Schools on probation between 1996 and 2000 were less likely to get off probation when the principal was removed, according to a Catalyst analysis of 119 elementary schools and 42 high schools. But that doesn’t mean the new principals were less effective, says researcher Elaine Allensworth of the Consortium for Chicago School Research. “Schools that received new principals probably had more problems, and that’s why they were replaced,” she says.
At the Chicago Board of Education’s request, state legislators voted to limit the number of choice schools by excluding magnets and overcrowded schools. Under the new state legislation, about half of the 241 elementary schools that are making “adequate yearly progress” could be off-limits, including 31 magnets, 27 severely overcrowded schools and 59 moderately crowded schools.
The small schools will be the first to open under the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative, a centerpiece of CEO Arne Duncan’s school improvement efforts that aims to subdivide large high schools into several smaller, auto-nomous schools. Each school will have its own budget, faculty and administrative staff.
Having lived with the Manley project for four years, our answer is a resounding yes to the first two questions. Teaching at Manley has clearly improved over the last four years. Moreover, the work going on at Manley absolutely underscores our initial (and research-based) belief that effective professional development must be sustained, it must be classroom-based, and it should include external support. In short, coaching works and is a promising avenue for classroom-level change.
NEW LEADERS Kathleen Harris, previously education director for the Chicago Urban League, has been tapped to head Ariel Academy’s expansion to high school. Harris, who spent the past year assigned to Ariel in a principal training program run by New Leaders for New Schools, will serve as assistant principal for three years, then step into the principalship of the high school. Ariel has added a new grade each year since it opened with pre-K and kindergarten in 1996. It plans to add a 9th grade in 2005. … The Board has extended a leave of absence for Sylvia Gibson, former principal of Creiger Multiplex, who is serving as executive director of New Leaders for New Schools.
The opening of the Teachers Academy at 55 W. Cermak is significant for another nearby school—South Loop Elementary. Attendance boundaries for the new school include blocks of low-income families who were previously assigned to South Loop Elementary. Although students already enrolled can remain at South Loop, 84 attend classes at a branch location near the academy that the board is considering closing.
5. (c) Teachers trusted each other
Teachers who trust each other are more willing to engage in the teamwork it takes to improve instruction, according to the Consortium. Where trust is absent, teachers are less likely to admit weaknesses and accept constructive criticism from peers, researchers found.
2. Your elementary school has low standardized test scores in reading, math, social studies and science. To boost achievement, teachers will need to change their teaching significantly. Your school has 13 professional development sessions scheduled for the school year. How should you allocate your time?
a. Divide it equally among the four subject areas.
b. Devote all the time to reading.
c. Split it equally between reading and math.
A third of Manley’s teachers, mainly newer ones, leapt on board. Some of the novices clung to the project as a lifeline. But the intensive training was intended foremost to upgrade the skills of veterans, according to project evaluator G. Alfred Hess Jr. of Northwestern University. “And by that definition, the Manley project failed dramatically.”
Classes for teachers
To boost teaching quality, Illinois recently passed a law requiring teachers to take 120 clock hours of courses or workshops every five years to renew their teaching certificates. But all that individual work may not add up to school improvement if teachers are not on the same page.
Elementary school teachers in Chicago typically get three 40-minute prep periods scattered through the school week. But much of that time gets eaten up dropping kids off and picking them up from art or library or gym, notes Ward Principal Addie Belin-Williamson. By the mid-90s, she was searching for a solution. “I thought, there’s got to be a way to get all these little clumps of minutes together so people could talk to each other,” she recalls.
This year, 26 schools recognized for strong instructional practice are piloting “collaborative coaching and learning,” where a group of teachers meets regularly with a coach to learn, practice and refine mutually agreed-on instructional techniques. About a dozen more schools heard good things about the pilot and began collaborative coaching on their own this spring. The district expects all 130 schools to be using collaborative coaching by September 2003.
PRINCIPAL RETIREMENTS At Dunbar Vocational, Principal Floyd M. Banks retired and was succeeded by Barbara Hall, Dunbar’s attendance coordinator while Assistant Principal Allen Smith moved into Parkside Academy as contract principal, taking up from Sharon Hayes, whose contract expired…. Darlene Bennett, formerly assistant principal at Rudolph, is contract principal of both Spalding elementary and high schools, succeeding Alice Collins, who retired. … Debra Crump, formerly assistant principal at Robeson High, is now contract principal at Douglass Junior High Academy, taking the place of Betty Smith, who retired.
CTU JOINS TURN On May 4, the CTU officially joined the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), a national group of reform-minded union locals from both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. CTU President Deborah Lynch had expressed interest in joining TURN just days after she was elected last spring. (Catalyst September 2001). “She has a perspective on teacher unionism that is compatible with that of most TURN members,” says Adam Urbanski, co-director of TURN, which promotes collaboration between teachers unions and school districts to improve teaching and learning. CTU is one of four new members of TURN, which now has 30 members.
The Manley project’s failure to accomplish more is due to a mix of avoidable problems and others over which it had no control. For future Manleys to succeed—as they must— both kinds need to be fixed. The biggest avoidable problem was that the project’s architects rushed the planning with the Manley staff and coach recruitment. “There was a feeling that [the school was] under deep threat and needed really quick, substantial help,” recalls Melissa Roderick, a University of Chicago faculty member who now heads up strategic planning for the School Board. “So the pressure was to throw something together, and that, in retrospect, was a huge mistake.” By moving too fast, the project did not get the necessary buy-in from Manley teachers, who have been subjected to a revolving door of external partners, nor the opportunity to recruit the best coaches. In contrast, a high school-improvement initiative sponsored by the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation gave school leadership teams six months of training and then six months to craft their plans.
The Chicago Teachers Union made surprising headway with its proposal to undo a section of the 1995 Chicago reform law that blocks the union from negotiating over class size, layoffs and other working conditions. It got Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to move from strong opposition to negotiation. Sources say a compromise version might come up for a vote in this fall’s veto session.
After suffering a 4 percentage-point drop last spring, reading test scores rebounded, jumping from 12 percent to 21 percent at or above national norms. That gain was due entirely to improvement among10th-graders. Ninth-grade reading scores fell slightly this year. The test is not given to 11th- or 12th-graders.