WBEZ | education http://www.wbez.org/tags/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The man behind Common Core math http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/06-jasonzimba_schaer-056-edit_slide-5e038b09161c4f9e2ebd6b3111e3c7aaa250cb4e-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.</p><p>If she gets the answer &quot;lickety-split,&quot; as her dad says, she can check them off. If she doesn&#39;t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.</p><p>&quot;I would be sleeping in if I weren&#39;t frustrated,&quot; Zimba says of his Saturday morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail&#39;s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar &mdash; even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.</p><p>But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He&#39;s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.</p><p>And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughters&#39; school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.</p><p>Zimba and the other writers of the Common Core knew the transition would be tough, but they never imagined conflicts over bad homework would fuel political battles and threaten the very existence of their dream to remodel American education.</p><p>When Zimba was first hired to help write a new set of K-12 math standards in 2009, the groups behind the Common Core &mdash; including representatives from 48 states &mdash; set very ambitious goals. The tough new guidelines would match the expectations set for students in higher-performing rivals like Singapore and South Korea. The standards would not only catapult American students ahead of other developed nations, but would also help close the gaps between low-income students in the U.S. and their wealthier counterparts.</p><p>The Common Core would drive publishers and test makers to create better curricula and better tests, and push school districts and teachers to aim for excellence, not just basic proficiency, for their students. And the guidelines would arm every principal, teacher and parent with the knowledge of exactly what it takes to get into college and succeed.</p><p>The champions of the Common Core &ndash; including organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers &ndash; expected the task to be difficult. Overhauling textbooks would take a lot of time, and training teachers would take even more. But the bipartisan groundswell of opposition to the standards took them by surprise.</p><p>&quot;The creation of the standards is enshrouded in mystery for people,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;I wish people understood what a massive process it was, and how many people were involved. It was a lot of work.&quot;</p><p>As much as supporters emphasize the democratic origin of the standards and count out the dozens of experts and teachers who were consulted, the Common Core math standards were ultimately crafted by three guys whose only goal was to improve the way mathematics is taught. That, some experts argue, is what makes the Common Core better than the standards they&#39;ve replaced.</p><p>&quot;It was a design project, not a political project,&quot; says Phil Daro, a former high school algebra teacher who was on the three-man writing team with Zimba and William McCallum, head of the math department at the University of Arizona. &quot;It was not our job to do the politics while we were writing.&quot;</p><p>But the backlash was perhaps inevitable.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">The Inner Circle</span></p><p>On the surface, Zimba, 45, seemed an odd choice for a major national project like Common Core. McCallum and Daro were well known and admired in the world of math and education. McCallum is a prominent mathematician who has authored algebra and calculus textbooks and helped write Arizona&#39;s K-12 math standards. In 2009, Daro was a senior fellow at a for-profit curriculum and teacher-training company, America&#39;s Choice. He played a prominent role in rewriting California&#39;s highly regarded math standards.</p><p>In contrast, Zimba was an obscure physics professor at Bennington, an elite liberal arts college in Vermont. He wrote <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fjzimba.blogspot.com%2f">a quirky math and parenting blog</a> with posts about complex physics problems, his kids, and the occasional political issue, including a 2011 post titled, &quot;Numbers Don&#39;t Lie (but Michele Bachmann Does).&quot;</p><p>He grew up as an outsider. Raised in a working-class household in suburban Detroit, he was the first in his family to go to college. He chose Williams College in Massachusetts. Academically, the school was a good fit. Financially, it was more of a challenge. His friend, Eric Mabery, said the two got to know each other because they were the only poor people on campus. &quot;He was the only person who had several jobs,&quot; said Mabery, now a biologist at a San Francisco startup. &quot;He was the only other person who couldn&#39;t fly home. We had to take the bus.&quot;</p><p>But from Williams, Zimba&#39;s career took off. He was chosen for a Rhodes scholarship to England&#39;s Oxford University in 1991. At Oxford, he befriended <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.theatlantic.com%2fmagazine%2farchive%2f2012%2f10%2fthe-schoolmaster%2f309091%2f">a Yale student from Manhattan</a>, David Coleman. Coleman went on to become a consultant for McKinsey, the global consulting firm. Zimba returned to Detroit to do stints of factory work to help support his family, but eventually he headed to the prestigious math department at the University of California Berkeley for a PhD in mathematical physics. In 1999 reconnected with Coleman, who had an idea for starting an education business.</p><p>At first, they considered going into educational video games, but scrapped the idea in favor of an even bigger educational trend: standardized testing. The No Child Left Behind Act was still around the corner, but a growing education reform movement, which insisted that holding schools more accountable for student test scores would increase performance, had already pushed many states to expand standardized testing.</p><p>Coleman and Zimba&#39;s business, the Grow Network, found a niche in the burgeoning field of testing by producing reports that helped schools, teachers, parents and even students themselves interpret results from the new exams. &quot;To design a successful assessment report, you need to be thoughtful about what the teacher really needs, what the student really needs,&quot; Coleman says.</p><p>Thanks to Zimba, Coleman added, they were. Zimba had a genius for creating reports that were mathematically precise but also humanely phrased, Coleman says. Grow Network was hired by states like California and districts like New York City, and was eventually bought out by the educational publishing giant, McGraw-Hill, for an undisclosed price.</p><p>Zimba and Coleman went their separate ways. Coleman stayed on a bit longer with the company under McGraw-Hill. After a brief stint at a liberal arts college in Iowa, Zimba landed at Bennington, where Coleman&#39;s mother was president. Zimba and Coleman stayed in touch, often discussing a problem that had bothered them during their years studying standardized tests.</p><p>&quot;We looked at a lot of standards,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;Previous standards ranged from terrible to not good enough. The best of them were little more than test blueprints. They were not a blueprint for learning math.&quot;</p><p>Every state had its own standards, which varied widely in their expectations for students. For instance, some states required students to memorize the times tables, but about a third of states didn&#39;t, according to Zimba.</p><p>But what most worried Coleman and Zimba &mdash; and many education experts &mdash; was the sheer number of standards in most states. The common critique was that most American grade-level guidelines were &quot;a mile wide and an inch deep,&quot; in stark contrast to the fewer but more intense expectations in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore.</p><p>In 2007, Coleman and Zimba wrote a paper for the Carnegie Corporation, a foundation with interests in education (and one of the many funders of both The Hechinger Report and NPR). &quot;We were just trying to think about what could really matter in education,&quot; Coleman says. &quot;What could actually help? One idea we thought is that standards could be really focused and better. At Grow we&#39;d spent so much time with the endless vast and vague standards.&quot;</p><p>The paper got the attention of several groups that had latched onto a similar idea, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, one of the original leaders in the Reagan-era standards movement. A couple of years later, when the two organizations joined forces to draft a set of &quot;fewer, clearer, higher&quot; standards, Coleman and Zimba were picked to help lead the effort.</p><p>The CCSSO contracted with a new organization Zimba and Coleman founded, Student Achievement Partners. They declined to disclose the amount of the contract or the total spent on the development of the Common Core, but said funding was provided by the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation (another supporter of NPR), Carnegie and other foundations, as well as state membership dues from CCSSO and the NGA.</p><p>&quot;We were looking for a skill set that was fairly unique,&quot; says Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. &quot;We needed individuals that would know the mathematics &mdash; Jason and the other writers obviously know the mathematics &mdash; but would also be able to work with the states, and a bunch of teachers who would be involved.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Writing the Common Core</span></p><p>In September 2009, Zimba started writing the Common Core math standards. Although his second daughter was due the same month, the standards were all-consuming. Zimba recalled getting a text in the delivery room from one of his co-writers telling him to stop responding to emails about the project: &quot;It&#39;s time to be a dad now.&quot;</p><p>That fall, though, finishing the Common Core math standards came first. He was still on the faculty at Bennington, although on leave for part of the time, so the standards were mostly written at night, in &quot;the barn,&quot; an old garage on his property that he had transformed into a study.</p><p>&quot;It was hard on us as a family,&quot; he says. &quot;I gave an awful lot.&quot; In October, his mother, who had worked most of her life as waitress, passed away. Zimba kept working.</p><p>They started with <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fcommoncoretools.me%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2014%2f08%2fccrs-math-sept-2009.pdf">a blueprint</a> that laid out what students should know by the end of high school. It was written by Achieve, a nonprofit that advocates for better standards and tests, and by the testing groups College Board and ACT. Then they began consulting the research on math education and enlisting the ideas of experts in various fields of mathematics. During the course of the next year, they consulted with state officials, mathematicians and teachers, including a union group. Draft after draft was passed back and forth over email.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;d be up to 3 in the morning,&quot; says McCallum. &quot;Jason would be up till 5 in the morning.&quot;</p><p>The final drafts of the standards were released to the public in June 2010. By the following year, thanks in part to financial incentives dangled by the Obama administration, more than 40 states had adopted them. Zimba quit his job at Bennington to work full time at Student Achievement Partners to promote the standards.</p><p>The backlash didn&#39;t really begin until 2013 in states like New York, where new Common Core-aligned tests had sent scores plummeting, and Indiana, where conservatives were leery of the Obama administration&#39;s support of the standards. It hit<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/05/27/307755798/the-common-core-faq"> the mainstream in early 2014</a>, when a dad in North Carolina posted a convoluted &quot;Common Core&quot; question from his son&#39;s second-grade math quiz on Facebook, along with a letter he&#39;d written to the teacher. &quot;I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering which included extensive study in differential equations and other high-math applications,&quot; he wrote. &quot;Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct.&quot;</p><p>Glenn Beck and other conservative pundits picked up the post, and it went viral. A couple of months later, the comedian Louis C.K. complained about his daughter&#39;s Common Core math homework on Twitter, and late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert began mocking the standards, too. Critics called the standards too convoluted, too abstract and too conceptual because of the focus on getting students to explain and discuss their answers.</p><p>By the summer of 2014, Indiana and Oklahoma had pulled out of the Common Core, other states had passed legislation to replace the standards in the coming years, and still others are threatening to do the same this year. Supporters of the standards, including teachers unions and the Gates Foundation, are now trying to salvage Common Core by calling on states to hold off on the stakes associated with new Common Core tests, including new teacher evaluations in many states based on student scores.</p><p>The backlash has both annoyed and baffled the writers. &quot;When I see some of those problems posted on Facebook, I think I would have been mad, too,&quot; McCallum says. Daro tells a story about his grandson, who brought home a math worksheet labeled &quot;Common Core,&quot; with a copyright date of 1999.</p><p>They argue there&#39;s actually very little fuzziness to the math in the Common Core. Students have to memorize their times tables by third grade and be able to do the kind of meat-and-potatoes problems Zimba asks of his daughter during their Saturday tutoring sessions, requirements he believes the so-called Common Core curriculum at her school essentially ignored.</p><p>Hung-Hsi Wu, a mathematics professor at Berkeley and one of the expert advisors in the Common Core process, blames the Common Core&#39;s problems on bad &ndash; and ubiquitous &ndash; textbooks that the publishing industry is reluctant to change. &quot;Publishers don&#39;t want to bother with writing anything because they&#39;ve gone through too many sets of standards,&quot; he says.</p><p>And that is the irony of the debate over the standards, and what may be their undoing. As powerful and influential in reshaping American classrooms as the standards could be, they don&#39;t include lesson plans, or teaching methods, or alternative strategies for when students don&#39;t get it.</p><p>Even as Zimba and his colleagues defend the standards against cries of federal overreach, they are helpless when it comes to making sure textbook publishers, test makers, superintendents, principals and teachers interpret the standards in ways that will actually improve American public education, not make it worse.</p><p>Like McCallum, Zimba agrees with the North Carolina dad that the question on his son&#39;s Common Core-labeled math quiz was terrible. But, as long as Americans hold to the conviction that most of what happens in schools should be kept under the control of states and local communities, the quality of the curriculum is out of his hands. &quot;Like it or not, the standards allow a lot of freedom,&quot; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">To triumph or die</span></p><p>Zimba gave up an academic career in which he had the freedom to wonder about abstract physics problems in the peace and quiet of his Vermont barn. But, he says, &quot;I&#39;m now participating in a much more urgent problem.&quot;</p><p>That problem is how to elevate the academic achievement of American students, especially the most disadvantaged, so the country can maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy. These days, Zimba and his colleagues acknowledge better standards aren&#39;t enough.</p><p>&quot;I used to think if you got the assessments right, it would virtually be enough,&quot; he says. &quot;In the No Child Left Behind world, everything follows from the test.&quot;</p><p>Now, he says, &quot;I think it&#39;s curriculum.&quot;</p><p>This year, Zimba convinced his daughter&#39;s school to try out a new curriculum that&#39;s better aligned to the standards he wrote. He is also devoting his time at his nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners, to create checklists other schools can use to find good textbooks that match the Common Core. The group has published training materials, including videos in which teachers demonstrate Common Core lessons.</p><p>On a recent rainy afternoon in Manhattan, the organization gathered in a conference room to hash out ideas for an online tool, funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (also among the many funders of The Hechinger Report), that could help teachers better understand the standards.</p><p>One idea for this tool was a &quot;swipe-y&quot; app that teachers could use to figure out whether students grasped a standard or not &mdash; something that would function much like Tinder, the matchmaking site. In the end, the group was most enthusiastic about a more low-tech option: a hotline that teachers and parents could call to find out if the Common Core-labeled math problems they found in their textbooks and homework were good or bad.</p><p>Daro and McCallum are leading their own efforts. McCallum founded a nonprofit called Illustrative Mathematics that produces sample tasks linked to the Common Core, trains teachers and produces curriculum blueprints. And Daro is actually writing an entire Common Core math curriculum for use on tablets, to be put out next year by educational publisher Pearson.</p><p>But it&#39;s unclear if their efforts, and similar ones by like-minded nonprofits and funders like the Gates Foundation, will trickle down to the millions of classroom teachers attempting to adapt to the new standards. Or if the bad curricula still circulating, coupled with the nation&#39;s fractured politics, will do them in.</p><p>For his part, Zimba is optimistic. &quot;The influence of the tests on the curriculum, it&#39;s negative,&quot; he says. &quot;They&#39;ve been a pale imitation of mathematics. I&#39;ve talked to teachers who say teaching these standards, &#39;I feel like a teacher again.&#39; That&#39;s not going to be easy to take away. Once you taste that, that&#39;s powerful.&quot;</p><p><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/29/371918272/the-man-behind-common-core-math" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p><p><em>This story was produced by <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=file%3a%2f%2f%2fC%3a%5cUsers%5carthurlaura%5cDownloads%5chechingerreport.org">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, independent news service focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fhechingerreport.org%2fcategory%2fspecial_reports%2fcommon_core%2f">Common Core</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 17:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 StoryCorps: Bilingual pre-school teacher describes the state of education in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-bilingual-pre-school-teacher-describes-state-education-chicago-111267 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kksc.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Iveth Romano teaches pre-school in Chicago and many of her students are bilingual. She came by the StoryCorps booth recently to speak with producer Katie Klocksin about the importance of supporting kids who are learning two languages.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of the parents don&rsquo;t speak English,&rdquo; Romano said. &ldquo;But most of our teachers who have a Bachelors&rsquo;, they are American, so they just speak English.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I remember once a girl she just peed her pants and started crying,&rdquo; she continued. &ldquo;I was in another classroom but I heard the girl say that she wanted to use the bathroom, in Spanish. But [none] of the teachers understood what she said. They (didn&rsquo;t) pay attention to her and she just peed on her pants and started crying and they gave her a timeout.&rdquo;</p><p>Romano says she has a lot of examples like that. She says she sees situations like that once per week or twice a week.</p><p>Romano pushes all her students to learn English and Spanish. In her classroom, they say their ABCs in both languages.</p><p>Sometimes, though, parents are oblivious to what&rsquo;s going on - good or bad - in the classroom.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not because people are bad. Or they don&rsquo;t know how to say &lsquo;thank you.&rsquo; I think it&rsquo;s more that they&rsquo;re tired. Sometimes you don&rsquo;t really know what kind of job they have. Sometimes they have two different jobs in one day. So that [does] not make me feel bad that they don&rsquo;t say &lsquo;thank you.&rsquo; They don&rsquo;t say nothing. They just take the kid and leave. I understand. Sometimes they look really tired.&rdquo;</p><p>Teaching can be stressful, Klocksin said, but &ldquo;there&rsquo;s obviously a lot of rewards to it too. Why did you go into this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Cause my son is four years old,&rdquo; Romano said, &ldquo;And he used to attend a Head Start but I just moved him to a Catholic school because here in Chicago. The education in the public schools is really difficult in this moment.&rdquo;</p><p>Romano says two of the neighborhood public schools closed, so classrooms that used to have twenty kids are now thirty-five or forty kids.</p><p>Romano says her son is doing better now.</p><p>&ldquo;His behavior&rsquo;s completely different,&rdquo; Romano said. &ldquo;He looks more happy. He looks more confident.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&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="888px"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-bilingual-pre-school-teacher-describes-state-education-chicago-111267 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