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">&mdash;</em>&nbsp;<i><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/08/10/339212827/at-73-man-finally-gets-diploma-denied-for-defying-segregation">via NRP&#39;s Code Switch blog</a></i></p></p> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/73-man-finally-gets-diploma-denied-defying-segregation-110630 On education, candidates for Illinois governor closer than they think http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rauner-christie.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Republican candidate for Illinois governor says he&rsquo;ll soon be talking more about his top priority: education. Bruce Rauner has been involved in education for years, giving lots of money to schools and programs he believes in. But expanding his vision in Illinois&rsquo; political climate is another matter altogether.</p><p>Bruce Rauner, the Republican venture capitalist, has made a name for himself in education - literally. Rauner College Prep is a charter school on Chicago&rsquo;s near west side. He&rsquo;s also been recognized by education groups for his philanthropic work.</p><p>&ldquo;Education is simply the most important thing we do together as a community. There&rsquo;s nothing more important,&rdquo; Rauner said during a debate organized by ABC 7 and Univision in the Republican primary. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s our future. It&rsquo;s our democracy. It&rsquo;s our income level. It&rsquo;s at the core of every challenge that we face.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources say Rauner was active behind the scenes in one of the biggest education policy initiatives to pass the state legislature in recent years. Senate Bill 7 was later signed into law by Rauner&rsquo;s now-Democratic opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The legislation dealt with teacher strike votes, evaluations and tenure. But when negotiations around those issues veered away from Rauner&rsquo;s own vision, he distanced himself from the bill.</p><p>Some who&rsquo;ve worked closely with Rauner on education issues say debates like that are why he is running for governor - to have the authority &nbsp;to put his stamp on education policy.</p><p>&ldquo;More charter schools, vouchers for poor kids, merit pay for great teachers, modified tenure so ineffective teachers aren&rsquo;t locked in jobs forever,&rdquo; Rauner said in that same debate.</p><p>But a governor&rsquo;s accomplishments are rarely solitary efforts. &nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a pretty unique example, but 10 years ago, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich was in full rhetorical mode for an hour of his State of the State address. He spent more than an hour of his 90-minute address completely trashing the state&rsquo;s education board.</p><p>&ldquo;The Illinois State Board of Education is like an old, Soviet-style bureaucracy,&rdquo; Blagojevich said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s clunky and inefficient. It issues mandates. It spends money. It dictates policy and it isn&rsquo;t accountable to anyone for anything.&rdquo;</p><p>Blagojevich called for abolishing the Illinois State Board of Education and creating a new cabinet department under his office - a Department of Education.</p><p>The idea went nowhere. Blagojevich didn&rsquo;t get legislators or interest groups on board.</p><p>That bit of history points to the political structure Rauner would have to work with.</p><p>More charter schools?</p><p>That means getting the legislature&rsquo;s okay.</p><p>School vouchers?</p><p>That&rsquo;s also a legislative issue.</p><p>Paying teachers based on the quality of their work?</p><p>He&rsquo;d likely have to get lawmakers on board.</p><p>&ldquo;I think whether this is a Governor Rauner or a Governor Quinn, what we&rsquo;re finding is there&rsquo;s a lot more support by legislators quietly to support some transformative policy,&rdquo; said Myles Mendoza with Ed Choice Illinois. His organization is a non-profit that wants to expand educational alternatives for families.</p><p>Mendoza said a good example of the bipartisan movement around education change is Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s Democratic running mate, Paul Vallas. Vallas ran public schools in Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.</p><p>&ldquo;Both Paul Vallas and Bruce Rauner have really been aligned, very, very similar in their thinking of how they would approach education policy,&rdquo; Mendoza said.</p><p>I asked Mendoza if it&rsquo;s weird, seeing Republicans and Democrats &nbsp;aligned that way.</p><p>&ldquo;It certainly does scramble the radar,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>What he means is that Vallas, a Democrat, and Rauner, a Republican, have taken similar stands against teachers unions and the Democrats who traditionally support them.</p><p>Dan Montgomery heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a union that represents about 80,000 teachers in the state, including charter schools.</p><p>Montgomery said politics has framed the debate around education in the wrong context.</p><p>&ldquo;The challenges we have in this state are not about tenure, you know? They&rsquo;re not about merit pay,&rdquo; Montgomery said. &ldquo;The challenges we have in the state are parents who look around and they say, &lsquo;How come my kid&rsquo;s school doesn&rsquo;t have a library?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>He says Bruce Rauner has made unions the enemy, and his economic and tax policies are examples of the misguided debate. Montgomery repeats something Quinn&rsquo;s campaign often says, that Rauner&rsquo;s plans will lose the state millions and he&rsquo;ll end up having to cut education funding.</p><p>Montgomery says unions should get ready to find support in the legislature to resist negative education changes if Rauner&rsquo;s elected.</p><p>But they should also be ready for another tactic: That Rauner would go around the legislature altogether with executive orders.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101" target="_blank">update that relates to recommendations that a state task force makes regarding attendance policy and school staffing</a>. &nbsp;</em></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282