WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Germany's child care law aims to get more moms back to work http://www.wbez.org/news/germanys-child-care-law-aims-get-more-moms-back-work-111198 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Daycare thumbnail image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">When Michaela Ludwig arrives to pick up her son Paul at day care, it takes her about 15 minutes to convince her 3 year old to leave his hiding spot. He&rsquo;s inside the wooden tree house where he&rsquo;s busy playing pirates with his good friend Toni.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ludwig says Paul often isn&rsquo;t ready to go home when she gets to the day care center or kita as it&rsquo;s known in Germany, where he spends seven hours a day Monday through Friday.</p><p>Ludwig works in public relations and she&rsquo;s one of many parents in Hamburg, Germany, who is taking advantage of national legislation that went into effect last year, guaranteeing every child in Germany, from the age of 12 months, a slot in subsidized day care.</p><p dir="ltr">While I was in Germany on a short fellowship recently, I decided to look into how the new subsidies are playing out, though the U.S. is far from any such national program.</p><p dir="ltr">Under the German law, parents have the right to take legal action if they can&rsquo;t find a place for their child. The legislation is part of a comprehensive set of policy changes in recent years aimed at addressing the needs of working families and getting more German women back into the workforce after they have children. These include things like parental leave, which is now up to 14 months. &nbsp;German women are among the most underemployed in Northern Europe. Germany also has Europe&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.oecd.org/els/family/LMF2.2%20Working%20hours%20distribution%20among%20couples%20-%20updated%20200112.pdf">lowest </a>share of families where both parents work full-time, according to the<a href="http://www.oecd.org/"> OECD.</a><br /><br />&ldquo;Nowadays here it&rsquo;s easy to find a good kindergarten for a one year old. It wasn&rsquo;t like that before. Now it&rsquo;s possible after one year to go back to work. I think in places like Hamburg they support us very much. It&rsquo;s different on the countryside,&rdquo; says Ludwig, who adds that she doesn&rsquo;t have any family in Hamburg to help care for her son. She depends on Paul&rsquo;s kita for her child care needs.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:20px;"><strong>How it works in Hamburg</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">The city of Hamburg went beyond the federal mandate. Since August, the city has covered the total cost for five hours a day of day care per child and six hours a day for children with special needs, says Marcel Schweitzer, a spokesman for the Behörde für Arbeit, Soziales, Familie und Integration (The Hamburg Ministry of Labour, Family and Integration). &nbsp;Hamburg also covers the cost of a warm meal each day for all kids in a kita. &nbsp;If families need more than five hours, they have to pay for it and the cost is determined based on a sliding scale, depending on a family&rsquo;s income.</p><p dir="ltr">Hamburg is the first city in the country to offer such a comprehensive plan, says Schweitzer. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a political decision of the government of Hamburg because we believe that everyone has the right to reconcile family and career and you have to give everyone the same chance, &rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Hamburg&rsquo;s day care model is unique within Germany and it&rsquo;s one that other German cities are watching. In Hamburg, families are given a voucher, and they can take that voucher and choose any day care, public or private. &ldquo;The process of getting a place in a kita must be uncomplicated and easy and that&rsquo;s the way we do it in Hamburg. Parents get a voucher and they can find their kita with their own preferences...you can also search a kita that specializes in arts, cultural things, languages,&rdquo; says Schweitzer. &nbsp;The idea is that the competition also helps maintain quality, which has been a concern for many families since the legislation was passed. &nbsp;It also guarantees access by families of all income levels.</p><p dir="ltr">Germany hasn&rsquo;t always had such a comprehensive network of daycare centers. &nbsp;</p><p>For decades, at least in what was once West Germany, &nbsp;it was difficult to find day care facilities. That&rsquo;s because German family policy was aimed at keeping women at home after they had children, says Daniel Erler, a researcher who studies family leave policies in Europe.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In the 1980&rsquo;s, a series of other leave laws were introduced and basically always the driving argument behind it was we need to enable mothers to take care of their children in order to ensure the well-being of the children, while the the issue of female &nbsp;labor market participation was a secondary one, &ldquo; he says. That&rsquo;s because lawmakers at the time in Western Germany assumed mothers would only return to the work force once their children were grown. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">School for young children was only half a day and the child care system was built around this idea of keeping children with their mothers, says Erler.</p><p dir="ltr">But, according to Erler, these attitudes began to shift in the 1990s, after Western Germany was reunited with Eastern Germany. In what was then East Germany, child care outside the home was readily available from the age of one. &ldquo;All-day schooling was the norm as well as all-day child care, and for mothers it was perfectly normal and also expected that they return to the labor market very early after their childbirth,&rdquo; says Erler.</p><p dir="ltr">That East German influence was reflected in the child care legislation that went into effect last year.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:20px;">Attitudes are a bigger challenge for working moms</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">While many families in Hamburg say they&rsquo;re concerned that the quality of child care could go down now that the legislation has increased the demand, at the moment, this hasn&rsquo;t happened.For many working mothers who would like to have a full time career, the bigger issue now is really how German society views mothers who work.</p><p dir="ltr">Policy changes have helped shift some attitudes about career and motherhood, but it&rsquo;s still very difficult for women to reconcile both. This was a sentiment expressed by a numerous women interviewed for this story, including Michaela Ludwig. &nbsp;&ldquo;Maybe you learned about that in Germany, that there are two different ways. Either you are a housewife and you are a good mother or you are a working mom and you are a bad mother,&rdquo; says Ludwig.</p><p dir="ltr">This kind of attitude may have been reflected in another piece of legislation, which also went into effect last year and followed the passage of the child care law. Families who decided not to send their children to a kita and keep them at home are entitled to a 150 euro subsidy each month; that&rsquo;s about $185. The government dubbed it <em>Betreuungsgeld</em>, which means &ldquo;child care benefit.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">It provoked a heated debate leading up to the country&rsquo;s general elections last September.</p><p dir="ltr">Daniel Erler says nearly 25 percent of Germans chose to take the at-home benefit in 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">This particular piece of legislation also had an unintended consequence that many experts had predicted.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s mainly low-income families and families from rural areas with little availability of child care, which then make use of this <em>Betreuungsgeld</em>,&rdquo; says Erler. This is because when you add that subsidy to other government benefits, low-income women often end up making more money by staying at home.</p><p dir="ltr">Mothers like Michaela Ludwig say the at-home subsidy is a &nbsp;sign the country still has long way to go when it comes to accepting women who want to combine career and family.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:20px;"><strong>How do the U.S. and Illinois compare?</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">During World War II, when millions of women, including mothers, headed out into the labor force to help fill the gap created by the war, the U.S. government recognized the need to provide child care. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This was really the one and only time that federally funded day care was a reality,&rdquo; says Sonya Michel, the author of <em>Children&rsquo;s Interests Mother&rsquo;s Rights: The Shaping of America&rsquo;s Child Care Policy</em>. States received federal funds and about 1,000 facilities were opened, says Michel. But the idea was that once the war was over, mothers would return home. They did, and the funding dried up.</p><p dir="ltr">In the 1970&rsquo;s, universal day care hit the public agenda again. In 1971 Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Act. It would have created a network of federally funded day care centers. But President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill. &ldquo;He called it Communist,&rdquo; says Michel. &nbsp;That veto took universal child care off the political agenda, says Michel.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, in Illinois, the only families who qualify for child care assistance are families who are at or below 185 percent of the poverty level, says Maria Whelan, the president of Illinois Action for Children. This leaves out a lot of people. &ldquo;They rely on a system of friends, families, neighbors and unregulated care,&rdquo; says Whelan.</p><p>In one <a href="http://usa.childcareaware.org/sites/default/files/Cost%20of%20Care%202013%20110613.pdf">study last year</a>, Illinois ranked within the top ten least affordable states for child care. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Alexandra Salomon is a producer for WBEZ&rsquo;s Worldview. Follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/alexandrasalomo"> @AlexandraSalomo</a></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 07:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/germanys-child-care-law-aims-get-more-moms-back-work-111198 Global Activism: ConTextos expands literacy programs to El Salvador prisons http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos Prisoners.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-155d2028-16ca-6861-496d-14f15cdaca8d">When we first met Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, she wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive. To do this, Debra started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. She now lives in El Salvador. For our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Gittler is back in Chicago and will update us on how her work has expanded into El Salvador&rsquo;s justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179980678&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><em>Debra Gittler told us some of what she&rsquo;s been up to since her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy">last Worldview appearance</a>:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">ConTextos has expanded into the Justice System in El Salvador and are now working with inmates in prisons, juveniles delinquents in the &quot;foster&quot; system, and the teachers and guards who work with both of these populations. The &quot;foster&quot; system in El Salvador is tangled octopus that oversees foster care, orphans, victims of child and sexual abuse, child criminals (including homicide), gangs, and deportees. Child deportees arriving back in El Salvador pretty much get off a bus and have to walk home; those without families end up in foster care.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...we are overwhelmingly moved by the healing power of story to address issues of trauma in a country plagued by generations of violence. Many of the inmates we are working with are gang-affiliated and directly affected by the reality of transnationalism-- some inmates are English-speakers who spent most of their life in the US. We are just starting to work more and more with the juvenile population...It&#39;s been a fascinating journey to confront stereotypes about this population...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At the same time, ConTextos is just about to publish our student reading metrics. We use the Early Grade Reading Assessment to evaluate student reading outcomes; this is the same tool that USAID implements all over the world. Our results are stunning...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Finally, we are thrilled to start partnering with <em>Worldreader</em>, based in Africa, to bring e-readers into our schools.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...We&#39;ve been working with iPads for quite a while as a tool to motivate writing, but e-readers provide a unique opportunity to bring unlimited numbers of text through an accessible, teacher-friendly (and rural-friendly) technology. We&#39;re still seeking funding to launch the initiative.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons CPS finally releases school ratings http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raising hand edit_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago parents can finally see how their school stacks up to others.</p><p>Typically, school ratings, which give &nbsp;schools Level 1, 2, or 3 labels, come out in late October, around the same time that student report cards are released. But this year, Chicago Public Schools officials changed the complicated calculation that determines the school ratings.</p><p>One of the big changes was moving to five categories, instead of three. Now, schools can be rated Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, and Level 3. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can also override a school&rsquo;s rating if something dramatic had happened at the school in the past year.</p><p>For instance: &ldquo;Just based on my experience as a principal, when you get a large number of students coming to your school that have not been there previously, it changes the dynamic,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett changed the ratings for just 12 schools. She also placed six charter schools on an academic watch list.</p><p>Two of the schools on academic watch are the Chicago International Charter Schools&#39; Lloyd Bond and Larry Hawkins campuses. Both are in Altgeld Gardens, an isolated area on the far South Side made up of public housing.</p><p>Interestingly, one of the 12 schools given a higher rating through Byrd- Bennett&rsquo;s discretion, Dubois, is just down the road from the two CICS schools. The other neighborhood elementary school in Altgeld Gardens, Aldridge, was rated Level 3. Bryd-Bennett boosted Dubois to a Level 1.</p><p>Beth Purvis, CICS&rsquo;s executive director, said both Bond and Hawkins need to improve, but she questioned the fairness of the ratings, given the exception for Dubois. Dubois, Aldridge and CICS-Bond have similar scores on the metrics used in the ratings calculation.</p><p>&ldquo;That seems unfair to both Aldridge and CICS,&rdquo; Purvis said. &ldquo;If all schools aren&rsquo;t treated the same under a ranking process, I don&rsquo;t understand how it informs parents and helps them make decisions.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the reason Byrd-Bennett gave Dubois a Level 1 rating when it originally earned a level 2 rating was because a quarter of the student population changed in the past school year.</p><p>Purvis and other CICS officials sent data to WBEZ showing similar student mobility at CICS-Lloyd Bond.</p><p>The other charter schools placed on academic watch this year are: Amandla Charter School, Betty Shabazz Charter School, Betty Shabazz - Sizemore Campus, and Polaris Academy Charter School.</p><p>One charter school that was placed on academic watch last year, UNO-Rufino Tamayo, jumped from the lowest rating, Level 3, on the old system to the highest rating, Level 1+, on the new system.</p><p>In all, just 44 schools still remain in the Level 3 category, while 161 schools are considered Level 1+, 154 are rated Level 1, 118 schools got Level 2+, and 159 were at Level 2, the second to lowest rating.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 05:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 CPS tests causing more anxiety in teacher evaluations http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-tests-causing-more-anxiety-teacher-evaluations-111166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raising hand edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>One of the thorniest issues in education is measuring how kids learn.<br /><br />And what&rsquo;s even thornier is using those measurements to determine how well teachers are teaching.<br /><br />lIlinois, like 41 other states, now links teacher evaluations directly to student performance.<br /><br />But in Chicago Public Schools, the shift is causing a lot of anxiety. New research out of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research shows 79 percent of teachers feel more stress and anxiety about their performance reviews.<br /><br />One of the underlying things feeding into that anxiety is a big mistrust of the tests being used to measure student learning. Take Sarah Chambers testimony from last week&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting:<br /><br />&ldquo;What do you think is the reading level for the 5th grade REACH performance task? Do you have any guess? It is at a 12th grade reading level! This does not make sense,&rdquo; Chambers said. &ldquo;You are setting up our children to fail. (applause) You are setting them up to fail so you can label our schools as failing, close our public schools in black and brown communities, fire our experienced teachers, privatize our public schools!&rdquo;<br /><br />Chambers teaches special education at Saucedo Academy. When pressed by board member Jesse Ruiz at the end of the meeting, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she thought maybe Chambers was worried specifically about her own students, who need special services.<br /><br />But Chambers is not alone in her concerns about the tests.The University of Chicago study also found that half of all teachers believe the tests used to measure student learning are not fair or accurate.<br /><br />Most of a teacher&rsquo;s job performance is still based on classroom observations, and so far there haven&rsquo;t been dramatic changes in how many teachers are rated in the top or bottom categories. In accordance with the Chicago Teachers Union contract, this will be the first year all teachers get a rating under the new system.<br /><br />And this year, 30 percent of that rating will be based on results of two kinds of tests kids take--those common fill-in-the-bubble tests and then the ones Chambers is concerned about, called REACH Performance Tasks.<br /><br />Last month, another teacher who asked to remain anonymous sent me some copies of the REACH Performance Tasks.with the same concern about the reading levels. So I called in an expert.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Reading levels too hard?</span><br /><br />Barbara Radner is the head of DePaul University&rsquo;s Center for Urban Education. She&rsquo;s worked with CPS schools, developing and implementing literacy curriculum, for years.<br />&ldquo;This is all very interesting,&rdquo; Barbara Radner told me after I sent her the tasks and asked her to help me analyze their difficulty.<br /><br />Radner quickly ran all of the reading passages through six different readability indexes, including Flesch Kincaid and Gunning Fog.&nbsp; She helped me calculate the lexile levels and together we compared them to the new recommended reading levels for each grade under the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.<br /><br />No matter how we sliced it, the 4th, 5th and 8th grade levels were registering at least three grades above level. By some calculations, the passages were registering at a college reading level.<br /><br />&ldquo;At this time of year, I do not want to scare the children, Radner said. &ldquo;I want to find out, can they figure out the main idea and supporting details.&rdquo;<br /><br />She said when she writes literacy tests, she&rsquo;ll choose short passages, usually only one page long, that are either at grade level or one below, so that you&rsquo;re actually testing a student&rsquo;s skills.<br /><br />At this point, CPS officials aren&rsquo;t too concerned about the tasks&rsquo; reading levels being too high.<br /><br />John Barker, the district&rsquo;s chief of accountability, said there are a lot of things that affect readability levels, like &ldquo;the number of commas in a sentence.&rdquo;<br /><br />Radner echoed that point. The example she gave was the sports section of the newspaper.<br /><br />&ldquo;I thought (in) the LeBron James passage kids would say, &lsquo;Oh it&rsquo;s about a basketball player let me try,&rsquo;&rdquo; Radner said, referring to the 4th grade passage. &ldquo;One thing people don&rsquo;t know is that the sports pages of the newspaper are written at a higher level of complexity than the rest of the newspaper because they tend to use more descriptive terms and more unusual terms. And what is ironic is that kids who cannot read the rest of the newspaper can read the sports pages.&rdquo;<br /><br />Radner said there are a lot of ways to look at reading levels, so it could be that students are fine reading some of these passages. But if not, the results may not tell you much.<br /><br />&ldquo;You really cannot make decisions about the kid or the teacher if the text is inaccessible,&rdquo; Radner told me. &ldquo;That is the peril.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;By teachers, for teachers&#39;</span><br /><br />CPS&rsquo;s Barker repeatedly said the REACH Performance Tasks &ldquo;are written by teachers, for teachers.&rdquo;<br /><br />And that&rsquo;s true. It was one of the big compromises when the new evaluation law and the subsequent teachers&rsquo; union contract were being negotiated over two years ago.<br /><br />For years, teachers have been critical of the district&rsquo;s use of &ldquo;value-added&rdquo; scores in sorting and ranking schools. The value-added scores CPS uses are calculated by running student scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, through a complicated formula to figure out how much they are learning over the course of a year.<br /><br />CPS initially proposed using only value-added measures, but backed off. The final agreement with the union included REACH Performance Tasks, developed by teams of teachers and district officials.<br /><br />CTU&rsquo;s Carol Caref said the teacher-developed tasks are better than other standardized tests, but that the union still doesn&rsquo;t think a teacher&rsquo;s job performance should be tied to student scores.<br /><br />And they don&rsquo;t think teachers should take the fall for problems with the performance tasks.<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so many things that teachers don&rsquo;t have a say-so in and so then there&rsquo;s this very narrow little spot where, &lsquo;OK. We&rsquo;re going to let you have a little bit of say-so in these tests&rsquo; and then if there&rsquo;s a mistake on them, blame the teachers. I just think that&rsquo;s so wrong,&rdquo; Caref said.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s unclear if students struggled with the most recent set of literacy tests&mdash; scores won&rsquo;t be out until next fall.<br /><br />Caref said if you want reliable results the district will have to doublecheck the end of the year exams.<br /><br />&ldquo;Since this is already out and we gave this test that&rsquo;s too hard at the beginning of the year, we also have to give a test that&rsquo;s too hard at the end of the year, because otherwise, then, you&rsquo;re not measuring growth,&rdquo; Caref said.<br /><br />CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey says the district is looking closer at the issue, and the CEO will be the one determining if any changes need to be made.<br /><br />That wait-and-see situation isn&rsquo;t likely to quell any anxiety among teachers.</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> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 07:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-tests-causing-more-anxiety-teacher-evaluations-111166 CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&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> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 Why so few white kids land in CPS — and why it matters http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 <p><p>Legal segregation may be over in Chicago, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/segregated-education-k-12-100456" target="_blank">racial isolation is well documented</a> in Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS can <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/MagnetSchoolsConsentDecree.aspx" target="_blank">no longer use race</a> as an admittance factor and more and more students are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604" target="_blank">eschewing their neighborhood schools</a> for other options. Education watchers argue there&rsquo;s a two-tier system in the district, and that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519" target="_blank">attracting middle-class families</a> is a Sisyphean task.</p><p>Our segregated school system compelled the following Curious City question from a woman who wanted to remain anonymous:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What percentage of white Chicago school age children attend public school?</em></p><p>Well, the short answer is 51 percent... according to the Census.</p><p>So roughly half of all white children who <em>could </em>go to CPS do, while the other half gets their education somewhere else. By comparison, the number of African-American school-age children who attend CPS is higher than 80 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>Part of this can be explained by a huge gap in the total number of eligible students based on race. More on that later, but first, let&rsquo;s take a closer look at how white parents decide where to send their kids to school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where should our kids go to school?</span></p><p>Of course, choosing where to enroll your child in school is an intense and private family decision. Some parents want their children to get a religious education, others want better resources, and sometimes where to go to school is simply a matter of logistics.</p><p>Alice DuBose lives in Andersonville and says she never had a problem with the neighborhood public school. But she did have a problem with its location relative to her job.</p><p>When her children were in elementary school, DuBose worked at the University of Chicago. She enrolled her three children in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;I could drop the kids off in the morning and go on to work and it was really great when I was working here because then I could just go over and see my daughters, participate in classroom activities to it was absolutely fantastic in that way,&quot; DuBose said.&nbsp;&quot;It was more convenient. If we had gone to a neighborhood school, I could&rsquo;ve never participated in classroom activities.&quot;</p><p>It also didn&rsquo;t hurt that Laboratory is a well-regarded private school with lots of resources. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s children go there.</p><p>&ldquo;Lab&rsquo;s terrific,&rdquo; DuBose continued. &ldquo;Great teaching, smaller classrooms. All the things that we all want for our children.&rdquo;</p><p>DuBose&rsquo;s daughters attended there until 8th grade and then went on to attend Whitney Young &ndash; a CPS selective enrollment school. Now DuBose hopes her son follows in their footsteps.</p><p>The reality is many middle-class parents, including those not initially in CPS, jockey to get their children in selective public high schools like Whitney Young.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools&rsquo;</span></p><p>Not far from Lab in Hyde Park, is a white family who was committed to CPS from the very beginning.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joy%20clendenning%20michael%20scott%20hyde%20park.jpg" title="Joy Clendenning, left, and Michael Scott, right, live in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. All four of their children have enrolled or graduated from a Chicago public school. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></div><p>Joy Clendenning and Michael Scott live in Hyde Park. They didn&rsquo;t choose the neighborhood because of the schools. Scott grew up there and has strong family ties and Clendenning loves the quirky intellectualism of the area. The couple say they believe in public education and always knew their children would attend CPS. A sign in their window says &lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools.&rsquo;</p><p>All four of their children attended Ray Elementary through sixth grade. The oldest went to Kenwood Academy&rsquo;s 7th and 8th grade academic center and stayed for high school. He&rsquo;s now a freshman at Occidental College. The second oldest is a sophomore at Whitney Young and started in its academic center. Their twins are currently in 8th grade at Kenwood. &nbsp;</p><p>Ray is a neighborhood school that also accepts students outside its attendance boundary through a lottery. 20 percent of its students are white and 55 percent black. Kenwood is the neighborhood high school and is 86 percent black. Their son was one of only a couple of white students in his graduating class.</p><p>&ldquo;Kenwood was a very good place for Sam and we never thought &#39;this was too black,&#39;&rdquo; Scott said.</p><p>Clendenning says they&#39;re concerned about how many schools and neighborhoods are segregated.</p><p>&quot;And we definitely think it&rsquo;s a problem that people in our neighborhood don&rsquo;t give the public schools a serious try,&quot; she added.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yearbookphoto1.png" title="Sam Clendenning was one of only a handful of white students in his graduating class at Kenwood Academy. (Photo courtesy of Joy Clendenning) " /></div><p>Our Curious City question asker &ndash; who again wants to remain anonymous &ndash; raised a similar point in a follow-up email:</p><blockquote><p><em>I asked this question because I&#39;ve noticed in my small sampling of visiting public schools, other than a few of the magnet schools, it seems that we have a segregated school system along race lines.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few school-age white children in the city</span></p><p>We know Chicago is almost equal parts black, Latino and white, but that&rsquo;s not the case when it comes to the city&rsquo;s youth. So while roughly a third of Chicago&rsquo;s total population is white, most of those numbers skew older. That means there aren&rsquo;t that many white school-age children to begin with.</p><p>Of the some 400,000 students enrolled in CPS K-12, 180,274 are Hispanic, 163,595 are black and just 33,659 are white. Even if all 65,259 eligible white students in the city went to CPS, they&rsquo;d still be far outnumbered by students who are black and brown.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/school%20age%20eligibility1.png" title="Data measures K-12 enrollment. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago Public Schools " /></div><p>Why does any of this matter?</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, when you look at the data, it&rsquo;s very disturbing,&rdquo; Elaine Allensworth told WBEZ. Allensworth is the director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I do think we think of ourselves as a multi-ethnic city, a city of racial diversity. But then when you look at the numbers and you see how many schools are one-race schools and how segregated schools are based on race, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s where we want to be as a society,&quot; she said.</p><p>Segregation is made worse by the low number of white students overall.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of neighborhoods in the city that are 90 percent or more African American or less than 10 percent African American. In fact, the vast majority of the city has that degree of racial segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.</p><p>In other words, if we don&rsquo;t live together, we don&rsquo;t tend to learn together.</p><p><a href="http://ec2-23-22-21-132.compute-1.amazonaws.com/chicagoschools" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolsPromo1_0_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Click to launch 2010 map. " /></a><span style="font-size:22px;">Segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools</span></p><p>Take Mt. Greenwood, for example, on the Southwest Side. 82 percent of the student body is white &ndash;&nbsp;the highest percentage in all of CPS. And that makes sense. Mt. Greenwood, the neighborhood, is a majority white community.</p><p>The same holds true for many majority black communities.</p><p>As a result, the schools that serve the neighborhoods are also highly segregated based on race,&rdquo; Allensworth continued. &ldquo;So we have many many schools in the district that are close to 100 percent African American.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Finteractive.wbez.org%2Fschools%2Fthe-big-sort.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEk2nK5oAwUsugvrZs7E0f7b8ZPzQ" target="_blank">Those poor-performing schools are typically in poor, black communities</a>&nbsp;that are suffering from substantial unemployment and lack of resources.</p><p>&ldquo;When we look at which schools are struggling the most, they are in the absolutely poorest neighborhoods in the city. &nbsp;We&rsquo;re talking about economic segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.&ldquo;There are other schools in affluent African-American communities that do not face the same kind of problems.&rdquo;</p><p>Segregated schools have always been an issue in Chicago, but it <em>looked </em>different back in the day.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20to%202013%20draft3.png" title="Sources: Chicago Public Schools Racial Ethnic Surveys and Stats and Facts" /></div></div><p>In the 1960s, CPS&rsquo;s student body was roughly 50 percent white and 50 percent black. Over time white students in the district steadily disappeared. Many neighborhoods transitioned from white to black. Depopulation also played a role.</p><p><span style="text-align: center;">In 1975, whites made up about 25 percent of the student body. By 2013 only 9 percent of CPS students were white.</span></p><p>WBEZ asked CPS officials to weigh in on these numbers. They failed to address the segregation issue and emailed some boilerplate language about &ldquo;serving a diverse population.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS 2013 pie chart3.png" style="height: 361px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Source: Chicago Public Schools Race/Ethnic Report School Year 2013-2014" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Where are the white students in CPS?</span></p><p>Again, we know half of white school-age children in Chicago attend CPS. But the question of where they go in CPS is also something that piqued the curiosity of our question asker.</p><p>She wondered if they are disproportionately attending magnet and other selective enrollment schools.</p><p>The answer appears to be, yes.</p><p>Overall, 9 percent of the CPS student population is white. But it&rsquo;s more than double that at magnet, gifted and classical elementary schools. And in the eight selective enrollment high schools &ndash; like Whitney Young &ndash; nearly a quarter of students are white.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very small number of students though because those schools don&rsquo;t serve a large number of students,&rdquo; according to Elaine Allensworth. &ldquo;We really haven&rsquo;t seen that much of a shift in terms of attracting more white students [overall].&rdquo;</p><p>Although our question asker focused on white students, there&rsquo;s another racial shift worth mentioning.</p><p>Beyond black and white, the real story of CPS today may be that it&rsquo;s becoming more Latino.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the requirements for attending Ray Elementary. It is a neighborhood school that accepts students outside its attendance boundaries through a lottery, not testing.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 Global Activism: Bhuvana Foundation aids children in India's Tamil Nadu State http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Vidya Vanam.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-94ea7097-81b5-8895-dc12-376c8631483d">Statistics show that India&rsquo;s school drop-out rate is very high. Children and their families, marginalized by society and culture, include people from the tribal, lower social strata in the hill regions of India. <a href="http://www.bhuvanafoundation.org/">Bhuvana Foundation</a> was created &ldquo;to provide three nutritious meals, timely and regular primary care and a well rounded education&rdquo; for children in India, especially in Tamil Nadu State. For Global Activism, we speak with neurologist Subramaniam Sriram, founder/president of Bhuvana Foundation and Mridu Sekhar, a </span>Bhuvana trustee, about their work that began with Sriram&rsquo;s vision - &ldquo;to create a fear-free environment of learning so people are nurtured and cherished.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175679848&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>Mridu Sekhar feels Bhuvana Foundation&rsquo;s work with Vidya Vanam is a calling:</p><p style="margin-left:76.5pt;">I am on the board and just as passionate to give these kids the choices my grandchildren have at Lab School! I feel that we have all lost our way in educating our young. We are not trying to educate them to be good human beings and good citizens capable of thoughtful relationships with a dynamic and fast paced society! Vidya Vanam is sister schools with Pershing East here on the south side. I feel that mostly all the kids of Vidya Vanam will &quot;make it&quot;, &nbsp;while I can&#39;t say the same with confidence for the kids at Pershing East! Vidya Vanam also has about 30 kids to a class and the live in mud huts with parents who are very violent and alcoholic and can&#39;t read or write and often not enough to eat except in school! Catching them at preschool age ( 3-4) and giving them this nurturing environment for 7-9 hours a day is the key to changing the paradigm.</p></p> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state High school students play Election Day role http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Andy Connen schools.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In second period AP Government at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, there are just four students eligible to vote today.</p><p>Daniel Mortge is one of them.</p><p>&ldquo;My dad wants to take a picture of me, but I told him, &lsquo;No, you can&rsquo;t do that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mortge says.</p><p>But the rest of the students in this class defy just about every stereotype you&rsquo;ve likely heard about teenagers and politics.</p><p>The class is taught by Andy Conneen and Dan Larsen, who are somewhat famous locally for getting high school kids involved in the political process. The two worked with past groups of students to get Illinois&rsquo; &ldquo;Suffrage at 17&rdquo; law passed. It allows 17-year-olds to vote in the primaries if they&rsquo;ll be 18 by Election Day.</p><p>On the day I visit, the day before Election Day, one student is sharing a stack of political mail with the other students at his table, three others are preparing for their live election night broadcast, others are debriefing with the teachers about the last-minute push for the campaigns they&rsquo;ve been working on.</p><p>And a handful are getting ready to work in jobs that are pivotal on the first Tuesday in November.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to be an election judge tomorrow in Lake Zurich,&rdquo; says Fathma Rahman, a 17-year-old student.</p><p>Rahman is one of about 50 Stevenson students serving as an election judge this year. Across the Chicago region, about 2,000 students are working as election judges. In Chicago, the Chicago Board of Elections and Mikva Challenge have teamed up for the past 15 years to get students working as judges.This year, nearly 1,500 students will work at city precincts.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175370854&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>All received the necessary training, but Rahman said she&rsquo;s still nervous.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just kind of a big deal, you&rsquo;re helping people, you&rsquo;re putting through their votes,&rdquo; Rahman says. &ldquo;For them, they&rsquo;re just filling it out and giving it to you. But then for you, it&rsquo;s like &lsquo;What if I mess up?&rsquo;&rdquo;<br /><br />Students do have an academic incentive to get involved: five hours of what Conneen calls &ldquo;political service&rdquo; in exchange for a take-home essay for a portion of the final exam.</p><p>But Conneen says the class is more than just a class.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We try to make Civics a lifestyle,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />He says many young people dismiss political participation altogether because they don&rsquo;t see a party that they&rsquo;d fit into.<br /><br />&ldquo;Both parties have become so polarized because those independents and moderates have left the parties, because they&rsquo;re upset with how polarized the parties have become,&rdquo; Conneen explains. &ldquo;So it actually makes the problem worse.&rdquo;</p><p>He says he thinks the solution to that polarization lies with young people, who tend to be moderates.</p><p>&ldquo;We feel strongly about connecting students with the political parties,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;They tend to have a lot of common sense solutions to policy conflicts. We hear it all the time when we&rsquo;re talking policy in class. And those voices should be heard by the parties.&rdquo;<br /><br />Conneen says students volunteer for both Republicans and Democrats, and the teachers try to keep a pretty even split. It isn&rsquo;t too hard in Lake County, he says.<br /><br />&ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins Governor,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins the 10th Congressional District, and so these are two of the most watched, highly contested contests in the country.&rdquo;<br /><br />Most of these Stevenson students may not get to cast a ballot in those contests, but living in an area with races that are a toss-up can be a good backdrop for teaching democracy.</p><p>Before the bell rings, Conneen reminds students who are election judging to bring both food and extra work.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hey Election Judges! For the first time ever in Lake County, they actually expect that more voters will vote early (rather) than on election day, which means there might be some down time tomorrow. Bring a little homework. Bring a little homework,&rdquo; Conneen tells them.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-de9644bd-7c90-a7f4-a511-d796c83d826a"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 14:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059