WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago school board to consider charter relocations, renewals http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-board-consider-charter-relocations-renewals-112083 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cappleman.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote Wednesday on proposals that would expand enrollment at several charter schools and move some into different buildings.</p><p>In one case, Rowe Elementary would move into the old Peabody elementary school, a building shuttered during the 2013 mass closings. The district no longer owns the Peabody building. If it approves the move, the district would have to provide the public charter school with extra money to cover rent and maintenance costs at Peabody.</p><p>&ldquo;(Chicago Public Schools) promised to not only the aldermen, the state legislature, and the public, that they would not allow charter schools into closed school buildings,&rdquo; said Martin Ritter, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union. &ldquo;CPS has a serious problem with its credibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Ritter and hundreds of others showed up to a public hearing last week at CPS headquarters. However, the move of Rowe to Peabody was not the most hotly contested.</p><p>Principals, parents, and several elected officials spoke against a proposal to move The Noble Academy to 640 W. Irving Park Rd. Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said that move would &ldquo;suck the lifeblood&rdquo; out of the area&rsquo;s existing neighborhood high schools. If the move is approved, The Noble Academy would add an eighth public high school to the North Side neighborhoods of Edgewater, Uptown, Lakeview, Andersonville and Rogers Park.</p><p>&ldquo;Our schools have a capacity of about 7,400,&rdquo; said Senn High School Principal Susan Lofton, referring to Senn, and nearby Sullivan, Lakeview, Uplift and Amundsen high schools.</p><p>Eleven elected officials signed a letter in opposition to the move. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), whose ward includes Amundsen and Lakeview, was one of them.</p><p>&ldquo;When you add a charter school to that mix and you have per pupil funding where dollars follow students, you once again add a market for additional seats where one didn&rsquo;t exist,&rdquo; Pawar said at the hearing.</p><p>The school district is currently facing a $1.1 billion deficit.</p><p>Matt McCabe, director of government affairs for the Noble Street Charter School network, said he doesn&rsquo;t think the school would impact enrollment at nearby schools.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t see it as any sort of detriment to the other schools in the area,&rdquo; McCabe said. &ldquo;Because facilities are such a challenge generally, you look high and low and wide and far to try to find the best option for kids. This is what came out as the best option.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://thenobleacademy.noblenetwork.org/">The Noble Academy</a>, like other charter schools, enrolls students from across the city, &ldquo;from 106 elementary schools and 45 different zip codes,&rdquo; McCabe said. Currently, the school is using temporary space next door to Noble&rsquo;s downtown campus, Muchin College Prep, but school officials said they need a &ldquo;permanent home.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to the proposals to move Noble and Rowe, the Board is also <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/documents/may_27_2015_public_agenda_to_print_2.pdf">expected to vote</a> on the following:</p><ul><li><p>Delaying the opening of three more alternative schools run by for-profit companies: Ombudsman, Pathways, and Magic Johnson Bridgescape. The Board will also consider providing an additional $2.2 million in start-up funding to these three operators in spite of the delays.</p></li><li><p>Closing Catalyst-Howland Charter School. According to the board report, Catalyst officials voluntarily proposed the closure of that campus. It was previously <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2013/10/five-charters-put-warning-list-face-potential-shut-down/">placed on academic warning</a>.</p></li><li><p>Rescinding a previous approval to allow UNO Charter School Network to open two more schools.</p></li><li><p>Rescinding a previous approval to allow Concept Schools to open another Horizon Science Academy on the South Side. CPS halted plans to open the school last fall <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/160694/cps-scraps-south-side-campus-for-controversial-charter-schoo">amid a federal probe</a> into Concept&rsquo;s operations.</p></li><li><p>Extending six school turnaround contracts (at Dulles, Curtis, Deneen, Bradwell, Johnson, and Phillips) with the Academy for Urban School Leadership through 2018.</p></li><li><p>Five-year charter contract renewals with the Academy for Global Citizenship, Erie, Urban Prep &ndash; Bronzeville, Rowe, Legacy, and Youth Connections Charter Schools.</p></li><li><p>Three-year charter contract renewals with EPIC Academy, Galapagos, Instituto Health Sciences Academy, Urban Prep &ndash; Englewood, Urban Prep &ndash; West, and Chicago Tech Academy.</p></li></ul></p> Mon, 25 May 2015 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-board-consider-charter-relocations-renewals-112083 Charters might move into closed CPS schools http://www.wbez.org/news/charters-might-move-closed-cps-schools-112063 <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/panorama.jpg" style="height: 219px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><em>A LEARN charter school (right) rents space across the street from the now vacant Calhoun North school (left). Chicago Public Schools paid $67,151 in utilities for Calhoun North from Sept. 2013 to July 2014, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request. At the same time, CPS pays LEARN $750 per student to offset rent and other facility costs. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)</em></p><p>There are 40 school buildings <a href="http://cps.edu/Pages/schoolrepurposing.aspx">still sitting vacant</a> across Chicago since the mass closings of 2013. Just two have been sold and the rest cost Chicagoans $2 million annually to maintain.</p><p>These schools are slow to sell for a number of reasons. Many <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/school-closures-only-add-blight-some-chicago-neighborhoods-107345">aren&rsquo;t in thriving neighborhoods</a>. The buildings are old. There aren&rsquo;t a lot of obvious alternate uses.</p><p>But one big reason the empty schools continue to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/visit-shuttered-chicago-school-shows-all-that%E2%80%99s-left-behind-108419">collect dust</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/vacant-schools-philadelphia-cautionary-tale-chicago-105570">fall into disrepair</a> is this: CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-training-academy-cooperating-federal-investigation-district-111891">currently on leave</a>, made a promise that eliminated a whole group of potential buyers.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Map: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/charters-might-move-closed-cps-schools-112063#map" target="_blank">How close are charter schools to vacant CPS buildings?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;We currently cannot sell any of the properties to a charter school,&rdquo; said Mike Nardini, the district&rsquo;s real estate agent. &ldquo;Does it limit our buyers? Only to the extent that it can&rsquo;t be a charter any more than it could be a nightclub.&rdquo;</p><p>The promise made sense at the time considering one of the main arguments for shutting down 50 schools was to downsize the district. CPS officials argued the school system was operating inefficiently with too many schools and not enough students enrolled.</p><p>But the Chicago Board of Education <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558">continues to authorize new charter schools</a>. In the past, charters often <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/mapping-10-years-school-closures">moved into closed school buildings</a>, but that upset many community people, who saw the publicly financed, privately operated charters as replacing traditional neighborhood schools.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Wednesday the Board could be convinced to change its mind.</p><p>&ldquo;If a community were to determine that they do want a charter school in that closed site, then that is something that we would consider,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>McCaffrey was very careful to say officials would break the promise only if the community supports it, not because it might save money.</p><p>&ldquo;Our first consideration isn&rsquo;t the financial implication,&rdquo; he added.</p><p>But saving money is <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-cps-budget-crisis-met-20150422-story.html#page=1">the biggest problem</a> CPS has right now, and the &lsquo;no-charter&rsquo; promise complicates things. Charter schools that are in private buildings currently get $750 per student from CPS to offset rent and other maintenance costs. This is commonly known as a &ldquo;facilities reimbursement.&rdquo; &nbsp;And while these real estate deals can be complicated, the bottom line is that Chicago taxpayers end up paying extra to charter schools who are forced to rent on the private market. &nbsp;And those same taxpayers also are paying to maintain buildings the city already owns, but isn&rsquo;t using.</p><p>&ldquo;These are assets that we have in our city that are paid for typically and what we don&rsquo;t need are more vacant buildings,&rdquo; said Andrew Broy, executive director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.</p><p>In many cases, the charters and the vacant buildings are just blocks away from one another. In Garfield Park, a LEARN charter school rents space across the street from the now vacant Calhoun North school. In Woodlawn, a University of Chicago Charter School is planning to <a href="http://hpherald.com/2015/03/09/u-of-c-planning-new-building-for-woodlawn-charter-school/">build a brand new school</a> on a plot of land right next to a CPS-owned building where it currently operates.</p><p>It all speaks to a very basic and fundamental question that no one&mdash;CPS, the mayor, city aldermen&mdash;has grappled with: Exactly how many public schools does Chicago need? And where should they be?</p><p>When asked after Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that&rsquo;s not his job.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s something CPS will do based on the student population, patterns of growth,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a fair question, but not the only question. Are the schools that are open achieving educational excellence?&rdquo;</p><p>CPS is holding public hearings Thursday night on <a href="http://cps.edu/Calendar/Documents/05212015_MMAPublicHearing.pdf">new requests</a> by charter schools to move to different locations. Most have plans to move into private buildings, but at least one, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-charter-school-closed-building-met-20150520-story.html">The Chicago Tribune reports</a>, wants to move into the closed Peabody Elementary school on the West Side. Peabody <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-school-closing-brief-met-20141022-story.html">was sold last fall</a>.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.<a name="map"></a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="800" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/maps/charterbuildings" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 20 May 2015 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charters-might-move-closed-cps-schools-112063 Were Chicago's public schools ever good? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/were-chicagos-public-schools-ever-good-112025 <p><p>Our questioner Julie had completely forgotten she asked this when we reached out to her. She lives in Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood and didn&rsquo;t want to say much more about herself. But here&rsquo;s what she wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There is reporting about how Chicago Public Schools is slowly getting better. Was there ever a time when they were <strong>good</strong>?</em></p><p>As an education reporter, I&rsquo;ve heard many versions of this question during <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/bvevea" target="_blank">my time covering Chicago Public Schools</a>, and that&rsquo;s partly why I wanted to take a stab at answering it. But I also wanted to tackle this question because it asks us to think about our relationship with the public schools and what we expect them to do.</p><p>Measuring a school or school district&rsquo;s success or failure is no easy feat, and it&rsquo;s even harder to measure over time because the standards and metrics have changed significantly. <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Trends_CPS_Full_Report.pdf" target="_blank">A recent study from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> stated that &ldquo;discrepancies are due to myriad issues with publicly reported data &mdash; including changes in test content and scoring &mdash; that make year-over-year comparisons nearly impossible without complex statistical analyses.&rdquo;</p><p>Because the definition of &ldquo;good&rdquo; is subjective,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736" target="_blank"> we solicited your help</a> in defining how to use it while reporting this story. Some of you suggested using standardized test scores, which go back decades. (Schools haven&rsquo;t used the same test over time, making comparisons difficult.) Others suggested we consider grades or safety.</p><p>Ultimately, we decided to look at when CPS did a good job preparing students for successful careers; that is: When did the district best prepare people to be productive, taxpaying citizens? Career readiness is a consistent expectation, and it&rsquo;s possible to compare one era to another.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The 1940s, a Golden Era?</span></p><p>Based on this measurement and what historians and other experts suggested, the 1940s would seem the best contender for the district&rsquo;s golden era of public education. Schools provided valuable workforce training that was needed in the local industries, like steel and iron work, retail and office or clerical jobs.</p><p>The 1940s saw the culmination of a series of unprecedented investments in public education, mostly from the federal government. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 funneled millions of dollars into vocational training. Chicago schools set up programs in accounting, drafting, welding, and even &ldquo;household arts.&rdquo;</p><p>After a lag during the Great Depression, the war effort and New Deal programs brought even more vocational programs. One example: In 1939, the city built <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-05/school-architecture-look-sprawling-chicago-vocational-99372">Chicago Vocational High School</a>, and quickly turned it over to the U.S. Navy to train young men in aviation mechanics. (By the late 1940s, control of the school returned to the Chicago Board of Education.)</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Another example to point to: More than a dozen local unions collaborated with and supported the programs at Washburne Trade School to train future electricians and carpenters.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><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/lane tech automobile dept.JPG" style="height: 389px; width: 620px;" title="New Deal programs of the 1940s brought more vocational programs to public education, like this automobile shop class at Albert Grannis Lane Manual Training High School, now named Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago's North Center Neighborhood. (Courtesy Chuckman's nostalgia and memorabilia website) " /></div></div><p>But Dionne Danns, an education historian at Indiana University, provides a fast reality check when it comes to assessing the era. She points out that, at the turn of the century, and into the 1940s, people did not even need a high school diploma. In fact, most people weren&rsquo;t even finishing elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t have to go to school for a job,&rdquo; Danns says. &ldquo;You went to school because they wanted you to go. They were opening more schools because they wanted immigrants to go to school and learn what it meant to be American.&rdquo;</p><p>And more importantly, Danns says, the 1940s can&rsquo;t count as a golden era of public schooling because schools were not providing education to all children; African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups did not have access to the same public schools as whites.</p><p>Women were just beginning to gain access to colleges and careers. Many attended the Lucy Flower Vocational School, which offered a home economics program and some two-year programs in sewing, dressmaking and millinery (hat-making).</p><p>A <a href="http://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1770&amp;context=luc_diss">study</a> out of Loyola University pegged Chicago Vocational High School enrollment in 1946 at 2,721 students. Just 204 were girls. Another all-girls school opened that year. Richards Vocational High School had an enrollment of 230 women and offered curriculum in home arts, dressmaking, beauty culture, and bookkeeping among other things.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t underestimate the role schools played in maintaining inequalities in society,&rdquo; Danns says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20map.jpg" style="float: right; height: 502px; width: 350px;" title="Locations of integrated and segregated elementary schools in Chicago, 1964. (Source: Board of Education)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Better schools, more students</span></p><p>What about looking for the CPS golden era of career readiness just a bit later, perhaps sometime in the &lsquo;50s or &lsquo;60s? It&rsquo;s tempting, because the inequalities we saw in the 1940s were challenged in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools are &ldquo;inherently unequal&rdquo; and therefore, unconstitutional.</p><p>By the 1960s, African Americans were enrolling in public schools that had been historically all white. And for a while, schools were integrating.</p><p>In 1964 Paul Goren (today, the Superintendent of District 65 in Evanston) was in kindergarten in the city&rsquo;s Avalon Park neighborhood. Hanging on his office wall are three class photos: one each from 1964, 1967 and 1968. In the 1964 photo, half of the smiling children are white, the other half are African American. The 1968 picture, though, shows just three white students.</p><p>Goren says that in his class of about thirty or so, those last three white children were the last three white children left in the entire school.</p><p>&ldquo;What I remember very distinctly, and again, it&rsquo;s characterized in the pictures up above, was arguments kids were making saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;re moving!&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh, why are you moving?&rsquo; And the answer was because the schools are not good,&rdquo; Goren recalls. &ldquo;That sort of confused me, because the schools didn&rsquo;t seem to be any different than they were when they were frankly, all white.&rdquo;</p><p>That same year, an advisory panel on integration warned the Chicago Board of Education that whites were fleeing the district in mass numbers.</p><p>The board dragged its feet and did little to prevent white flight during the 1960s, but by 1970 the board started systematic attempts to integrate the schools.</p><p>It created the first generation of magnet schools, many of which are still successful today: Whitney Young, Disney, and Inter-American, among others. They were endowed with special programs and extra resources that would attract white students and African Americans. Students applied from all over the city and their names were essentially, picked out of a hat.</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/metro%20high%20school%20yearbook%201978.PNG" style="height: 457px; width: 620px;" title="Metro High School's curriculum was built on the idea of the city being a classroom, and held classes at places like the Shedd Aquarium and Second City. (Source: Metro High School yearbook, 1978)" /></div><p>Goren went to one such school, called Metro High (or, Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies). Not only was it an experiment in diversity, the school had a <a href="http://www.metrohschicago.com/bonus/Cycle3catalog1973.pdf">unique curriculum</a>. Goren took classes across the city: marine biology at Shedd Aquarium, animal behavior at Lincoln Park Zoo, and public speaking at Second City.</p><p>&ldquo;For me the golden era was my time at Metro High School,&rdquo; Goren says. The school closed in 1991.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goren.PNG" style="height: 235px; width: 275px; float: right;" title="Paul Goren, right, at Metro High School in 1975. " /></p><p>Goren says many of the kids who attended Metro and other magnet schools were propelled into good careers in law and medicine. He has several friends who are now teachers in the area, as well.</p><p>But a lot of Chicago kids weren&rsquo;t that lucky. Magnet schools became isolated islands of success, but if you didn&rsquo;t get into one, public education was a mixed bag. &nbsp;</p><p>Among other problems, inequalities persisted. Danns says when schools started to integrate, local trade unions pulled support from Washburne Trade School. An <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-11-27/news/8603290329_1_apprenticeship-public-schools-board">article</a> from the Chicago Tribune in 1986, mentioned that in 1963 fewer than 2 percent of apprentices at Washburne were black.</p><p>In other words, even with years of effort on the part of the district, a career-ready curriculum remained out of reach for large swaths of CPS students.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;Worst in the nation&#39;</span></p><p>There are few reasons to argue that CPS was at its best in the &lsquo;80s, because (among other reasons), CPS ran into financial troubles throughout the decade. Also, between 1979 to 1987, Chicago teachers went on strike nine times. Districts started measuring achievement and looking at dropout rates, and in Chicago, things did not look great.</p><p>In 1987, then-U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett famously characterized Chicago schools as &ldquo;the worst&rdquo; in the nation. More than half of all students were dropping out of high school at the same time the value of a high school degree was increasing. Factory jobs had all but disappeared and the country was still recovering from the 1982 recession.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VC8dPdPo9Tg?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:10px;">Above: A short video recollection from a CPS teacher about the 1980s strike. (YouTube/Chicago Teachers Union)</span></span></p><p>Susan Lofton was a teacher in the early 1990s and vividly remembers being locked out because CPS couldn&rsquo;t make payroll.</p><p>&ldquo;All of a sudden was told don&rsquo;t go to work on Monday,&rdquo; Lofton says. &ldquo;I remember going to an unemployment office where there was literally a roped off area for teachers to go be processed.&rdquo;</p><p>In 1988, the Illinois General Assembly passed the first Chicago School Reform Act, creating local school councils at each individual school. Many schools improved under this model, but others did not.</p><p>In 1995, the state gave total control of CPS to mayor Richard M. Daley. This started the last era we&rsquo;re going to consider. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">More success than we realize</span></p><p>I&rsquo;m going to suggest something that might surprise you. Maybe, just maybe, we&rsquo;re living in CPS&rsquo; golden era right now.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a growing body of evidence that Chicago&rsquo;s schools are improving quickly and &mdash; for certain populations of students &mdash; doing better than other districts. <em>U.S. News and World Report</em> just released its annual rankings of the nation&rsquo;s best high schools: <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2015/may/six-chicago-public-high-schools-among-top-ten-in-the-state--u-s-.html">Six of the top 10 in Illinois are in CPS and another three in the top 20.</a></p><p>&ldquo;When the state&rsquo;s not doing well or not making great progress, there&rsquo;s always some number of people who say, &lsquo;Well maybe that&rsquo;s just because Chicago&rsquo;s not doing well. Maybe they&rsquo;re just dragging down the rest of the state,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Robin Steans, executive director of <a href="http://www.advanceillinois.org/">Advance Illinois, a bipartisan group focused on improving the state&rsquo;s education policy</a>. &ldquo;What we found is that&rsquo;s not true. Chicago has made steady gains both academically and in terms of some critical outcomes, like graduation.&rdquo;</p><p>Steans&rsquo; group looked at scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2003 to 2013 and found Chicago students grew 11 points on the 8th grade math test and 7 points on the 4th grade reading test. The state grew just 7 points and 3 points, respectively.</p><p>Advance Illinois also compiled state graduation data from 2014 to compare Chicago with other districts for certain subgroups of students. They found that Latino students enrolled in CPS are more likely to graduate high school than their counterparts in many suburban districts, including Maine Township High Schools and Evanston Township High School.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s so counterintuitive to what they think they know about Chicago that they just disregard it,&rdquo; Steans says of the data. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s been so much noise, with the teachers strike and the school closings. The political heat and noise tends to crowd out what&rsquo;s actually beneath and behind that.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://urbanedleadership.org/about-us/people/paul-zavitkovsky/" target="_blank">Paul Zavitkovsky</a>, a&nbsp;leadership coach and assessment specialist&nbsp;at the Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois - Chicago, may be able to help. In a forthcoming study, Zavitkovsky&rsquo;s findings mirror what Advance Illinois found.</p><p>&ldquo;On an apples-for-apples basis, if you compare yourself with your counterparts based on race and socioeconomic status in other parts of the state, you have a higher probability of having a better educational experience in Chicago,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>But Zavitkovsky goes further. He shared a preliminary version of the report with WBEZ that showed students in the 75th percentile for 4th grade math achievement grew 20 points between 2003 and 2013. The performance of that subgroup in the rest of the state grew only 3 points in the same amount of time.</p><p>However, he&rsquo;s not convinced CPS is in a &ldquo;golden era&rdquo; because of all this data. From Zavitkovsky&rsquo;s vantage, the real win is that we have more information than we&rsquo;ve ever had before,and that can better inform the national conversation about public schools.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re better positioned now than we&rsquo;ve ever been to know what we have to do in order to be able to get that kind of stuff into the hands and into the heads of more than just a small percentage of kids, coming primarily from the most privileged families in America,&rdquo; Zavitowsky says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no easy way to measure job readiness and whether these improvements translate into more successful alumni. Short of picking up the phone and calling all the former students, CPS does not follow students into employment.</p><p>The closest indicator available is college persistence, and CPS also made gains in it during the last decade. A <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/educational-attainment-chicago-public-schools-students-focus-four-year-college-degrees">report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> found that between 2006 and 2014, the percentage of CPS students earning a bachelor&rsquo;s degree within 6 years of high school graduation jumped from 8 percent to 14 percent. The national rate is 18 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Greater Expectations</span></p><p>I&rsquo;ve been reporting on CPS for more than four years and I&rsquo;ve covered a lot of the noise and dysfunction Steans mentioned. But I&rsquo;ve also reported on schools that are trying everything to improve.</p><p>They include schools like Senn High School in Edgewater. Susan Lofton, the teacher who remembers being in the unemployment line back in the 1990s, is now the principal at Senn. When she took over in 2010, the school had a bad name.</p><p>&ldquo;A-B-S,&rdquo; Lofton says, &ldquo;Anywhere But Senn.&rdquo;</p><p>Lofton created the Senn Arts magnet program and expanded the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519">rigorous International Baccalaureate program</a>, which had long been a hidden gem.</p><p>She also recruited drama teacher Joel Ewing away from Walter Payton College Prep, a prestigious selective enrollment school.</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/ewing.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Joel Ewing teaches a drama class at Senn High School. Previously a teacher at Walter Payton College Prep, Ewing says he accepted the position at Senn because he saw a void that needed to be filled. (WBEZ/Jesse Dukes)" /></div><p>&ldquo;When I took the job at Senn Arts, I got crooked heads,&rdquo; Ewing says. &ldquo;&lsquo;Why would you leave Walter Payton? That&#39;s clearly one of the best schools, in the city, state.&rsquo; ... I thought there was a void that needed to be filled. Payton is going to be alright.&rdquo;</p><p>Senn chose to become a little like a magnet school but still focus on neighborhood students &mdash; a strategy that lots of CPS schools are trying. But Lofton says the biggest hurdle to changing Senn&rsquo;s reputation has nothing to do with academics.</p><p>&ldquo;The first day I got here, I took the Red Line,&rdquo; Lofton recalls. &ldquo;I, myself, could barely get through the station to get myself to school. There were a lot of my kids there that were just loitering because, &lsquo;Hey! We don&rsquo;t go to school on time here.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Now, she and the other administrators start every morning at the Thorndale Red Line stop, shuffling students along and calling the cops on anyone else who, as she says, had no business being there.</p><p>Senn is not alone: Schools across the city worry about safety, sometimes even before academics. It&rsquo;s a big departure from past decades.Today, we expect schools to do more than we ever have. Making the local train stop safe? Since when is that in the job description of a principal or teacher? If Lofton and Senn staff want their students to be prepared for college and careers, they don&rsquo;t really have a choice not to.</p><p>The latest trends tempt me to say that the time we&rsquo;re looking for, when CPS schools were good ... is right now. The district&rsquo;s serving more students than ever and it&rsquo;s still making incremental progress, despite the noise and dysfunction that sometimes overshadow much of it. (As an education reporter, I know I share the blame for that.)</p><p>But I&#39;m not convinced this is the golden era; there&rsquo;s a lot of work to be done and that bad stuff I report on? It does really happen.</p><p>So, even if there was never a &ldquo;golden age&rdquo; and even if the idea itself is impossible, I think we have to keep asking questions, looking at what works and what doesn&rsquo;t and never stop highlighting those who are not being served.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 13 May 2015 17:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/were-chicagos-public-schools-ever-good-112025 Global Activism in India: Pravah helps youth overcome caste, sexism and religious intolerance http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-india-pravah-helps-youth-overcome-caste-sexism-and-religious <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/india%20ga%20pravah%20manisha%20and%20husband.JPG" title="Manisha emotionally talks of how much of India society considered education wasted on a woman from a lower class. But after working with the NGO, Pravah, she and her husband - pictured - are inspired to achieve. Manisha is now a business owner. Taken at Pravah's Delhi offices February 1, 2015 (Photo by Steve Bynum)" /></div><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-ebcdae0c-3049-7fee-9931-6c6284daf4f9">We continue our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888">Global Activism in India</a> series with a visit to Delhi. We and <a href="http://idsusa.org/">India Development Service</a>, met with the NGO, Community Youth Collective Learning and Leadership Journey is a partnering initiative of the NGO, <a href="http://pravah.org/">Pravah</a>. The project tries to inspire India&rsquo;s youth to become leaders and overcome traditional societal barriers, such as <span id="docs-internal-guid-ebcdae0c-3049-7fee-9931-6c6284daf4f9">caste, sexism and religious intolerance</span>. Pravah received attention when co- director, Neha Buch, introduced President Obama before one of his speeches during his visit to India. We&rsquo;ll chat with co-director, Sonal Chaturvedi and young people about how they now dream and achieve in areas that at one time were cut off from them.</span></p><p><strong>Jerome McDonnell and Steve Bynum of WBEZ&#39;s <em>Worldview</em> and </strong><strong>India Development Service (IDS)</strong><strong> share their adventures in India</strong></p><p>Sunday, May 17th, 2015, 5:00pm-7:30pm</p><p>The Meadows Club</p><p>2950 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows</p><p>Free of Charge - Dinner Included</p><p><strong><a href="https://mycity.sulekha.com/development-unveiled_buy_2090130">Reserve Tickets Here</a></strong></p></p> Thu, 07 May 2015 13:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-india-pravah-helps-youth-overcome-caste-sexism-and-religious Chicago teachers, school board at odds over pension payments http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-school-board-odds-over-pension-payments-111990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP893391214344.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Contract talks between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education have gone public with the teachers saying the board wants them to pay the full amount of their pension contributions. They say that would amount to a 7 percent pay cut.</p><p>Since the 1980s, the school district has covered the majority of teacher pension costs, with the teachers paying a small amount.</p><p>CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said Tuesday the union is &quot;highly insulted&quot; by the proposal that they should pay more.</p><p>In a statement, district spokesman Bill McCaffrey says Chicago schools face a $1.1 billion deficit. He says the district also faces a $700 million pension obligation this year. He added that without reforms, CPS will be forced to decide between funding pensions for retirees or funding education.</p></p> Wed, 06 May 2015 06:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-school-board-odds-over-pension-payments-111990 Chicago school cleaning contract millions over budget http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-cleaning-contract-millions-over-budget-111949 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_1798.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The promise of cleaner schools at a lower price has turned out to be just that -- a promise.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; three-year contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark to manage all school cleaning services is $22 million over budget, according to procurement and finance records obtained by WBEZ.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Aramark has billed Chicago Public Schools $86 million for the first 11 months of its three-year contract. The first year price tag was initially set at $64 million.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;That&rsquo;s pretty astonishing,&rdquo; said Dave Belanger, principal of Hanson Park Elementary in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. &ldquo;If you have a signed contract that says &lsquo;X&rsquo; numbers of dollars, that&rsquo;s what it should be and it should be up to Aramark to absorb those other costs.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley denied the contract was over budget.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;No, we know we&rsquo;re saving money now,&rdquo; Cawley said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no question about that.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">District officials said they may not end up paying some of the bills owed to Aramark. Still, records show, the payments made through the end of December that have been officially closed out total $71 million.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Cawley admitted the contract is more than the district initially thought because Aramark did not end up laying off 468 janitors, as had been planned. After complaints about cleanliness, the company </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870" target="_blank">kept 178 on the job</a> for the rest of the school year and allowed another 290 to work through the end of October. That cost $7.4 million extra, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">CPS officials also forgot about entire buildings when they calculated the square footage of the district&rsquo;s more than 600 schools. The mistake added another $7 million, McCaffrey said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Hanson Park was one such school with missing square footage, Belanger said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;I know initially Aramark said they&rsquo;d be able to clean our three buildings&mdash;the branch building, the module and this main building, which is just a sprawling giant&mdash;they&rsquo;d be able to clean it with three and a half employees, which is just not realistic in any way, shape or form,&rdquo; he said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Hanson Park ended up getting six janitors for the rest of the school year.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Karen Cutler, a spokeswoman for Aramark, said the company also billed CPS for fill-in work done by Aramark janitors when the board failed to hire 100 of the 825 custodial positions it promised to provide. McCaffrey said that cost $4.5 million extra.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Both Cutler and Cawley said they still anticipate $12 million in savings in the second and third year of the contract.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">But Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, is hoping there won&rsquo;t be a second and third year.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;Aramark and Sodexo should pack their bags because they need to leave town,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There is no way we&rsquo;re not going to continue to fight this.&rdquo; &nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Big contract, broken promises</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">CPS has had </span><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-05-05/news/0305050177_1_privatizing-custodians-school-districts" target="_blank">privatized janitors</a> for <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-07-22/news/9607220172_1_chicago-public-schools-new-schools-schools-chief-paul-vallas" target="_blank">more than a decade</a> &ndash; but last April, the Board of Education <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes" target="_blank">awarded contracts</a> worth a total of $340 million to two companies&mdash;Aramark and Sodexo MAGIC&mdash;to manage all of the cleaning services at more than 600 schools. Aramark secured a three-year deal, not to exceed $260 million, according to board reports.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">At the time, Cawley said the new system would be like &ldquo;Jimmy John&rsquo;s,&quot; the sandwich chain that uses the tagline &ldquo;Freaky Fast Delivery&rdquo;. Instead of assigning a janitor to deal with an issue, principals would call a hotline and the problem would be taken care of immediately.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;Like, the guy is showing up before the principal hangs up the phone,&rdquo; he said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">That did not happen.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Principals <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">complained of disorganization</a> and a lack of responsiveness from Aramark employees assigned to manage their schools. Many school janitors were reassigned or laid off. The annual summer cleaning blitz left many teachers and principals scrambling to re-clean classrooms and hallways ahead of the first day of school.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, the Chicago Teachers Union and the parent group Raise Your Hand surveyed their memberships and found overwhelming dissatisfaction with the level of cleanliness.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Cawley was grilled by Board of Education members shortly after the </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">controversy came to light</a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">.</a> He told board members there were three reasons to outsource the management of janitors to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;Number one was to have cleaner schools,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Number two was to realize savings and number three was to actually simplify life for principals.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">At the time, Cawley admitted Aramark wasn&rsquo;t delivering on two of those, but he went on to insist the savings were there.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;We know we&rsquo;ve realized the savings and in fact, we&rsquo;ve already reinvested that in more student based budgeting on a per pupil basis,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But we don&rsquo;t think we&rsquo;ve been successful on getting enough schools cleaner. Nor have we been successful in making life easier for principals.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Budget documents released in August of last year claim the Aramark deal would save $18 million this school year, meaning the total cost of cleaning before the outsourcing was around $82 million. That&rsquo;s $4 million less than what CPS is now being billed for.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Cutting ties unlikely</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">In March, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association called on the board </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/principals-cps-end-custodial-contract-now-111735" target="_blank">to end the custodial contract</a>. The call came after 90 percent of principals surveyed by the group said their schools were still dirtier that last year.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">&ldquo;There is no negotiating with us anymore,&rdquo; CPAA&#39;s Berry said at the time. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not listening to any more promises. We&rsquo;re not waiting anymore. You can not staff a school with 1,200 kids with two custodian workers and think it&rsquo;s going to work. Ever.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">A few weeks later, at the March Board of Education meeting, janitors with the Service Employees International Union Local 1 protested against any future layoffs outside CPS headquarters. Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU Local 1, cautioned that Aramark should not reduce staffing any further or else schools will be dangeriously unclean.</p><p dir="ltr">That same day, CPS released the results of an independent audit, conducted by a group called Premier Facilities Solutions, that showed all but a dozen schools met the industry standard for cleanliness outlined in Aramark&rsquo;s contract.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Cawley said he is still &ldquo;very confident&rdquo; that Aramark has delivered cleaner schools at a lower price. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-4995192d-fde7-cc83-4b50-71f678506cc4">Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </span><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the cost of fill-in work. It was $4.5 million, according to CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey.</em></p></p> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 21:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-cleaning-contract-millions-over-budget-111949 Chicago schools chief requests temporary leave amid probe http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-chief-requests-temporary-leave-amid-probe-111899 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/barbarabyrdbennett_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett requested a leave of absence Friday amid a federal investigation over a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded to a training academy where she once worked as a consultant, according to her attorney.</p><p>In a statement this afternoon, Board President David Vitale said said Bryd-Bennett is taking the leave in &quot;light of the ongoing federal investigation and its impact on her ability to effectively lead Chicago Public Schools....&quot;</p><p>&quot;Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz is taking the responsibilities of the chief executive officer while Bryd-Bennett is on leave,&quot; Vitale also announced.&nbsp;</p><p>A statement from the mayor&#39;s city hall office in response to the resignation read: &quot;Mayor Emanuel supports today&rsquo;s actions by Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the Board of Education so that the focus of our teachers, principals and parents can remain on the nearly 400,000 students who depend on the district for a quality education. Though there have been no formal allegations, the Mayor has zero tolerance for any type of misconduct from public officials and welcomes today&rsquo;s decision to help ensure this issue does not distract from the incredibly important work happening in our neighborhood public schools.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>The schools chief &mdash; chosen by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the post in 2012 &mdash; requested the leave effective April 20, according to Chicago lawyer Michael Scudder, whom Byrd-Bennett has hired.</p><p>&quot;In light of the attention given to my position as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, I believe that my continuing as CEO at this time would be a distraction,&quot; she wrote in a letter sent to Chicago Board of Education members on Friday. &quot;Although this is a very difficult decision for me personally, it is one I believe is in the best interests of the children of CPS that I am so fortunate to serve.&quot;</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey also released a statement on the resignation, including that &ldquo;&ldquo;Barbara (Bryd-Bennett) will be most remembered as the person who was brought in to sell the mayor&rsquo;s school closing plan. While it is our understanding that she is taking a leave of absence due to her potential inability to lead the district during the investigation into her connection to SUPES, she is not the only individual who may be at fault for any wrongdoing. Board president David Vitale was the architect of a financial deal that has cost the district hundreds of millions of dollars, and no one has asked for him to take a leave of absence. Board member Deborah Quazzo has received millions in profits from her private investments in companies with CPS contracts, and no one has asked for her to take a leave of absence either.&quot;</p><p>Byrd-Bennett, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, directed requests for comment to her attorney.</p><p>The longtime educator with ties to school systems in New York, Detroit and Cleveland, also worked as a consultant for SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago before coming to CPS, according to published reports. The group trains principals.</p><p>Emanuel and Board of Education President David Vitale confirmed earlier this week CPS was being investigated by federal officials, but didn&#39;t provide details. A spokesman for SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago said it has turned over records and files to federal investigators.</p><p>CPS had entered an agreement with SUPES in 2012, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the two sides agreed to replace that contract with another one. The following year, school officials approved a &quot;leadership development services agreement&quot; for up to $20.5 million. The agreement was approved by the board.</p><p>More than a year ago, Catalyst Chicago, a news organization focusing on education, said an investigation was being conducted by the CPS inspector general. Inspector General James Sullivan, who resigned last year, confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was an investigation of the contract. He didn&#39;t provide further details.</p><p>The news follows a hard-fought re-election battle for Emanuel, who spent much of the time on the campaign trail defending controversial schools decisions and his choice of Byrd-Bennett. Among the most scrutinized moves was a 2013 push to close dozens of neighborhood schools. During the campaign, Emanuel said it was a tough, but necessary decision to improve school achievement and he was proud of his choice of Byrd-Bennett.</p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-chief-requests-temporary-leave-amid-probe-111899 CPS, training academy cooperating in federal investigation of district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-training-academy-cooperating-federal-investigation-district-111891 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/barbarabyrdbennett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated April 16, 4:12 p.m.</em></p><p>A former employer of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s hand-picked chief of Chicago schools &mdash; a company that was awarded a no-bid contract of up to $20.5 million with the nation&#39;s third-largest district &mdash; said it is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the district.</p><p>SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago, which trains principals, said it has handed over records and files to federal investigators.</p><p>Officials have said very little about the probe, with the Chicago Public Schools and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett declining to comment beyond a news release issued by the district and a statement by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale saying he was made aware of the investigation this week. Emanuel said he had little information and did not even know the &quot;target&quot; of the investigation. And on Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said he did not know any details about the investigation.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator in New York, Detroit and Cleveland &mdash; where she was the school district&#39;s CEO for seven years &mdash; also worked as consultant for SUPES, according to published reports.</p><p>After coming to Chicago as a consultant for the CPS in April 2012, Byrd-Bennett was appointed CEO in October of that year by the mayor.</p><p>The CPS had entered an agreement with SUPES in 2012, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the two sides agreed to replace that contract with a new one. In 2013, the district approved a &quot;leadership development services agreement&quot; for up to $20.5 million. The agreement was approved by the Board of Education and signed by Vitale in June of that year.</p><p>More than a year ago, Catalyst Chicago, a news organization that focuses on education, said a probe was being conducted by the CPS inspector general. Inspector General James Sullivan, who resigned last year, confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was an investigation of the contract, but would not elaborate.</p><p>At a news briefing after Wednesday&#39;s City Council, Emanuel said he has talked only briefly to Byrd-Bennett when she told him earlier in the week that federal authorities were &quot;looking at a matter at CPS&quot; and said that he had not at that point talked to her further.</p><p>When he was pressed about whether he had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, whose contract expires at the end of June, Emanuel said, &quot;I can&#39;t answer. I don&#39;t even know who they are looking at.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-training-academy-cooperating-federal-investigation-district-111891 Special Series: Global Activism - 'Worldview' Visits India http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-09/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/India-series%20620%20good.JPG" title="From bottom l to r - Sonal Chaturvedi, co-director of Pravah, Nila Vora of India Development Service, Steve Bynum and Jerome McDonnell of WBEZ with the NGO Community Youth Collective in Delhi on Feb., 1, 2015 (Photo by Nilesh Kothari)" /><em>Worldview</em> took <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888">Global Activism</a></em> to India! And we take you along for the ride. For years, India Development Service <a href="http://idsusa.org/">(IDS)</a>, a Chicago-based investment NGO, has brought from India Global Activists to <em>Worldview&nbsp;</em>who work there to make life better. So IDS brought us to India to talk with people doing service and development projects on-the-ground. IDS guided us through big cities like, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, as well as to remote villages and towns. We met people working to overcome challenges like illiteracy, abuse of women and children, class issues and water security.</p><p><strong>Jerome McDonnell and Steve Bynum of WBEZ&#39;s <em>Worldview</em> and </strong><strong>India Development Service (IDS)</strong><strong> share their adventures in India</strong></p><p>Sunday, May 17th, 2015, 5:00pm-7:30pm</p><p>The Meadows Club</p><p>2950 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows</p><p>Free of Charge - Dinner Included</p><p><strong><a href="https://mycity.sulekha.com/development-unveiled_buy_2090130">Reserve Tickets Here</a></strong></p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-09/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 New Illinois education chief is urban school reform leader http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-education-chief-urban-school-reform-leader-111887 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois State Board of Education moved unanimously Wednesday afternoon to make a leadership change, replacing one of the nation&#39;s longest-serving superintendents with a former professional football player who spent recent years at the helm of a high poverty, urban district in California that faced a multi-million dollar deficit.</p><p>The selection of Anthony &quot;Tony&quot; Smith &mdash; GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s recommendation to the board &mdash; sends a message about the new Republican&#39;s governor&#39;s priorities for the state&#39;s 860 school districts and its outdated school funding formula during an ongoing financial crisis.</p><p>In a statement, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly described Smith as &quot;a transformational leader and has a proven track record of increasing student achievement, while successfully addressing fiscal and structural issues at the local district level.&quot;</p><p>Smith is scheduled to begin the role May 1 at a salary of $225,000 annually, a slight bump from the $222,468 his outgoing predecessor, Christopher Koch, earns per year. The board also approved an $89,000 severance package for Koch, who has continued to serve in recent weeks after his long-term contract expired in May.</p><p>Koch, who began his tenure in 2006, has been the state&#39;s longest-serving superintendent in nearly five decades, according to state board spokesman Matt Vanover. The unassuming former special education teacher has received wide praise for his oversight of changes to state testing and teacher evaluations, but Rauner recently told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that Koch was &quot;a good person&quot; but &quot;not transformational.&quot;</p><p>Smith, a 48-year old father of two, is director of the W. Clement Stone and Jesse V. Stone Foundation in Oak Park, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education. The Ounce of Prevention Fund of which First Lady Diana Rauner serves as president, lists the group as of one of its funding sources. Smith was a member of the new governor&#39;s transition team following the November election.</p><p>A California native, Smith played briefly with the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, though not in any regular season games, after graduating with an English degree from the University of California Berkeley, where he later earned masters and doctoral degrees from its graduate school of education.</p><p>A deputy superintendent of the San Francisco school district and a superintendent of a two-school district in the bay area, Smith was named superintendent for Oakland schools in 2009, a district that was emerging from state control and faced a $40 million structural deficit. It had a balanced budget when he left the district four years later.</p><p>By statewide measures of academic progress, Oakland became the most improved school district in California during Smith&#39;s tenure, though he drew accolades and fierce criticism alike for the decisions he made along the way.</p><p>Smith is a proponent of &quot;full-service community school&quot; which aim to combat poverty and bring families and communities into the school improvement effort. He has advocated for charters and the privatization of Oakland public schools during his time. Smith also clashed with the district&#39;s teachers union over contract issues during his tenure.</p><p>State law permits the governor to make a recommendation to the board, which has the ability to approve or reject his recommendation.</p><p>Board chairman the Rev. James Meeks &mdash; a recent appointment by Rauner &mdash; said Smith was the only candidate considered to replace Koch. The board spent nearly an hour in private session discussing the selection, before emerging and announcing its unanimous decision.</p><p>&quot;Of course when you go behind closed doors, everybody is never in 100 percent agreement, but you figure out what&#39;s best for the state,&quot; Meeks said.</p><p>One board member, Steven Gilford, said he was &quot;disappointed&quot; Koch would leave the agency, but he decided to vote for Smith&#39;s appointment, anyway.</p><p>Meeks said the vote &quot;shows the good faith of the people that are on the board, the positive direction that we&#39;re moving in.&quot;</p><p>Smith did not attend Wednesday&#39;s meeting in Springfield, but had private one-on-one meeting with board members as well as the full board in early April, Meeks said.</p><p>Though his background is in urban schools, board member John Sanders of Marion said Smith indicated plans to travel across the state to better understand challenges of central and southern Illinois districts, many of which are suffering following years of state funding cuts.</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-education-chief-urban-school-reform-leader-111887