The latest on central office activities

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ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE GETS GRILLED The Office of Accountability, which is charged with monitoring schools on probation, got a grilling itself recently from a usually supportive School Reform Board of Trustees.

After hearing Intervention Director Phil Hansen explain that staff would visit schools to see whether they were doing what they said they were going to do, board member Gene Saffold demanded: “Isn’t there a qualitative aspect to this? I mean, how can we make sure that we’re doing these things well?”

School monitors will have checklists, Hansen responded.

After a moment of silence, Board President Gery Chico pressed Hansen further. “I think what Gene’s trying to ask is, how do we measure the quality of these corrective actions?”

“We’re relying on the probation managers,” Accountability Chief Pat Harvey chimed in, explaining the role the managers were supposed to play.

But Chico persisted: “I mean, what do you expect to see under ‘improved classroom management’? How do you know that it’s done? How do you propose to measure ‘increased teacher collaboration’?”

Again Harvey responded: “Well, you have to have a system in place that allows that to happen.”

Then, board member Tariq Butt, who rarely speaks in public, took over: “When you say progress, how do you define that?”

After several more rounds on the subject, Chico curtly concluded: “We’ll get back to you next month … but we’ll be watching.”

HUNDREDS APPLY FOR OPERATIONS MANAGERS More than 238 individuals have applied for 38 slots as operations managers at high schools on probation.

As Catalyst went to press, Dunbar, Orr, Roosevelt, Senn and Near North high schools had hired operations managers; six other schools were waiting for board approval of their choices.

Eight schools requested business managers, who handle only financial affairs and have no line authority over staff. “Four already had people acting as business managers and wanted to keep them, and four more schools requested a business manager, not an operations manager,” explains Katie Kelly, a consultant from the Financial Research and Advisory Committee (FRAC), which is managing the searches for the Office of Accountability.

The remaining 19 high schools are expected to make their selections by the first week in April.

EXTERNAL PARTNERS TO BE EVALUATED Last year, the school system paid the University of Illinois Urban School Improvement Program in Champaign $75,000 to evaluate the external partners that are working with schools on remediation and probation.

But the Office of Accountability didn’t like what it got, so it has taken over the task itself. “We were looking for specific examples of what external partners were doing,” explains Intervention Chief Phil Hansen. “The report from the University of Illinois was too general.”

Since then, the Office of Accountability has been exploring with the partners and principals whether the partners have been doing what they said they would do.

As Catalyst went to press, Hansen said the Direct Instruction program of Malcolm X College, the School Achievement Structure program of DePaul University and the Chicago Education Alliance program of Roosevelt University would be recommended for another year, pending the results of their schools’ test scores this spring.