Mayor picks New York educator for CEO. Mayor Michael White has named a veteran educator from New York City to be the first chief executive officer of Cleveland Public Schools, which enrolls some 70,000 students.

New special ed policy challenges high school

Corey H., as a lawsuit that the Chicago Public Schools settled is known, is forcing schools to move their special education students into regular classrooms and out of so-called self-contained classrooms, which are for students with disabilities only. CASE, the acronym for end-of-course tests called Chicago Academic Standards Exams, looms as a hurdle students some day must clear to pass courses, to be promoted and perhaps even to graduate. (See Catalyst, November 1998.)

Comings and Goings

INTERIM PRINCIPALS The following have been named interim principals by Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas: Michael M. Woods, principal at Westcott, Cook County Jail High School; Cynthia B. Dougal, Region 2 Office, Nettlehorst; Patricia Monroe-Taylor, teacher at Clinton, Clinton. … Local school councils have selected the following interim principals: Lenora M. Austin, teacher at Westcott, Westcott; Sherry A. Gage, assistant principal at Stagg, Stagg; Diana C. Rochon, a principal in the Office of Accountability, Calhoun.

Board, union split loaf on reconstitution, advisory

Re-engineering in

The contract gives teachers a voice in repairing under-performing schools through a new process called re-engineering, which is a step between probation and reconstitution. At each school chosen for re-engineering, faculty will elect a peer evaluation group to review teachers’ performance. Teachers will have the opportunity to opt out of peer evaluation, in which case they will be given a year-long interim assignment at a different school before being put in the pool of reassigned teachers. A joint union-board panel will assign assessment teams to review school improvement plans—the contract does not specify team membership—and oversee the entire process.


A 22-year veteran of the New York school system, Barbara Byrd-Bennett has a reputation for turning around troubled schools. Most recently, she was superintendent of the “chancellor’s district,” a collection of the city’s 10 worst schools. In the two years Byrd-Bennett had the job, seven of the schools improved enough to be removed from a state list of poorly performing schools. Last year, reading scores in the chancellor’s district rose an average of 5.9 percent across all grade levels and 15.3 percent for 3rd-graders, according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

Using the community to teach democracy

For the past three years, three schools in different parts of the city have taken a different approach. The schools were Addams on the East Side, Haugan in Albany Park and Sawyer in Gage Park. Their 5th-graders participated in VOICE (Violence-prevention Outcomes in Civic Education), a social studies curriculum that incorporates conflict resolution, law-related education and service learning, and that features the use of outside resource people and field experiences in courts and police departments. Developed under the auspices of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, VOICE complements the traditional social studies curriculum by helping students develop a deeper understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the three branches of government.

Local accountability for principals

The central administration justifies its meddling by intimating that LSCs are incapable of picking good principals. As proof, they point out that LSCs generally select new principals from within their schools’ staff. While many think this has a negative impact on schools, no analysis has been done that shows this to be true. However, there is research that demonstrates that LSCs have done a very credible job of selecting principals who are effective educational leaders.

Principals raid partners for staff

Beverly Tunney, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, welcomes the development. “Principals are looking to get good staff with backgrounds in areas that will help their schools improve,” she says. “The better the knowledge base, the better the instruction in the school.”

Libby shuns partner in favor of Jumpstart

This year, Jumpstart has four staffers helping 23 schools decide how to use a total of $2 million in state money as well as a required local contribution, which for Libby is $25,000. Many of those schools also are on Chicago’s probation list and have external partners, too. Libby is one of the few that is going it alone with Jumpstart.

State board, Chicago group train coaches

Called the School Change Institute, the joint endeavor is aimed at helping schools get off the state’s academic warning list. Chicago currently has 58 schools on the list, down from 93 last year. The rest of the state has 13 on the list, down from 29 last year. Schools with especially low scores on the state’s battery of achievement tests are put on the list.

But are they any good?

By test scores. “Principals are looking at test scores, so we are looking at that, too,” says John MacDougall, associate director of Roosevelt University’s Chicago Education Alliance. “Still, we are trying to create a culture in the school and train teachers to change their mindset, and that may not immediately show up on test results.”

A third of schools switch partners

Douglass Middle School in Austin stayed with the Washington D.C.-based National Center on Education and Economy (NARE), also called America’s Choice, for years before the frustration of working with an out-of-state organization became too great to bear. “The schedule had to be very regimented, especially when it came to getting professional development, because NARE’s staff had to travel in from out of town,” explains Principal Betty Smith. “They were not always able to help us when we needed it.”

Partners practicing what they preach

That began to change last fall when Charles Payne, then a professor at Northwestern University, sent an e-mail message to other groups working with schools, suggesting that they get together. “During a conversation with a colleague, a question arose: How does one go from doing good things in a couple of schools to doing good things in many schools?” he recalls. “We believed that there were other groups who were struggling with this issue, and we felt talking about it would be helpful.” Now a professor at Duke University, Payne continues to work with Chicago schools.

Saturday school for teachers

In addition to sharing experiences, the connectors also receive samples of the reading and math portions of new state achievement tests, called ISAT for Illinois Standards Achievement Tests, which students will take for the first time in February. They also receive samples of lesson plan calendars for the second quarter and several strategies for teaching math and writing.

Beidler faculty welcomes new partner

Erma Cole and Eddie Quaintance, staffers from DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education, thought she had done just fine. But Breland wasn’t going to let them off that easily. She went on to ask questions about a child who wasn’t doing his work and about using bulletin boards to show the progression of her children’s work.

Current pairings

Current pairings:

This year, 16 external partners are working with 91 schools on probation. Contracts range from $6,000 to $105,153.

Center for City Schools-

National Louis University $9,850


Center for School Improvement-

University of Chicago $82,000


Consultant Services-Joyce Chivari $20,000

Medill Primary

Center for Urban Education-

Funding gets scarce as partnerships click

Seventy-six Chicago schools are receiving $50,000 each for payments to external partners. The money is coming from Illinois’ $6 million share of a $150 million federal appropriation for low- achieving, low-income schools that agree to follow programs of whole-school change that are based on the lessons of educational research. By whole-school, the U.S. Department of Education means programs that address instruction, assessment, classroom management, professional development, parental involvement and school management.

Unanticipated outcomes, good and bad

In the old days, aspiring principals learned about those issues by working in district, regional and central offices and as assistant principals. However, in each arena, they were accountable up the line to a boss. In the modest free market that has developed among external partners, program facilitators must demonstrate that they can work effectively with principals and teachers to improve student learning. If they can’t, their programs risk losing contracts. Of the 100-plus schools that have been put on probation sometime over the past three years, about a third have switched partners.