Huberman claims progress in creating “culture of calm” in schools

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Fifty fewer CPS students have been shot and 10 fewer killed this school
year, according to Chicago Public Schools officials. Fifty fewer CPS students have been shot and 10 fewer killed this school year, according to Chicago Public Schools officials.

“Are we happy? No,” says CEO Ron Huberman, but it is one of the statistics he is touting as he makes a case for the success of his major initiative—improving the safety and security of students.

In September, Huberman announced that he was going to spend $60 million of federal stimulus funds over two years to try to stem the violence that victimizes and is sometimes perpetrated by CPS students.

A powerpoint released Wednesday shows that Huberman has scaled down his plan substantially in some areas and has only started to get the money out to the schools and communities. Several of the key components are in the Request for Proposal stage.

However, the allocation of funds should speed up soon. The $30 million devoted to the project this year must be spent by September. At the June Board of Education meeting there will several contracts awarded, Huberman says.

And how the money is being spent has changed over the school year. For example, Huberman originally said he was going to award 38 schools “culture of calm” grants to do what principals thought was needed to lessen violence among their students. The powerpoint reveals that Huberman and his team instead decided to “pilot” culture transformations in six schools. The pilot schools are Robeson, Manley, Farragut, Harlan, Julian and Clemente.

The chief area officers are leading smaller-scale transformations in the other 32 schools, but it is unclear what kind of resources the CAOs are being given and what they are doing.

Yet Huberman says the project is already making a difference. Between January and April, the six pilot schools have seen dramatic changes. According to Huberman, about 46 percent fewer students were shot from these schools, 77 percent fewer students have committed misconducts and 14 percent fewer are failing. He also claims there is a slight improvement in attendance.

It is worth noting, however, that there’s no way to fact-check this information. Also, officials have been vague about what they are doing at these schools to spur a change. The culture of calm vision includes such things as “students are enthusiastic to come to school” and “the activities include positive behavior reinforcement.”

Another new part of the plan is the student safety center. This is a central location where principals, school security and police can get safety-related information in real time.

Mike Shields, head of safety and security, says that this year the department has spent a lot of time working on “gathering intelligence” about gangs and potential violent behavior.  

The other crucial part of Huberman’s plan is to provide mentoring for those students deemed most at risk og being shot. Between 1,500 to 2,000 students were to get mentors through community agencies. CPS officials and a blue ribbon committee are still in the process of deciding which community agencies will get contracts to do the work.

But without a request for proposal, within weeks of his September announcement, Huberman put $5 million in the hands of Youth Advocacy Program, an organization from Philadelphia, to provide mentoring for 200 students deemed at the highest risk.

Huberman, a former police officer, had determined who these students were through a statistical model.  One question Huberman has yet to answer: how accurate was this model in predicting who was shot?