Spurred by conservative lawmakers supporting the “skills” approach to teaching reading, Congress convened a group of experts in 1997 to study the effectiveness of different instructional approaches. Called the National Reading Panel, the group found that the most effective way combines explicit instruction in a variety of areas, including phonics and the “higher-order” skill of comprehension.
The board has hired a legal expert and a team of consultants to chart its course for future desegregation policy. The consultants will study the existing plan’s effects on integrating school faculties and student bodies, then report back to the board in April. By September, says Marilyn Johnson, the board’s chief attorney, the board will be ready to “roll out” a plan.
Now in its fourth year, the plan dictates a structure for lessons that is supported by the latest research and replaces reading textbooks with children’s literature. To guide teachers through the whirlwind of new requirements, each school has a peer coach, and some large or low-performing schools have two.
Jungman insiders say the key to their progress was the combination of smart, stable school leadership and Tim Shanahan’s literacy framework. “It’s a great program,” raves Interim Principal Zaida Hernandez, a former Jungman teacher who became assistant principal in 1997. “It was a big, big change to get all of us on the same page … to get everyone to see the importance of reading.”
Personal and school experience paved the way. Milsap has spent half of her 15-year teaching career at Price and already has put in two years as a literacy coordinator for primary teachers. As part of that job, she has had two years of coach training from the Center for School Improvement at the University of Chicago
AT CLARK STREET Xavier Botana, a former administrator with the Illinois State Board of Education, has been appointed director of teacher accountability. Botana replaces Sandra A. Givens, who retired. …Carlos Rosa, previously director of school quality assurance in the Office of Accountability, has been appointed deputy chief accountability officer. Rosa replaces Alice Perez-Peters, who retired. Joseph Atria will take over Rosa’s former post. …Joseph Hahn is now director of assessment and compliance, a new title. Responsibility for research, which Hahn previously managed, was shifted to the department of research and program evaluation.
TESTING The feds demand tests that measure students’ attainment of academic standards, and an accountability system that reports annual growth toward a common goal that all children must reach in 12 years. In contrast, Chicago has relied on a battery of tests, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, that simply compares students to the average performance of their peers nationwide, the so-called national norm, regardless of whether that average reflects a level of achievement that children need to succeed. Chicago’s accountability system has required schools to get a certain percentage of students up to the national norm, which has prompted some schools to focus their attention on students within reach of it, to the detriment of those farthest behind. In addition, Chicago has sapped faculty morale in the schools farthest behind by failing to reward annual progress. The feds got it right.
The Jacqueline B. Vaughn Graduate School for Teacher Leadership, named for the union’s late, feisty president, is slated to open next January, enrolling 225 teachers.
The Vaughn graduate school will offer a two-year course of study that leads to a masters’ degree in teacher leadership. The only similar program run locally is at St. Xavier University.
“Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum,” by Marilyn Jaeger Adams, Barbara R. Foorman, Ingvar Lundberg and Terri Beeler. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 1997.
“Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary and Spelling Instruction,” by Donald R. Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton and Francine Johnston. Prentice Hall, 1999.
Since the early 1990s, Hartigan had successfully partnered with a university to work on curriculum design and reading comprehension strategies. Reading scores had risen steadily for five years but dropped in 1999. That year, the school’s regional education officer urged schools on probation to try a new program that sought to match instructional strategies with each student’s interests and achievement level, for example by setting up “learning centers” throughout the classroom. At the same time, a foundation contacted several struggling schools, including Hartigan, and offered money to adopt Direct Instruction (DI), a phonics-based reading program.
Still in training, the specialists are being asked to do what more than a decade of effort has failed to accomplish: transform teaching. And whether they’ve been in their schools for years or just walked in the door, the specialists can’t get far without a good principal on their side, CATALYST reporting has found.