Retention, midyear promotions big issues at Gladstone

The Near West Side school’s reading and math scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) dropped in 1997 below the 15 percent cutoff for probation. But with guidance of an external partner and an influx of new staff, Gladstone’s scores rebounded dramatically. Last spring, 21 percent of Gladstone’s students scored at or above norms in reading; 29 percent in math.

High-stakes testing takes over schools

There are many merits to standardized testing. Information gained from testing can help identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, which then can be used to plan instructional programs or determine the type of support services that students need. Standardized tests can help show whether students are learning what they are supposed to be learning. Tests can help assess the effectiveness of instructional strategies and programs and indicate how well a student, class, department, grade level, school, school district or state is doing compared to other students, classes, departments, etc. Although not originally designed for accountability, information gained from standardized tests can help measure the effectiveness of schools, school programs and school personnel.

Comings and Goings

CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP At press time, Bowen High School’s chess team had secured a spot in the state tournament. Bowen’s team, coached by math teacher Robbie Singer, finished first in the All-City Public High School Chess Championship. Senn High placed second, Whitney Young third, and Hyde Park fourth. About 100 teams from across the state will compete; Bowen enters the competition ranked fourth.

Principal program updates

PENCUL

Partnership to Encourage the Next Century’s Urban Leaders

This public-private partnership, based at the Financial Research and Advisory Committee, provides consultants to LSCs that are choosing new principals. So far this school year, PENCUL has ushered 14 LSCs through the initial steps—five councils chose not to renew their principals contracts, and nine have principals who are retiring. PENCUL says it is aware of about 14 principals who plan to retire in June.

Northside’s racial mix raises issues of law, equity

The School Board’s aim was to achieve a split of roughly 50-50 and, thereby, minimize potential legal trouble from two fronts. On one side, the U.S. Department of Justice is charged with enforcing a court-sanctioned desegregation plan that limits the white enrollment at magnet schools to 35 percent. On the other are white parents who might sue on the grounds that their children were denied slots so that minority children could be seated; lawsuits recently forced Boston and San Francisco to back away from race-adjusted admissions policies. The resulting compromise leaves the board somewhat exposed on both sides.

97% of principals retained, none rated unsatisfactory

Janet Froetscher, executive director of the Financial Research and Advisory Committee (FRAC), believes the high retention rate is due both to satisfaction with principals’ performance and to reluctance to change. FRAC, an arm of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, runs a principal assessment center and provides consultants to LSCs choosing new principals.

1998-99 test schedule

CASE: Chicago Academic Standards Exams

These are multiple-choice and open-ended tests linked to Chicago’s academic standards and curriculum frameworks. So far, tests are being administered for English 1 and 2, Algebra, Geometry, World Studies, U.S. History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth/Space Sciences and Environmental Sciences. They are administered mainly to freshmen and sophomores.

Baltimore targets grades 7-10

It’s been that way in the city’s schools since the state’s service learning requirement kicked in with the Class of ’97. A new set of Baltimore guidelines, however, seeks to diminish the number of 11th-hour cases. Henceforth, students will be expected to log the required 75 hours before they enter junior year, when they often become more involved in extracurricular activities or jobs.

Even with running start, state struggles with mandate

In 1992, the state board finally made service learning a graduation requirement, beginning with the next year’s freshman class. The next year, 1993, advocates successfully defeated an effort by some state legislators to overturn the mandate. But they have yet to win the hearts and minds of all the state’s educators.

Elsewhere

DADE COUNTY (MIAMI), FLA. The district requires all high school students to do at least one project during non-school hours that benefits the community. Projects must be pre-approved by a teacher in the Social Studies Department, which is responsible for ensuring that students fulfill the requirement. Students must turn in a form documenting what they did and write an essay analyzing the experience.

Teachers make learning come alive

“Talk about taking high school kids and making them men instantly.” Pat Conroy says that’s what happened last school year when students in his cabinetmaking class at Hubbard High School delivered bunk beds they had made to a homeless shelter on the South Side.

Community service snapshots

HUBBARD Students are tutoring students in Hurley Elementary’s Lighthouse Program and at a nearby library. They are volunteering at the Greater Food Depository at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. They plan to design T-shirts for “Take Back the Night,” a domestic violence program. They have collected donations during the annual West Community YMCA Tag Day.

Students’ thoughts on mandate

My training was for two months after school, for three days a week by the American Red Cross says Eduardo Cristiano. I got a diploma, which means I am certified to talk to people about AIDS. I volunteered because I know how important it is to me that Hispanics learn about AIDS. I volunteer now at a community center where I help answer questions about AIDS over the phone. I have also talked at churches. Once I even did a conference in my home for 12 or 13 neighborhood people, mostly teenagers, and some of my classmates have asked me about AIDS.

Bowen going great—with only 50 students

Currently, 11 Bowen students are mounting a campaign against loose-strife, a hardy, purple perennial that is taking over the wetlands of Lake Calumet. In Lillian West’s science classroom, the students are raising beetles to feast on the weed. In the spring, they’ll spend four Saturdays replacing loosestrife with plants that are better for the environment. They’re keeping journals on these activities and will make presentations in science class. They may even mount a photo exhibit.

Essential components

Borrowing from the Maryland Student Service Alliance, the Chicago Public Schools call for projects that:

Plan ahead for service learning.

Meet a recognized need in the community.

Establish community partnerships.

Mandates test teachers

ADVISORY Like an in-depth home room, a group of students is assigned to a teacher who is supposed to stay with them for all four years of high school, working on study skills, social skills and the like. Advisories are aimed at fostering closer ties between teachers and students and ensuring that troubled students don’t fall through the cracks of large high schools.

Schools say no time for service learning

With few exceptions, service learning coaches also hold down full-time jobs as counselors, social workers, teachers or other school staffers. The board’s own service learning task force recommended that the coach be a full-time position, according to several members. It was told, however, that the board couldn’t afford that. Instead, the board allotted each high school $1,000 to $4,000, depending on its enrollment, for coach stipends.

Board stumbled on Northside

The resulting racial mix for the flagship of Chicago’s emerging college-prep fleet: 52 percent white and 48 percent minority. At best, that proportion is unseemly. Minorities make up 90 percent of enrollment in the Chicago public schools and roughly 78 percent of enrollment in the city’s public and private schools combined. Under the School Board’s desegregation plan, minority students are supposed to make up between 65 percent and 85 percent of enrollment at each magnet school. Northside’s acceptances are especially out of line for African Americans—only 4 percent in a school system that is 55 percent African American.