Chicago Panel issues Initiative Status Reports

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Parents as Teachers First

The report focuses on training in this $1.8 million home-visitation program, which is planned to serve 2,000 toddlers this school year.

Quality of training materials

Board-provided training materials are high quality, but are not always available to the Parent Tutor Mentors (PTMs).

Monitors report that not all materials are age-appropriate.

Nature of training activities

Curriculum training sessions demonstrated high variability across individual schools, with greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness. Variability can be seen in the following three areas: structure, depth, and focus.

Monthly training sessions focus on professional development and job training rather than on preparing PTMs to work with children.

Late starters miss the 7-week summer training session.

Roles of participants

The PTMs are fulfilling their responsibilities, though many are serving fewer families than originally stipulated.

The need for a parent assistant in each school is uncertain.

Liaisons play different roles in the schools.

An active, dedicated Monitor is necessary for effective training.

Many Parents As Teachers First (PATF) participants feel the Board is not contributing adequate resources for the program to be successful.

Accountability

PTMs are showing up in the homes, sometimes even in unsafe situations.

Employment opportunity

PATF leaders are working to make the job of a PTM feel like a real job.

Some schools believe the primary goal of PATF is job training for PTMs rather than providing services to at-risk children.

Board-school communication

Methods

Email is not being used effectively.

The fax machine is useful for direction communication, but is often tied up with non-essential faxes.

Volume

Many schools’ staff are unable to filter the communication received before it reaches the principal.

The fax machine at most schools is overworked.

Objectives

Principals report that formal guidance concerning specific policies is not always sufficient for effective implementation. (For example, some new policies conflict with old ones.)

Schools’ communication regarding technical assistance and support services from the Board is often inadequate and labor-intensive.

Schools are overwhelmed by multiple Board requests for students data and other information.

In general

Despite the existing problems, most principals believe that the communication process has improved since the 1995 school reform legislation.

Most principals believe that school communication is hindered by poor coordination within the Board and between the Board and the region offices.

More experienced principals have developed methods for expediting communication relating to school business and activities.

Small Schools

This report deals with implementation efforts of the 23 small schools that received $10,000 planning grants from the Reform Board in 1996. It looks at the essential features identified by small school advocates.

Size: No more than 350 students in elementary schools and 500 in high schools.

All schools meet the size requirement.

Cohesion: A cohesive faculty supported by parents.

The school mission matters and teachers use it.

Faculty are regularly consulted on school decisions.

Small school staff report high levels of professional collaboration.

Small school staff can build cohesion with or without strong parent involvement and support.

Autonomy: A substantial amount of autonomy in regard to curriculum, budget, personnel and other organizational measures.

Schools consistently report high levels of autonomy on curricular issues.

Small school staff have moderate autonomy over personnel decisions.

Few small schools have substantial budgetary autonomy.

Small school staff report specific elements of autonomy, but seldom report overall autonomy.

Teacher-principal relationships, not structure, most influence staff perceptions of autonomy.

Curricular focus: A curricular focus that provides a continuous curriculum across a range of grants.

Small schools are implementing the curricula outlined in the initial proposal.

Schools with clearly defined academic focus show more progress at integrating curriculum across subjects and grades than schools with an abstract or philosophical focus.

Small school staff report that their school is presenting a continuous curriculum.

Admissions: An inclusive admissions policy that does not discriminate but gives weight to student and parental commitments to the school’s mission.

All small schools have implemented an open admissions policy: first come first serve, and lottery.