Eleven of the 28 meet the criterion that placed 109 schools on probation: less than 15 percent of their students meet national norms on a nationally standardized reading test. School officials say other factors kept these schools off probation.
The council was created in May 1995 by the Illinois Legislature to bring some independence to evaluation of Chicago’s public schools. Specifically, its job is to develop and implement a comprehensive system of review, evaluation and analysis of Chicago schools; it may also recommend schools for closure, probation, remediation and commendation.
However, unlike the current administration of the Chicago public schools, Maraldi never focused on test scores. “I have always told my teachers to forget the scores on the Iowa tests,” she says. Instead, Maraldi prodded her staff to shore up their own weaknesses and then made students and parents more responsible by requiring mastery of the 8th-grade curriculum a prerequisite for graduation to high school.
MOVING IN/ON The CityWide Coalition for School Reform, which once drew scores of educators and activists to retreats and meetings, has dissolved for lack of participation. Executive Director Lafayette Ford says the group could not adjust to keep up with the fast pace of the new administration. Grace Troccolo now is an intern in the board’s Office of High School Restructuring, and Dion Miller Perez works for the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group. Coalition convenor Anne Hallett says reform activists are thinking about what they need to keep active and united. … Jacqueline Simmons, formerly principal of Robeson High in Englewood and assistant director of High School Services and Support, is now working for the Illinois State Board of Education to help develop its new School Quality Review program.
TAMPER WITH SCORE SHEETS As happened in Fairfield, Conn., someone can erase wrong answers and fill in correct answers. In Fairfield, though, a “crime lab, a retired judge, a nationally known testing expert, and a firm of private investigators headed by an ex-FBI agent” had yet to finger a culprit, according to Teacher magazine, leaving the possibility that it was simply a bunch of smart kids that made a lot of errors and caught their own mistakes.
For three years in a row, fewer than half of Dodge students had met state goals on the state IGAP tests, which put the school on the watch list. Further, the percentage of students who met the goals had been declining, which prompted the Chicago School Reform Board as well to put Dodge on remediation. But in 1996, the percentage shot up 19 points, topping the 50 percent mark. So long, watch list.
In a 1995 report, the McClier Corporation identified 36 Chicago schools as being in such bad shape that replacing them would be more economical than fixing them up; neither Keller nor the Cabrini schools are among them. Indeed, Ferguson is one of only 31 schools classified by McClier as being in good condition. Larry Justice, the board’s capital planning chief, says the board is considering replacing several of the 36 but acknowledges that only the Keller and Cabrini projects have the board’s commitment. The board also has no current commitments to relieve overcrowding in high schools. Paul Vallas says he is “very concerned” about jam-packed schools like Juarez High in Pilsen but that school officials are still weighing the options.
In early October, school officials said that that process would not be necessary for teachers who do not follow their schools’ modified school improvement plans. In those cases, officials said, Vallas and the board could remove teachers directly; the teachers then would go into the reserve teacher pool and have to apply for vacancies in other schools. If no principal hired them, central office would assign them to short-term positions.
In its early days, Boys Tech, as it was known then, specialized in a brand of vocational education that fed students directly into waiting jobs in one of the city’s many blue-collar industries. The nature of work has changed, however, so the school itself is retooling.
“It used to be that we had the large industries where there were jobs available,” explains Chuck Howard, who coordinates the school-to-work program at Milwaukee Tech. “Then the economy changed, and the industry jobs moved out of the area.”
And at Milwaukee Trade and Technical High School, students in the print shop work daily on state-of-the-art equipment in class before leaving for part-time jobs, where they are paid to further learn the printing trade.
These activities are more than lures to interest students in school or introduce them to jobs. Rather, they are part of a districtwide program aimed at reforming curriculum and instruction from kindergarten through high school. Called School-to-Work: Learning for Life, the program was launched in 1993 by then-Supt. Howard Fuller, who wanted to boost academic achievement and college attendance while, at the same time, preparing students to be competitive in the job market.
For Cornejo, college might not have been in the picture without Edge/Up, a school-to-work program based at Senn and Lake View high schools. In 1995, Edge/Up was the only Illinois program to win federal funding under the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. “Victor’s attendance and grades were poor,” says Julia Suarez, Cornejo’s mother and a parent organizer for Alternatives, Inc., an Edgewater community organization that oversees Edge/Up. “After he started going to this program, his attitude changed. He started to go to school every day. Now he’s even thinking about college. He’s getting the information.”
Shell spent $2 million to construct and equip the academy, which opened in September and now serves 30 students, 15 each from Hirsch High and Simeon Vocational High. Maximum capacity will be 75 students each semester. To be accepted into the program, students fill out an application and interview with both their home school and academy staff. They also must have a grade-point average of at least 2.2.
In 1994, representatives from some 30 unions, businesses, community organizations, the Board of Education, City Colleges of Chicago and the mayor’s office set out to write the grant proposal with the help of a $70,000 planning grant. The overall goal was to organize clusters of businesses, schools and community groups to provide career training in specific industries, says Barbara Buell, then-associate director of the Chicago Panel on School Policy and a co-chair of the group. Schools that wanted to launch programs would be matched with outside partners.
Since 1992, researchers have been following some 1,000 students from 33 schools in 12 urban, rural and suburban communities across the country. The study, which is ongoing, aims to find out how young people form their ideas about work and how those ideas change over time. Preliminary results, outlined in the Oct. 2 issue of Education Week, are due to be published next year.
Add-ons vs. integral change
“Voc-ed has been allowed to deteriorate over the last 10, 20 years,” says Charles Vietzen, who resigned after a brief stint as vocational education director to return as principal of Hubbard High in Chicago Lawn. Reviving programs will require “making up for years of neglect,” he adds. “It’s a mammoth project, and it’s not going to be done in a year or two.”
The Milwaukee Board of Education has embraced school-to-work, reports writer Curtis Lawrence. Like Vallas, though, it is intent on a citywide solution and, not surprisingly, has run into pockets of teacher resistance and problems lining up enough business partners. Says former Milwaukee Supt. Howard Fuller, who launched school-to-work there: “I always thought that it was overly ambitious to say every school would be a school-to-work school.” Fuller says he would have made school-to-work an option among several reform strategies. Ah, yes: options, process.