Back of the Yards: Fighting fear with friendship

The Peace and Education Summit is one way that community leaders hope to curb violence and crime among neighborhood youths. In a neighborhood where students are segregated by viaducts, blocks and streets, the goal is to show them they are more similar than different, and that their community extends beyond their own streets and schools.

CPS eyes new dropout calculation

The CPS rate is lower because it does not include students who drop out of 27 district-run alternative schools, including programs for teen parents and incarcerated youth, both of whom drop out of school at higher rates. Other districts also exclude such schools in calculating dropout rates because the state report card permits them to do so.

Teacher effectiveness study

Key findings

Some teachers are more effective than others at raising math achievement, as measured by standardized tests. A teacher’s effectiveness has little to do with his or her own education and experience.

Making process work for kids

Ten years ago, a new contract between the Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union called for a joint committee to look for ways to improve teacher evaluation and to investigate such innovations as peer review and a student achievement component.

Local variations

Linda Sienkiewicz, principal at Audubon Elementary in Roscoe Village, says she tries to visit classrooms for an entire lesson of 30 to 40 minutes, although that time frame is not required.

Contract politics cast shadow over teacher evaluation reforms

Deborah Lynch, the reform-minded CTU president, got knocked for a loop when union members roundly rejected the first tentative settlement. Forced to fight for still more, she put on a game face that left many wondering what kind of leader she would be as she prepares for a re-election bid next spring. An opposition slate has already formed and signaled that it doesn’t like her brand of unionism.

Have teachers review each other

Mentor teachers observe their subjects in the classroom, demonstrate lessons for them, relieve them so they can observe best practices elsewhere, direct them to relevant workshops and courses as well as reading they can do, meet one-on-one to talk over issues that arise and evaluate teachers’ work products.

Use students’ test scores over time

A few years ago, data zeroed in on a group of 20 students who were struggling more than others in math. Teachers decided to add a second math period for those students to get assistance with homework, tutoring and feedback on their work. “We changed the world for those 20 kids,” Giffin says. Without the data, “we wouldn’t have ever found the problems.”

Use standards of good teaching

School districts are required by law to evaluate teachers, but for most, the process is more about paper pushing than professional growth, says education consultant Charlotte Danielson, who has been tapped to advise Chicago Public Schools on how to revise its teacher evaluation process.

Evaluating the CPS evaluation

The check-sheet form that principals use to evaluate teachers in the Chicago Public Schools contains six broad themes that are broken down into 33 skill areas. The options for rating teachers on each skill area are “strength,” “weakness” or “does not apply.”

Board set to fill half of charter slots

In April, the Illinois Legislature doubled Chicago’s charter school quota, raising it to 30. The School Board quickly approved two new charters, Chicago Children’s Choir Academy and KIPP Ascend Academy, leaving 13 to go.

CTU sampler

Pension and retirement: For Chicago Teachers

Accelerated payment of 45 accumulated sick days prior to retirement to boost pension benefits; remaining sick days in employee bank will be available to eligible employees for cash out upon retirement. … This is a voluntary program. Prior notice is required only for those who wish to utilize this benefit

Principal takes exception to editorial

I strongly take exception to you slandering my name and the May Community Academy learning environment. I realize my students are reluctant learners and May Academy is a very challenging learning environment, however, much effort and concern is given to making this a better place for all the members in this learning environment.

Comings & Goings

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn plans to seek legislative approval of a constitutional amendment next spring that would double the income tax on Illinois’ richest residents, in part to raise money for schools. To get on the November ballot, the proposal would need 60 percent approval from both the House and the Senate.

Top Five

Communities with the highest number of unemployed, out-of-school
youth age 16 to 19.