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Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Footnote

Timeline | Elsewhere

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Ask Catalyst | Math Class


TIMELINE

Oct. 5: Test delays

State Supt. of Schools Randy Dunn acknowledges that the state is not likely to meet the required Oct. 31 deadline for delivering school report cards, including test results and other information, to parents and the general public. Scoring problems and last spring’s late delivery of the tests to schools are to blame. The state board votes to penalize test publisher Harcourt Assessment and transfer most of the firm’s duties to Pearson Educational Measurement.

Oct. 7: Rivals agree

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) join education leaders to call for more state funding for education, saying the issue transcends politics. Funding reform has so far not been a major issue in the race for governor. Incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich and GOP challenger Judy Baar Topinka have both said they would not raise the state income tax, a move that education advocates say is essential to funding reform.

Oct. 12: More grads

The Consortium on Chicago School Research revises numbers from its recent study on college graduation rates for CPS students, but some of the corrected figures are still dismal. The study said only 6 percent of CPS graduates earn college degrees by their mid-20s, but the Consortium now says the figure should be 8 percent. The percentage of all CPS grads who eventually earn a degree was originally reported as one-third, but the new figure is just 45 percent.

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ELSEWHERE

Los Angeles: Military leader

An ex-Navy admiral with no education background will be superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District, according to the Oct. 13 Los Angeles Times. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he was “deeply disappointed” that the School Board chose retired Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III without including him in the process. Villaraigosa and the board had clashed over how much authority he would have over the selection. A new law giving the mayor veto power over the hiring of the superintendent, and substantial control over the district, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2007. The district is challenging the law.

Ohio: Increase funding

Ohioans say the state should increase spending for public education, according to a new poll reported in the Oct. 3 Cleveland Plain Dealer. About 80 percent of respondents said they want more money for education, more than the percentage that said they wanted more funding for economic development, courts and prisons, or health care for elderly and the poor. A majority of respondents also said they oppose the use of public money for private school vouchers.

Texas: Bonuses rejected

More than two dozen schools turned down state grants for a merit pay program for teachers, reports the Oct. 3 Dallas Morning News. The program gives teachers the authority to approve the plan at their schools. Teachers at schools that turned down the money said the program would create animosity and division among staff and was too time-consuming to administer. The program calls for low-income schools to distribute bonuses based on test scores.

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IN SHORT

“You can save a lot of grief and money if teachers understand the kinds of minds in their classrooms.”

Dr. Mel Levine of the University of North Carolina Medical School, on how school districts might benefit if teachers knew how the brain functions and adapted lessons to accommodate children’s strengths and weaknesses. Levine spoke at an Oct. 5 luncheon hosted by High Jump, an enrichment program for middle-school students.

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ASK CATALYST

It’s difficult to get good teachers at low-performing schools. Why doesn’t CPS offer bonuses to teachers who take jobs at low-performing schools and raise test scores?

Tony Wilkins, community representative, Canter Middle School

CPS recently applied for a $29 million federal grant to give bonuses to staff at struggling schools that improve test scores. The program would start in 10 schools next year and expand to 40 by 2011. Bonuses for teachers would average about $4,000 and would be based on a performance evaluation, test score growth in the classroom and schoolwide score gains. Schools will have to obtain the approval of 75 percent of the faculty to participate.

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart opposes merit pay in general, saying too many factors that teachers can’t control, such as parental support, have an impact on student achievement. Better working conditions, such as lower class sizes, would do more than bonuses to attract and keep good teachers in underperforming schools, she insists.

Paying teachers based on student performance is a growing trend. Florida, Texas and Alaska recently adopted cash bonuses for teachers based on student test scores.

E-mail your question to askcat@catalyst-chicago.org

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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MATH CLASS

African-American and Hispanic students are underrepresented in gifted programs in Illinois, while whites are overrepresented, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2003 (the latest data available), enrollment in gifted programs was 12% black, 8% Hispanic, 74% white and 6% other races, primarily Asian. However, statewide student enrollment is 21% black, 17% Hispanic, 58% white and 4% Asian/other.

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Notebook

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Footnote

Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Footnote

Timeline | Elsewhere

| In Short

Ask Catalyst | Math Class


TIMELINE

Sept. 5: First Day

Almost 385,000 CPS students attend the first day of school, a record 93 percent attendance rate, up from 92 percent last year. The district says that first-day attendance has risen 17 percentage points since 2000, boosting state aid. Officials also announce another round of attendance incentives. The year also begins with 14 new schools under Renaissance 2010; new English, math and science curricula at 15 high schools; and 107 new principals, the largest number of newcomers ever.

Sept. 6: Preschools

Using $17 million in new funding from the state, CPS will provide preschool slots for 2,500 additional children this year, including 700 3- and 4-year-olds in public schools and 1,800 youngsters in community-based preschools. Many of the new slots will be created in predominantly Latino schools. Some schools will add a third shift of classes to accommodate more students. The grant, from the new Preschool for All initiative, will also be used to improve community-based infant and toddler programs.

Sept. 12: Kindergarten

Illinois unveils a list of 172 skills that kindergarteners should learn to do. The state has had similar lists of specific goals for grades l through 12, but nothing for kindergarten until now. The list covers language arts, math, science, social science, physical development and health, fine arts, foreign language and social/emotional development. One example: in language arts, children should be able to read simple, common words; in math, they should be able to estimate numbers of objects in a group.

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ELSEWHERE

Los Angeles: Mayoral takeover

A new state law gives Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa substantial control over the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to the Sept. 19 Los Angeles Times. Villaraigosa will be a member of a council comprised of local mayors (L.A. includes a number of municipalities) that will oversee the district’s budget and hire and fire the superintendent. He will also have direct control of three high schools and their feeder schools. The School Board plans to challenge the law.

Maryland: Incentive Pay

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. plans to institute a teacher incentive pay program if he is reelected in November, reports the Sept. 5 Baltimore Sun. Officials say the program would be modeled after one adopted in Minnesota, which is voluntary and lets school districts design their own pay scales. The Maryland State Teachers Association opposes the plan. Ehrlich faces Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who opposes incentive pay and says he supports giving all teachers competitive salaries and benefits.

Tennessee: Creating more grads

To increase Tennessee’s high school graduation rate, Gov. Phil Bredesen has proposed a plan that includes free tuition at community colleges for graduates who score at least 19 on the ACT test, reports the Sept. 13 Memphis Commercial Appeal. The plan also includes assigning a truancy officer to each high school and developing individualized learning plans for every incoming freshman.

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IN SHORT

“The only reason I have only one [class] not at the maximum is because seven kids haven’t shown up.”

Social studies teacher Victor Harbison to Catalyst staff on overcrowding at Gage Park High, where Interim Principal Martin McGreal was fired for refusing a board directive to enroll additional students. Five of Harbison’s missing students have since shown up, putting all of his classes over class size limits.

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ASK CATALYST

I’m a physical education teacher at two CPS schools with limited equipment and money. My students need exposure to a variety of activities to keep them fit. Are there grants that might help?

Anonymous teacher

Yes. You can apply for a grant of up to $6,000 from the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Recipients have used the money to buy a variety of indoor and outdoor equipment, says David Thomas, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Recreation at Illinois State University in Normal, who helps select the grant winners. Most applicants get some money, though Thomas says “it may not be all they want.” The only catch: You must join the association, at a cost of $45. (See www.iahperd.org) In addition, any teacher can solicit small donations for special projects at www.donorschoose.org or research grant opportunities at the Donors Forum of Chicago (www.donorsforum.org). The district received funding from the U.S. Department of Education through the physical education program grant initiative during the last two fiscal years, but was turned down this year, says Alyson Cooke, CPS director of external resources. According to the Dept. of Education website, funding for the program was cut.

E-mail your question to askcat@catalyst-chicago.org

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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MATH CLASS

Midwestern states have become less dependent on local property taxes to pay for public education, but still rely more heavily on them than other regions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2003, 35% of the revenue for elementary and secondary schools in the Midwest came from local property taxes, down from 45% in 1990. Only Northeastern states are more dependent on the property tax; in 2003, 45% of K-12 revenue in that region came from property taxes.

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