Notebook

September 14, 2005

Footnote
Illustration by Kurt Mitchell
Footnote

Timeline | Elsewhere | In Short

Math Class | Capital Dispatch


TIMELINE

March 24: ACT Charter

The School Board recommends renewing the charter for the Academy of Communications and Technology, a month after threatening to shut it down because of low test scores. A statistician hired by ACT showed that, despite its low scores, the charter was performing better than other West Garfield Park schools. ACT students and supporters turned out to lobby for the school in February. ACT serves 6th- through 12th-graders.

April 21: NCLB

The 2004-05 school year will be the worst year yet for elementary schoolchildren trying to transfer out of failing schools. An estimated 190,000 students will be eligible to transfer to better-performing schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but only 500 seats will be available—one seat for every 380 students. No open seats are available in better-performing high schools. A lottery to decide who can transfer will be held in June.

April 22: Gifted slots

CPS announces plans to add 300 more 1st- and 2nd-grade slots for gifted children at 12 elementary schools: Andersen, Cook, Deneen, Curtis, Gale, Henderson, Fairfield, Nixon, Oglesby, Spencer, Ninos Heroes and Parker. The move is aimed at keeping high-achieving students in neighborhood schools. CPS also will offer 500 new slots for fifth-year seniors through its Virtual High School program, which allows students to take courses over the Internet.

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ELSEWHERE

Texas: Sin taxes

Republican Gov. Rick Perry is facing opposition from his own party over his plan to increase sin taxes to pay for education, according to the April 24 Houston Chronicle. Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst both oppose the idea, and the GOP-controlled Legislature isn't jumping on board with Perry. The governor wants to cut property taxes for more affluent homeowners while increasing cigarette taxes, imposing an admission tax on topless bars and expanding video gambling to racetracks.

California: College prep

A bill now pending in the Legislature would require all high school students to take a college-prep curriculum starting in 2010, according to the April 21 Contra Costa Times.

Students would have to take the minimum requirements for admission to colleges in the state university system. "All of our students need the skills once reserved for our college-bound students," says state Schools Chief Jack O'Connell. In order to pay for the more rigorous coursework, schools would be given more flexibility in how they spend some state funds.

Maryland: Teacher rehires

Schools will no longer be able to rehire retired teachers since lawmakers scrapped a plan aimed at bringing veteran math, science and special education teachers back to struggling schools, according to the April 14 Baltimore Sun. Lawmakers could not agree on reforms to curb misuse of the program. An investigation by the Sun found that many of the rehires were at high-performing schools and some were earning over $100,000 in combined salaries and pension. As many as 1,000 rehired teachers and principals won't return next school year unless they agree to work part time or reduce their pensions.

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IN SHORT

"We may lose some money, we may not, but it's the right thing to do. I don't want to make money and poison kids."

Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan at an April 20 press conference, discussing the board's plan to put healthier food and beverages in vending machines.

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MATH CLASS

$100 million. In February, Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan warned that CPS would have to cut spending by that amount to help balance its 2005 budget. In April, two days before Duncan and Board President Michael Scott joined other school and civic leaders in Springfield to lobby for more school funding, budget officers made the cuts official. Among them: $20 million in administrative costs, which represents about a 10 percent cut in non-school spending and the elimination of over 200 positions; $60 million from local school budgets, by eliminating positions due to a projected decline in student enrollment; and $20 million from grant-funded programs. Meanwhile, at schools on probation, at least $60 million will be shifted to pay for reading coaches, full-day kindergarten and smaller classes in primary grades.

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CAPITAL DISPATCH

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois legislature has approved a bill designed to increase the number of teachers in high-need schools by recruiting parents and teacher aides.

Under a new program called Grow Our Own Teachers, universities would work with school districts, community groups and colleges, and teacher unions to help people already involved with schools become teachers while they remain in their current jobs. The bill would forgive student loans if the newly minted teachers stay in high-need schools for five years. Schools' eligibility would be determined based on the percentage of uncertified teachers and the rate of teacher turnover.

State Sen. Iris Y. Martinez, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the measure, says it would curb high teacher turnover in needy schools and could add 1,000 new teachers by 2016.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill expressed concerns over costs, at a time when the state is facing a projected $1.7 billion deficit. As written, the bill does not include funding, which would have to be appropriated annually.

Many opponents suggested the state should first pay for its proven teacher-training programs, like the Golden Apple Scholars, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut from his budget. Supporters are trying to restore that program's $3.8 million funding.

Blagojevich has until late July to act on the new measure.

Daniel C. Vock

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Notebook

September 12, 2005

Footnote
illustration by Kurt Mitchell
Footnote

Timeline | Elsewhere | In Short

Ask Catalyst | Capital Dispatch


TIMELINE

March 1: Deseg decree

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras says he may end federal oversight of Chicago's desegregation consent decree by 2006. The School Board and the U.S. Department of Justice agree to an interim plan until then, under which the board must meet a number of conditions, including considering new standards for admission to magnet schools and issuing public reports on school-by-school spending.

March 17: LSC update

Thanks to last-minute recruiting, nearly 6,900 parents and community members signed up to run for 5,698 seats in April's local school council elections. It's the lowest number of candidates ever. Three-fourths of schools will have contested elections, and two schools did not have enough candidates for a quorum. Meanwhile, community groups call for legislative hearings on the status of LSCs.

March 18: Hiring policy

To boost teacher recruitment, especially in shortage areas such as math and science, CPS announces new hiring policies. Principals can now make guaranteed job offers to teachers as early as March, and new hires will no longer lose their jobs after the 20th day of school if enrollment does not meet projections. The board also expects to hire more teachers from alternative-certification programs.


ELSEWHERE

New York: Promotion policy

Mayor Michael Bloomberg won approval from the Panel for Educational Policy of his strict new promotion policy for 3rd-graders. Just before the vote, Bloomberg fired and replaced three panel members who were against the plan, according to the March 16 New York Times. Students who score in the lowest quartile on citywide English and math tests will be retained unless they raise their scores after attending summer school.

Philadelphia: Teaching disparity

A federal complaint filed by an advocacy group for parents and students charges that the district violates the civil rights of minority students by allowing a disproportionate number of inexperienced and uncertified teachers to teach in low-income, minority schools. The Education Law Center wants the district to overhaul the assignment process, according to the March 9 Philadelphia Inquirer. The teachers' union contract allows teachers to choose where they work based on seniority. Schools CEO Paul Vallas says the district is working to bring additional highly experienced teachers to poor schools.

North Carolina: Certification

Teachers with National Board certification are more effective in raising students' test scores, a new study reports. Researchers found that students taught by certified teachers scored significantly higher on end-of-year reading and math tests, compared to students whose teachers started but did not finish the certification process, according to the March 10 Raleigh News & Observer. Poor students showed the greatest gains. The study analyzed three years' worth of scores for 3rd- through 5th-graders. North Carolina has more certified teachers than any other state and pays those who earn the credential a 12 percent salary supplement.


IN SHORT

"We'd like to believe that [the board] is good at hiring principals, but we haven't seen a record that indicates that. Until then we'll go with democracy."

Madeline Talbott of Illinois ACORN on the new policy that could put half of schools on probation, giving the board, not LSCs, authority to select those schools' principals.


ASK CATALYST

Our council [is] having a tough time recruiting parents. Several said that they would be interested, as long as they didn't have to worry about missing time from work. Does the law mandate that employers grant time to employees to serve on LSCs?

David Piel, community representative, Gladstone Elementary School

Some employers do grant leave time for school-related matters, but state law does not require them to do so, says Sarah Vanderwicken of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. To accommodate more parents' schedules, alternate between different meeting times or switch off days of the week, suggests William Rice of CPS' LSC relations office.

E-mail your question to or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60604.


CAPITAL DISPATCH

SPRINGFIELD—More than 3,100 people have signed an online petition urging legislators to restore $3.8 million in funding for the Golden Apple Scholars, a scholarship and mentoring program for aspiring teachers that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has proposed cutting from the state's budget.

If funding is cut, 380 students stand to lose $5,000 scholarships next fall. Another 300 new teachers will lose mentors arranged through Golden Apple.

Dominic Belmonte, Golden Apple's director for teacher preparation, calls the program ``the Holy Grail of teacher retention and teacher quality.''

Belmonte says only two out of every 10 graduates from Illinois colleges of education typically teach in Illinois for five years or more, while almost nine out of 10 Golden Apple Scholars complete their five-year commitment to urban schools. Currently, 325 of 420 Golden Apple graduates are teaching in CPS.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch says, "We had to make some tough calls, and this was one of them.''

Daniel C. Vock