When the School Board announced the schools Andersen children could attend—Sabin Magnet and Lozano Bilingual Academy—it was like pouring salt in the wounds. Sabin and Lozano both have specialized academic programs that make them popular with parents from around the city.
Chicago Public Schools set its sights on providing more support for principals, specifically training and mentoring them to become instructional leaders for their schools. It hired 24 “area instructional officers” to replace six region officers, who previously had supervised principals, and charged the AIOs with leading school walkthroughs, running monthly professional development workshops and supervising specialists who provide direct support to schools.
“Step Up to High School,” as it was called, would be aimed at 4,000 8th graders who had scored below average on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, but above the cutoff for promotion to high school. The idea was to get students into the high schools they plan to attend before classes begin in the fall so they could get acclimated to their new surroundings.
In 1996, Senn launched the city’s first public school peer jury program where student jurors review minor infractions of their peers, and agree on non-punitive sanctions other than suspension or expulsion. Two years ago, the Chicago Public Schools adopted the model, which currently operates in 25 high schools
A year ago, Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins rolled out a districtwide reorganization plan that, in the mold of District 2, provided support and training for principals to become leaders of instruction. Schools were grouped into 24 smaller subdistricts, each headed by an “area instructional officer” who would visit classrooms with teams of specialists and then offer advice and specialized assistance to principals and teachers. the process is called a walkthrough.
Gallo, who oversees more schools than most AIOs and will add another this fall, visited each of them informally early last year to meet-and-greet with principals and staff, tour the buildings and introduce the concept of using a process called walkthroughs—the signature of a districtwide initiative to improve the quality of teaching.
To support the initiative, the board reorganized the district into “area instructional offices” that were small enough to influence schools’ instructional programs. By contrast, the old region offices handled day-to-day management, such as busing, building operations or emergencies, for 100 or more schools, leaving little or no time for schools’ academic issues.
Lily Woo introduced in the 1980s included walkthroughs—brief classroom visits by combinations of district administrators and educators—and other sharing practices such as pairing new teachers with mentor-teachers for several weeks, and convening principals and teachers to work jointly on curricula and staff development projects.
The result of the reading initiative is that all high school teachers now know they need to help students read strategically and decipher difficult texts and must enhance their own training in reading instruction. The price tag for the 2004 fiscal year is $2.9 million, up from $765,000 last year, which will pay for additional professional development for reading coaches
Schools that participated in the four-day four-day literacy conference sent teams of pre-K, kindergarten and lst-grade teachers to learn how to cultivate children’s literacy skills through story-telling activities and integrating play and the arts. Back at their schools, the teams, with the assistance of a reading specialist, are expected to share the strategies with their early childhood colleagues.
The Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to hire 3,000 new teachers for the 2003-04 school year have yielded 1,854 new hires through mid-August, with 125 applicants receiving job offers after attending a Teacher Career Fair at Navy Pier on July 24. Roughly 1,900 candidates attended the job fair, which was the district’s largest to date.