WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Does It Pay To Pay Teachers $100,000? http://www.wbez.org/news/does-it-pay-pay-teachers-100000-113905 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/100kteachers-rschuette-final-0cf41fe800556292024168ff9bfa10375d465f89-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Once all but unattainable, a six-figure salary is a reality for a growing number of teachers." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/18/100kteachers-rschuette-final-0cf41fe800556292024168ff9bfa10375d465f89-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Once all but unattainable, a six-figure salary is a reality for a growing number of teachers. (Ryan Schuette/NPR)" /></p><p>We&#39;re brought up to believe our teachers are modern-day saints. Just look at how we portray them in the movies and on TV. From&nbsp;<em>Dead Poets Society</em>&#39;s iconic Mr. Keating to resourceful LouAnne Johnson in&nbsp;<em>Dangerous Minds</em>, we reinforce time and again that teaching is a noble calling.</p><p>These teachers are heroes, we&#39;re told. It&#39;s hard to imagine them even thinking about money.</p><p>But their real-life counterparts aren&#39;t getting rich, either. The average pay for a teacher in the United States?&nbsp;<a href="https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp">About $56,000</a>, usually higher in urban districts, lower in rural ones. Add the fact that salaries fell in recent years, and it&#39;s probably no surprise that more teachers are leaving the profession, with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/08/19/432724094/teacher-shortage-or-teacher-pipeline-problem">fewer entering it</a>.</p><p>And yet, here and there, in a few places around the country, some teachers have attained what has long been considered a mark of success in this country: a six-figure salary.</p><div id="res456506598" previewtitle="Once all but unattainable, a six-figure salary is a reality for a growing number of teachers."><div><div><p>One place you can find them is Washington, D.C. After 14 years teaching in the nation&#39;s capital, Hope Harrod is closing in on that magic number.</p></div></div></div><p>&quot;I didn&#39;t expect to make the kind of money I&#39;m making now,&quot; she says.</p><p>Sure, $100,000 doesn&#39;t put you up there with hedge-fund managers. But it&#39;s still good money.</p><p>These days, paying teachers that much is &quot;unusual, but not rare,&quot; says Dick Startz, an economist with the University of California, Santa Barbara. And it&#39;s becoming less rare every day.</p><p>The teacher shortages and pipeline problems are leading some school districts back to the drawing board &mdash; or chalkboard, rather. And increasingly, one of the things on the table is higher pay &mdash; even six figures.</p><p>In most places, reaching that magic number still means getting there the old-fashioned way &mdash; with a master&#39;s degree and 10 or 20 years on the job. And in places like New York state, salaries are given a hefty boost simply because the cost of living is higher, too.</p><p>So what&#39;s new? A growing number of districts are looking to change that pay structure. The goal: Give teachers, even younger teachers, the chance to earn more. Reward them not for seniority or advanced degrees, but for how well they teach.</p><p>Startz called these strides a &quot;very small step&quot; in the right direction. &quot;If we want a large set of people to do a job relatively well, we have to pay them relatively well,&quot; he said.</p><p><strong>&#39;It&#39;s A Really Good Feeling&#39;</strong></p><p>Until a few years ago, Hope Harrod made better than the national average for a teacher, but nowhere near six figures. The 40-year-old educator, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at John Burroughs Elementary School in Washington, says that changed in 2010. That was the year Michelle Rhee, then the city&#39;s schools chancellor, upended teacher compensation in the nation&#39;s capital.</p><p>Rather than advance teachers solely on the basis of seniority or education, the city school system rewards performance, with an evaluation system that involves classroom observations, test scores and other criteria.</p><p>Now, Harrod earns a salary close to that $100,000 mark.</p><p>Not that she teaches for the money: &quot;I love watching kids move through their thinking,&quot; she told us. &quot;I love to hear them talk to each other about the ideas that they have.&quot;</p><p>Still, she says, recognition matters. &quot;I feel like I&#39;m very much in a system that&#39;s honoring me in a way that other systems don&#39;t honor other teachers,&quot; she said.</p><p>She doesn&#39;t use that salary to buy a Mercedes-Benz or a home near Embassy Row. Instead, she said, she uses it to put away money for savings and help give her dad a more comfortable retirement.</p><p>And, as with many other teachers, some of it goes right back into her job so that Harrod can help her students.</p><p>&quot;Now I can spend money on my classroom and do that without worrying about bills for the rest of my life,&quot; she added. &quot;It&#39;s a really good feeling.&quot;</p><p><strong>Where Other Teachers Can Make Six Figures</strong></p><p>This year, 765 teachers in the D.C. schools earned $100,000 or more, including bonuses. The salaries stem from a program called Impact Plus that Rhee negotiated with teachers&#39; unions.</p><p>Essentially, the contract was a trade: more money for important concessions. Teachers agreed to competitive performance evaluations and the loss of tenure protections in return for the chance to increase their base salaries and receive bonuses.</p><p>&quot;We were trying to do something that had never been done before,&quot; Rhee explained in a recent phone interview.</p><p>Half a decade later, more districts around the country are considering or adopting performance pay. In February, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2015/02/17/106584/do-more-add-more-earn-more/">identified 10 school districts</a>&nbsp;revising their pay schedules and boosting teacher pay.</p><p><strong>The Bigger Debate</strong></p><p>So, if the benefits of paying teachers more seem straightforward, why isn&#39;t the six-figure salary &mdash; the one that doesn&#39;t take three decades to earn &mdash; catching on in most other communities?</p><p>For one, the issue may be wading into performance pay, a sticky subject for those who feel evaluations could be unfair to teachers or make schools themselves more competitive.</p><p>Diane Ravitch, a New York University professor and longtime critic of Rhee and performance pay, said the trade-off simply isn&#39;t worth it for most districts.</p><p>&quot;Teachers always want more pay,&quot; she said, adding that she feels &quot;it&#39;s most important where kids are poorest and neediest.&quot;</p><p>Even Rhee cautions against a cookie-cutter approach. Not all school districts are created equal, she said, and officials need to conduct evaluations and consider issues of pay and performance carefully.</p><p>Higher pay isn&#39;t &quot;the end-all, be-all&quot; for teachers, Rhee said. &quot;But it is one way that makes them feel really good about the work they&#39;re doing and helps them feel valued.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/11/19/455378792/does-it-pay-to-pay-teachers-100-000?ft=nprml&amp;f=455378792" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/does-it-pay-pay-teachers-100000-113905 Cullerton to Chicago Teachers Union: “Of course this would avoid a strike” http://www.wbez.org/news/cullerton-chicago-teachers-union-%E2%80%9C-course-would-avoid-strike%E2%80%9D-113805 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/cullerton.JPG" alt="" /><p><div>Chicago Public Schools has laid off round after round of teachers and other employees over the past couple years. Thousands are gone. District officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel warn: If the state doesn&rsquo;t do something by February to help CPS with its $500 million budget hole, there&rsquo;ll be even more layoffs.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>John Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat and state Senate president. &nbsp;He says he has a plan, and that plan--outlined in <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=318&amp;GAID=13&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;LegId=84279&amp;SessionID=88" target="_blank">Senate Bill 318</a>-- has something for everyone, including lawmakers, the governor, school districts &nbsp;and unions. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what a compromise is,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what a package is.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But there&rsquo;s a hitch. Some of the very people Cullerton wants to help - Chicago teachers - their union is not on board.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know the logic of the teachers&rsquo; union being opposed to the bill,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s maybe because, you know, the Board of Ed is for it and, therefore they have to be against it. That&rsquo;s all I can figure, you know? The mayor&rsquo;s for it, they&rsquo;re against it because they had a fight with him in the past.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-strike-after-talks-fail-102287" target="_blank">Remember the 2012 teachers&rsquo; strike?</a> That&rsquo;s the fight Cullerton is referring to. And there&rsquo;s been talk of a second teachers strike under Emanuel over the district&rsquo;s current finances.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Of course this would avoid a strike,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;There wouldn&rsquo;t be any need for them to lose their pension pick-up in their contract negotiations. There wouldn&rsquo;t be any layoffs. I don&rsquo;t know what else they&rsquo;re striking about.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Three-eighteen is not about stopping a strike. Three-eighteen is about destroying our school system,&rdquo; said Stacy Davis Gates, the legislative coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Davis Gates is referring there to something Cullerton himself wants the bill to accomplish. &nbsp;Along with peppering Senate Bill 318 <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/851622/cullerton-introduce-federal-funding-bill-property-tax-hike" target="_blank">with things like</a> a property tax freeze to get Gov. Bruce Rauner in, and teacher pension payments for Emanuel, Cullerton added a remake of the state&rsquo;s school funding formula--one of his own major goals. He says under the way state government currently gives money to schools, poor districts like Chicago don&rsquo;t get the money they should and wealthier districts are getting more than they should.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So Cullerton&rsquo;s bill puts an expiration date on the current way Illinois funds schools. In effect, he says he wants to end a bad system to make way for a better one. But Davis Gates with the Teachers Union says the union has a big problem with that. You can&rsquo;t end school funding first coming up with a way to replace it, she argues.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;This bill, again, is irresponsible,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You cannot say that we are providing a solution to a problem when you eliminate the entire revenue stream to the school district.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The teachers union also wants big things that aren&rsquo;t in Cullerton&rsquo;s bill, like a new income tax system and an elected Chicago school board. &nbsp;In the meantime, the clock is ticking on Chicago Public Schools. District leaders say they have only a few months before cuts will be necessary - right in the middle of the school year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea contributed to this story. She is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.&nbsp;</em><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 13:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cullerton-chicago-teachers-union-%E2%80%9C-course-would-avoid-strike%E2%80%9D-113805 Your school shapes how you think about inequality http://www.wbez.org/news/your-school-shapes-how-you-think-about-inequality-113801 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/school-inequality_custom-99a663b90c86786f3d3b4b3dbe1f61e744183c3b-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res455355841" previewtitle="Two students passing through each other to get a glimpse of another way of life"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Two students passing through each other to get a glimpse of another way of life" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/09/school-inequality_custom-99a663b90c86786f3d3b4b3dbe1f61e744183c3b-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 354px; width: 620px;" title="Two students passing through each other to get a glimpse of another way of life. (LA Johnson/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>Ask yourself this question: <em>Were you aware of inequality growing up?</em></p><p>Your answer may depend in part on where you went to high school. Students at racially diverse schools, particularly black and Hispanic students, are more tuned-in to injustice than students going to school mostly with kids that look like them.</p><p>That&#39;s one of the main threads of a new book by Carla Shedd, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Columbia University. In&nbsp;<em>Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice</em>,&nbsp;Shedd goes straight to the source: the students at four Chicago public high schools. She even let the kids pick their own pseudonyms.</p><p>Two of the schools were largely segregated: one had no white or Asian students. The other two were fairly diverse &mdash; by Chicago standards &mdash; one with about a third white or Asian students and the other, a magnet school, with more than half.</p><p>Shedd followed the schools from 2001 to 2011, a turbulent decade when the city demolished its infamous high-rise public housing units and began closing public schools in large numbers.</p><p>I spoke with Shedd about how school segregation can damage a student&#39;s sense of self.</p><hr /><p><img alt="Unequal City cover" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/manually-added/unequal-city_custom-e4c22271c64c0ef421fdf85be815ee8c507f32cf-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Cover, Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice, by Carla Shedd" /></p><p><strong>Let&#39;s jump right in. What did the students have to say?</strong></p><p>Black and brown kids going to their neighborhood school, many of them didn&#39;t have the concrete experiences to know that maybe their experiences are unequal. Those kids are very different from the kids who leave their neighborhood and go to a school downtown and sit with classmates very different from them. They see what&#39;s similar and they see what is different. This is mind-blowing for 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds who are making sense of who they are. It will form their perceptions of opportunity.</p><p><strong>So what does that look like from the student perspective?</strong></p><p>Both Alex and TB live on the South Side of Chicago in all-black neighborhoods. Alex travels all the way from the South Side to just north of Chicago&#39;s downtown for his school. He has a racially mixed group of friends and his experiences confirm both his privilege and his disadvantage.</p><p>Alex went on a shopping trip with his friends to the mall downtown. So, he&#39;s in a mixed group of friends, they&#39;re doing something social, and a store security guard believed that one of their group members was shoplifting. The guard approached them and pulled out the three black kids in the group and told them they had to leave. Alex was really stressed by it.</p><p>And the contrast is TB. He has been searched but not arrested multiple times. He still thinks the police are fair. I asked him, &quot;How do you feel when this happens?&quot; And he says, &quot;Doesn&#39;t this happen to everyone?&quot; It&#39;s almost normal for him. TB&#39;s school can&#39;t confirm that what he experiences is not the norm for everyone else.</p><p>So, students of color in segregated schools might be less aware of inequality, but in diverse schools, they might be overwhelmed by it. Where&#39;s the balance?</p><p>With kids in segregated schools, I talk a little about dosage. If they have a lot of these experiences with police &mdash; they&#39;re being stopped and searched &mdash; they&#39;re a little less naive. But for those who this hasn&#39;t happened to so many times, they see it as normal. It&#39;s almost protective in a way.</p><div id="res455803212" previewtitle="Click to subscribe!"><div data-crop-type=""><strong>What about the kids at more diverse schools, like Alex?</strong></div></div><p>In terms of the larger burden for other young people, it&#39;s also something that could be positive, to think about challenges, to think about inequality. It&#39;s a burden, but it&#39;s an important skill set that prepares them later on for inequality with a different face, for working in corporate America and being the only minority or walking down the street and having to disarm people who think they&#39;ll be robbed.</p><p><strong>How does this affect white students?</strong></p><p>There&#39;s a Filipino student who named himself Joaquin. So, Joaquin said after he leaves school, it&#39;s like different species go off into the world. You see the black kids go to a bus or a train line. You see the white kids walking to their homes, some of the most expensive real estate in the city, and the Hispanic kids going to the Brown Line to go to the West Side where they live. He talks about the flows of people at dismissal being so striking, because in school, he doesn&#39;t see that clash of species, as he called it, until everyone is dismissed.</p><p>That&#39;s a very different experience for white students and perhaps Asian students. Otherwise in Chicago, they wouldn&#39;t necessarily have to be in a diverse environment, in light of the options they have for private and parochial schools. It&#39;s almost an anomaly that they&#39;re getting to interact with a diverse group of students. Otherwise they could just be in their segregated lives.</p><p><strong>Is your book an argument for integration?</strong></p><p>I&#39;m not saying kids that go to all-black schools can&#39;t have a great educational experience, but the resources are so starkly divided across these types of schools that are more racially homogeneous, and that&#39;s the problem.</p><p>On the integration front, the positive is not just putting people of different races next to each other, but it also opens up different experiences and perspectives so they can share with one another and think within and across whatever boundaries there are: race, class, gender. It gives them a fuller sense of how the world works.</p><p><strong>What should we take away from your book?</strong></p><p>It is providing some nuance to how young people understand themselves in the world, and it&#39;s also having their voices heard.</p><p>I want [readers] to think concretely about how what happens in school at this formative age shapes the lives of these young people, and it shapes the America we&#39;ll have.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/11/14/454858044/your-school-shapes-how-you-think-about-inequality?ft=nprml&amp;f=454858044" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/your-school-shapes-how-you-think-about-inequality-113801 Paying for college in era of soaring student debt http://www.wbez.org/news/paying-college-era-soaring-student-debt-113788 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/1112_graduation-cap-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_96000"><img alt="A 2015 graduation cap. (Pixabay)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/11/1112_graduation-cap-624x416.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Paying for college can be harder than getting into college. (Pixabay)" /><p>For many graduating high school students and their families, paying for college can be harder than getting in. From scholarships to sky-high tuition, financing high education seems like it&rsquo;s getting more complex every day.</p></div><p>As part of <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/tag/student-loan-debt-series" target="_blank">our series on student loan debt</a>,<em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/11/12/how-to-pay-for-college" target="_blank">&nbsp;Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s</a></em> Jeremy Hobson asks two counselors for tips on planning for &ndash; and paying for &ndash; college.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Tips For Families Worried About College Costs</strong></span></p><p>By <a href="https://twitter.com/lisamicele" target="_blank">Lisa </a><a href="https://twitter.com/lisamicele" target="_blank">Micele</a></p><ol><li><strong>Save anything you can for college.&nbsp;</strong>Families often believe that saving will hurt them with financial aid. The penalty for saving (especially when in the parent&rsquo;s name) is very minimal.&nbsp;<a href="http://studentaid.gov/" target="_blank">StudentAid.gov</a>&nbsp;is a great place to start to learn about the federal student assistance programs and eligibility requirements.</li><li><strong>Just do it! File the financial aid forms when applying to college and don&rsquo;t make assumptions.</strong>&nbsp;There are no income cut-offs. It is a formula that takes so many factors (other than income) into account.</li><li><strong>Complete NET PRICE CALCULATORS early</strong>&nbsp;and have conversations about ability &amp; willingness to pay early as a family too. These calculators are found on each college/university website. You can also do EFC (Expected Family Contribution) calculators at the Big Future College Board&nbsp;<a href="https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator" target="_blank">website</a>.</li><li><strong>Don&rsquo;t be afraid to call the financial aid office at a college and ask questions.</strong>&nbsp;Ask them how accurate their Net Price calculator is (some are better than others) and discuss your outcome from this calculator starting junior year of high school. Get the name of the financial aid officer and talk with the same person. They are there to help you and they appreciate early &amp; proactive conversations. In spring, when a senior is then making the final May 1st decision, any conversations about the aid package or a potential appeal will go thru the financial aid office. Now you will have someone specific to call, if needed.</li><li><strong>Merit aid does still at exist at some colleges.</strong>&nbsp;Do your research.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collegedata.com/" target="_blank">CollegeData.com</a>&nbsp;is a great site to use &mdash; under the &ldquo;Money Matters&rdquo; tab for each college.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cappex.com/" target="_blank">Cappex.com</a>&nbsp;also allows you to search for merit aid at colleges that reward students for grades, test scores, talents, leadership, etc. regardless of parents&rsquo; income. Use&nbsp;<a href="https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/" target="_blank">College Scorecard</a>&nbsp;in your research for colleges as well.</li><li><strong>Apply for scholarships using free search engines</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; completing all of the optional questions and portals as thoroughly as possible. NEVER pay for scholarship search services. These portals listed here are free. Students should complete multiple search engines.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.studentscholarshipsearch.com/" target="_blank">StudentScholarshipSearch.com</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fastweb.com/" target="_blank">Fastweb.com</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/" target="_blank">BigFuture.Collegeboard.org</a>are great places to start &mdash; to name a few.</li><li><strong>Apply for as many local scholarships as you can.</strong>&nbsp;Talk to your high school Counseling Office about such scholarships; search online; talk with civic centers / volunteer agencies in your hometown. Parents &amp; guardians should inquire with their employers about scholarship opportunities as well.</li><li><strong>Student</strong><strong> should plan for summer work to save for college and plan for a part-time job in college.&nbsp;</strong>12 hours or less while in college is very doable and data shows that having a job equates to better grades and time management.</li><li>If you do borrow student loans,&nbsp;<strong>go for the federal loans first</strong>&nbsp;over private loans; use repayment estimators; talk with the financial aid office at the college you are attending to budget and plan ahead for repayment.</li><li><strong>Use your community college</strong>.&nbsp;Summer classes that transfer to your college/university for credit can save you tuition dollars. Starting at your community college first may be the best fit for you as well.</li><li>Cut costs in college.&nbsp;<strong>Budget</strong>; make sacrifices now (yes &mdash; you can skip the latte); evaluate closely the meal / housing plan options in college. These are just a few examples. Search &ldquo;How to cut costs in college&rdquo; and many sites will offer you tips, budget templates, and words of wisdom from college graduates.</li></ol><p>Final words from Lisa Micele:&nbsp;Use these tools and tips to plan ahead, build a better college list, and put &ldquo;Financial Fit&rdquo; into your college discussions. You can do this! Good luck.</p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 15:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/paying-college-era-soaring-student-debt-113788 Four charter schools push back against sudden closings http://www.wbez.org/news/four-charter-schools-push-back-against-sudden-closings-113767 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/3046431310_f756a4771b_o.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago wants to<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/top-cps-official-charter-closings-should-not-be-a-surprise" target="_blank"> shut down four public charter schools</a> in what could be the fastest school closing decision the city has ever seen.</p><p>All four schools have been open less than a decade &mdash; one school is just about to graduate its first senior class. The schools are all on the city&rsquo;s South Side and serve mostly black and low-income children.</p><p>The school board passed a new policy 15 days ago, outlining which charter schools it deemed poor performing. A week later, district officials announced a list of four schools it wants to close at the end of this school year: Amandla, Bronzeville Lighthouse Academy, Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools &ndash; Barbara Sizemore, and Chicago International Charter Schools &ndash; Larry Hawkins.</p><p>State law allows districts to revoke a charter contract if the school doesn&rsquo;t meet performance standards set out in the contract. CPS has <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-schools-surprised-new-cps-academic-warning-list-105797">put charter schools on a warning list</a> in the past. But the schools all say they were blindsided by the decisions and at how quickly the district is moving.</p><p>&ldquo;CPS has never moved this fast on anything,&rdquo; said Lamarr Miller, chairman of the board of Bronzeville Lighthouse Academy. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s very political.&rdquo;</p><p>The school district insists the closures are about quality.</p><p><strong>The first &mdash; and last &mdash; graduating class</strong></p><p>A decade ago, a small group of teachers working at Robeson High School, then considered one of the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;dropout factories,&rdquo; &nbsp;started imagining a different kind of school.</p><p>Convinced they could do better, they opened a new high school right across the football field. They named it Amandla and started enrolling fifth graders.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to ensure that the students that we prepared for college were truly prepared to remain at college and be successful,&rdquo; said Sarah Brennan, one of Amandla&rsquo;s co-founders and now its Chief Operating Officer. &nbsp;</p><p>It was part of Renaissance 2010, an ambitious plan to open 100 new schools in five years launched by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when he ran CPS.</p><p>Now, eight years later, Amandla is poised to graduate its very first class of seniors.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t even seen our model to fruition,&rdquo; Brennan said &ldquo;This year is kind of it for us, like, what&rsquo;s going to happen to this group of kids?&rdquo;</p><p>Principal Alyssa Nickow is stunned CPS could close their school based on a school rating that does not even include graduation numbers.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have a four-year graduation rate. We don&rsquo;t have college persistence. We won&rsquo;t have that for a couple of years,&rdquo; Nickow said. Both are metrics the city uses to determine how well a high school is performing.</p><p>Nickow admits they&rsquo;ve struggled recently. The district put them on an academic warning list last year, and although the school improved on the general school rating policy, that&rsquo;s not what CPS used to justify these four closures.</p><p><strong>Secret scorecards, no public hearings</strong></p><p>Of the four charters up for closure, three were put on notice last year and had to develop remediation plans. All three said they improved, moving up from the district&rsquo;s lowest rating.</p><p>&ldquo;One day last week, we were celebrating the fact that we did move from a level three school to a level two &nbsp;and the day after we celebrated, we got a letter saying that the board was planning to take action against the school,&rdquo; said Rodney Hull, principal of Chicago International Charter School&rsquo;s Larry Hawkins, also on the closing list.</p><p>Ironically, it was not that long ago CPS begged Chicago International Charter School to open the Larry Hawkins school after the beating death of student Derrion Albert raised questions about why the neighborhood had no open-enrollment high school.</p><p>&ldquo;I thought (the closing announcement) was a mistake,&rdquo; Hull said.</p><p>But there was no mistake. Whatever improvement took place at Hawkins and Amandla last year, it was not enough.</p><p>A CPS spokesman sent WBEZ a scorecard for each of the four schools to justify closures. The documents show how three of the schools &mdash; Amandla, CICS-Hawkins, and Betty Shabazz - Sizemore &mdash; failed to meet certain goals in their remediation plans. The one for Bronzeville Lighthouse restated the school&rsquo;s low test scores and attendance.</p><p>But when WBEZ shared the scorecards with each school, they said they had never seen them before. The district confirmed it did not share these secret scorecards with the schools. CPS said the charters have access to all the same data that&rsquo;s on their scorecards and should have been monitoring their own progress.</p><p>Charters are not subject to a state law that would require at least three public hearings before a decision is made. The school board is scheduled to vote on three of the four proposed charter closings at its &nbsp;meeting next week. The vote on CICS-Hawkins will be taken in December based on the terms of that charter&rsquo;s contract.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/234370359&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="718.551px"></iframe><strong>&lsquo;Closures are part of the game&rsquo;</strong></p><p>After closing 50 schools in a single year, CPS officials vowed they wouldn&rsquo;t close any more until 2018. But district officials say charters are not included in that moratorium.</p><p>Jeff Henig, a political science professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, studies school districts like Chicago that subscribe to a school reform model known as the &ldquo;portfolio district.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Like a stock portfolio, the district, on a regular basis, reviews which schools, which stocks are performing and sells off the low performers and purchases new performers,&rdquo; Henig says.</p><p>He said one of the appeals of charter schools is that they are usually easier to close down if they don&rsquo;t perform well. &ldquo;Closures are part of the game,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The new CPS administration has <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/fight-over-charter-school-signals-philosophical-differences-how-schools-are-viewed-113541">come under fire</a> for opening two new charter schools at a time of huge deficits and declining enrollment. Now, they&rsquo;re sending a tougher message: telling charters they need to get better or &ldquo;pack their bags.&rdquo;</p><p>But Henig said it&rsquo;s problematic if administrators end up closing schools that may be doing a lot of good beyond what&rsquo;s quantifiable on paper. He also said the district should consider whether there are better schools for students to go to.</p><p>David Ireland, CEO of Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools, said both are issues for the network&rsquo;s Sizemore campus. He said CPS hasn&rsquo;t walked through the school since 2013 and is not considering the unique AfroCentric curriculum the school offers to families in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems as though they&rsquo;re taking away choices and making these cookie-cutter kinds of options for children,&rdquo; Ireland said.</p><p>The fourth school, Bronzeville Lighthouse, was never on a remediation plan, but is up for renewal this year. CPS said the school has slipped the last few years and therefore won&rsquo;t be renewed.</p><p>Lamarr Miller, the board chair at Bronzeville Lighthouse, said the district cancelled a visit to the school just one day before announcing the closings.</p><p>&ldquo;If it was a situation where I did not see hope in our charter, I would not defend it,&rdquo; Miller said. &ldquo;The downfall is that you&rsquo;re going to potentially shut down a charter that&rsquo;s supposedly chronically failing, but then you&rsquo;re going to send them to another school that&rsquo;s failing even worse?&rdquo;</p><p>District officials said they will work with families to find better schools for the <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/south-side-students-face-multiple-school-closings" target="_blank">almost 1,000 students that could be affected by the closures.</a></p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 08:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/four-charter-schools-push-back-against-sudden-closings-113767 Chicago schools commit to Thanksgiving StoryCorps project http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-commit-thanksgiving-storycorps-project-113766 <p><p>The&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools system is joining an effort by the nonprofit, oral history project StoryCorps to have tens of thousands of students interview their elders over the Thanksgiving weekend and preserve the recordings in the Library of Congress.</p><div><p>StoryCorps said Thursday that&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;is the first major school district to commit to the Great Thanksgiving Listen.</p><p>The school system&#39;s Chief Education Officer, Janice Jackson, says she&#39;s excited about having students use technology to bring history to life.</p><p>StoryCorps founder Dave Isay announced the project in August. He&#39;s asking high school history teachers nationwide to have students record the audio interviews on a free StoryCorps smartphone application.</p><p>Recordings sent to the Library of Congress will become part of a publicly accessible archive at the American Folklife Center.</p></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/great-thanksgiving-listen-storycorps-113705" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy%20of%20SC%20GTL%20Text%20Mark_0.png" style="height: 227px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div></p> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-commit-thanksgiving-storycorps-project-113766 More universities are adding drone programs http://www.wbez.org/news/more-universities-are-adding-drone-programs-113751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/16645905601_b866e073ac_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_95672"><img alt="The Autonomous Flight Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington. (Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/11/1106_drones-lab-624x414.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="The Autonomous Flight Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington. (Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)" /><p>If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come.</p><p>Colleges and universities around the country are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.</p></div><p>But the murky and evolving regulations for flying drones present hurdles to getting hands-on piloting experience.</p><p>From the&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/11/09/university-drone-programs" target="_blank"><em>Here &amp; Now</em></a>&nbsp;Contributors Network,&nbsp;Tom Banse&nbsp;of Northwest News Network reports.</p></p> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-universities-are-adding-drone-programs-113751 Ferguson in the classroom: How one college took up race and policing this semester http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-classroom-how-one-college-took-race-and-policing-semester-113695 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/textbooks_vert-534fac576daa88590feb5e53eb24b1bc942b7315-s1400.jpeg" alt="" /><p><div id="res454870181"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="&quot;Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance and Popular Protest&quot; is among the most popular courses at NYU's Gallatin School." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/05/teaching-ferguson_custom-df2847ef8aa3a96b4d69727c36e5c15da9c983f1-s800-c85.jpeg" style="height: 324px; width: 620px;" title="&quot;Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance and Popular Protest&quot; is among the most popular courses at NYU's Gallatin School. (Errin Whack)" /></div><div><div><p>Last Thanksgiving, NYU junior Micah Finkelman sat down to dinner with her white, liberal, Ohio family the same week a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.</p></div></div></div><p>Finkelman&#39;s parents had watched the dramatic news coverage of clashes between police, protesters, and looters and wondered what to make of the images. Their daughter struggled to explain why the Black Lives Matter movement should matter to them. But now, she&#39;s spent a semester in a classroom gathering the evidence to make her case.</p><p>&quot;In some ways, I&#39;m always going to be sort of removed from the emotion of it, because of my skin color, because of my privilege,&quot; Finkelman said. &quot;But [this class] has allowed me to understand where people are coming from. I need to contextualize it, and it helps when I have academic books to back me up when I go home and talk to people who have barely heard of the movement.&quot;</p><p>A course called&nbsp;<a href="http://gallatin.nyu.edu/academics/courses/detail.FA2015.IDSEM-UG1849.001.html">Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance and Popular Protest</a>&nbsp;is among the most popular at NYU&#39;s Gallatin School, where Finkelman is enrolled. The class filled up quickly last spring, had a long wait list, and has had consistently overflowing attendance &mdash; including some students willing to audit the course without getting a credit, just for the chance to soak up the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com/frankleonrobertsr/">syllabus</a>.</p><p>Despite being barely a year old, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked similar curriculum on campuses including&nbsp;<a href="https://web.library.emory.edu/news-events/news/archives/2015/coursera-lafayette-nonviolence.html">Emory University in Atlanta</a>, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan, and the University of Florida as demonstrations on and around college campuses have led to classroom discourse. At NYU, students have wrestled with questions of criminal justice, race and the media and the history of protest in America, putting the current campaign on a continuum of black struggle reaching back to slavery.</p><div id="res454244650"><aside><div><p>&quot;I was expecting a room full of black faces...That&#39;s not what I got. I&#39;m actually happy for that. It has allowed for a rich diversity of experiences in a very fruitful way.&quot;</p></div></aside></div><p>The NYU course has also featured high-profile participants in Black Lives Matter, including Professor Cornel West and activist DeRay Mckesson, both of whom were arrested in Ferguson. Professor Frank Leon Roberts, who is black, said the idea for the class came to him after wanting to bring conversations he was having with students about the events in the news into an academic setting.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s this idea that when you get young people together and put them in a classroom, something happens,&quot; Roberts said. &quot;One of the things (Mckesson) said that I think is really true, is that Twitter and the classroom are the two last radical spaces in America.&quot;</p><p>The relationship between black activism and academia is not a new one. Several leaders of the civil rights movement, including Congressman John Lewis and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, began gaining steam while they were still students. And in the midst of that era, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.morehouse.edu/newscenter/our-lessons-with-martin-luther-king-eight-students-recall-a-special-class-at-morehouse-college/">class</a>&nbsp;on social philosophy at his alma mater, Morehouse College, in 1962.</p><p>It was the only class he would ever teach. The handful of students enrolled &mdash; some of whom, like Bond, were already engaged in the movement &mdash; took those lessons and went on to become activists in their own right.</p><p>More broadly, other social movements have also been the subject of real-time examination on college campuses recently, with courses on 2010&#39;s Arab Spring and the 2011 Occupy movement being taught at colleges from Roosevelt to Pace in the years immediately following those uprisings.</p><p>Chevaun Samuels, a 20-year-old political science major at NYU, recalled being in his room when the non-indictment verdict came down for Wilson. &quot;I remember getting very upset and walking from Chinatown to 42nd Street to join a protest,&quot; Samuels said. &quot;After that, I was just like, I need to be in this movement. It&#39;s time to make an impact, to make our voices heard.&quot;</p><div id="res454889466"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Black Lives Matter has sparked curriculum on campuses including NYU, Emory University in Atlanta, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and the University of Florida." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/05/textbooks_custom-22aebed778638721b99bb617ba4ddfa218aca34c-s400-c85.jpeg" style="height: 227px; width: 320px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Black Lives Matter has sparked curriculum on campuses including NYU, Emory University in Atlanta, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and the University of Florida. (Errin Whack)" /></div><div><div><p>Samuels said taking the class was a must for him; he squeezed onto the class roll after being waitlisted. &quot;I knew about the movement on a broader spectrum, but...I needed to understand the building blocks of the movement before I could understand what the movement was about,&quot; he said. Samuels and his classmates debate and dissect different aspects of the movement for three hours a week, exploring topics from the ethics of black rage to the prison industrial complex, and looking at how the Black Lives Matter movement intersects with gender, democracy, and religion.</p></div></div></div><p>On a recent Thursday, the class began with a roundup of the past week&#39;s events as they related to Black Lives Matter before launching into a discussion about reform or abolition as a solution to mass incarceration in America. Discourse ranged from emotional to empathetic in an environment of mutual respect.</p><p>&quot;Everyone is genuinely and thoughtfully engaging with the subject matter of the class,&quot; said Shelly Pires, a junior from Framingham, Mass, who is black. &quot;I think the non-black people in the class are sometimes just as active voices. Everyone who&#39;s in this class is really, really interested in being there.&quot;</p><p>The class&#39;s diversity came as a surprise to Roberts. &quot;I was expecting a room full of black faces,&quot; he said. &quot;That&#39;s not what I got. I&#39;m actually happy for that. It has allowed for a rich diversity of experiences in a very fruitful way.&quot;</p><p>Now more than halfway through the class, Finkelman is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. During a recent visit from her parents, she lent her mom her copy of&nbsp;<em><a href="http://catalog.sevenstories.com/products/are-prisons-obsolete">Are Prisons Obsolete</a></em>?&nbsp;by scholar and ex-Black Panther Angela Davis.</p><p>&quot;For me to be able to give my mom a 100-page book that lays out how the system is set up to be disadvantageous to African-Americans is huge,&quot; Finkelman explained. &quot;I got that through this class. My parents were just here and I was able to talk to them,&quot; she said. &quot;I&#39;ve seen them evolve since Ferguson in tremendous ways, in the same way; I&#39;ve seen myself evolve.&quot;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/11/09/454055691/ferguson-in-the-classroom-how-one-college-took-up-race-and-policing-this-semeste?ft=nprml&amp;f=454055691"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 11:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-classroom-how-one-college-took-race-and-policing-semester-113695 Behind the shortage of special ed teachers: long hours, crushing paperwork http://www.wbez.org/news/behind-shortage-special-ed-teachers-long-hours-crushing-paperwork-113694 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/LA Johnson.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res454059709" previewtitle="Man carrying huge stack of papers and papers strewn about"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Man carrying huge stack of papers and papers strewn about" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/02/carrying-the-load_slide-4c5f7e939336b1ac122ceeb6dfc1163f26fb9e13-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Man carrying huge stack of papers and papers strewn about. (LA Johnson/NPR)" /></div><div><div>There is a letter that school districts really don&#39;t like sending home to parents of special education students. Each state has a different version, but they begin with something like this:</div></div></div><p>&quot;Dear Parent, as of the date of this letter your child&#39;s teacher is not considered &#39;highly qualified.&#39; &quot; And then: &quot;This doesn&#39;t mean your child&#39;s teacher is not capable or effective. It means they haven&#39;t met the state standards for teaching in their subject.&quot;</p><div id="res454315237"><div><p>In any other subject, that&#39;s an annoying problem that suggests students may not be well served. In special education, it means the school district is breaking the law.</p></div></div><p>The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that every student have what&#39;s known as an IEP &mdash; Individualized Education Program. And almost always, those IEP&#39;s spell out that students &mdash; either some of the time or all of the time &mdash; must be taught by a teacher fully certified in special education.</p><p><strong>&#39;Under A Microscope&#39;</strong></p><p>And yet, around the country, that&#39;s exactly the category of teacher that&#39;s most in demand, as many states and districts are reporting severe shortages.</p><p>&quot;This crisis has been coming for a long time,&quot; says David Pennington, superintendent of Ponca City public schools in Oklahoma. Many teachers there are nearing retirement and he&#39;s not sure he can replace them.</p><p>&quot;Forget about replacing them with someone of the same quality,&quot; he says. &quot;I&#39;m just worried about replacing them. Period.&quot;</p><p>Pennington&#39;s rural district of 5,300 students northwest of Tulsa has been hit hard by the shortage. He says it&#39;s extremely difficult to persuade newer special education teachers to stay beyond two or three years.</p><p>&quot;The job is not what they thought it was going to be,&quot; Pennington explains. &quot;They feel like they&#39;re under a microscope all the time.&quot;</p><p>On top of the normal demands of teaching, special education teachers face additional pressures: feelings of isolation, fear of lawsuits and students who demand extra attention. Many are the only special-needs teacher in their grade or their school, or sometimes in the entire district.</p><p>And then, there&#39;s the seemingly endless paperwork.</p><p>&quot;It is not uncommon,&quot; Pennington says, &quot;for a special ed teacher to tell me, &#39;I did not get a degree in special ed to do paperwork, I got a degree to help kids.&#39; &quot;</p><p>The IDEA and the IEP require hours and hours of filling out forms and writing reports documenting each student&#39;s progress.</p><p>&quot;And when do teachers do that paperwork? Sometime during the hours of 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.,&quot; says Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children, a special education research and advocacy group. &quot;It&#39;s like having two full-time jobs.&quot;</p><p><strong>Solutions</strong></p><p>So what&#39;s the answer? Aggressive recruitment, says Trevor Greene. He&#39;s the human resources director of Highline Public Schools, a 19,000-student district south of Seattle.</p><p>&quot;Right now it&#39;s a buyers&#39; market,&quot; he says. &quot;Districts can&#39;t afford to wait around for the right candidate.&quot; And he&#39;s speaking from experience. When Greene started as HR director last July, he had 30 vacancies in special education to fill before school began in September.</p><p>&quot;It was pretty ominous at the beginning,&quot; he recalls.</p><p>Betty Olson is the special education administrator for the Boise public schools in Idaho, and she was also forced to hire a few general education teachers this year.Greene reached out on every teacher-recruitment platform he could find. He even tracked applicants down on LinkedIn.</p><p>Eventually, all 30 slots were filled.</p><p>Some were filled by teachers with full special-education credentials, and others were trained in general education subjects but were willing to make the switch. The district is working to get those teachers trained and certified &mdash; a situation that&#39;s steadily becoming common.</p><p>As the school year approached she was prepared to send some of her district specialists, former teachers who now train new teachers, back into the classroom to fill vacancies.</p><p>It didn&#39;t come to that. But she now has the challenge of helping a slew of new teachers adjust to the world of special education.</p><p>Olson is getting some help from Boise State University, which has created a new program designed to prepare teachers with little or no experience in special education. Candidates are put on a fast track to complete a master&#39;s degree, and they receive one-on-one support as they begin their new career.</p><p>Similar programs have popped up around the country. &quot;I&#39;m hopeful things will get better,&quot; Olson says.</p><p>Other administrators, like David Pennington from Oklahoma, are less optimistic.</p><p>He believes we&#39;re in for a rude awakening. He expects more and more teachers to look at all that responsibility, all that pressure, and conclude that it&#39;s not worth it.</p><p>And so, he wonders, &quot;What happens when it gets so bad that you literally cannot find anyone to be in charge of a classroom?&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/11/09/436588372/behind-the-shortage-of-special-ed-teachers-long-hours-crushing-paperwork?ft=nprml&amp;f=436588372" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 10:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/behind-shortage-special-ed-teachers-long-hours-crushing-paperwork-113694 CPS students can finally eat what they grow http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-can-finally-eat-what-they-grow-113692 <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/SchoolGardenmurthy.jpg" title="Surgeon General Vivek Murthy looks at a tomato that a Lindblom Math and Science Academy student gardener picked. Murthy joined students as they collected food for the first school garden harvest that would make it into their lunchroom as part of an Eat What You Grow program in Chicago Public Schools. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Gardens in Chicago Public Schools have been sprouting up faster than you can say &ldquo;want some extra zucchini&rdquo;? And studies have long shown that children are much more likely to eat produce they&rsquo;ve grown themselves.<p>But for years, CPS officials considered school garden produce <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-10-19/health/ct-met-school-gardens-20101019_1_cps-spokeswoman-monique-bond-chartwells-thompson-school-garden">too dangerous</a> to serve in cafeterias. Then, quietly in 2013, the district decided to reconsider the policy and launched a program called &ldquo;Eat What You Grow.&rdquo;</p>Today, more than 80 schools have gone through safety training to allow students and faculty to bring produce into the classroom and even work it into lunchroom food.<p>That was the goal of a morning harvest this week at Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy, where students joined U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in the garden to pick Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes.</p><p>&ldquo;Kids spend so much of their life at school and school can be a place where they develop a foundation for healthy living,&rdquo; said Murthy, holding a colander of chard. &ldquo;So to the extent that educators can help kids develop healthy habits with nutrition and activity, to that extent they can help them build a foundation for healthy life thereafter.&rdquo;</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/SchoolGarden2.jpg" title="Radishes, lettuce, tomatoes and lettuce were among the vegetables and fruits in the first lunchroom harvest at Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy this week. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></div><p>Drew Thomas, the school garden coordinator for CPS, sees the program as a powerful tool to connect kids to healthful foods.</p>&ldquo;We recognize the research that has demonstrated the value of a farm-to-school approach to nutrition education,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And our school gardens are kind of the pillars of that program.&rdquo;<br /><p>&ldquo;Last year, we spent more than $3 million to bring in more than 4 million pounds of local produce into the dining center,&rdquo; Thomas said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s regularly featured on the school menu, but if students don&rsquo;t have a relationship to that food they don&rsquo;t choose those options when they are available. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s programs like this that really help them build that relationship from seed to harvest.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>After an hour of harvesting, Murthy had to leave for the airport. But the students gathered their vegetables in tubs and carried them up to the cafeteria for the big debut. What happened to the produce after that is unclear, as CPS officials refused to let the media see Lindblom&rsquo;s lunchroom.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 18:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-can-finally-eat-what-they-grow-113692