Take 5: To PARCC or not, Magic’s summer jobs, LEARN rejected

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The odds are that all CPS students will probably end up taking the new PARCC exam, though leaders at one point said they would defy the state and have just 10 percent of schools participate. Angry state officials later wrote a letter saying that they would pull funding from any school district that fails to give the PARCC, and CPS reportedly could lose $1 billion for failing to test all students.

State officials believe CPS will change their minds and CPS schools are being told to prepare to take it, according to a Tribune report. Also, CPS is doing an inventory of computers, since the test is computer-based; (surprisingly, that shows central office doesn’t know each school’s computer capacity).

Wendy Katten, leader of Raise Your Hand, a parent group advocating for a delay of PARCC and a revision, says she and other parents don’t know what to think. She suggested that CPS officials may be waiting til after the municipal election next week to make a final decision. But, before then, the parent advocates want to put pressure on the state to stop threats, which she thinks might be overblown. On Thursday, they will hold a protest at the Thompson Center where they will carry “anti-bullying” signs. “Bundle up and come join us,” she says.

2. A little magic… Magic Johnson and some of his partners are going to announce this morning that they plan to contribute $10 million over two years for a major expansion of a summer jobs program for truants, dropouts and delinquents. Students also get a mentor. Students involved in the program, paid for by the city and county for the past couple of years, commit half as many crimes as those who applied but didn’t get in, according to a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania.

This is one of several programs for which Mayor Rahm Emanuel has secured private funding. In his second-term speech, Emanuel said he wanted to raise money for a summer program to help students transition from eighth grade to high school, as well as to support giving principals more autonomy. But the danger is that these programs will disappear when the money runs out. In Emanuel’s first term, he announced that a group of philanthropists would support principal bonuses, but now that the five years of funding is running out, those bonuses might be going away.

It also is interesting that Magic Johnson is providing this support now. Over the past two years, five for-profit schools for dropouts bearing his name have opened in Chicago.

3. No thanks….  A school district in Chicago Heights Elementary unanimously rejected a proposal from LEARN Charter School Network last week to open a new campus in that southern suburb. The proposed school would have served one of every seven students in that district, according to a story in the Daily Southtown. Parents and teachers had been organizing against the LEARN proposal for weeks and collected some 1,500 signatures in an online petition.

Despite the rejection, LEARN may still open up a new school anyway. That’s because the group expects to appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which has the power to authorize new schools even when districts vote against them. So far, the Commission has approved a total of four schools, including two in Chicago. A bill that would prevent the Commission from overturning charter school applications without voter approval was narrowly voted down in the state House last year.

4. Something new … The former CPS central office at 125 S. Clark St. is poised to house food truck chefs, a vinyl record shop and other retail and food joints, Crain’s reports. Meanwhile, the development group Blue Star Properties plans to offer loft office space in the upper floors of the historic building designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.

After finalizing the purchase of the property this month for some $28 million, Greg Golden and his partners say they want to “redefine the traditional work environment for today’s modern urban professional by presenting chic industrial office layouts, in addition to an inviting outdoor terrace, an in-house artisanal coffee lounge, a fitness center, a florist and a salon, amongst other offerings.

5. Teacher gender bias… The New York Times recently highlighted a study suggesting that the under-representation of women in math and science professions may be rooted in unconscious bias on the part of teachers. The study, released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, followed three groups of students in Israel from sixth grade to the end of high school. Researchers found that girls were given better math scores than their male counterparts when their tests were graded anonymously, but when teachers saw their names, the results were reversed.

This bias seriously affects girls’ choices in the long run, the report found, as students who receive positive encouragement are much more likely to pursue more advanced courses of study. Though the study was limited to Israel, the paper’s co-author said, similar research has been conducted and met the same results in Europe and the United States.

  • Concerned Parent

    The tech survey our clerk was forced to do was horrendous. She wanted to quit
    – numbers were all wrong-some items were at other schools. She called one
    office, they said one thing, then another office told her something different.
    They could have started this last way last year. The rush may even make what is
    there more innacurate.

  • Concerned Parent

    On Learn Charter – to Chicago Heights parents: Don’t send your children there. No students, no money leaving your public school to go to a charter.
    Stand united. Don’t bend, don’t send

    • lesson22

      Absolutely. They have built their whole existence based on lies. They initially said they could do more, educate better with fewer dollars. The media and others, such as many politicians and celebrities had and have bought into this. Now charters want more dollars and they have successfully made charters into FOR profit schools. “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.” The part that gets me is even though the people in the area have said, through a democratic process, that they don’t want this charter in their community, LEARN have basically said to them, “We don’t care about what you want! We are going to give you this based on what WE want!” Money and clout is at play here, not what’s best for the community or the children they claim they want to help educate. Arrogance at its best.

    • Jzzyj

      Totally agree, the community needs to mobilize and collectively not apply, demand that current district offer whatever is believed that the charter may offer; due to the swift onset of charters and hoodwinking Chicago had a difficult time with over throwing charters before they became too large in numbers! Good Luck!

  • newnodm

    I would send my child to a Learn school without hesitation. Their graduates are prepared for high school. Learn has more instruction, and is more demanding than neighboring traditional schools. That difference is highly meaningful over nine years.
    Few children from higher need areas will have a real opportunity for a professional career attending schools run with the typical teachers contract. Parents should take advantage of demanding schools like Learn when it is a good fit for their child and consistent with their goals as parents.

    • Tim

      There is no transparency with how charters spend public money, no accountability for attendance or how special education students are treated. Support the public schools that are there in the first place, rather than underfund and undercut them, then point to how they failed. Studies do not show charters performing better than regular public schools; where they do perform better, student selection is a bigger factor than teaching methods.