WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 State government could take over a school district near you http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000080958261-4swa0x-original.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ask Illinois residents what&rsquo;s most important to them and their families, and education is likely to be right up there&mdash;often at the top of the list.</p><p>So it&rsquo;s no surprise that citizens expect high educational standards from government (and solid financing). But most prefer their state involvement at arms length.</p><p>But the fact is Illinois, has the power to take over local schools. They can fire elected school board members and put a new superintendent in place.</p><p>Two years ago, it did just that. The state took over two school districts, one in East Saint Louis and the other in North Chicago, a low income and racially mixed suburb wedged between more the tony North Shore and Waukegan.</p><p>Chris Koch is the superintendent of all Illinois schools, and he explains it this way:&nbsp; &ldquo;You have to take actions when kids aren&rsquo;t getting the basics. And that&rsquo;s certainly what&rsquo;s happening here.&rdquo;</p><p>The school district in North Chicago had problems that read like a Dickens novel: 80 percent of kids not meeting state learning standards, burdensome debt, and school board meetings that sometimes collapsed into chaotic screaming matches.</p><p>State intervention has helped North Chicago reduce its debt. But the district is still operating on a deficit. The district superintendent there says he expects to run out of cash in four years.</p><p>But overall, education policy watchers say the takeover has been a win so far, with some private money is coming in and state superintendent Koch taking a personal interest in the people there.</p><p>But even with those positives, there is no endgame in sight.</p><p>That&rsquo;s something that worries Kenneth Wong, a professor at Brown University who&rsquo;s been watching school takeovers across the country. He says North Chicago is typical of school takeovers by state government.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m seeing also is the absence of an exit strategy,&rdquo; Wong says. &ldquo;That is, they rush into direct intervention, but then oftentimes there is a lack of details.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Koch doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about an exit strategy in North Chicago just yet. The finances and academics are still too bad.</p><p>&ldquo;We really have to be there, I think, for the longer duration,&rdquo; Koch says. &ldquo;Because you don&rsquo;t want it to go back into its prior state and that could easily happen particularly with the precarious financial situation they&rsquo;re currently in.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch is also turning his attention to other failing districts around the state.</p><p>He&rsquo;s pushing legislation that would make similar state intervention easier in failing districts.</p><p>House Bill 5537 singles out 23 schools on state academic watch, which means they have to show better test scores, and higher attendance and graduation rates.</p><p>All of them are in Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs. Nobody from those districts returned WBEZ&rsquo;s calls, but Ben Schwarm did. He lobbies in Springfield on behalf of school boards and he&rsquo;s going up against Koch when it comes to state takeovers.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of anyone, especially an appointed body, having the authority to remove from office elected officials based on the decisions they made certainly isn&rsquo;t generally the way democracy works in Illinois or in our country,&rdquo; Schwarm says.</p><p>Koch&rsquo;s bill is moving in an election year in which the candidates for governor have been campaigning mostly about how best to finance education instead of education policy.<br /><br />Koch&rsquo;s actions in North Chicago provide a window into incumbent Democratic Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s strategy for failing schools.<br /><br />Republican candidate Bruce Rauner hasn&rsquo;t talked specifically about state takeovers. But he advocates for more charter schools statewide, especially for failing districts.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not fair for parents to be stuck in a school that is failing and not fitting their kids&rsquo; needs,&quot; Rauner says. &quot;We need to create options and choice, especially for lower income families that can&rsquo;t afford to move.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 Karen Lewis not running for mayor http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-not-running-mayor-110932 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, seen as Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s most high-profile re-election challenger, won&#39;t run in 2015, a spokeswoman announced Monday.</p><p>Lewis, who often tussled with the mayor during the 2012 Chicago Public Schools teachers&#39; strike, didn&#39;t specify her reasons and a statement released on behalf of her exploratory committee made no mention of a recent illness she disclosed publicly.</p><p>&quot;Karen Lewis has decided to not pursue a mayoral bid,&quot; said a statement from committee spokeswoman Jhatayn Travis. &quot;Yet she charges us to continue fighting for strong neighborhood schools, safe communities and good jobs for everyone.&quot;</p><p>Lewis had been seen as the best shot so far to unseat Emanuel, who won his first term in 2011. For months, she had been circulating petitions and raising her profile at parades and political events, often harshly criticizing Emanuel and his policies. She even dubbed him the &quot;murder mayor&quot; because of the city&#39;s violence problem.</p><p>Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919" target="_blank">last week</a> said that Lewis has a &quot;serious illness&quot; and underwent successful surgery. Sharkey also said he had taken over Lewis&#39; tasks as president, but did not provide additional details on her illness.</p><p>Emanuel issued a statement after Lewis&#39; announcement Monday wishing her a quick recovery.</p><p>&quot;I have always respected and admired Karen&#39;s willingness to step up and be part of the conversation about our city&#39;s future,&quot; said Emanuel, a former congressman and White House chief of staff.</p><p>Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who announced his bid to run last month, said he was praying for Lewis&#39; health.</p><p>&quot;For Chicago&#39;s sake, I hope this is not the last we see of Karen Lewis,&quot; he said in a statement. &quot;I can understand the battle with illness, and how it can change the best thought out plans. But I also know that Karen is resilient and strong and will be back advocating for educators, students and Chicagoans in no time.&quot;</p><p>Political experts said only a handful of credible candidates would be able to mount a serious challenge at this point ahead of the Feb. 24 contest. Names floated in Chicago political circles included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has already said she planned to keep her current job and faces re-election, and Cook County Clerk David Orr.</p><p>Any candidate would have to be able to raise big funds and already have name recognition. Emanuel has banked more than $8 million, while campaign finance filings show Fioretti had about $325,000 as of June. Also, Emanuel&#39;s implied support from President Barack Obama as a former aide would be hard to counter in Obama&#39;s hometown.</p><p>However, political watchers said Emanuel&#39;s approval ratings have been low.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a mixed bag,&quot; said Chicago political consultant Don Rose. &quot;Many people feel he&#39;s ripe for the picking.&quot;</p><p>The February election is nonpartisan. If no candidate receives more than half of the ballots cast, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held in April.</p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-not-running-mayor-110932 Karen Lewis hands over leadership of Chicago Teachers Union http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is suffering from an undisclosed &ldquo;serious illness&rdquo; and will step aside as head of the organization, the union&rsquo;s vice president announced Thursday.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s still no word on how that might affect a possible mayoral run against Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Vice President Jesse Sharkey announced that Lewis underwent a successful surgery on Wednesday, but declined to name Lewis&rsquo; condition, citing her family&rsquo;s privacy.</p><p>Lewis, 61, has been seriously considering a run for mayor. Sharkey said he will take over Lewis&rsquo; duties at the CTU, but wouldn&rsquo;t get into the possible political impact of Lewis&rsquo; health.</p><p>&ldquo;I understand that many people in this room and many people in the city want to know about Karen Lewis&rsquo;s health status because they care about the mayoral election in this city,&rdquo; Sharkey told reporters. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a question that I can&rsquo;t answer.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis was hospitalized Sunday night after experiencing discomfort, but the union and representatives with her exploratory campaign refused to say why or give any details on the status of her condition.<br /><br />On Monday, CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement that she was &ldquo;in good spirits--and still thinking of creative ways to secure the future and city our students and their families deserve.&rdquo;<br /><br />On Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for Lewis&rsquo; mayoral exploratory committee declined to comment on the details of Lewis&rsquo;condition, but said the &ldquo;exploratory process is moving forward.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite contentious relations in the past, Emanuel praised Lewis late Thursday afternoon in an emailed statement, though he steered clear of mentioning politics.</p><p>&ldquo;Karen Lewis is a passionate advocate for her beliefs and has always been willing to speak up for her view of what&#39;s best -- not only for the teachers that she represents, but also for issues critical to the future of our city,&quot; Emanuel was quoted as saying. &quot;Along with all Chicagoans, we will keep Karen and her family in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope to see her on her feet very soon.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis has not officially announced whether she plans to challenge Emanuel in February&rsquo;s city election. But there has been widespread speculation and encouragement from some progressives for her to run.</p><p>In recent weeks, the once-fiery critic of Emanuel who led Chicago teachers on their first strike in 25 years has sought to rebrand herself as a consensus-builder, holding several community events around the city dubbed &ldquo;Conversations with Karen.&rdquo; Lewis has also started fundraising for a possible campaign, though she has conceded it will be difficult to top Emanuel&rsquo;s political machine, which has already netted him at least $8.3 million for his re-election bid.</p><p>Mayoral candidates have until Nov. 24 to file their nominating papers in order to get on the ballot for the Feb. 24 election. Emanuel already faces several declared challengers, including his vocal critic in the City Council, Ald. Bob Fioretti; Dr. Amara Enyia, an urban development consultant; former Chicago Ald. Robert Shaw; Chicago police officer Frederick Collins; and conservative activist William J. Kelly.</p><p>&quot;She is a fighter and I know that she will bounce back, stronger than ever,&quot; Fioretti said of Lewis in an emailed statement. &quot;Her voice adds to the debate in Chicago and we all get better results when there is a full and spirited dialogue.&nbsp; But right now, we should all respect Karen&rsquo;s privacy and give her the space she needs to get better.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p><em>WBEZ political reporter Alex Keefe contributed to this story.</em></p><p><o:p></o:p></p></p> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919 Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis hospitalized http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-head-karen-lewis-hospitalized-110902 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis has been hospitalized after experiencing discomfort over the weekend.</p><p>CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin on Monday denied rumors Lewis suffered a stroke. Lewis recently underwent surgery designed to reduce her absorption of food calories.</p><p>In a statement, Gadlin wrote that Lewis&#39; privacy is being respected and she will determine &quot;whether or not another public statement is warranted.&quot;</p><p>Gadlin added Lewis is resting well, in good spirits and is &quot;thinking of creative ways to secure the future and city our students and their families deserve.&quot;</p><p>Lewis, who tangled with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a 2012 teacher strike, is circulating petitions and raising money for a challenge of the mayor next year. Lewis hasn&#39;t yet announced whether she&#39;ll run.</p></p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-head-karen-lewis-hospitalized-110902 Aramark, CPS change plan to cut school janitors http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2979169728_730927ae16_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today was supposed to be the last day of work for 468 janitors in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>But Aramark, the private contractor now overseeing the management of custodians in CPS, is changing that plan <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">after complaints about cleanliness</a> from principals, parents and teachers.</p><p>The union representing privately employed janitors in CPS said 178 janitors will keep their jobs and the remaining 290 will work for another month. Aramark spokesperson Karen Cutler confirmed those numbers and said they are working closely with the union and CPS to make sure schools have &quot;appropriate custodial staffing levels.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;We would prefer to see no layoffs anywhere and see everybody have good paying, full-time jobs,&rdquo; said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1.&nbsp; &ldquo;But again, we do think with the technology Aramark&rsquo;s brought in and the readjustment on the number of janitors, we think that we will be able to maintain a good level of cleanliness in the schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Balanoff said they are working to find jobs for the 290 janitors being laid off at the end of October.<br /><br />CPS has had privatized cleaning services for more than a decade, but last February, the board <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes">voted to award two contracts worth a total $340 million</a> to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. The two companies would manage all 2,500 janitors in the school system, even though the janitors remain employed by subcontractors, like <a href="http://www.wecleaninc.com/">WeClean Inc.</a> and Total Facilities, or by the Board of Education directly.</p><p>Balanoff said the change allows 83 of the longest-serving janitors employed by private subcontractors to keep their jobs. Another 95 will be hired directly as Aramark employees for at least the next 10 months.</p><p>The changes do not impact 825 janitors employed directly by the Board of Education. Those janitors are represented by SEIU Local 73. However, many of those board-funded janitors have been reassigned to other schools in light of the pending layoffs.</p><p>CPS officials did not immediately comment. It is not clear how much the move may cost and who will foot the bill, the district or Aramark.</p><p>At <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851">last week&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting</a>, district Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said Aramark was &ldquo;flooding the zone&rdquo; to fix any issues related to school cleanliness.</p></p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870 3,000 fewer students enroll in Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/3000-fewer-students-enroll-chicago-public-schools-110869 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/student-enrollment-130923-LL.png" alt="" /><p><p>For the first time since at least 1970, Chicago Public Schools will serve fewer than 400,000 students.</p><p>District spokesman Bill McCaffrey confirmed that there are at least 3,000 fewer students in the public school system. The decline keeps Chicago just ahead of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which <a href="http://www.dadeschools.net/StudentEnroll/Calendars/enroll_stats_aor.asp" target="_blank">enrolls roughly 380,000 students</a>, including pre-K students, vocational students and those in charter schools.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS took its official head count on Monday, the 20th day of school. The past two years, the district has counted on the 10th day as well, in order to adjust school budgets to account for the difference between enrollment projections and how many students actually show up. For the second year in a row, schools that didn&rsquo;t meet their enrollment targets were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-will-get-money-no-show-students-again-110861">held harmless</a> and got to keep the money budgeted to them over the summer.</p><p>Enrollment in CPS had been steadily declining for the last decade, but remained relatively flat from 2008 to 2012. In the last two years, since CPS closed 50 district-run schools, the system lost about 6,000 students.</p><p>At the same time the district&rsquo;s been losing students, CPS has opened more than 140 new schools, most of them privately run charter schools. Officials did close schools at the same time, but the openings outpaced the closings.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:20px;"><strong>Enrollment over time in Chicago Public Schools</strong></span></p> <style type="text/css"> table.tableizer-table { border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif font-size: 12px; } .tableizer-table td { padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc; } .tableizer-table th { background-color: #104E8B; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold; }</style> <table class="tableizer-table"><tbody><tr class="tableizer-firstrow"><th>School Year</th><th># of students in CPS charter or contract schools</th><th># of students in traditional CPS schools</th><th>Total CPS enrollment</th></tr><tr><td>1999-2000</td><td>5,535</td><td>426,215</td><td>431,750</td></tr><tr><td>2000-2001</td><td>6,733</td><td>428,737</td><td>435,470</td></tr><tr><td>2001-2002</td><td>6,084</td><td>431,534</td><td>437,618</td></tr><tr><td>2002-2003</td><td>8,844</td><td>429,745</td><td>438,589</td></tr><tr><td>2003-2004</td><td>10,493</td><td>423,926</td><td>434,419</td></tr><tr><td>2004-2005</td><td>12,274</td><td>414,538</td><td>426,812</td></tr><tr><td>2005-2006</td><td>15,416</td><td>405,509</td><td>420,925</td></tr><tr><td>2006-2007</td><td>19,043</td><td>394,651</td><td>413,694</td></tr><tr><td>2007-2008</td><td>23,733</td><td>384,868</td><td>408,601</td></tr><tr><td>2008-2009</td><td>32,016</td><td>376,028</td><td>408,044</td></tr><tr><td>2009-2010</td><td>36,699</td><td>372,580</td><td>409,279</td></tr><tr><td>2010-2011</td><td>42,801</td><td>359,880</td><td>402,681</td></tr><tr><td>2011-2012</td><td>48,389</td><td>355,762</td><td>404,151</td></tr><tr><td>2012-2013</td><td>52,926</td><td>350,535</td><td>403,461</td></tr><tr><td>2013-2014</td><td>57,169</td><td>343,376</td><td>400,545</td></tr><tr><td>2014-2015 (projected)</td><td>60,982</td><td>339,463</td><td>400,445</td></tr><tr><td>2014-2015 (10th day)</td><td>n/a</td><td>309,182*</td><td>397,000**</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>*Does not include Pre-K, charter and contract schools or alternative schools.</em></p><p><em>**Preliminary estimate based on confirmed decline of at least 3,000 students.</em></p><p>Wendy Katten, executive director of the city-wide parent group Raise Your Hand, said the decline is really sad, but not that surprising.</p><p>&ldquo;We hear a lot from parents about the instability of the policies of the district,&rdquo; Katten said &ldquo;The constant school actions, the opening and closing of schools, and the budget cuts. I think a lot of parents are looking for more stability in their children&rsquo;s schooling.&rdquo;</p><p>Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, said enrollment in urban districts can take a hit when there&rsquo;s a lot of turmoil. In CPS&rsquo;s case, that included the first teachers&rsquo; strike in 25 years and the mass closure of 50 public schools.</p><p>&ldquo;But in situations like that you&rsquo;ll often find that enrollment bounces back,&rdquo; Casserly told WBEZ. He said the council recently surveyed public school parents in urban districts and found that more than 80 percent are satisfied with the schools.</p><p>Casserly also noted that declines are directly related to population declines. Indeed, Chicago has lost school-aged children in the last few decades. But the percentage of those children being educated by CPS has increased.</p><p><span style="font-size:20px;"><strong>Census Figures vs. CPS &nbsp;Enrollment</strong></span></p> <style type="text/css"> table.tableizer-table { border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif font-size: 12px; } .tableizer-table td { padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc; } .tableizer-table th { background-color: #104E8B; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold; }</style> <table class="tableizer-table"><tbody><tr class="tableizer-firstrow"><th>&nbsp;</th><th>1970</th><th>1980</th><th>1990</th><th>2000</th><th>2010</th></tr><tr><td>Total CPS enrollment (includes Pre-K)</td><td>577,679</td><td>477,339</td><td>408,442</td><td>431,750</td><td>409,279</td></tr><tr><td># of schools in CPS</td><td>&ldquo;more than 550&rdquo;</td><td>n/a</td><td>560</td><td>597</td><td>674</td></tr><tr><td>U.S. Census Bureau population totals for City of Chicago, Ages 5-19</td><td>904,731</td><td>731,103</td><td>592,616</td><td>625,776</td><td>513,476</td></tr><tr><td>U.S. Census Bureau population totals for City of Chicago, Ages 0-19</td><td>1,187,832</td><td>963,125</td><td>809,484</td><td>844,298</td><td>699,363</td></tr><tr><td>Percent of Chicago&#39;s school-aged (5-19) kids in Chicago Public Schools</td><td>63.90%</td><td>65.30%</td><td>68.90%</td><td>69.00%</td><td>79.70%</td></tr><tr><td>Percent of Chicago&#39;s 0-19 kids in Chicago Public Schools</td><td>48.60%</td><td>49.60%</td><td>50.50%</td><td>51.10%</td><td>58.50%</td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois State Board of Education, Chicago Tribune (for the 1970 number of CPS students).</em></p><p>In the district&rsquo;s 10-year Master Facilities Plan, CPS commissioned Educational Demographics and Planning, Inc. to calculate enrollment projections for the next ten years. The plan estimates a 1 percent increase in the number of school-aged children in Chicago.</p><p>CPS&rsquo;s McCaffrey said until the preliminary 20th day enrollment numbers are vetted, the district is unable to speculate why the schools lost children. More detailed numbers will be out in the coming days and that will help CPS understand what areas of the city are losing the most kids and what grade levels see the biggest drops.</p><p>Andrew Broy, executive director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said he expects an increase in the number of children in charter schools. CPS opened four new charter schools this year and is adding grades at a number of existing campuses.</p><p>Broy did admit that some charter schools are struggling to fill open seats.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing more places, on the West Side and parts of the South Side, where charter school&nbsp; enrollment numbers haven&rsquo;t kept up with the campuses being added,&rdquo; Broy said Monday, noting that one-third of all charter schools currently have room for more students.</p><p>But Broy said charters are also the reason many families have chosen to stay in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;I would argue that if we did not have charter schools over the past 10 years we would see a much higher out-migration pattern in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>CPS needs to confront the fact that its enrollment is declining, Broy said, but he also said the district needs to continue adding high-quality options for parents.</p><p>Katten, with the parent group Raise Your Hand, said CPS officials should stop opening new schools and focus on ones they have.</p><p>&ldquo;There should probably be a moratorium on opening new schools of any kind,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Parents want a commitment, whether they&rsquo;re in charter schools or district schools, that those existing schools are getting attention.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton contributed to this story.&nbsp;</em></p><p>B<em>ecky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</p></p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/3000-fewer-students-enroll-chicago-public-schools-110869 Chicago Public Schools will get money for no-show students, again http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-will-get-money-no-show-students-again-110861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is making a surprising announcement that could cost the district millions of dollars.</p><p>In a letter being sent to principals today, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told schools they would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-further-budget-cuts-schools-didnt-attract-enough-students-108748" target="_blank">again be held harmless</a> for students who didn&rsquo;t show up this year.</p><p>The district changed the way it funds schools last year. Instead of funding positions and programs from downtown, schools are now given about $5,000 per student on average, under a formula called &ldquo;student-based budgeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, because the system was new, the district allowed schools that didn&rsquo;t meet enrollment targets to keep the money allocated to them anyway.</p><p>In a call with reporters about layoffs in June, Byrd-Bennett insisted that would not happen again.</p><p>&ldquo;No no no, that was last year, remember, and I preached that over and over that it was a one-time hold harmless,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But now, she&rsquo;s changing her mind. In the letter to principals, Byrd-Bennett wrote that CPS plans to use &ldquo;student-based budgeting transition contingency funds and anticipated surplus from Tax-Increment-Financing funds&rdquo; to make sure schools get money based off their projections, not actual enrollment.</p><p>The letter also said any school that got more students on the first day would get additional money.</p><p>CPS used to take an official enrollment count on the 20th day of school and now takes both a 10th day and a 20th day count to calculate any potential budget adjustments. The 20th day count will take place on Monday.</p><p>District spokesman Bill McCaffrey did not say how many schools came in below and how many came in above their initial enrollment projection. He did not say how much it will cost to essentially pay twice for students or pay for students who are no longer in the district.</p><p>McCaffrey also would not say if overall enrollment is up or down. Enrollment in CPS had been steadily declining for the last decade. Last year, the school system lost about 3,000 students, dropping from 403,461 to 400,545.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-will-get-money-no-show-students-again-110861 School board takes on cleanliness controversy http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/10348248095_15797234cf_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The controversy over cleanliness in Chicago Public Schools seems to be hitting a nerve with members of the Chicago Board of Education.</p><p>It could have been fiery comments from the head of the principals association, or a disturbing account from a primary school teacher, read by a parent during public participation at Wednesday&rsquo;s monthly meeting. It claimed vomit was left to sit on her floor for 30 minutes before it was cleaned up and then crusted into her rug over the weekend.</p><p>The parent who read the comment, Jennie Biggs, has three children at Sheridan Elementary in Bridgeport and is also part of a parent group called Raise Your Hand. That group released the results of an informal survey they did over the last week, which got 162 responses across 60 schools.</p><p>The complaints come on the heels of similar surveys and complaints from principals and teachers that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">WBEZ first reported earlier this month</a>.</p><p>Board member Andrea Zopp said CPS and the two private companies now overseeing the management of custodians should take a close look at the parent&rsquo;s survey.</p><p>&ldquo;And in particular, look at the some of the comments,&rdquo; Zopp said. &ldquo;You can take (them) with a grain of salt, but there are some very disturbing things in there sent from people who apparently are on the ground.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS has had privatized cleaning services for more than a decade, but last February, the Board voted to award two contracts worth a total $340 million to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC to manage all 2,500 janitors in the school system.</p><p>At the time of that vote, CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said move would make principals&rsquo; lives easier, explaining that the companies would be <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes">like &ldquo;Jimmy John&rsquo;s,&rdquo;</a>&nbsp;getting more supplies and cleaning up spills before principals could even hang up the phone.</p><p>On Wednesday, Cawley defended the move to privatize the management of custodians.</p><p>&ldquo;We think the vast, vast majority of our schools are as clean or cleaner than they&rsquo;ve been in the past,&rdquo; Cawley said Wednesday. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s how they started the school year and that&rsquo;s how they&rsquo;re operating now.&rdquo;</p><p>And he insisted the district is saving money. &ldquo;But never, ever, would we compromise the safety or cleanliness of our schools to accomplish those savings,&rdquo; he added.</p><p>Still, Board members had a lot of questions about how the new system is supposed to work.</p><p>&ldquo;So as a principal, three or four teachers come to me on a particular morning, my room is not clean, this is not working right, &hellip; the principal wants to resolve the issue, what&rsquo;s the next step?&rdquo; asked Carlos Azcoitia, one of the board members who served as a principal for 9 years.</p><p>Cawley said they can call a new hotline number or the cell phone of their Aramark custodial manager.</p><p>But Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said that makes no sense.</p><p>&ldquo;We do not need, we do not want middle managers between the principals and the staff assigned to their schools,&rdquo; Berry said. She also called out Azcoitia and the other former principal on the board, Mahalia Hines, for allowing this to happen.</p><p>But later in the meeting, Hines said the old system didn&rsquo;t work either.</p><p>&ldquo;If [janitors] didn&rsquo;t clean or didn&rsquo;t do their work, I had little or no control over that, because they were with the union and you had to go through a long process, and either they would out wait me or they&rsquo;d die it out,&rdquo; Hines said.</p><p>Cawley said both companies are working at their own expense to fix the problems.</p><p>Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler confirmed they&rsquo;ve added extra support above and beyond the terms of the contract.</p><p>&ldquo;We have been meeting with every principal in the district &ndash; over 300 to date &ndash;&nbsp;to address their concerns, as well as review our program, which we have in place at hundreds of school districts across the country,&rdquo; Cutler wrote in an e-mail to WBEZ. &ldquo;We brought in additional managers (at our expense) to assist with the transition and have been training all CPS custodial staff on new equipment, using more efficient, environmentally friendly cleaning techniques.&rdquo;</p><p>One question that did not get answered at Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting is what will happen when additional layoffs go into effect.</p><p>As it stands right now, 468 fewer janitors will be in the schools come Tuesday. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851 How do you find high school dropouts? http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pathways.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bunch of promises three years ago when he was running for office&mdash;especially when it came to education.</p><p>He&rsquo;s checked off some of them &ndash; a longer school day, more preschool, a focus on principals.<br />But now his administration is ramping up attention to one the stickiest challenges: re-enrolling the city&rsquo;s more than 50,000 dropouts.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Grassroots efforts</span></p><p>For years--long before Emanuel pushed for a systematic way of enrolling dropouts--Pa Joof has been taking a shoe-leather approach to getting students back in school.</p><p>Joof is the head of Winnie Mandela, an alternative high school on 78th and Jeffrey in the city&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood. Mandela is one of four schools run by Prologue Inc., a non-profit founded in 1973 to help disadvantaged neighborhoods. Prologue started running alternative schools for Chicago Public Schools in 1995.&nbsp;</p><p>On the first day of school, WBEZ visited Winnie Mandela High School to watch Joof and his team at work.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the little van that we use for basketball games,&rdquo; Joof tells me over the rumble of the van&rsquo;s engine starting up. It&rsquo;s almost lunchtime and he&rsquo;s about to hit the streets with two of the school&rsquo;s security guards--Dominick Muldrow and Dessie McGee--who double as recruiters and mentors.</p><p>&ldquo;We get the flyers and we put them up there,&rdquo; Joof explains. &ldquo;We know the corners that [kids are on], the areas that they go to.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Like the ones walking there,&rdquo; McGee says, pointing out the van&rsquo;s backseat window.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s happening? Today is the first day of school man, what&rsquo;s happening?&rdquo; Joof shouts out the window.<br />&ldquo;Ya&rsquo;ll registered for school?&rdquo; Muldrow asks.<br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s 24!&rdquo; says one of the two men on the sidewalk.<br />&ldquo;Ah, he don&rsquo;t look that old,&rdquo; Muldrow says<br />&ldquo;Maybe you all know someone that&rsquo;s trying to get back in?&rdquo; McGee says, leaning to the front seat window to hand the men flyers about the school. &ldquo;Share these flyers with them.&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;This a high school?&rdquo; one of the men asks.<br />&ldquo;Yeah, right on 78th and Jeffrey,&rdquo; McGee replies.<br />&ldquo;My little brother, we&rsquo;re trying to get him back in there,&rdquo; the man says. &ldquo;He got like six credits, no, three. We&rsquo;re trying to get him back in. What ages?&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;Seventeen to twenty-one!&rdquo; McGee says.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the age range when kids can still re-enroll in high school, according to CPS. When Emanuel took office in 2011, CPS ran the numbers to find out exactly how many students had dropped off the attendance rolls before graduating, but were between 13 and 21. The number was close to 60,000.</p><p>During his first 100 days in office, Emanuel&rsquo;s directive was clear: find those kids and get them back to class.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A systematic approach</span></p><p>Molly Burke is leading the district&rsquo;s Student Outreach and Re-Engagement program, or SOAR.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the first program we have where we&rsquo;ve gotten a list of all the dropouts and proactively gone after them,&rdquo; Burke says, echoing what her predecessor told WBEZ in 2011.</p><p>The effort pulls data from the district&rsquo;s student records system to identify kids who have left school before graduating in the last few years.<br />&ldquo;Throughout the summer, they had a list that were all the students that dropped last year and the year before,&rdquo; Burke explains. &ldquo;So we went after those students who weren&rsquo;t active at the end of last school year. And now that school starts, they start to get the list of the kids that have dropped or who did not arrive.&rdquo;</p><p>District officials formally announced the SOAR program last year and with it, three official re-enrollment centers were opened. Sean Smith oversees the SOAR centers, located in Little Village, Roseland and Garfield Park.</p><p>So far, 1,700 students have come through the SOAR centers and 130 have already gotten their high school diplomas. Smith says they want to enroll an additional 3,000 this year.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a large goal for our team,&rdquo; he admits, noting that each staff member would be bringing in 15 new students every week. At each center, there are five re-engagement specialists that basically do what Prologue has been doing, only with names, addresses and phone numbers from downtown.</p><p>After a student decides to re-enroll, they go through a two-week program at a SOAR center that helps them set goals and choose a school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Getting the diploma</span></p><p>Most of the students re-enrolling won&rsquo;t go back to a traditional high school. For one, many dropouts would age out of eligibility before they could feasibly earn enough credits to graduate. And Smith says putting teens back in an environment that already didn&rsquo;t work for them, usually doesn&rsquo;t make sense.</p><p>But students may not be going to one of the city&rsquo;s longstanding alternative schools, like Winnie Mandela, either.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because CPS recently expanded the number of alternative programs available to students, including many online schools and several run by for-profit companies.</p><p>One of those, Pathways in Education, is located in a strip mall at 87th and Kedzie. The school spans two spaces in this sprawling commercial building. One is a wide-open space, the size of a retail store, where about a dozen teachers sit at desks lining the outside walls and teens study at tables in the middle of the room.<br />Student James Cicconi goes here, but used to go to Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side. He says he skipped a lot during his freshman and sophomore years.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you ditch school, it&rsquo;s like an addiction,&rdquo; Cicconi says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like right away you do it once and you&rsquo;re want to do it again and again and before you know it you&rsquo;re gone twenty days out of the month.&rdquo;</p><p>When he started his junior year, Cicconi says the staff at Kennedy told him, &ldquo;Even if you do all of your stuff, there&rsquo;s not enough time for you to graduate. So you can either wait for us to kick you out or you can do this program.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS requires 24 credits to graduate. When Cicconi left Kennedy, he only had four.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the credits and how slow it is with getting them, and how much you have to do just to get a half credit for one class, they told me, even if I did night school, summer school, there just wasn&rsquo;t enough time for me to graduate on time,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>He started classes at Pathways last winter and comes roughly three hours every day. So far, he&rsquo;s earned twice as many credits as he did in two years at Kennedy.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS officials say the non-traditional setting and online classes help kids work at their own pace. But, nationally, investigations of online schools have found the courses often aren&rsquo;t as rigorous and can cheapen the value of a high school diploma.</p><p>Cicconi says classes are easy, but that he&rsquo;s able to focus better without lots of other kids around, goofing off in class. He says schools like Pathways are good for students who might have what he calls &ldquo;an authority problem&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;People come up with their own agenda and their own rules and I feel that, when you come up with your own rules, you have more of an obligation to do it because you&rsquo;re leading yourself,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>Back in South Shore, where Pa Joof and his team are doing outreach without a list from CPS, Dominick Muldrow turns the corner onto Jeffrey Boulevard, to head back towards Winnie Mandela High School. Muldrow and McGee, the other recruiter, both dropped out and earned their diplomas through alternative programs.</p><p>&ldquo;I relate to a lot of the guys, you know,&rdquo; Muldrow says. &ldquo;But at the end of the day, what it all boils down is, you&rsquo;re gonna need a high school diploma.&rdquo;</p><p>That is the message the district hopes to get to a least 3,000 more kids this year.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/@WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816