WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CPS students scramble for new school after Concept charter opening delayed http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-scramble-new-school-after-concept-charter-opening-delayed-110688 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cmsa_0675_edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With just one week before the first day of school, Chicago Public Schools officials are scrambling to find hundreds of students a new school.</p><p>A new campus of Horizon Math and Science Academy located in Chatham will no longer open as planned.</p><p>The group that planned to open the school &mdash; Concept Schools &mdash; is currently under FBI investigation. They operate four other schools in Chicago, and several more in Indiana and Ohio.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett insists the delayed opening has nothing to do with the federal investigation.</p><p>&ldquo;I know as much as you guys in terms of the FBI probe,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters. &ldquo;This is purely the fact that the facility is not ready. If that facility were ready for this school to open, I would open it tomorrow.&rdquo;</p><p>The building where Concept planned to open, 9130 S. Vincennes, was also the source of controversy. A Chicago Sun-Times <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/board-eds-david-vitale%E2%80%99s-bank-would-benefit-charter-deal/fri-08082014-1022pm">report earlier this month</a> found that the property is currently in foreclosure and the owners currently owe $2 million to Urban Partnership Bank, which is chaired by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale.</p><p>That location was the second one proposed since the Board of Education approved the school. The first was at 8522 S. Lafayette, a property owned by Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, whose pastor, Rev. Charles Jenkins, has close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>Despite the questions around Concept Schools&rsquo; operations, Byrd-Bennett said CPS is not revoking the group&rsquo;s charter. She characterized the delayed opening for this particular campus as &ldquo;unusual&rdquo; and said there&rsquo;s no need to change how they approve and open new schools.</p><p>When asked if there were any contingency plans for other Concept schools, should the federal investigation prompt further legal action, Byrd- Bennett said there were not.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Full audio of the call with&nbsp;Byrd-Bennett</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164174420&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></blockquote><p>CPS officials could not immediately say what would happen to the $4 million dollars budgeted to Concept for the Chatham campus.</p><p>According to budget documents, the Horizon school was projected to serve 432 students. It is not clear if all of those open seats were filled with registered students. CPS officials are making calls to families today to help their children find another school option.</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> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-scramble-new-school-after-concept-charter-opening-delayed-110688 It's like the first day every day in popular 'Feelings' class http://www.wbez.org/news/its-first-day-every-day-popular-feelings-class-110676 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Oak_Park_and_River_Forest_High_School.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On the first day of school at west suburban Oak Park River Forest High School, 25 seniors trickle into the second floor library.</p><p>&ldquo;How many of you know of this class as &lsquo;Experiments in Reading Literature and the World&rsquo;? How many of you know it as &lsquo;Feelings&rsquo; class? How many know it as both?&rdquo; asks teacher Avi Lessing.</p><p>&ldquo;Either way you&rsquo;re in the right place.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />Lessing started teaching this class in 2005 after pitching it to a bunch of juniors. It was pretty popular then, but now, it&rsquo;s even more so. This year, there are nine sections and two other teachers teaching it.<br /><br />&ldquo;The main idea of the class, if I could sum it up, is that, you know how on the first day of school is the getting-to-know each other day and the rest of the days become just like school?&rdquo; Lessing said. &ldquo;In this class, every day is the getting to know you, and getting to know yourself, and getting to know your classmates.&rdquo;</p><p>Lessing says as school becomes more and more about academic achievement and test scores, students are missing important skills&mdash;often referred to in education circles as social-emotional skills&mdash;like how to listen, how to communicate, how to relate to people with different experiences than your own.</p><p>This class has become one piece of a bigger focus at Oak Park River Forest to integrate social-emotional learning into the curriculum. The school&rsquo;s Board of Education outlined it specifically in the formal goals for the 2014-2015 school year.<br /><br />The kids in Lessing&rsquo;s second period class on Tuesday are racially diverse and come from all different parts of the school&mdash;athletes, brains, music nerds&mdash;a bit like <em>The Breakfast Club</em>.<br /><br />Class starts with all the students standing in a big circle. For the rest of the period, they play a series of different name games. First, find the people you know and say hello. Then, stop, find a partner, stand back-to-back and change three things about your physical appearance.</p><p>Emma Burke puts her straight brown hair in a ponytail, takes off a shoe and removes her ID. Another young man pulls the bottom hem of his shirt up and through his collar so his stomach is exposed.&nbsp;</p><p>The pairs then turn around and try to notice what the other person had changed.<br /><br />&ldquo;You buttoned your flannel and your ID is backward,&rdquo; Burke guesses.<br /><br />Then, Lessing tells the students to find the people they don&rsquo;t know, introduce themselves and bow to each other. After that, with another different partner, play &ldquo;two truths and a lie&rdquo; and finally, recap by walking around, touching someone&rsquo;s shoe and repeating their name.<br /><br />At the end of class, Lessing asks each student to go around and say why they signed up for this class in the first place. The answers are all over the board.<br /><br />&ldquo;I took this class because my homies told me it was cool,&rdquo; says Sargron Sinclair.<br />&ldquo;My sister told me to,&rdquo; Burke says.<br />&ldquo;I wanted a non-traditional learning environment,&rdquo; says Elaine Houha.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;My counselor put me here,&rdquo; a young man named Toby says.<br />&ldquo;I took this class because I want to learn something that I can actually apply to my life,&rdquo; adds a girl named Beverly.<br /><br />With a class full of seniors, Lessing warns the students it&rsquo;s not just an easy &lsquo;A&rsquo; or a blow-off class.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s easy in the sense that you get to know a lot of people,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But I think it&rsquo;s hard in the sense that you have to show up and kind of face each other and be here. I value your presence more than anything else.&rdquo;<br /><br />And, he hopes, students will eventually see &ldquo;Feelings&rdquo; class as less of a class and more a part of who they&rsquo;re each becoming.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/its-first-day-every-day-popular-feelings-class-110676 What Robin Williams taught us about teaching http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching-110638 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_14.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Amid all the remembrances today of Robin Williams and the <a href="https://storify.com/shamani/oh-captain-my-captain" target="_blank">tributes to his many famous roles</a>, among the most commonly invoked are not one, but two memorable portrayals of great teaching.</p><p>The phrase &quot;<a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=oh%20captain%20my%20captain&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">Oh Captain, my Captain</a>&quot; is echoing across Twitter, a line from 1989&#39;s Dead Poets Society. In this role, Williams turns the stuffy conformity of a 1950s boarding school inside out. As a young, handsome, floppy-haired English teacher with the highly apropos name of John Keating, Williams makes the classroom a stage, pulling out all the stops to get his students excited about the wonders of poetry, and, by extension, life.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/vq_XBP3NrBo" width="620"></iframe></p><p>He whispers in the students&#39; ears, rips pages out of the textbook and leaps onto the desk to hail the vital necessity of great literature: &quot;In my class you will learn to think for yourselves again &mdash; you will learn to savor words and language!&quot;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/vdXhWS7lLvs" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We would all be lucky to have at least one teacher like this: a truly great lecturer whose passion for his subject is infectious. In the climactic scene, his students pay homage to a master who has changed their lives.</p><p>But this is not the only paradigm for great teaching.</p><p>In 1997&#39;s Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon is an autodidact &mdash; a primarily self-taught genius. He finds an academic mentor, an acclaimed mathematician played by Stellan Skarsgard. But his relationship with Robin Williams&#39; character is at the emotional core of the film.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/qM-gZintWDc" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Williams plays a therapist, not a teacher per se. But it&#39;s clear that he&#39;s there to teach Will Hunting what he really needs to know: how to get out of his own way, to grow past his abusive and lonely childhood and to put aside his guilt at moving beyond his rough background in South Boston. He does this by meeting Will on his turf, by opening up and by listening as much as he talks.</p><p>Back in 1993, California State University professor Alison King wrote an article for the journal <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27558571?uid=3739976&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=4&amp;uid=3739256&amp;sid=21104049910801" target="_blank">College Teaching</a> that became hugely influential. The title: &quot;From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In most college classrooms, the professor lectures and the students listen and take notes,&quot; she begins. She advocated updating this model with one of &quot;active learning,&quot; where understanding is constructed in the mind of the student. The teacher is there not to captivate his or her audience, but to get them talking, processing information and reformulating it in &quot;new and personally meaningful ways.&quot; This is the &quot;guide on the side&quot; model, with the student placed at the center.</p><p>In his blazing, virtuosic performances, Williams embodied the sage on the stage &mdash; a manic, wisecracking sage, sure, but one who always held the audience spellbound. As Good Will Hunting&#39;s Sean Maguire, a character who overcame his own rough upbringing and struggles with the loss of his wife, he risked vulnerability. This quieter, generous performance won him an Oscar. He was playing a guide on the side, the kind we would all hope to have in our lives.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/12/339735740/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-robin-williams-taught-us-about-teaching-110638 Global Activism: Somali Women Association of Illinois helping refugees http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-nana profile_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-68f46e64-b189-5f5b-2f0a-bc3933c46009">Nana Ahmed grew up as a Somali refugee in Yemen. When she came to America, Nana wanted to give back by helping refugees like herself. She, along with seven other Chicago women, formed <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SWAI2014">Somali Women Association of Illinois</a> (SWAI). They provide education and housing assistance, job training and health access to try and help refugee women and their families settle into their new lives. Nana will share her own experience and how it&rsquo;s helped dozens of refugees.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162151706&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, 07 Aug 2014 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 More Chicago kids say 'no' to their neighborhood grammar school http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Neighborhood-Schools-Map.jpg" style="height: 493px; width: 620px;" title="Fewer kids are choosing to attend their neighborhood grammar school. The maps show all Chicago grammar schools in 2001 and 2014. Green dots are neighborhood schools—the darker the green, the greater the percentage of children from the attendance area who choose to attend. Red dots are schools that draw from the entire city and admit students based on lottery or testing." /></a></div></div><p>Dismissal from Marsh elementary on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast Side is a quintessential American scene. The bell rings, kids pour from the school and down the neighborhood&rsquo;s streets, swinging backpacks and asking moms like Toni Gonzalez for ice cream.</p><p>&ldquo;This school is a hidden treasure,&rdquo; Gonzalez said as she waited among dozens of moms and dads for her kids to emerge from Marsh on one of the last days of school, in June. &ldquo;Very tight community, very well organized school. I actually work in the area too, so I&rsquo;m using my lunch hour to pop over and pick the kids up.&rdquo;</p><p>Marsh is a classic neighborhood school. Ninety-four percent of the Chicago Public Schools students in Marsh&rsquo;s attendance boundary are enrolled here, and that&rsquo;s despite an explosion in families&rsquo; options &mdash; many more charter schools, gifted or magnet schools to choose from. Kids can even go to other neighborhood schools; while the district once insisted that a child live in the attendance boundary to enroll in a neighborhood school, that rule has been relaxed.</p><p>But numbers obtained by WBEZ show that most neighborhood grammar schools are moving in a very different direction from Marsh.</p><p>In 2000, 74 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s elementary kids went to their assigned neighborhood grammar school. Today, just 62 percent do&mdash;and that number is falling.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#chart"><strong>CHART</strong>: Community buy-in for neighborhood grammar schools</a></p></blockquote><p>The figures show how much the system shifted over the decade that included <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/100th-school-renaissance-2010-brings-out-hopes-criticism">Renaissance 2010</a>, a program that gained national attention by opening dozens of new grammar schools and closing dozens of neighborhood schools deemed low-performing or under-enrolled. And they show that under expanded school choice, the relationship between the &ldquo;City of Neighborhoods&rdquo; and its neighborhood elementary schools is undergoing a sea change, reshaping the school system and the city&rsquo;s culture.</p><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/Neighborhood-Schools--Washington-Irving.jpg" title="Washington Irving is a neighborhood school in name only. Most CPS kids in the Irving boundary choose other schools. Because nearby kids don’t enroll, there is space for others; 80 percent of Irving students are from outside the boundary. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div><p><strong>Idyllic neighborhood, ignored neighborhood school</strong></p><p>Take Washington Irving in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood. The picturesque grammar school at the heart of this picturesque neighborhood is largely ignored by the families who live here.</p><p>In the 2000-01 school year, 69 percent of CPS kids from the community went to Irving. Last school year, just 46 percent of CPS kids in Irving&rsquo;s boundary were enrolled there &mdash; others were at CPS magnet schools, gifted schools, charter schools, or other neighborhood schools (still others were at private schools; those students aren&rsquo;t captured in these numbers).</p><p>Since 2000, as Chicago has expanded school choice, 221 of the city&rsquo;s 368 neighborhood grammar schools have also seen double digit drops in the proportion of kids from their boundaries who choose to attend.</p><p>&ldquo;Neighborhood schools in the traditional and historical sense are under pressure, and more in some places than others,&rdquo; says Jeffrey Henig, who studies the politics of education reform at Teachers College in New York City.</p><p>While the neighborhood school is still a strong concept in suburban America, it&rsquo;s taken a &ldquo;body blow&rdquo; in cities like Chicago that are trying to improve their school systems through school choice, Henig says. But he notes this isn&rsquo;t the first time; desegregation efforts chipped away decades ago at the neighborhood schools concept in big cities. In Chicago, that&rsquo;s how magnet schools were born.</p><p>The district is trying to make where kids go to school be less about their address, and more about the type of school parents choose. It&rsquo;s also trying to free families from low performing schools.</p><p>Tri-Taylor resident Kim Escamilla is not nostalgic for the neighborhood school.</p><p>&ldquo;I like how he&rsquo;s doing in school, so if I have to drive I&rsquo;ll drive,&rdquo; says Escamilla, who brings her son to Rowe Charter School on the Near Northwest Side. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We like it for him,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re strict, keep him on point, and that&rsquo;s what he needs as a young boy.&rdquo;</p><p>Escamilla recently moved to Tri-Taylor. But the friends her son has made on the block scatter for school.</p><p>&ldquo;None of them go to Irving, down the street,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Of course, if you peer into any school, there are issues are at play beyond the district&rsquo;s expansion of school choice. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/diverse-neighborhoods-segregated-schools">Race, class, neighborhood change</a>, an exceptional principal or a terrible one &mdash; all can affect whether nearby kids choose to attend. But overall, there are 73,000 fewer Chicago kids attending their neighborhood school today than in 2000.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="180" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/5H5xE/3/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p><strong>Getting out of the &lsquo;neighborhood schools business&rsquo;</strong></p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods">WBEZ made a map</a> that shows how Chicago&rsquo;s ties to its neighborhood schools have weakened as the city has expanded school choice. The map plots out the 100 new elementary schools Chicago has opened since 2000 &mdash; nearly all citywide admissions schools, where kids apply and a lottery lets them in. And it shows 102 school closures&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;nearly all of them neighborhood schools with community attendance boundaries and guaranteed admission for kids there.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="760" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods/" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;This speaks to what we&rsquo;ve been saying, that Chicago Public Schools is getting out of the neighborhood schools business,&rdquo; says Jitu Brown, an organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization who has argued that district budget cuts and school closings have undermined neighborhood schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Parents aren&rsquo;t voting with their feet,&rdquo; says Brown. &ldquo;The district is throwing a grenade in the neighborhood schools and then the parents find somewhere to send their babies. That&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happening.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s shift away from neighborhood schools has implications that go beyond education&mdash;for property values and community development, for schools&rsquo; relationships with their communities. Brown thinks weakening ties to neighborhood schools is one reason for the violence tormenting Chicago. Nowhere has the exodus from neighborhood schools been more stark than in Chicago&rsquo;s African American neighborhoods.</p><p>Others believe the system we&rsquo;re moving to is promising. They say families will invest in down-and-out areas if they aren&rsquo;t required to send their kids to the neighborhood school. They note that neighborhood schools in a segregated city separate kids along race and class lines. And they say starting new schools&mdash;and letting families choose&mdash;is the fastest way to break cycles of poverty.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods">WBEZ&rsquo;s map</a> shows community buy-in to neighborhood schools remains strongest in Latino neighborhoods, and in geographically isolated neighborhoods like the Far Southeast Side (where Marsh Elementary is located) and the Far Northwest and Southwest sides. The map also shows a shrinking school system, with 50,000 fewer elementary school kids in CPS today than in 2000-01.</p><p><strong>Two CTA buses to a neighborhood school</strong></p><p>Loraine Herbert&rsquo;s neighborhood school is just a block from her home in Englewood. But she feels there&rsquo;s too much gang activity in the area, so to keep her seventh-grade son safe she takes him and a younger sister two and a half miles away on two CTA buses, to another neighborhood school&mdash; Burke Elementary near Washington Park.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not charter, magnet or anything. It doesn&rsquo;t have a label. Just a Chicago public school,&rdquo; says Herbert, who feels the school is worth the extra effort it takes to get here. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s convenient. And I love the school. And I love the teachers and the principal and the assistant principal.&rdquo;</p><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/Neighborhood-Schools-Loraine-Herbert.jpg" title="Loraine Herbert takes two CTA buses every day to bring her kids to Burke Elementary, a neighborhood school she likes better than her own. Fifty thousand grammar school kids choose CPS neighborhood schools that are not their own. That’s almost as many kids as attend charters, gifted schools and magnets combined. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div><p>Herbert&rsquo;s case highlights another dynamic in Chicago&rsquo;s evolving school choice system: 52,963 grammar school kids choose neighborhood schools that are not their own. That&rsquo;s almost as many kids as attend charters, gifted schools and magnets combined. That figure is 56,709.</p><p>And though Herbert loves just about everything at Burke, the school is on probation, and CPS gives it the lowest &nbsp;of three performance grades. Every day, 683 kids who live in Burke&rsquo;s attendance area leave for other CPS schools. Meanwhile, 128 kids like Herbert&rsquo;s travel to get here.</p><p>Every year, more grammar school kids are crisscrossing the city this way. The same morning WBEZ accompanied Hebert on her route to Burke Elementary, we met another mother traveling with her two kids. Also citing safety, she takes the same two buses as Herbert but in the exact opposite direction.</p><p>And one more mom we met traveling that day, Tiffany Holmes, says she&rsquo;s glad the district doesn&rsquo;t seem to care anymore about attendance lines. That has allowed her to leave her son at his current school even though the family has moved out of the area. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s a better school than his current assigned neighborhood school, she says. But Holmes holds no particular allegiance.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, I can find other schools that&rsquo;s even better than this. You know? I mean, that&rsquo;s how it goes. Because I want the best for my children.&rdquo;</p><p>A <a href="https://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/assets/20081106/catnovdec08.pdf">Catalyst report</a> from 2008 found that under Chicago&rsquo;s choice system, African American families in particular were often traveling long distances for low-performing schools. No similar analysis has been done since.</p><p>WBEZ found dozens of schools are now &ldquo;neighborhood schools&rdquo; in name only, enrolling more kids from outside the attendance area than within.</p><p><strong>The district response: creating quality neighborhood schools</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The number of children who make the choice to attend their neighborhood school has changed. And I think it has to do with a district that perhaps did not place its resources in its neighborhood schools,&rdquo; says schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who took over leadership of CPS a year and a half ago.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m hell-bent on doing is to ensure that our neighborhood schools get the same opportunity &mdash; are held to the same criteria &mdash; but that those schools are quality as well,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett says the district is now investing in neighborhood schools. She points to an initiative created under her watch &mdash; the Office of Strategic School Support Services, or &ldquo;OS4&rdquo; &mdash; dedicated to improving the lowest performing neighborhood schools. And she touts International Baccalaureate and STEM programs added or expanded at grammar schools.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Neighborhood-Schools--McPherson-Kim-Silver-_-fam.jpg" title="Kim Silver and her husband Bob Farster spend hours plugging their neighborhood school, McPherson Elementary. Silver gives tours, designed yard signs. She says she didn’t want the long commutes, testing for giftedness at age 4, or lotteries associated with magnet, charter or gifted schools. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p><strong>A &lsquo;nascent backlash&rsquo; against choice?</strong></p><p>Jeffrey Henig, the Teachers College professor, says the argument that families trapped in bad neighborhoods should have some option other than a crummy local school is a powerful one.</p><p>Henig says whether neighborhood schools survive depends on whether there&rsquo;s a constituency interested in defending them, one that&rsquo;s politically strong enough. &ldquo;In many cities there&rsquo;s at least a nascent backlash against choice schools and a rallying around the idea of protecting neighborhood schools,&rdquo; Henig says.</p><p>And in pockets across the city, parents looking to avoid long commutes, gifted testing at age 4, and lotteries are taking a second look at their neighborhood school.</p><p>Kim Silver spends hours plugging McPherson Elementary, in Ravenswood. On tours, she shows off her neighborhood school&rsquo;s project-based learning, smaller class sizes, and technology, including iPads for all third-through-eighth graders. A bright purple yard sign Silver designed announces that her kids go to McPherson. They&rsquo;re the only ones on the block who do. Other kids here go to magnet or gifted schools&mdash;some 45 minutes away. Silver says she knows of one nearby family who bought a condo in the West Loop to get their second child into the same school as the first. They come to their Ravenswood home on weekends.</p><p>&ldquo;That is the craziness that the choice system affords us,&rdquo; says Silver. &ldquo;We love this neighborhood, we want to be in this neighborhood, we want to walk our kids to school.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ found that since 2000, only 16 neighborhood schools in the city significantly increased the proportion of neighborhood kids choosing to enroll. Nearly all are schools with cachet, in higher-income areas &mdash; Nettelhorst, Lincoln, Coonley, South Loop.</p><p>Several of those schools &mdash; and McPherson &mdash; are in the 47<sup>th</sup> ward, &nbsp;where alderman Ameya Pawar has a specific campaign to strengthen neighborhood schools, and get more residents to enroll in them. Pawar says neighborhood schools are an economic development engine in suburban communities; there&rsquo;s no reason they can&rsquo;t be in big cities as well.</p><p>&ldquo;Rather than go on a crusade against charters and choice, I just want to set that crusade aside and say, I think there&rsquo;s a better way to do that locally, by getting people involved in your neighborhood schools. And giving families peace of mind, the same peace of mind they seek out in the suburbs.&rdquo;</p><p>Right now, a growing number of Chicago families are looking beyond their neighborhood school for that peace of mind&mdash;or at least, for what they see as a better school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chart: Community Buy-in to Neighborhood Grammar Schools<a name="chart"></a></span></p><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><em><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods/sort.html">Click here for a larger version of this chart, including all years from 2001-2014.</a></em></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="630" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/neighborhoods/sort.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <u><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducati</a>on</u></em></p><p><em>Map and chart visualizations by Chris Hagan</em></p><p><em>All data used to report this story is posted below in an Excel file.<a name="data"></a></em></p></p> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604 Checking in on Common Core http://www.wbez.org/news/checking-common-core-110577 <p><p>As classrooms all across the country switch over to new learning standards known as the <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/">Common Core</a>, the controversy surrounding them continues to grow.</p><p>The Republican-controlled Indiana legislature scrapped the voluntary national standards earlier this year and the ultra-progressive Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates passed a resolution in May <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-teachers-union-votes-oppose-common-core-110152">pulling their support of the Common Core</a>.</p><p>The whole idea started as a multi-state effort to come up with a common set of learning standards across the country. The Obama administration pushed for Common Core by incentivizing states to adopt them in order to be eligible for billions of dollars in federal grants, dubbed Race to the Top.</p><p>Forty-six states and the District of Columbia initially signed on and now, five states have scrapped them. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But in all of the political back and forth, it&#39;s good to remember there have always been standards in public schools. Learning standards that say what kids should know, when.</p><p>&ldquo;The standards are where the students should be to show mastery, and the curriculum is how you get there,&rdquo; said Kristi Wheatley, an English teacher at Lincoln Junior High School in suburban Skokie. &ldquo;For example, what (we) did today &hellip; might not work everywhere. If a teacher wanted to do something totally different, that&rsquo;s okay, as long as they&rsquo;re learning how to evaluate an argument.&rdquo;</p><p>During the last two weeks of school, seventh graders in Wheatley&rsquo;s class were reviewing for their final test of the school year. The desks in her room were set up in clusters of four&mdash;a common arrangement for all of the Common Core lessons WBEZ sat in on. Students would work for 15 minutes reviewing each skill and then pass the materials to the next group over and start on another.</p><p>Unless you&rsquo;re a student or work in a school, you&rsquo;ve probably never heard what teaching to the new standards sounds like in schools. WBEZ interviewed several teachers from a variety of different schools to look at --and listen to-- the standards themselves.</p><blockquote><p><em>Hear what a <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/teaching-to-a-common-core-kindergarten-math-standard">Kindergarten math lesson</a> sounds like under Common Core. &nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Hear what a </em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/07/25/335156395/what-a-common-core-lesson-sounds-like-in-a-10th-grade-english-class"><em>10th grade English standard</em></a><em> sounds like under Common Core. </em></p></blockquote><p>Wheatley has taught at Lincoln for nine years and loves the new standards because they give her more flexibility over what and how to teach. She didn&rsquo;t realize they could be controversial until recently.</p><p>&ldquo;My little brother, we were at dinner the other night for his birthday, he is not in education at all, and he was like, &lsquo;What&rsquo;s the deal with Common Core? There&rsquo;s all this stuff on Facebook about it,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said.</p><p>That was around the same time comedian Louis C.K. had started ranting about Common Core math in his kids New York City public school on Twitter. He brought it up one night on The Late Show with David Letterman, saying he had a hard time helping his kids as they struggled with word problems.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m there for them in those moments and I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;C&rsquo;mon just look at the problem!&rsquo; and then I look at the problem and it&rsquo;s like, &lsquo;Bill has 3 goldfish. He buys 2 more. How many dogs live in London?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/HZbd7qEG3Ns" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Gina Biondi, a 5<sup>th</sup> grade math teacher at Chicago International Charter School&rsquo;s West Belden campus, walked me through a problem that sounded very confusing at first. Here&rsquo;s what it asks: &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Joseph&rsquo;s elementary school was having a bake sale to raise money for new computers. His class sold cupcakes in the bake sale. Shauna sold 10/9ths times as many cupcakes as Joseph. Miguel sold 7/9ths as many as Joseph. Draw a picture to model the relationship between these three classmates&rsquo; sales.</em></p><p>This problem showed up on an end of the unit test. Eventually, with Biondi&rsquo;s help, I solved the problem by drawing three boxes, one to represent Joseph&rsquo;s whole (or 9/9ths), one slightly smaller with a little cut out to represent Miguel&rsquo;s sales and one slightly larger to represent Shauna&rsquo;s sales.</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/commoncore.jpg" title="WBEZ’s Becky Vevea does Common Core math with teacher Gina Biondi of CICS-West Belden" /></div><p>Biondi said that part of what makes the Common Core math standards so different from before is that there&rsquo;s a lot more explanation and often more than one right answer.</p><p>&ldquo;You could&rsquo;ve shown this same answer, probably 10 different ways,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And that change has proven to be a huge adjustment for not just for the students.</p><p>Bensenville math specialist Angie Adams said communicating the changes in the math standards has been one of the biggest challenges to implementing Common Core.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I hear, &lsquo;Well I don&rsquo;t understand why they&rsquo;re doing that that way. I learned the old way. They can just do that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Adams said. &ldquo;But how many times do you ask a 1st grader to explain why are you carrying that 1, what does that mean? They don&rsquo;t know. So by teaching them other (methods) is to develop understanding.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Adams and Biondi say the new math standards are hard because they ask kids&mdash;and their parents&mdash;to look at numbers in a totally different way, to have what&rsquo;s called numerical literacy. That&rsquo;s like regular literacy, only with math. Both point to the fact that it remains socially acceptable to say &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t do math,&rdquo; but it&rsquo;s less common for someone to tell people that they cannot read.</p><p>In both English and Math, nearly everyone interviewed for this story summed up the new standards by saying something like this: It&rsquo;s not teaching kids <em>what</em> to think, it&rsquo;s teaching kids <em>how</em> to think.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s hard.</p><p>It doesn&rsquo;t happen overnight and it requires a lot of teacher training.</p><p>&ldquo;Someone said it best when they said teachers used to be the keepers of knowledge, so you had to go to school to find out &lsquo;what is photosynthesis&rsquo; or &lsquo;what caused the Civil War,&rsquo; but right now &nbsp;these kids, especially the junior high kids, they can google anything,&rdquo; Wheatley, the teacher at Lincoln Junior High, said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s not my job, my job is not to teach them that factual information.&rdquo;</p><p>Wheatley said her job is to teach kids skills they can&rsquo;t get just by typing something into a search bar. &nbsp;</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, 30 Jul 2014 13:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/checking-common-core-110577 On education, candidates for Illinois governor closer than they think http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rauner-christie.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Republican candidate for Illinois governor says he&rsquo;ll soon be talking more about his top priority: education. Bruce Rauner has been involved in education for years, giving lots of money to schools and programs he believes in. But expanding his vision in Illinois&rsquo; political climate is another matter altogether.</p><p>Bruce Rauner, the Republican venture capitalist, has made a name for himself in education - literally. Rauner College Prep is a charter school on Chicago&rsquo;s near west side. He&rsquo;s also been recognized by education groups for his philanthropic work.</p><p>&ldquo;Education is simply the most important thing we do together as a community. There&rsquo;s nothing more important,&rdquo; Rauner said during a debate organized by ABC 7 and Univision in the Republican primary. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s our future. It&rsquo;s our democracy. It&rsquo;s our income level. It&rsquo;s at the core of every challenge that we face.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources say Rauner was active behind the scenes in one of the biggest education policy initiatives to pass the state legislature in recent years. Senate Bill 7 was later signed into law by Rauner&rsquo;s now-Democratic opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The legislation dealt with teacher strike votes, evaluations and tenure. But when negotiations around those issues veered away from Rauner&rsquo;s own vision, he distanced himself from the bill.</p><p>Some who&rsquo;ve worked closely with Rauner on education issues say debates like that are why he is running for governor - to have the authority &nbsp;to put his stamp on education policy.</p><p>&ldquo;More charter schools, vouchers for poor kids, merit pay for great teachers, modified tenure so ineffective teachers aren&rsquo;t locked in jobs forever,&rdquo; Rauner said in that same debate.</p><p>But a governor&rsquo;s accomplishments are rarely solitary efforts. &nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a pretty unique example, but 10 years ago, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich was in full rhetorical mode for an hour of his State of the State address. He spent more than an hour of his 90-minute address completely trashing the state&rsquo;s education board.</p><p>&ldquo;The Illinois State Board of Education is like an old, Soviet-style bureaucracy,&rdquo; Blagojevich said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s clunky and inefficient. It issues mandates. It spends money. It dictates policy and it isn&rsquo;t accountable to anyone for anything.&rdquo;</p><p>Blagojevich called for abolishing the Illinois State Board of Education and creating a new cabinet department under his office - a Department of Education.</p><p>The idea went nowhere. Blagojevich didn&rsquo;t get legislators or interest groups on board.</p><p>That bit of history points to the political structure Rauner would have to work with.</p><p>More charter schools?</p><p>That means getting the legislature&rsquo;s okay.</p><p>School vouchers?</p><p>That&rsquo;s also a legislative issue.</p><p>Paying teachers based on the quality of their work?</p><p>He&rsquo;d likely have to get lawmakers on board.</p><p>&ldquo;I think whether this is a Governor Rauner or a Governor Quinn, what we&rsquo;re finding is there&rsquo;s a lot more support by legislators quietly to support some transformative policy,&rdquo; said Myles Mendoza with Ed Choice Illinois. His organization is a non-profit that wants to expand educational alternatives for families.</p><p>Mendoza said a good example of the bipartisan movement around education change is Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s Democratic running mate, Paul Vallas. Vallas ran public schools in Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.</p><p>&ldquo;Both Paul Vallas and Bruce Rauner have really been aligned, very, very similar in their thinking of how they would approach education policy,&rdquo; Mendoza said.</p><p>I asked Mendoza if it&rsquo;s weird, seeing Republicans and Democrats &nbsp;aligned that way.</p><p>&ldquo;It certainly does scramble the radar,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>What he means is that Vallas, a Democrat, and Rauner, a Republican, have taken similar stands against teachers unions and the Democrats who traditionally support them.</p><p>Dan Montgomery heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a union that represents about 80,000 teachers in the state, including charter schools.</p><p>Montgomery said politics has framed the debate around education in the wrong context.</p><p>&ldquo;The challenges we have in this state are not about tenure, you know? They&rsquo;re not about merit pay,&rdquo; Montgomery said. &ldquo;The challenges we have in the state are parents who look around and they say, &lsquo;How come my kid&rsquo;s school doesn&rsquo;t have a library?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>He says Bruce Rauner has made unions the enemy, and his economic and tax policies are examples of the misguided debate. Montgomery repeats something Quinn&rsquo;s campaign often says, that Rauner&rsquo;s plans will lose the state millions and he&rsquo;ll end up having to cut education funding.</p><p>Montgomery says unions should get ready to find support in the legislature to resist negative education changes if Rauner&rsquo;s elected.</p><p>But they should also be ready for another tactic: That Rauner would go around the legislature altogether with executive orders.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 Global Activism: Keeping kids in school in India http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-keeping-kids-school-india-110625 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-pratham.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to UNICEF, in India, more than 70 percent of children drop out before finishing school. <a href="http://www.prathamusa.org">Pratham USA</a>, co-founded by Yogi Patel, is dedicated to youth education, literacy and vocational training in India and it reports that over half of India&rsquo;s children in the 5th grade can&rsquo;t read at a 2nd grade level. We&#39;ll talk with Raj Rajaram, president of Pratham USA, about the work they&#39;re doing to try to improve education and opportunity for children in India.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Pratham USA Chicago Walk-a-thon:</strong></p><p><strong>Walk or Run For Literacy</strong></p><p><strong>Sunday, August 17, 2014, 9:00 AM</strong></p><p><strong>Harms Wood Forest Preserve (Grove 3), Morton Grove, IL</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160137303&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, 24 Jul 2014 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-keeping-kids-school-india-110625 Board of Education approves 'stop-gap' budget for 2015 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed VOYCE july 15.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last-minute pleas by parents, teachers, and budget watchdog groups didn&rsquo;t sway the Chicago Board of Education from unanimously approving its $6.8 billion spending plan for next school year.</p><p>The budget <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547">cuts 59 full-time librarian positions</a>, eliminates the district&rsquo;s last electricity vocational program, adds more funding for privately run charter schools and expands safe passage.</p><p>Like in previous years, pretty much everyone who spoke at the monthly board meeting yesterday did not like the spending priorities in the budget. Even board members could see that the budget didn&rsquo;t address the long-term structural deficit facing Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact is we&rsquo;re spending more money than we&rsquo;re really getting in the door,&rdquo; said board member Andrea Zopp.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to vote for this budget, but it is a budget that is balanced by this one-time use of funds,&rdquo; said board member Henry Bienen. &ldquo;I would call it a stop-gap budget.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS budget director Ginger Ostro took aim at Springfield in her presentation to the board at the start of the meeting. She said in order for the district to be financially viable in the future, state officials need to increase the amount of money they give districts per student.</p><p>Ostro said CPS also needs pension reform, but she didn&rsquo;t give any specifics on what that might look like. The district is required to pay an additional $70 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund next year. The fund is severely underfunded after almost a decade of no contributions from the district combined with lower than expected returns.</p><p>It remains unclear what effect the recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling in <a href="http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf">Kanerva vs. Weems</a> could mean for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. That ruling found the pension reform for suburban and downstate teachers is unconstitutional.</p><p>About an hour into the meeting Wednesday, a physical altercation broke out when a person in the audience, parent activist Rousemary Vega, began booing Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who had gotten up out of his seat. Vega and her husband were carried out of the board chamber by almost a dozen security guards.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160095320&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Last vocational electricity program cut</strong></p><p>With Wednesday&rsquo;s board vote, the city lost its last electrical shop program, currently housed at Simeon Career Academy, in the 21st Ward.</p><p>Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) pleaded with board members to keep the program going.</p><p>&ldquo;Electricity is not a whip and buggy,&rdquo; Brookins said. &ldquo;Those jobs are going to be around for at least the immediate, foreseeable future. And so to eliminate this program seems to be misplaced.&rdquo;</p><p>Brookins says he wants all students to go to college, but for those who don&rsquo;t, he wants training that will help them get a good job that pays a living wage. At the very least, Brookins asked CPS to let currently enrolled students complete their degrees.</p><p>CPS officials said the principal at Simeon ended the Electricity program because only 18 incoming freshman selected it as their top choice major in the school&rsquo;s vocational program. However, Brookins said there were more than 50 upperclassmen enrolled.</p><p><strong>No money for new Code of Conduct</strong></p><p>Last month, the board approved a new Student Code of Conduct that focuses more on restorative discipline and less on suspensions and expulsions.</p><p>Before the meeting started this month, a group of students involved with the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education held a press conference pushing CPS to &ldquo;put their money where their mouth is&rdquo; when it comes to having more restorative discipline in schools.</p><p>&ldquo;In my school, there seems to be a new security guard every week, but we don&rsquo;t have music class, no library, no college and career center and only one counselor for the whole school,&rdquo; said Devonte Boston, a senior at Gage Park High School.</p><p>The students successfully helped CPS revise the Code of Conduct, but they say money is needed to properly implement it. So does Michael Brunson, the recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll mention restorative justice around members and their eyes will start rolling and then I know I have to stop and say, &lsquo;OK, this is what its supposed to be. Now, what you have experienced is just words with no substance,&rsquo;&rdquo; Brunson said. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re going to do it, you&rsquo;re going to have to have the personnel, the space and all the resources that you need to really roll out a program.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Pleas to halt expansion of Concept Schools</strong></p><p>A number of speakers Wednesday said the board should halt the opening of two new schools run by Concept Schools.</p><p>Concept is currently <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/search-warrants-reveal-details-fbi-raid-concept-schools/mon-07212014-622pm">under FBI investigation</a> in several states. The leaders have close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.</p><p>CPS spokesman Joel Hood sent a statement to reporters after the meeting saying Concept continues to move forward with its plan to open this fall. It will open in a former Evangelical Christian building at 9130 South Vincennes Ave, he said.</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> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 Losing school librarians in Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/school_library.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Having a school library with a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago&rsquo;s 600-plus public schools.<br /><br />Two years ago, Chicago Public School budgeted for 454 librarians.<br />Last year: 313 librarians.<br />This year? 254.<br /><br />Those are the numbers Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, laid out at a recent meeting held by the parent group Raise Your Hand.<br /><br />&ldquo;As many of you recall, around the time we went on strike, we talked about how we had 160 schools that did not have school libraries,&rdquo; Cusick said. &ldquo;This shows what came after.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues have started speaking out about the dwindling number of librarians in CPS. They showed up at last month&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting and many spoke at last week&rsquo;s budget hearings.<br /><br />CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the librarian shortage is because there aren&rsquo;t enough librarians in the hiring pool.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that we don&rsquo;t want to have librarians in libraries,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said at last month&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;Nobody can argue that point, but the pool is diminished.&rdquo;<br /><br />So where have all the librarians gone?<br /><br />Cusick said there&rsquo;s not a shortage, like Byrd-Bennett stated, and it&rsquo;s not that librarians are being laid off. It&rsquo;s that they&rsquo;re being re-assigned to classrooms..<br /><br />&ldquo;There are a number of certified librarians who are in classrooms,&rdquo; Cusick explained. &ldquo;English classrooms, world languages, in elementary schools, teaching a particular grade level. The people are there, they&rsquo;re just not staffing the library, they&rsquo;re staffing another classroom.&rdquo;<br /><br />Some of the city&rsquo;s best-performing schools have eliminated full-time librarians.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s what happened at Nettelhorst Elementary in East Lakeview last school year. Scott Walter is a parent representative on the local school council at Nettelhorst and a librarian at DePaul University.</p><p>&ldquo;We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn&rsquo;t have a teacher,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />In the state of Illinois, all librarians must also have teaching certifications, and most also have endorsements to teach specific grades and subjects.<br /><br />When the district stopped funding positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, many had a hard time making the numbers add up.</p><p>For Nettelhorst, it was &ldquo;here&rsquo;s the position and she can be in a library or we can have a teacher in front of 30 kids,&rdquo; Walter said. &ldquo;And no matter how much you love libraries and as much as I do, you can&rsquo;t have a classroom without a teacher in front of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Walter says even though the librarian is now teaching 4th grade, the students can still use the library, because the clerk and parent volunteers help staff it.<br /><br />Still, he says, it&rsquo;s a lose-lose.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a parent, it feels that CPS has set us up into a situation where we have to decided which finger we don&rsquo;t want,&rdquo; Walter said.<br /><br />There&rsquo;s no required amount of minutes for library instruction in the state of Illinois.<br /><br />In a fact sheet to WBEZ, CPS officials touted the expanded virtual libraries available to all students. And at the very top of the page in bold letters and underlined, a spokesperson wrote &ldquo;we will not be satisfied until we have central and/OR classroom-based libraries in every school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick said librarians do so much more than just check out books. They teach kids how to do research, how to find and evaluate information, a skill that&rsquo;s becoming even more important in the digital age.<br /><br />&ldquo;Kids don&rsquo;t just know how to do that,&rdquo; Cusick notes. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a skill that they develop just because they have an iPhone or because they have a computer at home, which many of our students don&rsquo;t have.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues don&rsquo;t want to see librarians added at the expense of other positions, like art teachers and physical education teachers. But they also don&rsquo;t want to see school libraries just become places where meetings and press conferences are held.</p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547