Forte’s case is typical, says Douglas Principal Beverly Blackwood, who has seen the school’s enrollment decline from more than 2,000 some 30 years ago to 700 today. Only 163 come from the school’s attendance area. “Within the Gap community itself, there are not that many students,” Blackwood says, and many of them “attend magnet schools and private schools.”
With the Chicago Housing Authority tearing down buildings, many of Drake’s students have been forced to leave the school’s attendance area. This fall, the few remaining families in the Prairie Courts development, which borders Drake on two sides, moved out. Amid the turmoil, Drake’s rising test scores took a dip.
Although Dearborn Park, a middle-income development, is not in the Academy’s attendance area, Gloria Williams, head of the tenant advisory council in the Harold Ickes Homes, casts a wary eye at parents there. “Those Dearborn Park folks, we know that they’d want their kids to come, with all that the school has to offer,” says Williams.
Since it was piloted three years ago, STRIVE has improved the academic outlook for foster children in the 10 schools where it operates, according to school and DCFS officials. DCFS pays two social service agencies a total of $1.5 million a year to place counselors and social workers at those schools.
It’s a growing trend nationally and locally. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the number of children living in grandparent-headed households is up 30 percent since 1990. In Chicago, the number of children living with relatives who are not parents rose 23 percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
At $190 million to $200 million, Chicago’s professional development tab represents about 5 percent of the district’s operating budget, a relatively high percentage compared to other districts that have been studied. The total does not include contract-based salary increases that teachers earn for advanced degrees and college credits or the costs of freeing teachers for common planning time.