Mandates test teachers

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Most service learning coaches report that teachers feel overwhelmed by other, new School Board mandates and programs.

The Reform Board’s requirements include:

ADVISORY Like an in-depth home room, a group of students is assigned to a teacher who is supposed to stay with them for all four years of high school, working on study skills, social skills and the like. Advisories are aimed at fostering closer ties between teachers and students and ensuring that troubled students don’t fall through the cracks of large high schools.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS Beginning with the class of 2001, required credits increased from 20 to 24. Math increased from two to three credits and science, from one to three. A new two-credit requirement was created for world language. As a result, math and science teachers have to work with weaker students in greater numbers and get them further along. Language teachers are getting weaker students possibly for the first time.

TESTING Many teachers have been forced to change their teaching routines to prepare freshmen and sophomores for the Chicago Academic Standards Exams, which are new end-of-course tests given at the end of each semester. Teachers must grade answers to the constructed-response questions. In addition, students take Band most teachers prepare them for the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency and the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES To comply with the board’s new academic standards for participation in extracurricular activities, sponsors must keep tabs on participants’ grades, and counselors must arrange individual study plans for students who fall short.

PROBATION 37 high schools are working with external partners to retool their schools. This typically includes additional programs, such as before- and after-school tutoring, and test-preparation activities. Some schools are creating schools-within-schools, each with its own curricular focus.

NEW PROGRAMS Fifteen schools are working to launch the International Baccalaureate Program, and 12 have just been designated sites for international language and career academy programs. Several are being converted into college preparatory magnet schools.

BLOCK SCHEDULING The board has encouraged high schools to adopt this practice, but, so far, teachers have had little or no prep time for how to use the blocks effectively.

RECOVERY PROGRAMS These are before- and after-school classes that enable students to make up credit.