WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago's biggest high school charter told to fix admissions policy, make it easier to apply http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-biggest-high-school-charter-told-fix-admissions-policy-make-it-easier-apply-110521 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is telling its largest charter high school network to make it easier for students to apply to its schools.</p><p><a href="http://noblestreet.noblenetwork.org/" target="_blank">Noble Network of Charter Schools</a> runs <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/campuses" target="_blank">16 high schools</a> in the city, including two opening this fall. The network educates 10,000 CPS students.</p><p>In the past, Noble has only given applications to families who attend <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/sites/default/files/images/nnais_flyer_13-14-english_merged_1.pdf" target="_blank">scheduled &ldquo;information sessions&rdquo; on particular dates</a>. If parents wanted to apply to five campuses to increase the likelihood their child would be accepted at a Noble charter, they had to go to five information sessions.</p><p>Noble CEO and founder Michael Milkie says the goal was to get parents to make an informed choice about whether to sign their children up for the schools, which have a reputation for strict discipline. He says he also wants parents to know the basics, like where the campuses are located.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to have to get here 200 days in a row in their freshman year, so we don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s unreasonable to ask them to go to five sessions if they&rsquo;d like,&rdquo; says Milkie. &ldquo;But, at the same time, we are adjusting (the admissions policy) slightly.&rdquo;</p><p>Noble Street&rsquo;s charter renewal with the school district, signed by Chicago Public Schools board president David Vitale last month, says &ldquo;the application must be available to all parents and students without limitations, such as an open house or school visit requirement.&rdquo;</p><p>Noble must also indicate that a student essay it has required on its application is actually optional.</p><p>&ldquo;Any essay requested must be optional for the student, will not be judged, graded or considered as a part of the application process, and completion of such essay will not impact lottery submission,&rdquo; Noble&rsquo;s new charter contract states.</p><p>Milkie says Noble Street has never graded the essays, which ask students why they want to attend a Noble school. Nor have they been used to sort kids. &ldquo;We just want to make sure they&rsquo;re interested,&rdquo; says Milkie, who says requiring the essay gave kids who really wanted to attend Noble school a greater possibility of going, and sorted out &ldquo;people who don&rsquo;t know anything about Noble. Because Noble is different than other schools, and they should know about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Changes to the application process come as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502">a new WBEZ analysis </a>shows that in every community with a Noble high school, the charter attracts a significantly higher proportion of above-average incoming students than the nearby traditional neighborhood high school&mdash;even though both types of schools must be open to all kids. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/neighborhood-sort-w-intro-outro" target="_blank">For instance</a>, at Kelvyn Park High School, 25 percent of incoming freshmen scored above the district average on an exam CPS mandated all schools give in the fall of 2012; at the nearby Noble-Pritzker campus, 54 percent of incoming freshmen scored above average.</p><p>The Noble charter network <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/job-opportunities/careers" target="_blank">touts high ACT scores and college-going rates </a>and has used its success to fuel <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/about-noble/campaign-expansion" target="_blank">expansion</a>. It hopes to open 20 schools by 2020. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called Noble &ldquo;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmnFQkD0Eg0" target="_blank">the most successful high schools I&rsquo;ve seen</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>Jack Elsey, Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; Chief Innovation Officer,&nbsp; said CPS&nbsp; &ldquo;routinely evaluates charter school policies and procedures&hellip;to ensure alignment with the district&rsquo;s values and expectations&rdquo; &ndash;particularly during the sort of charter renewal process Noble just went through.</p><p>Elsey said Noble has always been transparent about its application process, but that &ldquo;CPS expectations have evolved since Noble&#39;s contact renewal five years ago.&nbsp; Previously acceptable practices may not meet the current standards,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s important that every student has as easy access to an application as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Elsey could not say whether the district believes Noble&rsquo;s admissions policies are the reason <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank">the network enrolls more above-average kids and fewer low-performing students</a> than nearby schools. &ldquo;It&#39;s impossible to say what kind of role this played,&rdquo; said Elsey, noting there are other reasons why higher performing students might be disporportionately represented at the schools. &ldquo;Good schools attract certain students, and Noble has a very good reputation here in the city of being a great school.&rdquo;</p><p>Milkie disputes the notion that his incoming students achieve any higher than students at other schools. He says the Noble scores look higher because by the time students took the incoming test, which was given 4-6 weeks into ninth grade, his students had pulled ahead. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no question that a part of this or maybe all of it is the learning that they get early,&rdquo; Milkie says. &ldquo;Other schools may not be so focused. We really tell them, &lsquo;Hey, this test is important. Focus on it.&rsquo;&rdquo; A citywide admissions pool may be another factor, Milkie says. Neighborhood schools may also enroll students from any part of the city, as long as there is space.</p><p>Milkie says Noble will enroll anyone of any ability level. There is room today in a third of Noble campuses for anyone who wants to come, he says. The schools&rsquo; new application materials are available at the campuses.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-biggest-high-school-charter-told-fix-admissions-policy-make-it-easier-apply-110521 Parent group wants more eyes on CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wendy katten budget training.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A city-wide parent group wants more eyeballs on Chicago Public Schools spending before the Board of Education votes on its <a href="http://www.cps.edu/FY15Budget/Pages/FY15Budget.aspx">budget proposal</a> for next year.</p><p dir="ltr">On Monday night, leaders of the group Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education transformed a meeting room inside the Eckhart Park field house into a training center.</p><p dir="ltr">The group&rsquo;s executive director Wendy Katten and board member Dwayne Truss gave a crash course on the budget proposal that CPS officials <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">released late in the evening on July 2nd</a>. Three simultaneous public hearings were held last night.</p><p dir="ltr">But Katten said even people closely connected to the public schools tend to have a hard time figuring out where CPS is spending taxpayer money. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is public money and we want to give people access just to the information,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s available. It&rsquo;s public information. It can be intimidating and hard to find and read. So we want to get people involved and feeling comfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There have been major shifts in the last few budget cycles, the biggest being a change in how schools are funded. Each school now gets a dollar amount &ldquo;attached to each child&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Truss explained to the audience. The per pupil amount this year is up from last year and ranges from $4,400 to $5,400, depending on the grade. &nbsp;Most of the increase just covers the cost of inflation and teacher raises.</p><p dir="ltr">The training was not unbiased. Katten, Truss and other Raise Your Hand members encouraged people to ask specific questions at tonight&rsquo;s hearings, like why the district is cutting librarians and increasing spending on standardized tests. Raise Your Hand mostly advocates for neighborhood schools, which continue to face steep cuts as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for more charter and magnet schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Katten said the group is still frustrated by the closure of 50 neighborhood schools last year, a decision that&rsquo;s even harder to swallow given that CPS keeps opening new schools.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since the fall of 2012, which was when CPS announced there was a massive underutilization crisis, we found that they have opened 21,481 new seats of all kinds,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;We were told that winter, that fall, that the district would be taking resources and investing them more wisely in existing schools, which would make sense. But we see that they continue to just be spread thin.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokesman Joel Hood said this year the number of new seats at charter schools is roughly the same as the enrollment declines in existing district-run schools. Hood also said it&rsquo;s unfair to say the district did not invest in the schools that took in students from closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">However, most of those so-called welcoming schools are seeing cuts this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The three public meetings were held at the following locations:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wilbur Wright College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Events Building Theater</p><p dir="ltr">4300 N. Narragansett</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Kennedy King College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">740 West 63rd Street</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Malcolm X College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">1900 West Van Buren</p><p><br /><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy The Big Sort http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort---8th-grade-grad_0.jpg" title="After eighth grade graduation, Chicago students scatter to 130 different high schools. Test scores show that high-performing students and low-performing students in particular are clustering into separate schools under the city’s school choice model. Within neighborhoods, there is further sorting based on achievement. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158915147&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>This spring, at grammar schools all across Chicago, thousands of eighth graders donned caps and gowns and walked across auditorium stages to receive their elementary school diplomas. This fall, the graduates from each of those schools will scatter&mdash;to more than 130 different Chicago public high schools, and counting.</p><p>But who goes where?</p><p>Over the past decade, Chicago has opened more than 50 new high schools, and will open more this fall. The school district is trying to expand the number of quality school options and offer students a choice of where to go to school. And in many ways, Chicago high schools seem to be improving. Graduation rates are <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/04/24/focus-ninth-grade-triggers-climb-chicago-high-school-graduation-rates">inching up</a>. The city now boasts <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/illinois">five of the top ten high schools in the state</a>.</p><p>But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.</p><p>WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an &ldquo;EXPLORE&rdquo; exam about a month into the school year.</p><p>The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.</p><p>But WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.</p><p>Think of it as academic tracking&mdash;not within schools, but between them.</p><hr /><blockquote><p><strong>THE BIG SORT</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bigsortgraph.jpg" style="height: 287px; width: 540px;" title="" /></a></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>See how student achievement relates to high school choice&nbsp;<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html">in an interactive chart linking each score in 2012 to a school</a>. Sort schools by type, demographics or location, and explore and compare the distribution of scores at each school.</em></div></blockquote><hr /><p>The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city&rsquo;s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it&rsquo;s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis shows:</p><ul><li><strong>Serious brain drain</strong>. The city&rsquo;s selective &ldquo;test-in&rdquo; high schools &mdash; among the best in the state &mdash; capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them &mdash; 96 percent&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;enrolled in just six of the city&rsquo;s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city&rsquo;s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city&rsquo;s top performers.</li><li><strong>Clustering of low-performing students.</strong> Fifteen percent of the city&rsquo;s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. &nbsp;The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.</li><li><strong>Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. &nbsp;</strong>WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers. &nbsp;</li><li><strong>Within neighborhoods, more sorting. </strong>Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.</li><li><strong>The dozens of new high schools Chicago has opened since 2004</strong> <strong>fall on both sides of the &ldquo;sorting&rdquo; spectrum.</strong> New schools with the widest range of incoming test performers include Ogden International IB on the Near North Side; Goode, a Southwest Side magnet school with preference for neighborhood students; and Chicago High School for the Arts, which admits students based on arts auditions. New schools showing the least amount of academic diversity include Daniel Hale Williams (where incoming students score at about the district average); also low-scoring &nbsp;DuSable Leadership Academy Charter (in the same building as Williams, ordered in 2013 to begin phasing out), Ace Tech Charter, and Austin Business and Entrepreneurial High School.</li></ul><p>The idea behind school choice is to to let families pick the type of school they want for their kids, something more affluent Americans can do by moving or by paying for private school. Choice is also seen as a way to improve all schools by injecting more market-based competition into the school system.</p><p>But the sorting of students by achievement into separate high schools seems to be an unintended consequence.</p><p>&ldquo;It certainly wasn&rsquo;t a goal,&rdquo; says Paul Hill, the founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the architect of <a href="http://www.crpe.org/research/portfolio-strategy">the &ldquo;portfolio&rdquo; school choice model Chicago and other big cities are following</a>. Hill says he and others were concerned about sorting based on race or class, but dramatic sorting by achievement level was not foreseen.</p><p>Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who has been on the job for a year and a half, says she is aware that students are clustering in different high schools by achievement, and is concerned about any suggestion that that&rsquo;s a good thing.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no research to support that,&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett, who said she, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school board &ldquo;come from a very different belief system,&rdquo; one that does not rely on sorting students by achievement. &ldquo;What we believe is you&rsquo;ve got to elevate, raise the level and the quality of instruction at all of our schools, including our neighborhood (schools),&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett. However, she rejected the notion that sorting is an outcome of school choice or Chicago&rsquo;s massive expansion in the number of high schools. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This has got to be a district of choice. If I choose to go to my neighborhood school, it&rsquo;s because it ought to be a great school as well,&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett.</p><p><strong>New York City and New Orleans see a similar dynamic</strong></p><p>Despite most New Orleans schools being open to students of all academic levels, &ldquo;high performing students tend to go to high-performing schools, and low-performing students tend to go to low-performing schools,&rdquo; says Andrew McEachin, a North Carolina State University professor who has studied school choice in the now all-charter city. &ldquo;So even though it&#39;s a choice-based district, you see that there&#39;s kind of like a tiered system, where people are choosing schools similar to their background and achievement levels.&rdquo;</p><p>The same thing is happening in New York City. Why? Researchers say &ldquo;achievement&rdquo; may be an indication of the resources students have at home. Higher performing students&rsquo; families are better at getting information about school quality, navigating the system, and securing things like transportation to school or test prep for entrance exams.</p><p>McEachin and others say the consequences of sorting could reverberate to other aspects of the school system. &ldquo;What is the unintended consequence of this ability grouping on the teacher labor market?&rdquo; asks McEachin. &ldquo;Is it going to make it even harder to get good teachers to the lowest-achieving students?&rdquo;</p><p>Sorting by performance isn&rsquo;t new in Chicago Public Schools, and isn&rsquo;t unique to choice systems. Some of the city&rsquo;s toughest high schools have not attracted generally higher performing middle-class students for decades. But under choice and a dramatic expansion in the number of high schools, parents and counselors say sorting of students is becoming more pronounced.</p><p><strong>Students know the hierarchy</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2491597027_6716951610_z.jpg" title="Chicago students can identify the hierarchy high schools fall into. Lane Tech is for 'A' students, they say. (flickr/Alex Cheek)" /></div></div></div></div><p>In Chicago, students can tell you which high schools are for which students. On a sunny afternoon before school let out in June, kids at Lane Tech&mdash;one of the city&rsquo;s selective schools &mdash; describe the landscape.</p><p>&ldquo;If you get straight As and you do really good on testing, the school you&rsquo;ll probably get accepted into is Northside, Walter Payton, Whitney Young,&rdquo; says freshman Amber Hunt.</p><p>What about the B students? &ldquo;Schools with IB programs sometimes take solid Bs,&rdquo; says Amber. &ldquo;Charter schools are kind of like if you&rsquo;re average, or slightly below average.&rdquo;</p><p>Lots of students give the same answers. Ninth grader Evelyn Almodovar says she knows &ldquo;C&rdquo; students who went to private high schools because &ldquo;they didn&rsquo;t want to be embarrassed about going to a school that&rsquo;s known as having worse students.&rdquo;</p><p>And what about the lowest performers, those who struggle in grammar school? They go to neighborhood schools, every student tells me. &ldquo;Low-ranking schools,&rdquo; says freshman Anais Roman, naming a neighborhood school and low-scoring charter in her area.</p><p>Many elementary school counselors describe a nearly identical hierarchy (one grammar school even posts its graduates&rsquo; &ldquo;<a href="http://www.newberryacademy.org/counselors-corner/high-school-resources/high-school-destinations-for-newberry-graduates/">high school destinations</a>&rdquo; in the same basic A-to-F order).</p><p>In an indication of just how segmented high schools have become, a counselor said her elementary school sends &ldquo;average&rdquo; students to a nearby high school that&rsquo;s seen as safe, admits no low performers, and scores at about the district average. But she said she would not recommend the school for her top students&mdash;even though they&rsquo;re eligible to attend. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they would offer the academic rigor,&rdquo; she said of the school.</p><p>A number of counselors lamented the sorting.</p><p>&ldquo;We look at the suburbs, and we look at much of the rest of the country&mdash;there&rsquo;s one school to go to based on your address, and that neighborhood &nbsp;high school would have all sorts of different programs available,&rdquo; says Walsh Elementary counselor Kristy Brooks.</p><p>Brooks says she sees positive aspects to Chicago&rsquo;s high school choice system&mdash;kids leave segregated neighborhoods and find new classmates and opportunities, students push themselves to get into top schools. But she says she sees neighborhood schools being left with low-performing students who didn&rsquo;t have the academic performance or the help to get to another school. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think in the long run it would be better to have equity in all schools,&rdquo; says Brooks.</p><p>But if all students were in a single comprehensive high school, wouldn&rsquo;t they be tracked within that school anyway? Does it matter if they&rsquo;re in separate schools?</p><p>&ldquo;In part it doesn&rsquo;t matter&mdash;it&rsquo;s disastrous either way,&rdquo; says Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an opponent of tracking.</p><p>&ldquo;But in part it matters because once we get to that point of between-school tracking, it&rsquo;s even harder to try to address. If we&rsquo;re going to reform the system and make it more equitable, starting with the kids in the same schools is a good first step,&rdquo; says Welner, who argues tracking cements current stratifications in society.</p><p><strong>Top performers benefit from sorting</strong></p><p>For many students at Lane Tech, this is the first time they&rsquo;ve attended school with all high achievers.</p><p>&ldquo;It raises the standards a lot,&rdquo; says freshman Paradise Cosey.</p><p>Another freshman says she feels more &ldquo;comfortable&rdquo; at 4,000-student Lane Tech than she did at her elementary school; she says this is the first year since fifth grade that classmates haven&rsquo;t asked to copy her work.</p><p>High performing students are like gold in a school. Everybody does better around them&mdash;including other high-performing students. And it&rsquo;s not just about test scores. The <a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/05/10/31safe.h30.html">biggest predictor of whether a school is safe</a>, orderly, and set up for learning is students&rsquo; academic achievement. Having top performers makes an entire school easier to run.</p><p>Paul Hill says some stratification doesn&rsquo;t bother him, &ldquo;One thing that this just demonstrates yet again is that human beings just love status hierarchies and we&rsquo;ll create them any way we can.&rdquo; Hill says Americans believe in equality, but they also believe in elite schools.</p><p>&ldquo;But when it trickles down to the lowest-performing kids are in the schools with the least of everything, then that&rsquo;s not tolerable,&rdquo; says Hill.</p><p><strong>Marshall High, a school of &ldquo;last resort&rdquo;</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort-marshall-STILL-GETTING-PERMISSION.jpg" title="Kadeesha Williams originally wanted to go to Marine Military Academy, but ended up enrolling at Marshall. Her classmates would have been very different at Marine, where 48 percent of students come in above average. At Marshall, 14 percent come in above the district’s average. The school is set up to help the lower scoring students who enroll there. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159037769&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>At Marshall Metropolitan High School, 86 percent of students come in scoring below the district average. Some can&rsquo;t read.</p><p>Marshall, the attendance-area high school for a big swath of Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, is among the 15 percent of Chicago high schools enrolling vastly disproportionate numbers of low achievers.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, I didn&rsquo;t actually choose to come to Marshall,&rdquo; says rising sophomore Kadeesha Williams. &ldquo;My mom said because it was in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>Kadeesha had wanted to go to Marine Military Academy down the street. &ldquo;I wanted to be a Marine, so I wanted to get the type of education they get so I can get ready,&rdquo; she said. But the family turned her application in late. &ldquo;We went to take a test. But my mom, she lost the paperwork.&rdquo;</p><p>Kadeesha&rsquo;s mom says the paperwork was actually lost at the school&mdash;they had no record of Kadeesha taking the test, she says. &nbsp;</p><p>Kadeesha is liking Marshall. &ldquo;Marshall&rsquo;s a good school,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Because the teachers here, they&rsquo;re very into you. They&rsquo;re a lot of help.&rdquo;</p><p>Other students say they came to Marshall because family went here. Some come to play for Marshall&rsquo;s storied basketball team or, lately, the school&rsquo;s budding chess team.</p><p>Teacher James Dorrell says for other students, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s sort of like a school of last resort. They try to enroll in charter schools or selective enrollments, and once they can&rsquo;t get in, they would come here&rdquo;&mdash;though he sees Marshall as much more than that. About half of the school&#39;s students come from the neighborhood, the other half from outside the attendance boundary.</p><p>Dorrell says after a re-staffing and infusion of money in 2010, Marshall is hugely improved. The entire school is set up to help the struggling kids who enroll here. Freshmen have double periods of English and math. Many take reading&mdash;a subject other high schools don&rsquo;t even offer.</p><p>But more students still drop out than graduate from Marshall. And test scores have barely moved.</p><p>Marshall raises a question at the heart of tracking&mdash;and at the heart of Chicago&rsquo;s system of school choice. Is it better to group low performers together? Better for whom?</p><p>&ldquo;The pros are yes, we can have these interventions,&rdquo; says Dorrell. &ldquo;The cons would be&mdash;you would want some high achievers because they sort of raise the bar, and other kids could see what it takes to be successful. So I think having kids with higher test scores would benefit all of this group. But I also see the benefit of having these kids&hellip;tracked by ability.&rdquo;</p><p>Marshall is open to all students in the neighborhood. But there are no freshman honors courses, no AP classes (the school is trying to change that). There&rsquo;s little to attract higher achievers.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/marshallgraph_0.jpg" title="A huge percentage of Chicago’s best students go to selective enrollment schools. But even after those students are creamed off the top, more sorting takes place within communities. Low achieving students are concentrating in the city’s traditional neighborhood high schools, like Marshall Metropolitan High on the West Side." /></a></div></div></div></div><p>There are four new high schools within a mile of Marshall. Two are military schools with minimum test score requirements, keeping out low performers. The third is a Noble Street charter school, which requires much more effort to enroll than Marshall. (Parents need to come to an information session on a particular evening in order to obtain an application, for instance. Students must write an essay.) &nbsp;At the two military schools, 48 percent and 64 percent of incoming students score above average. At the Noble Street charter, 41 percent of students enter above average. At Marshall, the figure is three times less&mdash;just 14 percent of incoming kids score above average.</p><p>That story is repeated in neighborhood after neighborhood in Chicago&mdash;and raises questions about whether the city&rsquo;s school choice system is creating better schools, or simply pulling away better performing students, leaving the low achievers segregated into separate, failing schools.</p><p>Michael Milkie, the founder and CEO of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, Chicago&rsquo;s largest high school charter network, sees the entire question of sorting as a &ldquo;red herring.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the most important part by far are the adults in the building, their ability to deliver instruction, and the school culture. Those are the things that far outweigh whether you have a concentration of certain learners or a wide variety of learners,&rdquo; says Milkie. All Noble schools attract far more high performers than neighborhood schools in the same communities; CPS recently told Noble Street that applications &ldquo;must be available to all parents and students without limitations,&rdquo; and that the charter network must indicate that the required student essay is actually optional.</p><p>Milkie believes his students are exactly the same as those in other schools. He says the Noble scores look higher because the incoming test is given 4-6 weeks into high school, enough time for his students to pull ahead, he says.</p><p><strong>Lincoln Park High School: academically diverse, and de-tracking</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort--lincoln-park-HS.jpg" title="Students lead a discussion in a freshman English class at Lincoln Park High School. The incoming test scores we analyzed show Lincoln Park is the city’s most academically diverse school, enrolling a whole range of performers. It is an anomaly in a system where students are being sorted based on achievement level into separate high schools. And the school is de-tracking. This class included low- and high-achievers. Teacher Mark Whetstone says that made it hard to teach, but he said all students benefited. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div><p>Lincoln Park High School is an anomaly in Chicago. It enrolls everyone. A 30-year-old International Baccalaureate program attracts elite students. Arts programs draw other kids. The attendance zone guarantees seats to students from both wealthy and poor families.</p><p>Principal Michael Boraz likes to say this is the most diverse high school in CPS, and maybe in the country.</p><p>&ldquo;Not just in terms of our racial and ethnic and neighborhood makeup,&rdquo; says Boraz, &ldquo;but also academically. We have kids from the 15<sup>th </sup>percentile rank in their standardized test scores, all the way up to the 99<sup>th</sup>. So it really is truly a diverse school in just about every sense.&rdquo;</p><p>School is about more than academics, says Boraz. It&rsquo;s where kids learn to live and work together. And now there&rsquo;s a big effort inside Lincoln Park to mix kids more.</p><p>IB classes once reserved for the elite were opened up to everyone last year. So many kids took the IB math final the school had to set up the test in the gym. Boraz <a href="https://twitter.com/mjboraz/status/466255132712505345">tweeted out a picture of 300 desks</a>.</p><p>One morning before school let out, students in a freshman English class at Lincoln Park took turns leading a class discussion on Richard Wright&rsquo;s <em>Black Boy</em>. The class included low performers and high achievers.</p><p>Teacher Mark Whetstone said it was hard to teach a class with such &ldquo;extreme&rdquo; diversity, but says he enjoyed it &ldquo;immensely.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;And I think more importantly the kids at all levels benefitted from the makeup of that class,&rdquo; says Whetstone. &ldquo;I feel like my lower performing students rose to the challenge. They had great examples from their peers around them at all times. And at the same time, for some of my higher performing students, it was good for them to work with someone generally not at their level. To be able to interact, and also to be able to take a lead in the classroom.&rdquo;</p><p>University of Chicago researchers are working on a report about the sorting that&rsquo;s happening among Chicago schools. One of the authors, Elaine Allensworth, says Chicago needs to decide what it wants&mdash;a system where we sort students, or a system where we mix them together more.</p><p>&ldquo;The solution is thinking about where we want to be as a society&mdash;what kind of system do we want&mdash;and how do we make that work for everyone,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Allensworth says researchers already know one thing: whatever approach Chicago chooses, schools need to increase supports for the lowest performing students. If kids are mixed, lower achievers need help keeping up so they don&rsquo;t get frustrated and give up, and so they don&rsquo;t hold back their high-flying peers.</p><p>And if Chicago decides to keep sorting students by achievement, then the schools filled with the lowest performers are going to need a lot of extra resources.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation"> @WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502 Global Activism: 'Worldview Education and Care' aiding children in Tanzania and across Africa http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-worldview-education-and-care-aiding-children-tanzania-and <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Worldview.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-e6e5cb31-4504-0dc8-eebe-ac45629e8353">Chicagoans, Ann Avery, and her husband Robert, founded <a href="http://www.worldvieweducationandcare.org/">Worldview Education and Care</a> after witnessing the plight of young people in the Meru district of northern Tanzania. Among many services, the group helps Tanzanians by providing scholarships for child and adult education, including living expenses and medical care. They also run a girls&#39; empowerment program to help struggling and single mothers attend school as well support an <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQPEUo8264w&amp;feature=youtu.be">orphanage</a>. For our </span>Global Activism series, Ann and group supporter, Susie Rheault, will talk about their work and a program to foster HIV/AIDS awareness through sports.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158146754&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 08:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-worldview-education-and-care-aiding-children-tanzania-and Schools on South, West sides left behind in CPS arts plan http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 <p><p>A report out this morning shows big disparities in arts education across Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>A sobering map on page 17 of the 44-page report highlights which Chicago communities are getting the most arts programming and which are getting the least. Most of the majority African American neighborhoods in the city are essentially arts education deserts.</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/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport-18.jpg" style="height: 625px; width: 400px;" title="A map from Ingenuity's report on the arts in Chicago Public Schools highlights where community arts partners provided arts programs throughout the district in 2012-13." /></div><p>In all, fewer than a quarter of all of the district&rsquo;s elementary schools reported meeting the district&rsquo;s recommended two hours of arts instruction per week.</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport.pdf">Download the full report</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Paul Sznewajs, the executive director of Ingenuity Incorporated, the arts-advocacy nonprofit that put out the report, stressed that it&rsquo;s meant to serve as a baseline for future years as his group begins to track the state of arts education. Ingenuity launched three years ago in tandem with the city&rsquo;s cultural plan by Mayor Rahm Emanuel shortly after he took office.</p><p>The biggest test, Sznewajs said, is making sure the school district&rsquo;s arts education plan is fully implemented, even in the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">face of steep budget cuts</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone always asks me, well, is it just about staffing, or is it just about partnerships, or is it just about the money? And the way we answer that truthfully is to say, it&rsquo;s about all of them,&rdquo; Sznewajs said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about any one piece of the pie, it&rsquo;s about making the whole pie bigger.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the report provides valuable data for district leaders to better direct resources.</p><p>For example, she said, CPS is adding 84 arts teachers and 84 physical education over the next two years with the help of $21 million in Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) money. &nbsp;Byrd-Bennett told reporters Tuesday that 89 of those positions are going to schools on the South Side, 54 are going to schools on the West Side and 32 will go to schools on the North Side. CPS officials have yet to release the list of specific schools benefiting from those positions, despite multiple requests by reporters.</p><p>John Perryman, an art teacher at Ortiz Elementary in South Lawndale, sits on the Chicago Teachers Union arts education committee and said he&rsquo;s troubled by the move to use more arts partners, like the Lyric Opera or the Merit School of Music, in place of teachers.</p><p>The report found that in the 2012-2013 school year, four percent of schools had an arts partnership, but no certified teacher. Perryman said that number likely rose in the most recent school year, with budget cuts and the switch to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principals-get-more-flexibility-likely-less-money-budget-107560">student-based budgeting</a> forcing principals to make choices about every position and program they buy.</p><p>He also said the way CPS has added and then subsequently cut arts positions in recent years doesn&rsquo;t make much sense.</p><p>&ldquo;(For the longer school day), there were 100 positions created, then 100 positions cut and now for next year, they&rsquo;re adding 84 positions,&rdquo; Perryman said. &ldquo;This has created great instability in the field of arts education because teachers are getting fired and rehired.&rdquo;</p><p>The head of CPS&rsquo;s Department of Arts Education, Mario Rossero, stressed that the report only looks at about half of the district&rsquo;s schools. Many did not report their data in the first year, 2012-2013, the year the report is based on. Rossero said the most recent year saw an 89 percent response rate.</p><p>Wendy Katten of the parent group Raise Your Hand echoed what Rossero said and noted that in her group&rsquo;s tracking of budget cuts last year, 170 arts positions were lost.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;ll be interesting to see what these numbers look like for this year,&rdquo; Katten said.</p><p>Ingenuity is expected to put out an updated dataset with numbers from the most recent school year (2013-2014) sometime in November.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 CTA charges kids full fares to get to summer school, job programs http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-charges-kids-full-fares-get-summer-school-job-programs-110450 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2791web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In what appears to be another stumble in the city&rsquo;s transition to the new Ventra fare-collection system, thousands of young Chicagoans are paying more in train and bus fares than they should be this summer.</p><p>Typically, students under age 20 going to summer school or jobs programs would pay reduced CTA fares&mdash;currently $0.75 per ride and $0.15 for a transfer.</p><p>But many have gotten a rude awakening this summer when they&rsquo;ve used their student cards on buses or trains.</p><p>&ldquo;I swiped it, and I had (added) a dollar. Usually a dollar is good for me to get over here, but it said &lsquo;insufficient fares,&rsquo;&quot; said student Cesar Fierro in the hallway of his high school, Noble Street College Prep. Fierro rides on a student Ventra card he purchased at school.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been paying $4.50, every day, to get to and from summer school&mdash;if he has the money.</p><p>&ldquo;Like yesterday I had to walk all the way home,&rdquo; said Fierro. That&rsquo;s a 4.5-mile hike, from Augusta and Milwaukee to Fullerton and Kostner.</p><p>School staff at Noble Street say they&rsquo;ve &ldquo;easily&rdquo; spent 10 hours on the phone over the last two weeks trying to get reduced fares for summer school students&mdash; &ldquo;calling back and forth to Ventra, being sent to CTA, the CTA saying, &lsquo;Go back to Ventra.&rsquo; It seems to be a very confusing time for the companies as well as the schools,&rdquo; said Noble Street administrative assistant Nicole Baily.</p><p>And thousands of youth involved in one of the city&rsquo;s largest summer job programs&mdash;After School Matters&mdash;have also been paying full fares.&nbsp;</p><p>Student Ventra cards, which are available only through schools or by mail from Ventra, offer kids reduced fares Monday through Friday during daytime hours &mdash;but only for the regular school year.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis says that&rsquo;s because reduced fares are for students enrolled in an educational program, not for all youth. &ldquo;If you&#39;re enrolled in the regular fall term, once that term finishes, the entitlement on the Ventra card is turned off automatically,&rdquo; said Lukidis.</p><p>For students to get reduced fares during summer, schools must submit each student&#39;s individual transit card ID number to the CTA (or to one of Ventra&#39;s subcontractors).&nbsp; Lukidis says the transit agency has been working since spring with schools to prepare for the summer session.&nbsp; She says 5,500 Chicago Public Schools students and 9,500 students from charters and private schools are already receiving the reduced fare.</p><p>&ldquo;So we have mechanisms in place for this to work successfully, and it has,&rdquo; says Lukidis. She blamed Noble Street&#39;s problems on a &quot;miscommunication on how to activate and get all of those entitlements processed.&quot;</p><p>A clerk at one of the city&rsquo;s neighborhood high schools says not all summer school students there are getting the reduced-fare rides to school and they&#39;re entitled to them. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had parents call to complain,&rdquo; said the clerk, who didn&rsquo;t have authorization to speak to the media. She said she&rsquo;s unable to sell Ventra cards to summer school students who aren&rsquo;t enrolled at that school during the regular school year.</p><p>And the CTA seems to have been blind-sided by summer programs beyond schools.&nbsp; In the past, many summer programs&mdash;including After School Matters&mdash;purchased and distributed reduced-fare CTA cards to teens. Those cards were valid during the summer months only.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems like a very easy-to-solve problem, but the CTA has not created a student fare card for the summer,&rdquo; says Brian Brady, director of the Mikva Challenge youth organization.</p><p>Brady says nonprofits like his, who run summer programs for youth, are &ldquo;up in arms on this, but not getting anywhere. It seems like Ventra and CTA are much more impenetrable than they were before the Ventra system took over. We&rsquo;re having trouble making any headway.&rdquo;</p><p>Brady says the Mikva Challenge, which pays for students&rsquo; transportation to its summer civics programs, is shelling out $4,000 more in student transit fares than last summer&mdash;and has no choice but to pay full fare for students it believes are entitled to youth fares. Other programs, like After School Matters, have passed the costs on to students.</p><p>Brady says that for students paying their own way to summer programs, full fares are &ldquo;a significant expense for these kids. A lot of them are extremely low-income.&rdquo; He says even if students are traveling to jobs programs, &ldquo;these jobs are often stipend-type jobs.&rdquo;&nbsp; Brady says nearly 20 percent of teens&rsquo; earnings could be going to the CTA.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s in the city&rsquo;s interest to see these kids getting to and from good activities in the summer&mdash;constructive activities&mdash;so to have them get socked at this heavy rate is really frustrating,&rdquo; says Brady.</p><p>Coincidentally, teens involved in a Mikva Challenge youth committee successfully advocated for the city to offer free rides&mdash;rather than reduced fares&mdash; to youth travelling to and from school&mdash;as a way to improve attendance.&nbsp; The city piloted the program in 10 schools last school year.</p><p>CTA says it has been in discussions with directors from After School Matters and plans to give reduced fares to those students &ldquo;soon. &rdquo; But Lukidis could not say how reduced fares would work, when they might begin, or whether students would be reimbursed for overpaying fares. Some After School Matters programs have been up and running for two weeks. Others begin Monday.</p><p>A spokeswoman for After School Matters, which has close ties to the city, declined to comment. The group says 8,000 students are enrolled in summer programs.</p><p>As for other summer programs run by nonprofits or universities, &ldquo;the best thing for programs to do, is reach out to us,&rdquo; said Lukidis, who emphasized the programs must be educational for students to get the reduced fare. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so many good programs throughout the city. If you feel like you have a program that would qualify, and you&rsquo;re offering something to student-aged kids, contact us, so we can go ahead and review it.&rdquo;</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s web site <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/reduced.aspx#students" target="_blank">indicates </a>parents can also ask for their child&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/fare_information/Summer_2014_Student_Entitlement_Extension6_4_14.pdf" target="_blank">reduced-fare status to be extended</a> if the child is in a school program.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>. </em></p><p><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-charges-kids-full-fares-get-summer-school-job-programs-110450 Free lunch for all in Chicago Public Schools starts in September http://www.wbez.org/news/free-lunch-all-chicago-public-schools-starts-september-110447 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS spicy chicken patty (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lunch money may be a thing of the past at Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>Under a relatively new program called the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) all school meals will be free starting in September 2014, the district confirmed to WBEZ Thursday.</p><p>Although the CPS initially rejected the program in 2011, it had expanded it to 400 schools by last fall.</p><p>This September, however, will be the first time &quot;well-off&quot; schools join the program as well. Entirely free meals reduce the labor of cash collection and tracking which students have to pay full and reduced prices for their food. This tiered system (with incentives for schools reporting higher poverty levels) led to fraud among CPS employees in the past.</p><p>&ldquo;This transition will also allow us to improve quality of food and infrastructure in our lunchrooms, allowing us to redirect the dollars we no longer have to subsidize back to the classroom,&rdquo; the district said in an email to WBEZ Thursday.</p><p>Under the CEO program, the federal government reimburses the district based on its percentage of low-income students, and CPS officials say that the continued rollout of the program has already meant savings.</p><p>&ldquo;Our predominantly high [low-income] population&mdash;nearly 90 percent&mdash;allows us to meet the threshold to ensure that reimbursement rates won&rsquo;t cost the district revenue,&rdquo; a CPS spokeswoman said in the email . &ldquo;In FY14, due to our expanded participation in the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) program (from 200 to 400 schools this year), we no longer had to subsidize the program with general fund dollars. We&#39;ve also received a larger blended reimbursement this year of $2.93, up from $2.76 last year.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS representatives also says a swipe card payment system will be rolled out for all students in the district by the end of 2014.</p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/free-lunch-all-chicago-public-schools-starts-september-110447 Neighborhood high schools again take hit in new CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/byrd-bennett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated Tuesday July, 8 at 8:00 a.m.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Schools with more than $1 million slashed from their budgets are overwhelmingly the city&rsquo;s public neighborhood high schools.</p><p>Once seen as anchors in many communities, neighborhood high schools have seen enrollment decline dramatically in the past decade. The decline is a direct result of Chicago Public Schools opening more privately run charter high schools. Students now scatter to schools all over the city when they go to high school.</p><p>Enrollment declines in neighborhood high schools are driving huge budget cuts, because district officials switched the budgeting formula to rely more heavily on number of students attending. At some neighborhood high schools last year, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">freshman class was so small</a>, principals were barely able to hire enough teachers to cover core subject areas, much less offer any additional courses, like music or foreign language.</p><p>Last year CPS <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-enrollment-dip-doesnt-cost-principals-108781">held those schools harmless</a> when they enrolled fewer students than projected, but this year that practice ended.</p><p>Of the 26 schools seeing $1 million or more in cuts under the newly released CPS budget, 24 are high schools. Just two are elementary schools: De Diego and Disney Magnet. The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reported yesterday that the principal and assistant principal of De Diego, which served as a receiving school for two schools that closed last year, were <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-wicker-park-school-principal-reassigned-20140701,0,2303804.story">recently removed from their posts</a>. It is unclear what is driving cuts at Disney Magnet; &nbsp;at the same time the total budget decreased, the school gained three positions. (<strong>A complete list of schools with the steepest cuts is below.</strong>)</p><p>When looking at schools where 10 or more positions were cut, neighborhood high schools are again hardest hit. Of the 25 schools losing 10 staff or more, 19 are high schools. Oddly, one of those, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, is a selective enrollment high school that draws from across the city. Lindblom Principal Alan Mather said he did not lose positions. But when looking closer at the school&#39;s report in CPS&#39;s interactive budget, he said it looked like a shift from janitors funded directly by the board to those provided through Aramark may be accounting for the seemingly large drop in positions. CPS officials did not respond when asked about how janitors are counted.&nbsp;</p><p>Six elementary schools -- Eberhart, Dodge, Lewis, Marquette, Cameron and Haley -- lost 10 or more positions. Three of those (Dodge, Lewis and Marquette) are run by the non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership.</p><p>Although many schools suffered steep cuts, the overall &nbsp;budget for next year rings up at $5.7 billion, which is up $500 million from last year. The increase comes even as CPS is projecting a loss of about 100 students.</p><p>CPS officials released the proposed budget on Wednesday, just a day from the start of a holiday weekend. Officials gave reporters just four minutes to look over a Power Point presentation before holding a conference call to take questions. The complete budget was not posted until 8 p.m.</p><p>It remains unclear when and where the district will hold public hearings on the proposed budget.</p><p>In the conference call, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the overall increase is largely driven by ballooning pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The Fund&rsquo;s interim director, Jay Rehak, told WBEZ earlier in the week that CPS recently made its first full payment since 2010. In previous years, CPS paid smaller installments because of a three-year pension holiday granted by the state of Illinois.</p><p>Despite having to pay more into the pension fund after years of not doing so, Byrd-Bennett touted the district&rsquo;s ability to keep cuts away from classrooms this year.</p><p>Roughly $3.8 billion will go directly to schools, according to <a href="http://www.cps.edu/fy15budget/">budget documents</a>, an increase from last year&rsquo;s total of about $3.6 billion. Schools will receive an additional $250 per student this year, but much of that only covers staff salary increases.</p><p>Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, will see an overall increase of $41 million, or about 10 percent. According to budget documents, the increase is not just from enrollment growth, but also an increase in the amount of money given to charters for every student they enroll.</p><p>A majority of the schools getting increases of $1 million or more are new and expanding charter schools, including six Noble Street high schools, two UNO schools, two Concept Schools, one LEARN school, &nbsp;Catalyst-Maria, Chicago International Charter School-Quest Campus.</p><p>CPS Budget Chief Ginger Ostro said the district faced a more than $800 million deficit in this year&rsquo;s budget. In order to close that deficit, officials are using an accounting trick that shifts when it counts the revenue coming in from property taxes. &nbsp;</p><p>Sarah Wetmore, vice president and research director with the Civic Federation, called the proposal &ldquo;not sustainable&rdquo; and said CPS must work with state lawmakers in Springfield to get pension reform in order to fix the structural problems.</p><p>It is also now the fifth year that CPS has relied on a one-time windfall of cash to balance its budget.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><strong>Schools with the biggest cuts ($1 million or more)</strong><br />1. Juarez HS<br />2. Hyde Park HS<br />3. Julian HS<br />4. Clemente<br />5. Richards<br />6. Hancock<br />7. Lakeview<br />8. Wells<br />9. Crane<br />10. Kelvyn Park<br />11. North Lawndale Charter<br />12. Harlan<br />13. Tilden<br />14. Amundsen<br />15. Farragut<br />16. Sullivan<br />17. Robeson<br />18. Kelly<br />19. Lincoln Park<br />20. Henry Ford Powerhouse<br />21. De Diego<br />22. Hirsch<br />23. Orr<br />24. Disney Magnet<br />25. Aspira &ndash; Ramirez<br />26. Fenger</p><p><strong>Schools that lost more than 10 positions</strong><br />1. Bogan<br />2. Hyde Park<br />3. Farragut<br />4. Amundsen<br />5. Hirsch<br />6. Crane<br />7. Harlan<br />8. Lincoln Park<br />9. Eberhart Elementary<br />10. Juarez<br />11. Orr<br />12. Clemente<br />13. Harper<br />14. Robeson<br />15. Julian<br />16. Dodge Elementary<br />17. Manley<br />18. Sullivan<br />19. Lewis Elementary<br />20. Marshall<br />21. Lindblom<br />22. Marquette Elementary<br />23. Carver<br />24. Cameron Elementary<br />25. Haley Elementary</p><p><em>*A previous version of this article stated that Jay Rehak was the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund&#39;s director. He is the interim executive director and president of CTPF&rsquo;s board of trustees. Kevin Huber is the executive director of the Fund and currently out on medical leave.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 More than a thousand teachers and other staff laid off in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools officials told 550 teachers and 600 more school staff Thursday that they&rsquo;re out of a job.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of dreaded phone calls being made by principals is based on how many kids CPS officials project will show up on the first day next fall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The staffing changes are driven most directly by declining student enrollment,&rdquo; CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters.</p><p dir="ltr">The number is significantly smaller than last year&rsquo;s nearly 3,000 layoffs, which were due mostly to the Board of Education&rsquo;s decision to close 50 schools.</p><p dir="ltr">More than <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713">800 teachers were laid off last June</a>, another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">2,100 were let go in July</a> and nearly 100 were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078">released after the 20th day of school enrollment count</a> was taken in the fall.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS&rsquo;s Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler said, typically, about 60 percent of the staff let go over the summer find new jobs at other schools in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, said it&rsquo;s still too many layoffs in a system already starved for resources.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It sort of like, hey, we cut the most we&rsquo;ve ever cut in the last two years and we cut a little less than that this year, so therefore, it&rsquo;s not so bad, doesn&rsquo;t seem reasonable, or accurate, or considerate to the families that are going to suffer a further reduction of the essentials that their children need and deserve,&rdquo; Potter said.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials say they have made adjustments at schools where enrollment dropped and core programs are in jeopardy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made every single effort, whereever there was a decline, to make sure that the core academic program, as well as the enrichment programs could continue for next year,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;But it is difficult for schools that have sustained substantial enrollment decreases to avoid staff impact. I mean, you can&rsquo;t get around that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, schools that lost enrollment were held harmless--meaning they could keep money budgeted to them even if the number of students who enrolled came in under what was projected. That will not continue this year.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials have said the complete fiscal year 2015 budget is set to be released in early July.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423