Chicago part of new education lab, Renaissance schools proposed

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NEW RESEARCH CENTER   A plan to pay 9th-graders at 20 high schools for earning good grades got widespread attention locally, but little was said about the $44 million, three-year initiative known as Education Innovation Laboratory that spawned the idea. Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. are participating in the initiative, which will be based at Harvard University and brings together scholars from a variety of academic fields to study ways to improve education with innovate practices and rigorous research. Harvard University economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. will lead the effort, which has already garnered $6 million from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

RENAISSANCE PROPOSALS CEO Arne Duncan is recommending 20 new Renaissance schools for approval by the School Board. The district is also proposing more turnarounds to be operated by the Academy for Urban School Leadership; Chicago RISE, a subsidiary of Chicago International Charter Schools; and Victory Schools, a company that already manages two of Chicago International’s charter campuses. (See “Anyone want a turnaround?” in Catalyst, April 2008.) These high schools would open in fall 2009: Alcott High School for the Humanities; Urban Prep Academy for Young Men-East Garfield Park; Career Academy for Advanced Technology; Chicago Talent Development High School-West Garfield Park; Chicago Hope Academy; EPIC Academy-South Chicago; Noble Street Charter, Chicago Bulls and Muchin campuses; Ogden High School.  These elementary schools would open in fall 2009: Garfield Park Preparatory Academy; South Loop of South Shore; Noble Street Charter, Bain-NUSH; Chicago International Charter-Riverdale; UNO Charter-Gage Park. These high schools would open in fall 2010: Social Justice High School-PrideCampus; Urban Prep Academy for Young Men; Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy; Noble Street Charter-Osborn; UNO Charter-Gage Park; Transportation Academy of Chicago.

ALGEBRA TOO SOON?   Low-performing students who take algebra in 8th grade typically enter these classes performing seven grade levels below other students, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to mastering algebraic concepts and impeding teachers’ ability to serve both groups of students, according to a recent report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. To gauge students’ performance, researchers analyzed 4th-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for students who took 8th-grade algebra. In Chicago, where 4th-grade NAEP math scores lag significantly behind the rest of the nation, the number of students enrolled in 8th-grade algebra is on the rise. However, the district has adopted strategies such as double-period algebra to boost learning.

MOVING IN, ON   Chris Angus has been promoted to co-executive director of Project Exploration, the nonprofit science education group co-founded by noted paleontologist Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago.

AT CLARK STREET   Patrick Baccellieri, former deputy officer in the Instructional Design and Assessment office, is the new area instructional officer for elementary turnarounds in the Office of School Turnarounds.  Baccellieri’s replacement has not been named.

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS   Valerie Bratton of Wacker and Eunice Madon of Steinmetz have had their contracts renewed. … The following interim principals have been selected as contract principals: Sakinah Abdal-Saboor, Delano; Sharon Brown-Hanes, Lewis; Alice Buzanis, Sherwood; Sonja James, Parkman; Rhonda Larkin, Lathrop; Edward Podsiadlik, Clissold; Jacqueline Wilson-Thomas, Robinson; and Margaret Snyder, Warren. 

AFTER-SCHOOL WEBSITE   Students and families can find out about afterschool programs in their community at a new website launched by the Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services, http://www.afterschoolchicago.org/.  Users put in their address or zip code and select an area of interest, such as careers, to find nearby programs on an interactive map that shows school- and community-based offerings, with contact phone numbers and other information.

ELSEWHERE  In New Orleans, several low-performing schools in the state-run Recovery School District are expected to become charter schools in the next few years, according to the Oct. 1 Times-Picayune. Top-performing schools will also be given the option to apply to become charters. The plan needs approval from the Louisiana State Board of Education, and would give New Orleans the highest percentage of charter school students of any city in the country—55 percent. … In Baltimore, Schools Chief Andres Alonso has ordered high schools to track down all students who have dropped out and make efforts to re-enroll them, according to the Sept. 18 Baltimore Sun.  Alonso said it is not acceptable for schools to let students leave school without a fight to keep them. Schools must make at least one phone call to each of the 925 students who have dropped out since January, then make home visits.