WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How do you find high school dropouts? http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pathways.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bunch of promises three years ago when he was running for office&mdash;especially when it came to education.</p><p>He&rsquo;s checked off some of them &ndash; a longer school day, more preschool, a focus on principals.<br />But now his administration is ramping up attention to one the stickiest challenges: re-enrolling the city&rsquo;s more than 50,000 dropouts.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Grassroots efforts</span></p><p>For years--long before Emanuel pushed for a systematic way of enrolling dropouts--Pa Joof has been taking a shoe-leather approach to getting students back in school.</p><p>Joof is the head of Winnie Mandela, an alternative high school on 78th and Jeffrey in the city&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood. Mandela is one of four schools run by Prologue Inc., a non-profit founded in 1973 to help disadvantaged neighborhoods. Prologue started running alternative schools for Chicago Public Schools in 1995.&nbsp;</p><p>On the first day of school, WBEZ visited Winnie Mandela High School to watch Joof and his team at work.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the little van that we use for basketball games,&rdquo; Joof tells me over the rumble of the van&rsquo;s engine starting up. It&rsquo;s almost lunchtime and he&rsquo;s about to hit the streets with two of the school&rsquo;s security guards--Dominick Muldrow and Dessie McGee--who double as recruiters and mentors.</p><p>&ldquo;We get the flyers and we put them up there,&rdquo; Joof explains. &ldquo;We know the corners that [kids are on], the areas that they go to.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Like the ones walking there,&rdquo; McGee says, pointing out the van&rsquo;s backseat window.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s happening? Today is the first day of school man, what&rsquo;s happening?&rdquo; Joof shouts out the window.<br />&ldquo;Ya&rsquo;ll registered for school?&rdquo; Muldrow asks.<br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s 24!&rdquo; says one of the two men on the sidewalk.<br />&ldquo;Ah, he don&rsquo;t look that old,&rdquo; Muldrow says<br />&ldquo;Maybe you all know someone that&rsquo;s trying to get back in?&rdquo; McGee says, leaning to the front seat window to hand the men flyers about the school. &ldquo;Share these flyers with them.&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;This a high school?&rdquo; one of the men asks.<br />&ldquo;Yeah, right on 78th and Jeffrey,&rdquo; McGee replies.<br />&ldquo;My little brother, we&rsquo;re trying to get him back in there,&rdquo; the man says. &ldquo;He got like six credits, no, three. We&rsquo;re trying to get him back in. What ages?&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;Seventeen to twenty-one!&rdquo; McGee says.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the age range when kids can still re-enroll in high school, according to CPS. When Emanuel took office in 2011, CPS ran the numbers to find out exactly how many students had dropped off the attendance rolls before graduating, but were between 13 and 21. The number was close to 60,000.</p><p>During his first 100 days in office, Emanuel&rsquo;s directive was clear: find those kids and get them back to class.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A systematic approach</span></p><p>Molly Burke is leading the district&rsquo;s Student Outreach and Re-Engagement program, or SOAR.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the first program we have where we&rsquo;ve gotten a list of all the dropouts and proactively gone after them,&rdquo; Burke says, echoing what her predecessor told WBEZ in 2011.</p><p>The effort pulls data from the district&rsquo;s student records system to identify kids who have left school before graduating in the last few years.<br />&ldquo;Throughout the summer, they had a list that were all the students that dropped last year and the year before,&rdquo; Burke explains. &ldquo;So we went after those students who weren&rsquo;t active at the end of last school year. And now that school starts, they start to get the list of the kids that have dropped or who did not arrive.&rdquo;</p><p>District officials formally announced the SOAR program last year and with it, three official re-enrollment centers were opened. Sean Smith oversees the SOAR centers, located in Little Village, Roseland and Garfield Park.</p><p>So far, 1,700 students have come through the SOAR centers and 130 have already gotten their high school diplomas. Smith says they want to enroll an additional 3,000 this year.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a large goal for our team,&rdquo; he admits, noting that each staff member would be bringing in 15 new students every week. At each center, there are five re-engagement specialists that basically do what Prologue has been doing, only with names, addresses and phone numbers from downtown.</p><p>After a student decides to re-enroll, they go through a two-week program at a SOAR center that helps them set goals and choose a school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Getting the diploma</span></p><p>Most of the students re-enrolling won&rsquo;t go back to a traditional high school. For one, many dropouts would age out of eligibility before they could feasibly earn enough credits to graduate. And Smith says putting teens back in an environment that already didn&rsquo;t work for them, usually doesn&rsquo;t make sense.</p><p>But students may not be going to one of the city&rsquo;s longstanding alternative schools, like Winnie Mandela, either.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because CPS recently expanded the number of alternative programs available to students, including many online schools and several run by for-profit companies.</p><p>One of those, Pathways in Education, is located in a strip mall at 87th and Kedzie. The school spans two spaces in this sprawling commercial building. One is a wide-open space, the size of a retail store, where about a dozen teachers sit at desks lining the outside walls and teens study at tables in the middle of the room.<br />Student James Cicconi goes here, but used to go to Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side. He says he skipped a lot during his freshman and sophomore years.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you ditch school, it&rsquo;s like an addiction,&rdquo; Cicconi says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like right away you do it once and you&rsquo;re want to do it again and again and before you know it you&rsquo;re gone twenty days out of the month.&rdquo;</p><p>When he started his junior year, Cicconi says the staff at Kennedy told him, &ldquo;Even if you do all of your stuff, there&rsquo;s not enough time for you to graduate. So you can either wait for us to kick you out or you can do this program.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS requires 24 credits to graduate. When Cicconi left Kennedy, he only had four.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the credits and how slow it is with getting them, and how much you have to do just to get a half credit for one class, they told me, even if I did night school, summer school, there just wasn&rsquo;t enough time for me to graduate on time,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>He started classes at Pathways last winter and comes roughly three hours every day. So far, he&rsquo;s earned twice as many credits as he did in two years at Kennedy.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS officials say the non-traditional setting and online classes help kids work at their own pace. But, nationally, investigations of online schools have found the courses often aren&rsquo;t as rigorous and can cheapen the value of a high school diploma.</p><p>Cicconi says classes are easy, but that he&rsquo;s able to focus better without lots of other kids around, goofing off in class. He says schools like Pathways are good for students who might have what he calls &ldquo;an authority problem&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;People come up with their own agenda and their own rules and I feel that, when you come up with your own rules, you have more of an obligation to do it because you&rsquo;re leading yourself,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>Back in South Shore, where Pa Joof and his team are doing outreach without a list from CPS, Dominick Muldrow turns the corner onto Jeffrey Boulevard, to head back towards Winnie Mandela High School. Muldrow and McGee, the other recruiter, both dropped out and earned their diplomas through alternative programs.</p><p>&ldquo;I relate to a lot of the guys, you know,&rdquo; Muldrow says. &ldquo;But at the end of the day, what it all boils down is, you&rsquo;re gonna need a high school diploma.&rdquo;</p><p>That is the message the district hopes to get to a least 3,000 more kids this year.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/@WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816 Global Activism: Sonia Shah Foundation Update http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Sonia Shah_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Accomplished, multilingual Winnetka teenager, Sonia Shah, traveled and studied around the world. She started the <a href="http://www.kulsoomfoundation.org/" target="_blank">Kulsoom Foundation for Girls</a> (now named the <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/#">Sonia Shah Foundation</a>) to build a school for girls in Pakistan. But before the school was completed, Sonia was tragically taken from us in a 2012 auto accident at age 18. Since then, Sonia&#39;s mother, Iram Shah, has taken the baton to continue her daughter&#39;s work. We <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-kulsoom-foundation-build-girls-school-pakistan-honor-late">first spoke with Iram</a> in 2013. For today&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, she&#39;s back for an update.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>The Sonia Shah Foundation&#39;s <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/join-us-september-20th/">annual gala</a> will be Saturday, September 23rd, 2014 at 5:30pm at the Oak Brook Hills Resort, 3500 Midwest Road, Oak Brook IL, 60523.</strong></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168326357&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe>In 2011, Sonia was the youngest intern at Capital Hill and in 2012, she was one of the youngest intern at Obama campaign headquarters. In his condolence letter, President Obama says &lsquo;although Sonia was one of the youngest interns at the campaign headquarters, she was one of the most determined&rsquo;</p><p><em>Iram reflected on Sonia and her mission ahead of a 2013 Foundation event:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">As we prepare for the big day, I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey&hellip;people who donated, people who contributed through their service, words of sympathy&hellip;you are all awesome!!...You are all part of this journey of helping to change lives of girls, who will change their communities and eventually our world!</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&hellip;For me personally it has been a very emotional but fulfilling journey. Sonia&rsquo;s legacy and mission continues. Although my dream for Sonia to grow up into a mature woman, get married and have children will never be fulfilled but I guess her dream of helping poor girls is more meaningful than my dream for her! I still long for Sonia but slowly beginning to feel that instead of mourning her death, I should celebrate her life more.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&ldquo;What moves through me is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, we may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget&rdquo;.</p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 Schools CEO: privatizing janitorial services not 'as smooth as we would like' http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-ceo-privatizing-janitorial-services-not-smooth-we-would-110799 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo bbb at city club.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted Monday that turning over management of school janitors to two private companies hasn&rsquo;t been going very well.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously it has not been as smooth as we would like,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;We have met with principals. We continue to do so and I think in a very short time, you will see a change.&rdquo;</p><p>In February, the Chicago Board of Education awarded two contracts, worth a total of $340 million, to two private companies, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. These two contracts combined make it one of the largest privatization moves of any school district across the country. Under the agreements, SodexoMAGIC would oversee 33 schools, while Aramark would oversee the remaining 500-some district-run schools.</p><p>CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the idea to board members as making schools cleaner with new equipment, such as &ldquo;zamboni-like&rdquo; floor cleaning machines, and making principals&rsquo; lives easier, with <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes" target="_blank">&ldquo;Jimmy John&rsquo;s-like&rdquo; customer service</a> when supplies run low.</p><p>But so far, the outsourcing seems to have led to dirty schools, property damage, poor communication and janitors being laid off. Those complaints came to light in a survey of more than 230 principals conducted by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.</p><p>WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">first reported the story</a> early last week.</p><p>On Friday, 475 janitors officially received layoff notices. Byrd-Bennett says the district is not responsible for those cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not laying anybody off,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s up to the contractors that we&rsquo;ve contracted with. They are going to come up with a system for us that will get the work done.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS employs 825 custodian positions that are covered by SEIU Local 73 and none of those positions are being cut, according to district officials. However, many of those board-funded janitors have been reassigned to cover other schools as a result of the layoffs.</p><p>District officials continue to insist that schools are not dirty and that the private contracts with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC are saving them money.</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> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-ceo-privatizing-janitorial-services-not-smooth-we-would-110799 Global Activism: Women’s Global Education Project celebrates 10 years http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-women%E2%80%99s-global-education-project-celebrates-10-years-110808 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-WGEP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Women&rsquo;s Global Education Project (<a href="http://www.womensglobal.org/">WGEP</a>) was one of our first ever Global Activism stories 10 years ago. And Jerome sat down with its founder and Executive Director, Amy Maglio and Adji Senghor WGEP&#39;s Senegal Project Director and Aniceta Kiriga WGEP&#39;s Kenya Project Director. For <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, they&#39;ll all update us on the work the group is doing today.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/167287651&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 09:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-women%E2%80%99s-global-education-project-celebrates-10-years-110808 Custodial contract causing problems at start of school year http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s one of those jobs that you don&rsquo;t really notice, until it&rsquo;s not done.</p><p>Dave Belanger knows firsthand. He once worked as a part-time, fill-in janitor for extra income early in his teaching career.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve scrubbed toilets and washed bathrooms and cleaned classrooms and I know if you don&rsquo;t keep on top of that every single day, it just quadruples,&quot; Belanger said. &ldquo;A school that could start out clean on Monday by Friday, if things haven&rsquo;t been done, is really almost a pig sty.&rdquo;<br /><br />Dave Belanger is now the principal of Hanson Park Elementary School in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest side. He said, this year, the deep clean that usually takes place in schools over the summer was &ldquo;the scariest and least efficient&rdquo; process he has seen over the 14 years he&rsquo;s worked for CPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;Many teachers spent a half a day to a day, last week, before kids came in, scrubbing their classrooms, tops of bookcases, window sills, walls, baseboards, things that would normally be cleaned were not cleaned,&rdquo; Belanger said.<br /><br />Belanger is just one of more than 230 principals recently surveyed by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The results reveal problems across Chicago Public Schools&mdash;dirty classrooms, damaged materials, theft and an overall lack of communication.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Shifting control of custodians</strong></span></p><p>How CPS got to this point is complicated. For years, custodians fell under the oversight of each school&rsquo;s building engineer. That changed a few years ago, when budget officials centralized the building engineers and put custodians under principals. CPS had previously subcontracted with private cleaning services, like We Clean and Total Facilities.<br /><br />Then this past spring, the Chicago Board of Education awarded a $260 million contract to a company called Aramark to oversee nearly all 2,400-plus janitors in the school system. Another private company&mdash;SodexoMAGIC&mdash;was awarded an $80 million contract to oversee 33 schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Under the contract, private custodial manaagers have been assigned to oversee groups of 15 to 20 schools, according to Leslie Norgren, the district&rsquo;s director of asset management.</p><p style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:13.5pt;margin-left: 0in;line-height:16.5pt;vertical-align:baseline">At the board meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley talked up the privatization deal to board members, saying Aramark and SodexoMAGIC would be &ldquo;like Jimmy John&rsquo;s,&rdquo; so when a principal called with a need for say, paper towels, &ldquo;the guy is showing up with more paper towels before the principal hangs up the phone.&rdquo;<span style="font-size:10.5pt; font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;color:red"><o:p></o:p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/137054470&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></span></p><p>The private companies now oversee subcontractors that employ thousands of custodians as well as 825 board-funded custodians that are unionized and covered under a contract negotiated by the Service Employees International Union Local 73. SEIU Local 73 did not respond to requests for comment about how the change to Aramark has affected its members.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Communication problems and more &#39;red tape&#39;</strong></span><br /><br />District officials promised the new contract would not only save money, but would also lead to cleaner schools and give principals more time to focus on teaching and learning.<br /><br />But that hasn&rsquo;t happened. Teresa Chrobak- Prince, principal of Hearst Elementary on the Southwest Side, said because &ldquo;nobody knows who&rsquo;s directing who,&rdquo; the responsibility falls back into the principal&rsquo;s lap.<br /><br />When WBEZ spoke with Chrobak- Prince at the end of the first day of school last week, she still didn&rsquo;t know who her Aramark custodial manager was. She also said the new contract has created more red tape.<br /><br />&ldquo;For something as simple as making sure the air-conditioning is regulated, you have to make ten phone calls and send five emails before anything gets done,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just simply go to your engineer and say I need this done because then they have this whole new system and they have to put it in the computer and they have to call their FM and they have to get it approved, and then we have to get three quotes.&rdquo;<br /><br />Norgren of CPS said &ldquo;that should not be happening.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;[Principals] should feel very comfortable directing the custodian that that garbage can needs to be dumped,&rdquo; Norgren said. &ldquo;It shouldn&rsquo;t be this process where they&rsquo;re running it up the flagpole.&rdquo;<br /><br />Norgren says Aramark officials will be meeting with individual principals in the coming weeks to address any problems.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Fewer custodians, cleaner schools?</strong></span><br /><br />CPS officials insist overall cleanliness of schools remains the same, despite reports indicating otherwise and an overall reduction in the custodial workforce.&nbsp;<br /><br />Of those who took the principal survey, 87 percent reported at least one janitor being cut. Additionally, WBEZ spoke with more than a dozen people at schools across the city and nearly all say their school has fewer custodians.<br /><br />&ldquo;As of right now, we have six night custodians, when we used to have ten and only two daytime custodians,&rdquo; said Carolyn Brown, a teacher and parent at Kelly High School. She says at least one of the bathrooms in the school is now only being cleaned once a week.&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;My daughter actually goes to school here and it makes me, the parent in me, cringe at the idea of her going into a bathroom that&rsquo;s only cleaned once a week when we have thousands of people come through this building,&rdquo; Brown added.<br /><br />Jonathan Zielinski, a teacher at Drummond Montessori in Bucktown, said the school used to have four custodians, one for each floor of the building. They now have two.<br /><br />One of them has been at Drummond for more than 20 years and is being reassigned to another school, where he&rsquo;ll take the place of three custodians that were cut over the summer.<br /><br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s not losing his job, but he&rsquo;s losing his family, his community,&rdquo; Zielinski told WBEZ. He added that for a school like Drummond, where the Montessori curriculum requires students to work in very specifically prepared environments, a clean, neat classroom is important. The custodians, like the one being reassigned, play an important role.<br /><br />&ldquo;He knows everybody in this building too,&rdquo; Zielinski said. &ldquo;A stranger walks into this building, [he] will recognize a face or not recognize a face. If I saw somebody who I didn&rsquo;t recognize in the building, I would ask [him] if he knew who they were, because he is here every day, every moment.&rdquo;<br /><br />And the reassignments are just the beginning. Norgren confirmed that roughly 475 custodians will be let go by the end of September. None of the 825 custodial positions covered by SEIU Local 73 will be cut, Norgren said. Many of those positions, like the one at Drummond, have been shifted as a result of the layoffs.<br /><br />Two and a half of those positions will be cut from Dave Belanger&rsquo;s school, Hanson Park.<br /><br />&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see how it would be physically possible for three and a half custodians to clean the campus we have,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />That campus includes four buildings with a total of 65 classrooms.</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> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767 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