PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS Teresa Moy, assistant principal at Alcott, has received a four-year contract at Clinton; Celia Coleman, assistant principal at Coles, has received a contract at Banneker. In addition, the following interim principals have received four-year contracts: Charles Kyle, Stowe; Noemi Esquivel, Addams; Maurice Harvey, Jordan; Saundra Jones, Nobel West; Nancy Mayer, Vaughn; Donald Pittman, Marshall; Vivian Redd, Morton. Valerie Doubrawa, who was named interim principal of Hubbard High school following the retirement of Charles Vietzen, also received a four-year contract.
Last spring, the Chicago School Reform Board announced that the percentage of 3rd- through 8th-graders scoring at or above the national norms in reading was 34.7 percent, the highest percentage since the 1980s. The greatest gains were in the three retention grades and the grades immediately after them. Noting this, Catalyst and others speculated that retention had artificially inflated the scores.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the CALSC board voted 3-2 to dismiss Executive Director Sheila Castillo and then to appoint Advocacy Director James Hammonds as the acting head of the organization. Two weeks later, Lorraine Straw and Darlene Perlstein, the dissenting members, resigned in protest, calling Castillo’s termination questionable, careless, surprising and untimely.
All week, another English teacher Sarah Levine has been reviewing the board-assigned literature with her students, going over terms and working on analysis. But she isn’t sure what they will find on the CASE. She’s concerned that her students may not remember details of a text they read last quarter, but she is hopeful that the CASE will test higher-level thinking skills, the skills she feels she is supposed to be teaching. “I’m depending on them to focus on argument skills and writing skills—not just recall,” she says.
The announcement threw Chicago’s education community for a loop. In interviews with more than a dozen education leaders, Catalyst repeatedly was told that the mayor had run with an embryonic idea that few people even knew about. Most of these leaders were skeptical, if not down right derisive, and asked not to be identified.
After an almost 20-year hiatus, Dyett has returned to a year-round schedule. Its students are in school for 60 days and then out for 20; December is an out month. Dyett is the latest addition to a growing number of Chicago public schools to adopt or maintain a year-round schedule solely for academic reasons.
Students are sent to safe schools through three methods:
Expulsion—following an expulsion hearing.
Emergency referral—to quickly transfer students who are considered a danger to themselves or others because of extremely aggressive behavior, such as bringing a gun or injuring someone.
Principal referral—because of repeated disciplinary incidents that may not be expellable offenses.
Whitfield, who teaches at McKinley’s Lakeside campus, had prepared the seniors for the ACT and SAT college entrance exams and had arranged for them to visit at least eight colleges. “They knew there were options for them, and they knew that those options were based upon their performance, so they performed,” he says.
Opened in fall 1997, Crawford First Education is a far cry from the public schools where its students got in trouble—mainly high schools in Districts 2 and 3, like Westinghouse Vocational and Manley. Its student body is small, only 58 students. For its enrollment, it has a relatively large staff—in addition to Phillips, five teachers, two teacher’s assistants, two case workers and an office manager. Phillips says everyone but the office manager helps teach.
One of the four students who returned from a safe school this year “is still a habitual behavior problem,” he says. By January, the boy had been suspended for profanity and threatening a staff member. Cheatham says the boy’s mother and uncle told him they believe he wants to return to the safe school. The alternative school “worked well” for the other three students. Since their return, only one has broken a rule: He didn’t wear the required dress shirt to school one day.
McKinley was ready to offer conflict resolution classes but quickly learned they wouldn’t suffice. “These kids needed one-on-one counseling,” recalls Kennedy, who directs McKinley’s therapeutic and educational services division. “Over 50 percent of them needed counseling. A number of them needed drug counseling.”
When it comes to updating the skills of current teachers, the research is quite clear: Professional development must center around individual school faculties, not individual teachers. Teachers learning new skills need the support of their schools and their colleagues. Sending teachers off for training one by one isn’t bad; it’s just not very effective. When it comes to especially poor teachers, some of the more successful school districts have used peer evaluation and support to bring them to an acceptable level or get rid of them. A committee to study peer evaluation is part of the soon-to-expire teachers contract with the School Board, but nothing has come of it, and the new contract doesn’t mention it.