WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Obama proposes publicly funded community college for all http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-proposes-publicly-funded-community-college-all-111368 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP757947103055.png" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama on Friday proposed to bring the cost of two years of community college &quot;down to zero&quot; for all Americans, an ambitious nationwide plan based on a popular Tennessee program signed into law by that state&#39;s Republican governor.</p><p>However, the idea and its $60 billion federal price tag over 10 years would have to make the grade with a Republican Congress that is showing little appetite for big new spending programs. Obama, who plans to push the issue in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, argued that providing educational opportunity and creating a more skilled U.S. workforce shouldn&#39;t be a partisan issue.</p><p>&quot;Community college should be free for those willing to work for it because, in America, a quality education should not be a privilege that is reserved for a few,&quot; he said in a speech at Pellissippi State Community College. He said a high school diploma is no longer enough for American workers to compete in the global economy and that a college degree is &quot;the surest ticket to the middle class.&quot;</p><p>The White House estimated that 9 million students could eventually participate and save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year if they attend fulltime. Students would qualify if they attend at least halftime, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and make progress toward completing a degree or certificate program. Participating schools would have to meet certain academic requirements.</p><p>At North Lake College, part of the Dallas County Community College system, student Courtney Banks said such a program would help her and also allow others to enroll in classes.</p><p>&quot;Other people, other young adults would be willing to get into school because it wouldn&#39;t be so far out of reach,&quot; she said. She added she&#39;s still trying to pay back loans from a previous school. &quot;It costs a lot of money,&quot; she said.</p><p>The White House said the federal government would pick up 75 percent of the cost and the final quarter would come from states that opt into the program &mdash; a cost of $20 billion over 10 years. Spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama will propose new programs to pay for the federal portion in his budget next month.</p><p>Obama is calling the idea America&#39;s College Promise, modeled after Tennessee Promise, which Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law last year to provide free community and technical college tuition for two years. It has drawn 58,000 applicants, almost 90 percent of the state&#39;s high school seniors. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama&#39;s former White House chief of staff, has a similar program for students in his city.</p><p>&quot;If a state with Republican leadership is doing this and a city with Democratic leadership is doing this, how about we all do it,&quot; Obama said.</p><p>Obama brought Tennessee&#39;s two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, with him on Air Force One for the event. But both said they thought states, not the federal government, should follow Tennessee&#39;s lead.</p><p>&quot;Creating a federal program to me is not the way to get good things to happen in education,&quot; Corker told reporters from his seat in the third row of the speech. &quot;You&#39;re always better off letting states mimic each other.&quot;</p><p>Alexander, a former education secretary who is set to take over the Senate committee that oversees education, said Washington&#39;s role should be to reduce paperwork for student aid applications. Obama said he agrees and wants to see that happen this year.</p><p>Obama also was joined on the trip by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, who drew applause when she told the audience she&#39;s been teaching English at community college for 20 years and still does as second lady. &quot;This is the moment for community colleges to shine,&quot; she said.</p><p>The president and vice president also were visiting a manufacturing facility, Techmer PM in Clinton, Tennessee, to promote a second proposal to create a fund to help low-wage workers with high potential get training in growing fields such as energy, information technology and advanced manufacturing.</p></p> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 08:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-proposes-publicly-funded-community-college-all-111368 Emanuel promises 85 percent graduation rate if elected to second term http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahm-file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019, if he&#39;s elected to a second term.</p><p>In an invitation-only event, Emanuel said the future of the city depends on it.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no challenge the city&rsquo;s facing, and no opportunity we can&rsquo;t seize, that doesn&rsquo;t get answered on graduation day at high schools,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Not one.&rdquo;</p><p>Last school year, CPS hit an all-time high, with 69.8 percent of students making it through high school in at least five years.</p><p>To get the dramatic increase he wants, Emanuel said high schools will re-launch a program that his administration cut in 2012. &nbsp;It&#39;s called Freshman Connection. The month-long summer program introduced rising freshman to their high school, and made sure they were academically and socially prepared.</p><p>Jesse Sharkey, acting-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the gains in graduation numbers and the focus on freshman is a result of previous administrations&rsquo; efforts, not Emanuel&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;We were paying attention to that six years ago, when I was in a classroom,&rdquo; Sharkey said. Sharkey was a history teacher at Senn High School before being elected to CTU leadership.</p><p>He also noted that graduation rates are improving all across the country because &ldquo;there aren&rsquo;t very many good options for people who don&rsquo;t stay in school.&rdquo;</p><p>Freshman Connection isn&rsquo;t the only initiative in Emanuel&rsquo;s second term education agenda that was borrowed from the past.</p><p>He said, if elected, he will allow high-performing schools a free pass from most central office mandates, including around things like curriculum, standardized tests and budget. Ironically, his schools team cut a program that did just that. Some schools were designated as Autonomous Management Performance Schools&mdash;or AMPS&mdash;and were able to set their own curriculum and opt-out of many district mandates.</p><p>The new version would label schools that are high-performing three years in a row as &ldquo;Independent Schools.&rdquo; When asked about the criteria that would determine if a school is high-performing, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she is putting together a task force to determine that.</p><p>However, Byrd-Bennett bristled at the idea that it was the same as the old AMPS designation.</p><p>If elected to a second term, Emanuel also promised to:</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Increase the graduation rate at City Colleges to 21 percent by 2018.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Make computer science a high school graduation requirement.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Expand the number of full-day pre-school classrooms from 100 to 300.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Improve the city&rsquo;s high schools by giving them specialty programs, like International Baccalaureate, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and fine arts.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the bandwidth in every school so every classroom has a WiFi connection.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the number of parent engagement centers at schools from 31 to 62 by 2017.</p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 20:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 Inspector General finds questionable conduct in CPS http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS IG LUNCH PHOTO.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-d231fa94-bb41-12b8-a409-b2b852f480ad">Parents who try to sneak their kids into Chicago&rsquo;s selective schools through address fraud have been put on notice.</p><p dir="ltr">A new report by Chicago Public Schools inspector general, Nicholas Schuler, details several cases of admissions fraud investigated by his office over the last year. And his recommendations range from kicking the students out to firing the CPS staff who abetted it.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope this sends a message that people need to follow the rules and the rules apply to everybody,&rdquo; Schuler said. &ldquo;And when fraud is discovered there is going to be responsibility for that and the result might be that their child might be disenrolled from the school.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Documents/OIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf">This year&rsquo;s report</a>, which went live Monday morning, includes the usual array of residency violations, kickback schemes, fake purchases and tuition fraud. But it also documents the desperate acts of parents trying to get their kids into selective schools, administrators trying to fudge their dropout rates and vendors trying to get the inside track on city contracts.</p><p dir="ltr">On Sunday night, CPS released a statement to WBEZ, saying &quot;Chicago Public Schools is committed to working with the Office of the Inspector General to eliminate corruption, fraud and waste across the District. &nbsp;The annual OIG report is a testament of our cooperation and demonstrates we do not tolerate any wrongdoing, and CPS has either addressed or is addressing all the issues in the report.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Although the report cannot name names, WBEZ has been able to fill in some identities through media reports, public documents and confirmations by sources. The purview of the OIG is mainly restricted to CPS employees and so does not represent all violations that occur in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the district replaced race with socio-economics status (by address) as a factor for admission to selective enrollment high schools. This year&rsquo;s report is the first to investigate abuse of this factor by more than a dozen students at six selective enrollment high schools. Another six cases involved CPS employees who had falsified their addresses to appear less affluent and gain their children easier admission. Most of the children identified in the report have been kicked out of the schools, and most of the CPS employees have faced or will face dismissals.</p><p dir="ltr">Monday, CPS said it would consider audits of selective enrollment students in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">The report further detailed $657,000 in back tuition owed by suburban residents who were illegally sending their kids to CPS schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Another prominent case in this year&rsquo;s document involves former Gwendolyn Brooks Preparatory High School principal Dushon Brown. According to the report, on the eve of the 2010-11 school year, she asked a CPS administrator to allow a student who&rsquo;d neither applied for nor taken the selective enrollment exam, to enroll in her school. When the administrator refused, Brown, reportedly &ldquo;phoned a state legislator&rdquo; who phoned the administrator again asking for an exception. The attempts were not successful. The OIG recommended discipline for the principal in its 2012 report.</p><p dir="ltr">In its 2013 report, the OIG detailed a case in which Principal Brown and a Gwendolyn Brooks school operations manager found a bank account opened by the parent booster club of the building&rsquo;s previous occupant, a Catholic school. The report says a &ldquo;local bank inexplicably allowed&rdquo; Brown and the operations manager to take control of the $186,235 of funds and spend $116,974, but never included it in the &ldquo;school&rsquo;s internal accounts ledger.&rdquo; The OIG recommended discipline for the principal, which was still pending at the time of the last report. In today&rsquo;s report the OIG reports that Brown was terminated in 2014 and classified as a &ldquo;Do Not Hire.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The report follows up on another 2012 case in which the OIG found a former chief area officer took nearly $17,000 in travel and gifts (including a $10,000 scholarship) from textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In exchange, according to the report, the CPS officer steered the publisher to nearly $300,000 in business &ldquo;through no-bid, sole source deals.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last July the CPS Board entered into a settlement with the publisher requiring it to pay a $250,000 fine and to fund an independent monitor to oversee these issues. In addition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had to train its employees to comply with board ethics policies.</p><p dir="ltr">Another outstanding ethics issue tackled in this year&rsquo;s report involves a dispute between two of the nation&rsquo;s largest food service providers, who were competing for the 2013 school food contract, valued at nearly $100 million a year. Food giant Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality charged that CPS school food chief (and former Aramark manager) Leslie Fowler showed favoritism to her former employer in the contract bidding process. The district asked the OIG to rule on the issue at the time, and it concluded that Fowler&rsquo;s actions &ldquo;did not violate applicable ethics policies.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In its new report, however, the OIG says Fowler &ldquo;engaged in questionable conduct throughout the award process.&rdquo; This included dining twice with the president of Aramark during the process and telling fellow bid committee members that her boss did not want Chartwells to win the contract. The report further says that Fowler told &ldquo;staff members that she did not need to review (Aramark&rsquo;s bid) because she had written proposals for&rdquo; the company herself and Aramark knew what she wanted. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the process of the Fowler investigation, &ldquo;the OIG also learned that the administrator prodded subordinates to participate in a party game that made people feel uncomfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Attempts to reach Fowler for comment through CPS were unsuccessful.</p><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the case, the OIG has recommended that CPS review the investigation to see &ldquo;if any further action regarding the administrator is warranted.&rdquo; It also recommended that the district &ldquo;review its RFP [contract bidding] policy and ensure adequate training for those involved in the process.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Aramark also<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767"> received one of the nation&rsquo;s largest school custodial contracts </a>last year from CPS when the district privatized its cleaning crews. The Aramark takeover of the program has been met with &nbsp;district-wide complaints of dirty classrooms, theft, damaged materials and bad communication. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Another novel case in this year&rsquo;s report investigated a CPS high school that classified 296 students &nbsp;who dropped out (since 2009) as &ldquo;transfers,&rdquo; allegedly in order to improve its dropout numbers. The school said that the students were headed for GED programs, but Illinois law makes it clear that these students are to be counted as dropouts. Another 121 students at the school were classified as transfers, but the OIG says less than 5 percent of the cases was backed up with &ldquo;adequate written proof.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In another case, the OIG says a high school principal was sending an average of 55 students a day to a kind of first period detention if they were more than 15 minutes tardy. The practice was done to discourage tardiness but the OIG said it occurred more than 10,000 times (recorded as &ldquo;school function&rdquo;) in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of missed instruction minutes. Although principals have leeway to be creative with attendance programs the OIG recommended CPS implement more consistent practices.</p><p dir="ltr">Other cases, among the OIG&rsquo;s 280 this year, dealt with full time CPS teachers who were also employed as full time Chicago Police Department officers; a phony billing scheme at Michele Clark High School that resulted in $870,000 in fraud and principals who fraudulently enrolled their family members as students for a few key weeks to boost attendance numbers.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 11:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338 Hey Mayor! http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/heym.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>You may be noticing more political ads as the February municipal elections inch closer. The election determines the future face of City Hall: all 50 aldermanic seats are up, as well as the office of mayor. &nbsp;But what do Chicagoans want the next mayor&#39;s priorities to be? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The 2014 Mikva Challenge Soapbox contest asked young Chicagoans, <em>&quot;If you were the next Mayor of Chicago, what is the first community issue you would tackle, and why?&quot;</em>&nbsp; Here&#39;s what they had to say.</p><p>(To hear each student, scroll over the play button and click on the player that pops up. A complete playlist is also available below.)</p><p><img class="alwaysThinglink" src="//cdn.thinglink.me/api/image/604082955626741761/1024/10/scaletowidth#tl-604082955626741761;1043138249'" style="max-width:100%" /></p><p>(WBEZ/Andrew Gill, Cate Cahan, Logan Jaffe)</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/66215899%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-EMuvr&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 What happens to people with autism when they age out of school? http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-people-autism-when-they-age-out-school-111326 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000101028088-1nyuya-t500x500.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-2de977b6-abb8-ca6e-c072-bc877bdd2ffc">It&rsquo;s early in the morning. Josh Stern waits outside his house in Wilmette for a Pace van he calls every as his ride to work. The van arrives, Josh kisses his mom goodbye and pays his fare.</p><p dir="ltr">Stern is 25. He was diagnosed with autism when he was two. He has a photographic memory that allows him to sort through loan paperwork at great speed.</p><p dir="ltr">He takes one quick glance at the numbers, hits the calculator, files the forms in order and it&rsquo;s ready to go. It&rsquo;s a skill his co-worker Ricardo Ramos says he admires.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a computer almost,&rdquo; Ramos said. &ldquo;He literally just keeps on doing it and you know he doesn&rsquo;t miss a detail. That&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s great about him, once you train him, he&rsquo;ll just do it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Illinois has more than 19,000 minors who have autism. And that&rsquo;s just what the <a href="http://www.easterseals.com/explore-resources/living-with-autism/2014_autism_illinois.pdf">schools</a> are identifying. When these kids&rsquo; services expire from the state, they face the same choice as most young adults: school or work? But the transition to either of those worlds can be difficult depending on the disability.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The day the bus doesn&#39;t come</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Josh&rsquo;s mom Linda Stern is all too familiar with what many parents refer to as &ldquo;the day the bus doesn&rsquo;t come.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They put so much effort and wonderful work into the school experience and for most people all that work all that effort all that wonderful enriching experience just disappears,&rdquo; Stern said. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t even understand it, it&rsquo;s like how come I&rsquo;m not going to school and I&rsquo;m sitting at home with mom watching TV all day long.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The transitional period out of the school system in Illinois starts at age 14 &frac12;. During that time, families work with the school to create post graduation goals based on the child&rsquo;s interests and skills.</p><p dir="ltr">Though federal law requires that every child receive a transition plan, parents like Bill Casey feel the system can leave parents frustrated and confused.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Parents don&rsquo;t understand what&rsquo;s offered to them by the community service organizations,&rdquo; Casey said. &ldquo;You really have to start digging to figure what&rsquo;s available. You really need friends like Julie and Michael Tracy to help guide you in some ways to find the right avenues.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Julie and Michael Tracy run an urban farm that caters to young adults with autism. The farm harvests everything from collard greens to fresh tomatoes, and all of that goes to food pantries across the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re teaching them jobs skills, interviewing and resume, working with other people,&rdquo; said Gwenne Godwin, farm manager at the <a href="http://jmtf.org/portfolio/growing-solutions-farm/">Growing Solutions Farm</a>. &ldquo;We just happen to be using the medium of agriculture to do it in so that they can get a job in this industry or in any industry because they&rsquo;ve learned those vocational skills.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Casey&rsquo;s son Dan works at the farm. He feels it offers Dan an experience he didn&rsquo;t have in a school setting.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You know kids with autism don&rsquo;t have all the victories that we all have growing up,&rdquo; Casey said. &ldquo;The baseball, the football, the debates and the like, this is something for them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">We asked the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities for response to Bill Casey&rsquo;s claims about these programs, but they didn&rsquo;t provide one. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Now, the National Garden Bureau is behind the program and these young workers are able for the first time to take home a paycheck. The non-profit has generated nearly $30,000 in donations and continues to raise funds for the farm.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Opportunities in higher education</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/6/1042">More than half</a> of people with autism struggle to find work and often don&rsquo;t seek higher education opportunities.</p><p dir="ltr">For those who do, they can turn to Jennifer Gorski. Gorski runs the Autism Clinic and TAP Training Center at University of Illinois, Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are hearing about these needs from people in our community quite a bit,&rdquo; Gorski said. &ldquo;We formed the ASPiE group which is a support group geared toward supporting college students that are on the spectrum.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">ASPiE (Adults Spectrum People in Education) meet once a week to have frank conversations that every college kid has such as, what&rsquo;s in store after college, questions about careers and managing course load.</p><p dir="ltr">Since social interactions can be a big obstacle for individuals with autism, ASPiE members like Jasmin Khoshnood say it helps them interact with their peers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been really helpful to me in terms what do with with college and how to add to professional world,&rdquo; said Khoshnood. &ldquo;Meeting ASPiE college students has been good for me as well having a peer group that is more like me I can tell things that I couldn&#39;t tell to non-autistic, neuro-typical people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The program at UIC Khoshnood participates in is not the norm across the state.</p><p dir="ltr">United Cerebral Palsy <a href="http://cfi2014.ucp.org/data/">ranks</a> Illinois at the bottom for the way it handles its services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My perspective is that it all comes down to funding,&rdquo; said Gorski from UIC&rsquo;s Autism Clinic and TAP Training Center. &ldquo;I think that the adults are a little bit behind in terms of the allocation of resources.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Come January, that funding could get even <a href="http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=71009">tighter</a> when the current income tax hike rolls back.</p><p dir="ltr">Kevin Casey from Illinois&rsquo; Division of Developmental Disabilities said in a statement, &ldquo;the loss of any funding will limit and delay our ability to provide services.&rdquo;</p><p>Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has said he wants to roll back the income tax hike.</p><p>What that means for the autism community remains to be seen.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 11:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-people-autism-when-they-age-out-school-111326 Vocab-intensive tech for toddlers encourages 'anytime, anywhere learning' http://www.wbez.org/news/vocab-intensive-tech-toddlers-encourages-anytime-anywhere-learning-111316 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sesame_custom-e261469b4e39c4da570bc890e08764f4794116eb-s800-c85.png" alt="" /><p><p>When the children&#39;s television show&nbsp;Sesame Street&nbsp;first hit the air in 1969, many were deeply skeptical that you could use TV to introduce very young children to the basics of reading and math.</p><p>But the experiment proved to be a remarkable success;&nbsp;Sesame Street&nbsp;has reached several generations of toddlers with its combination of educational content and pure entertainment. And now, Sesame Workshop is using new technology to reach the next generation.</p><p>These days, a toddler is just as likely to meet Big Bird for the first time on a tablet or smartphone as on TV, says Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.</p><p>&quot;Kids tend to consume across platforms and across settings,&quot; Levine says. &quot;They&#39;re on the couch, they&#39;re in the living room, they&#39;re outside even, or they&#39;re on the go. So these mobile media and these interactive platforms allow for anytime, anywhere learning.&quot;</p><p>Sesame Workshop is building on the popularity of characters like Big Bird as well as 45 years of educational research to create new digital products for young children. Testing is a key step in the development of these products.</p><p>On a recent day, a number of young children and their parents trooped into Sesame Workshop&#39;s corporate headquarters in New York City to try out a new game. As the children played the game quietly on tablets, researchers sat in a small room nearby, watching them on a computer. Michelle Kaplan, who works in the workshop&#39;s digital content department, says the researchers were observing how each child interacts with the mechanics of the game.</p><p>&quot;We are seeing how he is choosing to help Elmo jump up the beanstalk: Is he swiping? Is he tapping? Is he piloting Elmo with his finger? And the more kids that we put in front of this game, the better we&#39;ll understand the intuitive way in which kids interact with it,&quot; Kaplan said.</p><p>Whether the workshop is creating a new app or a new video, the most important thing is the content, says Sesame Workshop Vice President Rosemarie Truglio.</p><p>&quot;People believe just because it&#39;s interactive it must be a better educational tool,&quot; Truglio says. &quot;You can put pretty crappy content on a digital device.&quot;</p><p>Truglio says her team asked educators what was most needed to help children develop literacy skills. The answer was: vocabulary.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re trying to teach children words in order to build their core knowledge skills,&quot; Truglio says. &quot;Children know &#39;bus&#39; and they know &#39;car&#39; and they know &#39;boat.&#39; But do they know the superordinate word called &#39;transportation&#39;?&quot;</p><p>The workshop created a game called &quot;Big Bird&#39;s Words,&quot; which is aimed at showing kids how words are related. The game has been designed for a smartphone because at a certain point the app turns into a &quot;wordascope.&quot; Sesame Workshop&#39;s Jennifer Perry says that&#39;s a made-up term for a camera-like device that children can use to track down words wherever they might be. Kids put a word, like milk, into the viewfinder, and search for an object, like a milk carton on the kitchen counter, that has the word on it.</p><p>That leads the child to a word tree &mdash; with milk in the middle and words like dairy, teeth, farmer, cow, farm and goat around it. The tree is designed to show the interconnectedness of words, Perry explains. The point, she says, is &quot;to show a child how these concepts in the real world relate to each other.&quot;</p><p>Not only does this game introduce kids to large concepts, but it also requires an adult to help the child &mdash; a decision aimed at getting parents to interact with their children instead of using the device as a baby sitter.</p><p>Ian Rowe, CEO of the New York City charter school Public Prep, says getting parents involved in their kids&#39; education is crucial.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s part of the reason we actually launched a pre-K partnership with Sesame Workshop &mdash; because so many of our kids were coming in not having enough exposure to language, which then translates into background knowledge, which is the foundation for all future learning,&quot; Rowe says.</p><p>Public Prep just added the first pre-K program to its existing network of elementary and middle schools. Sesame Workshop is developing materials for the school. On a recent day at the school, a small group of children gathered around an iPad to watch a video about families. Afterward, the teacher led the children in a discussion. The videos are just one part of the family lesson plan &mdash; they are used together with books, arts and crafts and writing projects.</p><p>&quot;Our videos for children act as sparks, and so we think of it as &#39;view and do,&#39; &quot; says Sesame Workshop&#39;s Akimi Gibson.</p><p>Gibson, who works closely with Public Prep, says the videos are just one tool the teacher can use in the classroom.</p><p>&quot;Our vision for this year isn&#39;t to give iPads to children,&quot; Gibson says. &quot;Our vision is always: put the technology in the hands of the adult. So it&#39;s the adult&#39;s decision to say: Let&#39;s come over and let&#39;s talk about something, let&#39;s delve into this big concept.&quot;</p><p>Public Prep&#39;s pre-K managing director Haifa Bautista says technology is incorporated into the classroom because it will always be part of life for these children &mdash; just as books are.</p><p>&quot;I mean, we don&#39;t hide the books in the classroom, they&#39;re right there on the wall, they&#39;re on the bookshelf,&quot; she says. &quot;Same time, the little screen is available, so that kids can relate to both. And, for us, technology is part of the same journey towards getting them ready for kindergarten.&quot;</p><p>Once these kids are in elementary school, says Bautista, they will have their own laptops and iPads, so it&#39;s never too soon to teach them that technology can be more than just entertainment.</p><p><em>This is the third in a three-part series on early literacy.</em></p><p><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/31/374033373/vocab-intensive-tech-for-toddlers-encourages-anytime-anywhere-learning" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 10:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/vocab-intensive-tech-toddlers-encourages-anytime-anywhere-learning-111316 The man behind Common Core math http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/06-jasonzimba_schaer-056-edit_slide-5e038b09161c4f9e2ebd6b3111e3c7aaa250cb4e-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.</p><p>If she gets the answer &quot;lickety-split,&quot; as her dad says, she can check them off. If she doesn&#39;t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.</p><p>&quot;I would be sleeping in if I weren&#39;t frustrated,&quot; Zimba says of his Saturday morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail&#39;s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar &mdash; even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.</p><p>But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He&#39;s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.</p><p>And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughters&#39; school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.</p><p>Zimba and the other writers of the Common Core knew the transition would be tough, but they never imagined conflicts over bad homework would fuel political battles and threaten the very existence of their dream to remodel American education.</p><p>When Zimba was first hired to help write a new set of K-12 math standards in 2009, the groups behind the Common Core &mdash; including representatives from 48 states &mdash; set very ambitious goals. The tough new guidelines would match the expectations set for students in higher-performing rivals like Singapore and South Korea. The standards would not only catapult American students ahead of other developed nations, but would also help close the gaps between low-income students in the U.S. and their wealthier counterparts.</p><p>The Common Core would drive publishers and test makers to create better curricula and better tests, and push school districts and teachers to aim for excellence, not just basic proficiency, for their students. And the guidelines would arm every principal, teacher and parent with the knowledge of exactly what it takes to get into college and succeed.</p><p>The champions of the Common Core &ndash; including organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers &ndash; expected the task to be difficult. Overhauling textbooks would take a lot of time, and training teachers would take even more. But the bipartisan groundswell of opposition to the standards took them by surprise.</p><p>&quot;The creation of the standards is enshrouded in mystery for people,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;I wish people understood what a massive process it was, and how many people were involved. It was a lot of work.&quot;</p><p>As much as supporters emphasize the democratic origin of the standards and count out the dozens of experts and teachers who were consulted, the Common Core math standards were ultimately crafted by three guys whose only goal was to improve the way mathematics is taught. That, some experts argue, is what makes the Common Core better than the standards they&#39;ve replaced.</p><p>&quot;It was a design project, not a political project,&quot; says Phil Daro, a former high school algebra teacher who was on the three-man writing team with Zimba and William McCallum, head of the math department at the University of Arizona. &quot;It was not our job to do the politics while we were writing.&quot;</p><p>But the backlash was perhaps inevitable.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">The Inner Circle</span></p><p>On the surface, Zimba, 45, seemed an odd choice for a major national project like Common Core. McCallum and Daro were well known and admired in the world of math and education. McCallum is a prominent mathematician who has authored algebra and calculus textbooks and helped write Arizona&#39;s K-12 math standards. In 2009, Daro was a senior fellow at a for-profit curriculum and teacher-training company, America&#39;s Choice. He played a prominent role in rewriting California&#39;s highly regarded math standards.</p><p>In contrast, Zimba was an obscure physics professor at Bennington, an elite liberal arts college in Vermont. He wrote <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fjzimba.blogspot.com%2f">a quirky math and parenting blog</a> with posts about complex physics problems, his kids, and the occasional political issue, including a 2011 post titled, &quot;Numbers Don&#39;t Lie (but Michele Bachmann Does).&quot;</p><p>He grew up as an outsider. Raised in a working-class household in suburban Detroit, he was the first in his family to go to college. He chose Williams College in Massachusetts. Academically, the school was a good fit. Financially, it was more of a challenge. His friend, Eric Mabery, said the two got to know each other because they were the only poor people on campus. &quot;He was the only person who had several jobs,&quot; said Mabery, now a biologist at a San Francisco startup. &quot;He was the only other person who couldn&#39;t fly home. We had to take the bus.&quot;</p><p>But from Williams, Zimba&#39;s career took off. He was chosen for a Rhodes scholarship to England&#39;s Oxford University in 1991. At Oxford, he befriended <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.theatlantic.com%2fmagazine%2farchive%2f2012%2f10%2fthe-schoolmaster%2f309091%2f">a Yale student from Manhattan</a>, David Coleman. Coleman went on to become a consultant for McKinsey, the global consulting firm. Zimba returned to Detroit to do stints of factory work to help support his family, but eventually he headed to the prestigious math department at the University of California Berkeley for a PhD in mathematical physics. In 1999 reconnected with Coleman, who had an idea for starting an education business.</p><p>At first, they considered going into educational video games, but scrapped the idea in favor of an even bigger educational trend: standardized testing. The No Child Left Behind Act was still around the corner, but a growing education reform movement, which insisted that holding schools more accountable for student test scores would increase performance, had already pushed many states to expand standardized testing.</p><p>Coleman and Zimba&#39;s business, the Grow Network, found a niche in the burgeoning field of testing by producing reports that helped schools, teachers, parents and even students themselves interpret results from the new exams. &quot;To design a successful assessment report, you need to be thoughtful about what the teacher really needs, what the student really needs,&quot; Coleman says.</p><p>Thanks to Zimba, Coleman added, they were. Zimba had a genius for creating reports that were mathematically precise but also humanely phrased, Coleman says. Grow Network was hired by states like California and districts like New York City, and was eventually bought out by the educational publishing giant, McGraw-Hill, for an undisclosed price.</p><p>Zimba and Coleman went their separate ways. Coleman stayed on a bit longer with the company under McGraw-Hill. After a brief stint at a liberal arts college in Iowa, Zimba landed at Bennington, where Coleman&#39;s mother was president. Zimba and Coleman stayed in touch, often discussing a problem that had bothered them during their years studying standardized tests.</p><p>&quot;We looked at a lot of standards,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;Previous standards ranged from terrible to not good enough. The best of them were little more than test blueprints. They were not a blueprint for learning math.&quot;</p><p>Every state had its own standards, which varied widely in their expectations for students. For instance, some states required students to memorize the times tables, but about a third of states didn&#39;t, according to Zimba.</p><p>But what most worried Coleman and Zimba &mdash; and many education experts &mdash; was the sheer number of standards in most states. The common critique was that most American grade-level guidelines were &quot;a mile wide and an inch deep,&quot; in stark contrast to the fewer but more intense expectations in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore.</p><p>In 2007, Coleman and Zimba wrote a paper for the Carnegie Corporation, a foundation with interests in education (and one of the many funders of both The Hechinger Report and NPR). &quot;We were just trying to think about what could really matter in education,&quot; Coleman says. &quot;What could actually help? One idea we thought is that standards could be really focused and better. At Grow we&#39;d spent so much time with the endless vast and vague standards.&quot;</p><p>The paper got the attention of several groups that had latched onto a similar idea, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, one of the original leaders in the Reagan-era standards movement. A couple of years later, when the two organizations joined forces to draft a set of &quot;fewer, clearer, higher&quot; standards, Coleman and Zimba were picked to help lead the effort.</p><p>The CCSSO contracted with a new organization Zimba and Coleman founded, Student Achievement Partners. They declined to disclose the amount of the contract or the total spent on the development of the Common Core, but said funding was provided by the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation (another supporter of NPR), Carnegie and other foundations, as well as state membership dues from CCSSO and the NGA.</p><p>&quot;We were looking for a skill set that was fairly unique,&quot; says Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. &quot;We needed individuals that would know the mathematics &mdash; Jason and the other writers obviously know the mathematics &mdash; but would also be able to work with the states, and a bunch of teachers who would be involved.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Writing the Common Core</span></p><p>In September 2009, Zimba started writing the Common Core math standards. Although his second daughter was due the same month, the standards were all-consuming. Zimba recalled getting a text in the delivery room from one of his co-writers telling him to stop responding to emails about the project: &quot;It&#39;s time to be a dad now.&quot;</p><p>That fall, though, finishing the Common Core math standards came first. He was still on the faculty at Bennington, although on leave for part of the time, so the standards were mostly written at night, in &quot;the barn,&quot; an old garage on his property that he had transformed into a study.</p><p>&quot;It was hard on us as a family,&quot; he says. &quot;I gave an awful lot.&quot; In October, his mother, who had worked most of her life as waitress, passed away. Zimba kept working.</p><p>They started with <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fcommoncoretools.me%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2014%2f08%2fccrs-math-sept-2009.pdf">a blueprint</a> that laid out what students should know by the end of high school. It was written by Achieve, a nonprofit that advocates for better standards and tests, and by the testing groups College Board and ACT. Then they began consulting the research on math education and enlisting the ideas of experts in various fields of mathematics. During the course of the next year, they consulted with state officials, mathematicians and teachers, including a union group. Draft after draft was passed back and forth over email.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;d be up to 3 in the morning,&quot; says McCallum. &quot;Jason would be up till 5 in the morning.&quot;</p><p>The final drafts of the standards were released to the public in June 2010. By the following year, thanks in part to financial incentives dangled by the Obama administration, more than 40 states had adopted them. Zimba quit his job at Bennington to work full time at Student Achievement Partners to promote the standards.</p><p>The backlash didn&#39;t really begin until 2013 in states like New York, where new Common Core-aligned tests had sent scores plummeting, and Indiana, where conservatives were leery of the Obama administration&#39;s support of the standards. It hit<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/05/27/307755798/the-common-core-faq"> the mainstream in early 2014</a>, when a dad in North Carolina posted a convoluted &quot;Common Core&quot; question from his son&#39;s second-grade math quiz on Facebook, along with a letter he&#39;d written to the teacher. &quot;I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering which included extensive study in differential equations and other high-math applications,&quot; he wrote. &quot;Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct.&quot;</p><p>Glenn Beck and other conservative pundits picked up the post, and it went viral. A couple of months later, the comedian Louis C.K. complained about his daughter&#39;s Common Core math homework on Twitter, and late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert began mocking the standards, too. Critics called the standards too convoluted, too abstract and too conceptual because of the focus on getting students to explain and discuss their answers.</p><p>By the summer of 2014, Indiana and Oklahoma had pulled out of the Common Core, other states had passed legislation to replace the standards in the coming years, and still others are threatening to do the same this year. Supporters of the standards, including teachers unions and the Gates Foundation, are now trying to salvage Common Core by calling on states to hold off on the stakes associated with new Common Core tests, including new teacher evaluations in many states based on student scores.</p><p>The backlash has both annoyed and baffled the writers. &quot;When I see some of those problems posted on Facebook, I think I would have been mad, too,&quot; McCallum says. Daro tells a story about his grandson, who brought home a math worksheet labeled &quot;Common Core,&quot; with a copyright date of 1999.</p><p>They argue there&#39;s actually very little fuzziness to the math in the Common Core. Students have to memorize their times tables by third grade and be able to do the kind of meat-and-potatoes problems Zimba asks of his daughter during their Saturday tutoring sessions, requirements he believes the so-called Common Core curriculum at her school essentially ignored.</p><p>Hung-Hsi Wu, a mathematics professor at Berkeley and one of the expert advisors in the Common Core process, blames the Common Core&#39;s problems on bad &ndash; and ubiquitous &ndash; textbooks that the publishing industry is reluctant to change. &quot;Publishers don&#39;t want to bother with writing anything because they&#39;ve gone through too many sets of standards,&quot; he says.</p><p>And that is the irony of the debate over the standards, and what may be their undoing. As powerful and influential in reshaping American classrooms as the standards could be, they don&#39;t include lesson plans, or teaching methods, or alternative strategies for when students don&#39;t get it.</p><p>Even as Zimba and his colleagues defend the standards against cries of federal overreach, they are helpless when it comes to making sure textbook publishers, test makers, superintendents, principals and teachers interpret the standards in ways that will actually improve American public education, not make it worse.</p><p>Like McCallum, Zimba agrees with the North Carolina dad that the question on his son&#39;s Common Core-labeled math quiz was terrible. But, as long as Americans hold to the conviction that most of what happens in schools should be kept under the control of states and local communities, the quality of the curriculum is out of his hands. &quot;Like it or not, the standards allow a lot of freedom,&quot; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">To triumph or die</span></p><p>Zimba gave up an academic career in which he had the freedom to wonder about abstract physics problems in the peace and quiet of his Vermont barn. But, he says, &quot;I&#39;m now participating in a much more urgent problem.&quot;</p><p>That problem is how to elevate the academic achievement of American students, especially the most disadvantaged, so the country can maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy. These days, Zimba and his colleagues acknowledge better standards aren&#39;t enough.</p><p>&quot;I used to think if you got the assessments right, it would virtually be enough,&quot; he says. &quot;In the No Child Left Behind world, everything follows from the test.&quot;</p><p>Now, he says, &quot;I think it&#39;s curriculum.&quot;</p><p>This year, Zimba convinced his daughter&#39;s school to try out a new curriculum that&#39;s better aligned to the standards he wrote. He is also devoting his time at his nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners, to create checklists other schools can use to find good textbooks that match the Common Core. The group has published training materials, including videos in which teachers demonstrate Common Core lessons.</p><p>On a recent rainy afternoon in Manhattan, the organization gathered in a conference room to hash out ideas for an online tool, funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (also among the many funders of The Hechinger Report), that could help teachers better understand the standards.</p><p>One idea for this tool was a &quot;swipe-y&quot; app that teachers could use to figure out whether students grasped a standard or not &mdash; something that would function much like Tinder, the matchmaking site. In the end, the group was most enthusiastic about a more low-tech option: a hotline that teachers and parents could call to find out if the Common Core-labeled math problems they found in their textbooks and homework were good or bad.</p><p>Daro and McCallum are leading their own efforts. McCallum founded a nonprofit called Illustrative Mathematics that produces sample tasks linked to the Common Core, trains teachers and produces curriculum blueprints. And Daro is actually writing an entire Common Core math curriculum for use on tablets, to be put out next year by educational publisher Pearson.</p><p>But it&#39;s unclear if their efforts, and similar ones by like-minded nonprofits and funders like the Gates Foundation, will trickle down to the millions of classroom teachers attempting to adapt to the new standards. Or if the bad curricula still circulating, coupled with the nation&#39;s fractured politics, will do them in.</p><p>For his part, Zimba is optimistic. &quot;The influence of the tests on the curriculum, it&#39;s negative,&quot; he says. &quot;They&#39;ve been a pale imitation of mathematics. I&#39;ve talked to teachers who say teaching these standards, &#39;I feel like a teacher again.&#39; That&#39;s not going to be easy to take away. Once you taste that, that&#39;s powerful.&quot;</p><p><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/29/371918272/the-man-behind-common-core-math" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p><p><em>This story was produced by <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=file%3a%2f%2f%2fC%3a%5cUsers%5carthurlaura%5cDownloads%5chechingerreport.org">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, independent news service focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fhechingerreport.org%2fcategory%2fspecial_reports%2fcommon_core%2f">Common Core</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 17:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 StoryCorps: Bilingual pre-school teacher describes the state of education in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-bilingual-pre-school-teacher-describes-state-education-chicago-111267 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kksc.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Iveth Romano teaches pre-school in Chicago and many of her students are bilingual. She came by the StoryCorps booth recently to speak with producer Katie Klocksin about the importance of supporting kids who are learning two languages.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of the parents don&rsquo;t speak English,&rdquo; Romano said. &ldquo;But most of our teachers who have a Bachelors&rsquo;, they are American, so they just speak English.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I remember once a girl she just peed her pants and started crying,&rdquo; she continued. &ldquo;I was in another classroom but I heard the girl say that she wanted to use the bathroom, in Spanish. But [none] of the teachers understood what she said. They (didn&rsquo;t) pay attention to her and she just peed on her pants and started crying and they gave her a timeout.&rdquo;</p><p>Romano says she has a lot of examples like that. She says she sees situations like that once per week or twice a week.</p><p>Romano pushes all her students to learn English and Spanish. In her classroom, they say their ABCs in both languages.</p><p>Sometimes, though, parents are oblivious to what&rsquo;s going on - good or bad - in the classroom.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not because people are bad. Or they don&rsquo;t know how to say &lsquo;thank you.&rsquo; I think it&rsquo;s more that they&rsquo;re tired. Sometimes you don&rsquo;t really know what kind of job they have. Sometimes they have two different jobs in one day. So that [does] not make me feel bad that they don&rsquo;t say &lsquo;thank you.&rsquo; They don&rsquo;t say nothing. They just take the kid and leave. I understand. Sometimes they look really tired.&rdquo;</p><p>Teaching can be stressful, Klocksin said, but &ldquo;there&rsquo;s obviously a lot of rewards to it too. Why did you go into this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Cause my son is four years old,&rdquo; Romano said, &ldquo;And he used to attend a Head Start but I just moved him to a Catholic school because here in Chicago. The education in the public schools is really difficult in this moment.&rdquo;</p><p>Romano says two of the neighborhood public schools closed, so classrooms that used to have twenty kids are now thirty-five or forty kids.</p><p>Romano says her son is doing better now.</p><p>&ldquo;His behavior&rsquo;s completely different,&rdquo; Romano said. &ldquo;He looks more happy. He looks more confident.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-bilingual-pre-school-teacher-describes-state-education-chicago-111267 Mayoral candidate Garcia releases education plan http://www.wbez.org/news/mayoral-candidate-garcia-releases-education-plan-111224 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-d8515f51-3e6a-3785-3564-365514280322">Mayoral candidate Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia is announcing his education plan today.</p><p dir="ltr">Parts of the plan are strikingly similar to a policy paper put out by the Chicago Teachers Union two and a half years ago. So much so, that whole sentences in the summary are pulled word for word from that paper, dubbed &ldquo;<a href="http://www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/the-schools-chicagos-students-deserve">The Schools Chicago&rsquo;s Children Deserve</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Garcia said he got input from several groups, not just the CTU.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have consulted with parents,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve consulted with high school students. We&rsquo;ve consulted with education (sic) experts. And of course, we have consulted with members of the Chicago Teachers Union.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The similarities are not entirely surprising.</p><p dir="ltr">When Garcia <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/cook-county-commissioner-jesus-garcia-joins-mayoral-race">appeared on WBEZ&rsquo;s Afternoon Shift in October</a>, he described a visit with CTU&rsquo;s President Karen Lewis, shortly after she was hospitalized for a brain tumor. Lewis urged Garcia to run against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;She did ask me to seriously consider running,&rdquo; Garcia told WBEZ. &ldquo;To reconsider, because she had brought it up over a year ago.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Unions are also among Garcia&rsquo;s biggest financial supporters so far. Garcia for Chicago received $16,000 from Citizens to Elect Karen Lewis Mayor of Chicago, another $52,600 from the American Federation of Teachers (the national union that CTU belongs to), and $250,000 from Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Garcia announced his education platform outside of Dyett High School, flanked by a group of parent activists fighting to keep the school open.</p><p dir="ltr">Three years ago, the Chicago Board of Education voted to phase out Dyett, meaning the students enrolled at the time could continue attending until graduation, but the school would not accept any more freshman. Now in its final year of phase out, there are just 13 students left at the school. &nbsp;</p><p>A consultant for Garcia&rsquo;s campaign, Andrew Sharp, told WBEZ after the press conference that &nbsp;the parents fighting to keep Dyett open as a neighborhood school are important to Garcia because of his <a href="http://http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2006/05/23/pilsen-little-village-constructing-new-school">involvement with the fight to build a high school in Little Village</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Parents and grandparents there held a 19-day hunger strike to convince the city to build a high school in the neighborhood.</p> <p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p> <div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5198.JPG" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=yes,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=yes,dependent=no'); return false;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5198.JPG" style="height: 387px; width: 290px; float: left;" title="Garcia's Education platform (Click to enlarge)" /></a>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5201.JPG" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=yes,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=yes,dependent=no'); return false;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5201.JPG" style="height: 387px; width: 290px; float: right;" title="CTU policy paper (Click to enlarge)" /></a></div></p> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 06:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayoral-candidate-garcia-releases-education-plan-111224 CPS students take on 'Hour of Code' http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/code.PNG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-40f3cbe1-30f9-957f-253b-6b17f3cdf0d5">Some students in Chicago Public Schools started learning a new language today: The language of computers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS students took part in a global event, called the <a href="http://hourofcode.com/us">Hour of Code</a>, which gets teenagers, and this year even <a href="http://www.cnet.com/news/obama-jumps-in-to-hour-of-code-event-with-a-little-javascript/">President Barack Obama</a>, taking a crack at computer coding.</p><p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://wellshs.cps.k12.il.us/">Wells Community Academy High School</a> in West Town, about 40 teenagers filled the library. Each one of the kids huddled around a computer.</p><p dir="ltr">Music Teacher Martha Ciurla kicked things off.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to get started,&rdquo; Ciurla says. &ldquo;Now remember, all over the world, at this very hour, at this very moment, there are other kids doing the same exact thing; they are also learning to code because it&rsquo;s a pretty important thing, especially nowadays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most people can&rsquo;t go a whole day without using technology,&rdquo; says Angel Sanchez, a sophomore at Wells. &ldquo;Everything revolves around technology and so many careers revolve around knowing this stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Sanchez is hunched over a computer with Traeshaun Norwood, who tells me he already knows he wants to be a video game engineer someday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I actually think it&rsquo;s fun because the career I&rsquo;m trying to get into now is going to involve a lot of coding,&rdquo; Norwood says.</p><p dir="ltr">Lucky for him, Wells is going to have a new program next year to help him do that.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to start a new computer science academy, starting next year, so it&rsquo;s an entire sequence using the gaming platform,&rdquo; says Wells Principal Rita Raichoudhuri. &ldquo;So students are going to learn how to code the program, but using video games. They&rsquo;re going to create their own video games.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Raichoudhuri says the program is a series of four courses; the final one&rsquo;s an Advanced Placement Computer Science class.</p><p dir="ltr">And it isn&rsquo;t just the library that&rsquo;s filled today. Every student &nbsp;at Wells is logged on to code.org &ndash; trying out different sequences on popular games, like <a href="https://www.angrybirds.com/">Angry Birds</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, if you want to move the bird forward four spaces and then have it turn right, you would drag the block labeled &ldquo;repeat five times,&rdquo; change the five to a four and then underneath that, drop the block labeled &ldquo;move forward&rdquo;. And then you can give it a test run.</p><p dir="ltr">So it&rsquo;s not exactly the complex coding you might be thinking of.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What these Hour of Code exercises do, it takes out the complexity of the language itself and it puts everything in a block, sort of what we call pseudo-code,&rdquo; says Emmanuel San Miguel. &ldquo;It just shows you how easy it is to pass commands into a computer and see it do something.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">San Miguel is a volunteer and a developer with the company <a href="http://www.8thlight.com/">8th Light</a> downtown. He says he&rsquo;s entirely self-taught and actually got his degree in marketing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If I had the opportunity to try out code before I went in to college, I probably would&rsquo;ve gone into computer science,&rdquo; San Miguel says.</p><p dir="ltr">For kids not interested in coding or computer science careers, there was still a pretty simple teenage reason for taking on the Hour of Code.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whoever gets through the programs first, wins lunch,&rdquo; Ciurla announced halfway through the hour.</p><p dir="ltr">Fifteen minutes later, &nbsp;sophomores Sanchez and Norwood finished their final problem. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ms. Ciurla! We completed the Hour of Code,&rdquo; they shouted in unison.</p><p dir="ltr">But 45 minutes was not fast enough.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You guys came in second place, because they finished a minute ago, but I&rsquo;ll put your names down; if not, I&rsquo;ll bring you guys donuts on Monday,&rdquo; Ciurla tells them. &ldquo;Good job! You guys can start the other one if you want.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210