Opinions on five-year high school

The idea of building an optional fifth year into high school, which Chicago plans to do next school year, got a national airing this summer. Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, advocated it at the union’s July convention as a way to stem dropouts. One other city where the AFT represents teachers, Rochester, N.Y., already was planning a five- year program that would allow students to take fewer classes for longer periods of time. The Rochester school system enrolls about 37,500 students and has a 45 percent dropout.

Opinions on five-year high school

The idea of building an optional fifth year into high school, which Chicago plans to do next school year, got a national airing this summer. Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, advocated it at the union’s July convention as a way to stem dropouts. One other city where the AFT represents teachers, Rochester, N.Y., already was planning a five- year program that would allow students to take fewer classes for longer periods of time. The Rochester school system enrolls about 37,500 students and has a 45 percent dropout.

Opinions on five-year high school

The idea of building an optional fifth year into high school, which Chicago plans to do next school year, got a national airing this summer. Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, advocated it at the union’s July convention as a way to stem dropouts. One other city where the AFT represents teachers, Rochester, N.Y., already was planning a five- year program that would allow students to take fewer classes for longer periods of time. The Rochester school system enrolls about 37,500 students and has a 45 percent dropout.

Training gets thumbs up, principals want more

Three measures aroused some concern. One was the assessment center requirement. Currently, this evaluation is voluntary–over the past three years, some 370 principal candidates have taken advantage of it to learn their strengths and weaknesses. The principals association wants it to be mandatory, with the results used to guide the already required internship. The principal candidates themselves would continue to decide whether to disclose the results to local school councils (LSC) during the hiring process.

Finding money for time and staff

Leading a good instructional program may require more time and staff than some schools have. Principals may need extra hands to help them with administrative duties, and teachers may need more time to learn new skills. Both cost money. The following are suggestions on where to get it.

Research Roundup

The policy of reserving magnet school slots for neighborhood children favors families in the wealthier sections of the city, which have the highest concentrations of magnet schools: the Loop, the Near West Side and the north lakefront from the Gold Coast to Lake View. After this and other special attendance considerations, only one magnet school slot in five remains open.

New principal evaluation expanding

Called EXCEL, for Evaluation Expertise for Councils and Educational Leaders, the program seeks to cultivate a year-long dialogue between the LSC and the principal around goals they set together. In contrast, the principal evaluation process prescribed for local school councils by the School Board comes only at the end of the school year and is one-sided.

Hope, apprehension mix as new leaders move in

Last spring, CIESS and LQE met with schools chief Paul Vallas. They offered their support if the board would step in to make changes at the school. In July, South Shore was one of five high schools placed on intervention—the board’s most severe penalty imposed on poorly performing schools.

Comings and goings

AT CLARK STREET CPS has merged its early childhood and language and culture departments. Armando Almandarez, previously head of language and culture, has been named chief of the newly formed Office of Language, Culture and Early Childhood Education. Flavia Hernandez, previously director of early childhood, is now a school-based budget officer. Former longtime early childhood director Velma Thomas has been named senior executive assistant to Almandarez.

The tests aren’t the problem, inadequate instruction is

The retention/social promotion debate is tied up in a conundrum: Neither measure helps all students; one or the other may help certain students. What good is it to say that the socially promoted did better than or the same as the retained? What percentage of each group shows up in jail, goes to college or acquires employment? What happens to the students who do not keep up or learn at the same rate or in the same way that the other students in a class learn? Do we fail them? Should we pass them on without the requisite skills necessary for success at the next level? Do we refer them to special education as learning disabled? Does anybody in his right mind really believe that God made this many LD African-American males?

Back to basics on academic improvement

Chicago is unusual in this regard; many educators are vying for principalships, perhaps because this system boasts a few advantages. For one, principals are paid relatively well, on average more than $90,000 a year. Credit goes to schools chief Paul Vallas and the School Board, who bumped principals up two notches on the administrative salary scale as soon as they got into office. Considering the knowledge and skills required to upgrade instruction schoolwide, however, even $90,000 seems insufficient for someone who succeeds. Chicago principals also have a freer hand in building their teams. Thanks to the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act, they get to select their own assistant principals and to fill teacher vacancies without regard to seniority.

UIC offers training for student teacher mentors

Despite years of experience, teacher Marcey Siegel says she was not prepared to be a mentor when she was tapped at Perez Elementary. “My principal knocked on the door and told me I had been chosen to mentor a student teacher,” says Siegel, who now works as a curriculum coordinator at Corkery Elementary. “The whole experience was awkward. I didn’t know what to do. I had no guidance.”

Mayor queries top teachers on how to teach reading

Daley appeared prepared for the gathering. He had digested a reading “bill of rights” drafted by a committee of the Golden Apple Academy, the group of all past winners. The mayor took notes on a yellow pad as the hour-long meeting progressed, but he was doing more than listening. “He had some concrete ideas, and he wanted to run them past us,” relates Penny Lundquist, academy director, who also was present.

Principal survey

Principal Survey:

What are the top three things that keep you from spending more time on instruction?

#1 Paperwork (43 votes)

Principals say they are inundated with paperwork, whether for school programs, to fill teaching positions, to report on student data, to purchase supplies. “I could spend an entire day just working on paperwork, but sometimes you just have to set it aside and prioritize.”

#2 Meetings with parents (26 votes)

“Sometimes, you are the only one, as a principal, that people, like an upset parent, want to talk to.”

#3 Meetings with students, student discipline (22 votes)

Elementary school principals, who have smaller administrative staffs, were more likely than high school principals to spend time on discipline.

Accountability impact both positive, negative

Chicago’s accountability system, “provides strong incentives for schools to get their math and reading scores up,” notes Melissa Roderick of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, but offers no guidance on how. Schools alone decide: “Are we going to do short-term strategies or invest in long-term solutions?” she observes.

Rate your school: Here’s how to do it

Are your test scores rising at the same rate as the citywide average?

In Chicago, scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills have been rising for a decade. “If I were on an LSC, I would want to know, Are our scores going up as quickly as the citywide average?” says Fred Hess of Northwestern University. “If they are, then we have an average school in the city. If they’re going up more quickly, then we’re an above-average school.”

Half the day is an in-out basket’

Hersh, 58, arrived at Armstrong 13 years ago, following two years as principal of a South Side elementary school and 19 as an elementary teacher. She says the reality of her job is a far cry from her administrative training. “When I was in school, we learned management by objective. But unfortunately, too many days it’s management by crisis.”

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2000 was one of those days.