Comings and Goings

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MORE SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFF Following dramatic cuts last year, schools may get between 300 and 400 additional special education teachers and aides this fall, says Gretchen Brumley, CPS director of finance for specialized services. Brumley says the additional staff are needed because of changes to students’ Individual Education Plans and the rising percentage of severely disabled students, who require extra help. CPS officials were sharply criticized last year for cutting 2,200 aides and 500 teachers after adopting a new staffing formula. However, many of the positions were re-opened and, by June 2007, schools had only a net loss of about 500 aides and teachers. Advocates say that district is now adding back even more staff after realizing that the cuts were unworkable. Yet Renee Grant-Mitchell, director of the Office of Specialized Services, says the district is simply responding to the ever-changing needs of students. “We wouldn’t want it to be stagnant,” she says.

INTERVENING FOR SCHOOL SUCCESS A new report by the Consortium on Chicago School Research finds that grades and attendance are far better at predicting a student’s chances to graduate than test scores or family background. The report, chock-full of jarring statistics such as the average number of school days missed by freshmen (19.6, just under four weeks), suggests school officials could cut deeply into the dropout rate if interventions were focused on one key group of students: Freshmen with GPAs in the C- to D+ range who miss one or two weeks per semester. Such students, according to the researchers, face 50-50 graduation odds yet rarely get extra help. The report also identifies a number of school climate issues, such as trust between teachers and students and peer support for academic achievement, that impact GPA and attendance. In schools with healthier climates, the gender gap between boys and higher-performing girls is reduced significantly.

COLLEGE-PREP NETWORK Melissa Roderick, co-director of the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research and a professor at the university’s School of Social Service Administration, has joined with colleagues from Harvard University, CPS, and the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement to launch the Network for College Success. Ten schools have been recruited to participate in the program, which will work with principals on school improvement, emphasizing college readiness: Hope, Roosevelt, Kenwood, North Lawndale, North Grand, Jones, Multicultural Arts, Phillips, King and Dyett. The initiative is funded by a $65,000 grant from the McDougal Family Foundation and a $45,000 grant from Polk Bros. Foundation.

CHARTERS AS MENTORS The Illinois Network of Charter Schools is adding a year-long mentoring program to help public schools adopt the innovative practices begun by Charter Up! schools. Three Chicago charters are winners of this year’s Charter Up! award: Providence Englewood for its Parent Enrichment Program, a series of mandatory Saturday morning workshops that aim to help parents get more involved in their child’s education; Noble Street Charter-Pritzker College Prep in Hermosa for Early College Scholars, which prepares students to apply to competitive universities with rigorous academics, mentoring, internships, extracurricular activities and community service; and Catalyst Charter-Howland in North Lawndale for its mandatory after-school Renaissance Program, which aims to improve academic performance and discipline and keep kids off the streets. Kids participate in cultural activities such as dance, arts and music. For more information about charter schools, go to www.incschools.org.

NEW YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLS Fifteen new schools have adopted year-round schedules this year: Banneker, Bond, Johns, Joplin, Kershaw, Mays, Nicholson, Wentworth, Westcott, Woods, and Yale launched a single-track schedule in August; Edwards, Hurley, Lavizzo, and Tonti launched a multi-track schedule (used for overcrowding relief) in July. For more information about year-round schools, go to www.nayre.org.

Comings and Goings

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TEACHER HIRING CPS loses out on hiring many of the strongest applicants for teaching positions, according to a recent report on the district’s teacher hiring and transfer policies by the nonprofit New Teacher Project. Seventy percent of prospective teachers who withdrew their applications cited the late hiring practices as a major deciding factor, according to the study. CPS typically begins hiring in the late spring and into the summer, when top applicants have often secured jobs elsewhere. The report credits CPS for giving principals the right to choose their own teachers. The teacher evaluation process, however, came under fire. Less than 1 percent of teachers receive “unsatisfactory” ratings, and those who do are rarely fired. The study was funded by The Joyce Foundation.

EDISON CONTRACT The for-profit management company Edison Schools Inc. has been awarded a $1.4 million contract to provide consulting services to four elementary schools in Austin: Howe, McNair, Key and Nash. The schools will receive professional development and coaching for teachers, curriculum development and other support to improve instruction.

CHARTERS EXPAND The Chicago Virtual Charter School, which now serves children in kindergarten through 8th grade, will begin adding one grade level each year starting this fall and eventually serve students through 12th grade. A lawsuit filed by the Chicago Teachers Union challenging whether the school is legal and eligible for public funding is still pending. The charter offers online courses with in-class instruction just once per week. …The United Neighborhood Organization, which operates four charters in Chicago, opens Esperanza Charter in New Orleans this month. It will be the first UNO charter outside of Chicago.

AT CLARK STREET Ginger Reynolds, former assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at the Illinois State Board of Education, was named chief officer of research, evaluation and accountability. She replaces Dan Bugler, who is now vice president of research and monitoring for the Atlanta Education Fund. … Joshua Edelman, formerly of The SEED Foundation, has been appointed executive officer of new schools, overseeing the district’s Renaissance 2010 Initiative. (Edelman’s mother is Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.) … Diane Zendejas, former Area 10 instructional officer, is now head of the Office of Language and Cultural Education, replacing Fernando Martinez, who has retired. Drummond Elementary Principal Isabel Mesa Collins takes over as Area 10 instructional officer.

JOINING AMPS The following schools will be joining the Autonomous Management and Performance Schools initiative (AMPS) starting this fall: Lyon, Alcott, Sumner, and Hale elementary schools; Vick and Blair early childhood centers; and Lake View, Chicago Academy and Little Village Multicultural Arts high schools. These nine schools were admitted to AMPS under new guidelines that allow lower-performing schools to apply for the program. Eighteen other schools were chosen earlier this year. There are now a total of 117 schools in AMPS, a program designed to reward better-performing schools with more freedom.

MOVING IN/ON Jill Bradley, former chief program officer at the Carol Robertson Early Childhood Center, has taken over the newly created position of director of early learning support systems at Illinois Action for Children.

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS New contracts have been awarded to: Mark Armendariz, Lincoln; Asuncion Ayala, North Grand; LaWanda Bishop, Kipling; Clyde Burnette, Vaughn; Lori Campbell, Gladstone; Dolores Cupp, Hurley; Erleah July Cyrwus, Belding; Jeffrey Dase, Coles; Matthew Ditto, A. Jackson; Gloria Espinosa, N. Greene; Ellen Estrada, Payton; Reesheda Graham, Hinton; Beverly Greene; Madison; Nneka Gunn, Eberhart; Althea Hammond, Johns; Jacqueline Hearns, Hefferan; Jeannine Jones, Ninos Heroes; Barbara Kargas, Goethe; Katherine Konopasek, De La Cruz; Eliot Konz, Rudolph; Joyce Lockhart-Fisher, Deneen; Mary McNair, Guggenheim; Nancy Mendez, Peirce; Antuanette Mester, Chopin; Ruth Miller, Stagg; Lucja Mirowska, Canty; Richadine Murry Heard, Ashe; Joyce Nelson, New Sullivan; Ida Patterson, Ruggles; Verona Portis, Banneker; Shirley Roach, Manierre; Jorge Ruiz, Whitney; Lorenzo Russell, Ryerson; Michelle Smith, Randolph; Felicia Stewart, G.R. Clark; Marian Strok, Evergreen; Katherine Tobias, Carver Primary/Wheatley; Tonya Tolbert, Mason; Debora Williams, Schmid; Carol Wilson, Brunson; Cindy Wulbert, Nettelhorst; Janice Jackson, Al Raby; John Thomas, Carver Military; JoAnn Thomas Woods, BEST; Tara Shelton, South Loop, Matthew Ditto, Jackson Language Academy.

These principals have had their contracts renewed: Coralia Barraza, Orozco; Lionel Bordelon, Kozminski; Therese Connell, Hale; Monique Dockery, Westcott; Gloria Fullilove, Ericson; Zaida Hernandez, Jungman; John Jones, Cuffe; Sandra Lewis, H. Washington; Virginia Rivera, McCormick; O. Joyce Smith, Richards; Earl Ware, L. Hughes; Paul Zeitler, Sheridan Magnet.