OHIO: ‘4th Grade Guarantee’ on hold

Ohio may have to suspend a controversial mandate that requires 4th-graders to pass a state reading test before advancing to 5th grade, after a May 11 state Supreme Court ruling. The court’s decision praised Ohio’s attempt to set higher academic standards, but called the “4th Grade Guarantee” an unfunded mandate that “must be addressed and immediately funded,” according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Two schools team up to form a bridge

Brandon Jackson is one of dozens of special education students who have received a second chance through an 8-year-old partnership between Buckingham and Sullivan Elementary, a regular elementary school three miles away in South Chicago. Under the partnership, Buckingham students who have made significant improvement in their behavior are transferred to Sullivan, and the special services they received at Buckingham go with them.

Parent Corner

Expanded report card

As part of the Corey H settlement, parents of special education students get more than their children’s grades when they pick up their report cards. They also get an explanation of their children’s progress in meeting the goals of their Individualized Educational Plans (IEP).

Inclusion monitors fanning out

On May 12, monitors finished site visits to the first 25 schools selected for the program, crafted as part of the Illinois State Board of Education’s settlement of the Corey H. special education lawsuit. That suit accused the Chicago schools of violating federal law by illegally segregating disabled children into restrictive, self-contained classrooms and programs; the state was accused of failing to use its oversight authority to force Chicago to fix the problem.

What’s behind gap between scores on ISAT, ITBS

This spring, 45 percent of 8th-graders scored at or above the national norms on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). That’s a mere 5 percentage points below the national norm of 50 percent. Meanwhile, on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT), only 20 percent of Chicago’s 8th-graders received passing scores in math, compared with 47 percent for the state as a whole, including Chicago.

All students benefit from inclusion at Darwin

For a moment, Calle is silent. “Hmm, let’s see …,” she says, doing a mental scan of her room. “Well, the boy who read the instructions is in special ed, and the boy behind him, the one that raised his hand, he is and …” She pauses again. Just then, another teacher walks by, and Calle grabs him: “Wait, here’s the home room teacher, he’ll know.”

Comings and Goings

AT CLARK STREET Jean Franczyk, chief of staff to the Board of Education since November 1997, has been named manager of faculty training at UNext.com, an Internet education company based in Deerfield. … Karen Burke, former chief of staff to CPS Chief Operations Officer, has been named manager of construction for the Chicago Park District. … Andrea S. Kerr, formerly director of curriculum, is now deputy officer for teacher recertification and professional standards. The newly created CPS department will monitor compliance with the state’s new teacher recertification law. Kerr was succeeded by John Frantz, previously director of teacher accountability. Franz will oversee curriculum, instruction and professional development.


Ohio may have to suspend a controversial mandate that requires 4th-graders to pass a state reading test before advancing to 5th grade, after a May 11 state Supreme Court ruling. The court’s decision praised Ohio’s attempt to set higher academic standards, but called the “4th Grade Guarantee” an unfunded mandate that “must be addressed and immediately funded,” according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The politics of reform in three cities

Fordham, which is headed by academic and advocate Chester E. Finn Jr., is a leading proponent of charter schools, vouchers and standards-based reform. However, the case studies it sponsored are, for the most part, straight-forward explorations of who did what with Ambassador Walter Annenberg’s money (about $50 million each in Chicago and Philadelphia and $25 million in New York City) and what a variety of knowledgeable observers make of it.

Staff development fuels improvement at Saucedo

In Karen Morris’s 15-year tenure as principal of Saucedo Academy in Little Village, the percentage of students reading at or above national norms as measured by the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills has increased from 14 percent to 46 percent. For the past two years, Saucedo, along with Corkery and Calhoun North, has been a member of the Learning and Sharing Connection, a network of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The network has focused on staff development as one of the most powerful means to improve student achievement, based on findings by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

ISAT the next goal to reach for

In math, the discrepancy is stark. On the Iowas, Chicago’s elementary school students are within striking distance of the national norm; in the recent round of testing, 46.7 percent scored at or above the norm, leaving them only 3.3 percentage points away from the magic number, 50. However, on the ISAT, 3rd-graders did the best of the three elementary grades tested, and they mustered only 37 percent meeting or exceeding state standards, compared with a statewide average, including Chicago, of 69 percent.

Hearing officers call for LSC elections at four schools

An attendance boundary dispute has put Salazar Elementary’s LSC election results in question. One set of boundaries was drawn in 1993; a smaller area was defined in February. It was unclear which map was to be used for this year’s election. CPS lawyers must decide which boundary should be in effect.

14 high schools with improved TAP scores could exit probation

The city’s 34 probation high schools gained an average of 5.2 points in the percentage of students hitting the mark. This average excludes Vaughn Occupational, which serves special education students exempted from testing. Only three probation schools showed declines in TAP reading scores, the primary but no longer sole factor determining probation status.

Small school beats odds with first graduating class

The graduation rate puts the school of 428 students in the the same league as the city’s top high schools. In fact, Best Practice’s graduation rate might even be higher, if the school had kept track of whether students who transferred out graduated from other CPS schools.

3,500 start recertification, board preparing courses

Chicago Public Schools are moving ahead with plans to help 3,500 teachers start grappling with new and controversial state recertification requirements, even as state educators continue to wrangle over the precise wording of the rules.

In 2001, about 5,000 additional teachers are expected to start the process; 13,000 more the following year. Cozette Buckney, CPS chief education officer, says 90 percent of Chicago’s 27,000 teachers will be taking courses towards recertification within four years.

1999 dropout rate down, CPS devises new formulas

No matter how you count it, the one-year dropout rate for the Chicago Public Schools declined in 1999. The two calculations made by the state—one for regular high schools and one for all high schools in the system—show declines. And a new calculation by CPS shows a steady decline since 1997.

First year at Ashe brings typical problems

Integrating its primary-grade special education students into regular classrooms went smoothly. But there were only seven of them, and they mainly were learning disabled, notes Assistant Principal Bernia Womack. Integrating the intermediate-grade children has been a different story.

The court is watching

The monitor is retired Judge Joseph Schneider. Schneider hired Rod Estvan, formerly of Access Living, to assist him, and Estvan hired a team of one head consultant and two part-time consultants. The team already has visited a number of Education Connections schools on an informal basis.

Corey H. Timeline

1991 Designs for Change, a school research and advocacy group, documents for the first time how Chicago schools illegally segregated children with disabilities. Chicago’s action violated the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires schools to educate disabled children in the “least restrictive environment” possible.

Court may order special ed certification changes

The plan is vigorously opposed by many activists for disabled students because it would eliminate certification in four specific areas— emotional/behavior disorder, learning disabilities, educable mentally handicapped and trainable mentally handicapped. Instead, teachers who work with children who have these disabilities would be certified to work either with mildly to moderately disabled students (learning behavior specialist 1) or with more severely disabled children (learning behavior specialist 2). In effect, they would need to acquire expertise in more than one area.