The newly created Chicago Consortium for Teacher Development has received a four-year, $3.1 million grant to help 24 middle schools and middle-grade departments improve their curriculum so that students become more involved in learning.
MOVING IN/ON Bill Utter has been named to the new post of general manager of CPS-TV. Formerly assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley and before that assistant manager of WBBM-TV, Utter will oversee television production at CPS and re-evaluate the district’s programming on public access Channel 21. … Mary Sue Barrett, chief of staff for the School Reform Board of Trustees and formerly policy chief for the mayor, has left the school system to serve as president of the Metropolitan Planning Council. … Vanessa Fraction, a junior and student member of the Harper High School LSC, has been named the student member of the Reform Board.
In the first election, in 1989, says Acker, “There were parents coming in to run for the LSC who I didn’t know, parents not real active in the school. People thought at first they could just come in and tell teachers what to do.” Thanks to LSNA and CCLD training since then, she says, “We’re getting more positive people. They know they have to be committed to their position because of the long hours and the importance of the decisions being made.”
Another staff member, who asked not to be identified, voices suspicions that LSC is being manipulated. “Some of these people can’t count past 1,000, and they are in charge of the budget,” she says. “I want to know if they’ve had training in these areas, or is the principal telling them what to cut and what not to cut. I don’t think the council is aware of its power. And you can keep them that way if you get people like Harris, who acknowledges she doesn’t know what to do.”
From lists supplied by the School Board and the funded organizations, Catalyst identified 191 schools that received help from one or more CBOs. The number of parent candidates at those schools averaged 8.9, compared to an average of 7.9 for non-targeted schools, according to the Urban League analysis. However, that one-candidate difference shrank to insignificance when schools’ enrollments and attendance rates were taken into account.
The article regarding merit pay that appeared in the March 1996 Catalyst contained comments and assumptions not necessarily based on fact. To suggest that only IEA [Illinois Education Association] opposition caused Springfield leaders to “put on the brakes” diminishes the vocal and effective efforts by both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union to halt this onerous legislation. It took the combined efforts of all of us, including the Chicago Public Schools, to slow down both House Bill 1000 and Senate Bill 1239, the bills amended to contain Arnold Weber’s pay-plan language. Depending on the whims of the House and Senate leadership, merit pay could still pass before the end of session.
Chicago is among 25 districts nationwide that use the format. A growing number of schools across the city have been using it since 1990, when Haberman, at the invitation of the Chicago Teachers Union, began training 25 to 30 principals and teachers each year to use it at their schools. Ideally, Haberman says, a principal and a faculty member would interview prospective teachers as a team. (Haberman also is a member of the Catalyst Editorial Board.)
In 1991, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. surveyed teachers across the country and asked them what would have helped them most during their first years on the job. The top response, given by 47 percent of teachers, was “an experienced mentor teacher assigned to provide advice.” (Another 39 percent said “more practical training,” and 13 percent said “better training in working with students and families from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.”)
The 34-year-old McMorris, son of a school principal and a dance teacher, represents the cutting edge among novice teachers today—older, eager, a career-changer. (The average age of teachers new to Chicago public schools this year is 32.) Yet McMorris says that to some extent, he was hobbled by an education that shortchanged him in hands-on experience and nitty-gritty information.
The support they receive on the job proves inadequate. “This is a sink or swim model,” observes Michelle Parker, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “New people are expected to perform like 20-year veterans, which doesn’t happen in other professions, like law or medicine. It’s stupid.” Lately, authorities in Chicago and Springfield, following a nationwide trend, have taken steps to institute a period of induction, or an apprenticeship, for new teachers. Meanwhile, education colleges have begun to adjust their programs to give their students more hands-on experience before they hit the hard realities of city schools.
Human Resources also has vowed to go after the best and the brightest ed-school graduates; as evidence, it notes increased efforts to recruit from such prestigious institutions as Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. That’s worth doing. But less selective universities will remain Chicago’s primary suppliers of new teachers. Human Resources could add a little fire to their reforms by issuing report cards. In response to a Catalyst request, the department disclosed how many new teachers it had hired from each institution. Three years from now, it would be good to see how many from each institution remain in Chicago classrooms.