$3 million grant to improve middle schools

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The newly created Chicago Consortium for Teacher Development has received a four-year, $3.1 million grant to help 24 middle schools and middle-grade departments improve their curriculum so that students become more involved in learning.

The consortium includes the Illinois Writing Project, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, Algebra Project, Chicago Metro History Education Center, Small Schools Workshop, the Chicago Public Schools and National-Louis University’s Center for City Schools.

The grant comes from the Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, which awarded identical grants to groups in Philadelphia and New York City. The Fund had requested proposals from 15 cities with at least 30,000 students and two professional development organizations. The Fund hopes the initiative will show that, with high-quality professional development, teachers can learn to teach in ways that engage students in critical thinking and problem solving.

The following schools will participate in the first two years of the program: Bright, Cesar Chavez, Field, Goodlow Magnet, Hope, Irving, Jenner, Manniere, Mozart, Niños Heroes, Pulaski, Waters and Whitney Young Magnet High School. Each school will work with the Small Schools Workshop and two other groups of its choice. An additional 12 schools will be selected to join the program in 1998. The program will be evaluated by the Stanford Center on the Context of Teaching.

For more information, contact project director Gail Burnaford at (847) 256-5150, ext. 2342. FAX: (847) 256-7936. E-mail: gailebur@aol.

—Jennifer Randall

Cable program airs teen views on life, media

What began as a research project on how the media cover schools has become a cable TV pilot, Student Voices. A project of the Chicago Education Network (CENter), Student Voices features Chicago high schoolers discussing issues that are important to them: gangs, peer pressure and relationships with adults.

CENter staffers interviewed students from five schools as part of the project, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“What we found … was that the message from the students was so compelling that we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position of trying to retell their stories,” says co-producer Chris Warden.

The first episode aired April 20 on cable Channel 19. In it, two Hyde Park Academy seniors discussed school, media and their lives.

A second episode, to air in late May, features students from Hyde Park, Schurz, Kelly and Mitchell discussing the media’s portrayal of teens and schools. Says Dara Johnson of Schurz, “All they [the media] say is that there’s drugs and gangs and gang fights all the time. But that’s not what there is. … They just look at the bad, they don’t want to turn around and look at the good things we’re doing.” Students also discuss how they are affected by portrayals of teens in the media, and their suggestions for improving TV programming for and about teens.

For more information, contact Chris Warden at (312) 341-3868.

—Jennifer Randall

 

Literacy program nets $1 million to be national model

Project FLAME, a University of Illinois at Chicago program that teaches English literacy skills to Latino parents so they can help their children perform better academically, has won a $1 million grant to teach educators from around the country how to launch similar programs of their own.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will allow FLAME—which stands for Family Literacy: Aprendiendo (Learning), Mejorando (Improving), Educando (Educating)—to host workshops and training sessions. Another $212,000 will pay for a study in which researchers will follow 100 participating families and 80 non-participating families for two years. Also, Kraft Foods, Inc. recently gave FLAME another $50,000 grant for general operations.

In its six years, FLAME has served about 720 families and over 1,500 children in eight Chicago public schools. Developers say the children have made significant gains on standardized tests and need less tutoring and other support services. The program currently employs 30 parents as trainers.

For more information, contact Flora Rodriguez-Brown at (312) 996-3016 or Timothy Shanahan at (312) 413-1914.

—Lorraine Forte