Test glut a burden to preschools

Three times last year, teachers at the Chinese American Service League had to administer two very similar student assessments in its blended preschool program, sending the results either to the Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Department of Human Services.

Beyond babysitting

The curriculum at the Love Learning Center, a state-subsidized child care center in Washington Park, is standard preschool fare: learning the alphabet, identifying numbers, building gross motor skills and the like.

Poor numbers not the whole story

Hawkins founded Triumphant to keep students from dropping out, but she says getting it up and running has been a greater challenge than starting the alternative school. And after seven years, the school is still struggling to succeed with its 200 students.

Three centers show challenges, rewards of ‘blending’

Weekley has posted notices, gone to conferences and sought out recruits through a well-established network of contacts that generated almost half of her current teaching staff. But so far, she’s had little luck, and like others in the field, says low pay is largely to blame. Only a newly minted Type 04 teacher, or one with a working spouse, is likely to accept the $35,000 starting salary she can currently offer, Weekley says.

Peirce School gets everyone online

Grow has eased communication with parents, Rossino says. “At parent conference time, we had our computer lab open for parents to log on and to teach them how to use [the Web site],” she says. “It’s a very easy tool.”

Spencer Gould: Dropout to teacher

Spencer Gould is one of eight black men who teach at Triumphant, thanks to the extra effort Helen Hawkins makes to recruit them as role models. A 1993 graduate of Morehouse College, Gould has been involved in the school since its founding. After a stint in the Marines, he returned two years ago to teach language arts and social studies.

Preschool blending

WHAT IT MEANS: Early childhood centers draw funding from multiple sources, including state-subsidized child care, Head Start and state pre-kindergarten.

Legislative targets

Looking to the upcoming General Assembly, early childhood advocates in Illinois have set two major goals, winning an increase in funding for the state pre-kindergarten program and winning renewal of a program that has helped stem staff turnover in child care centers.

Debate helps Christina Marin soar

Debate is catching fire in urban school districts around the country, and nowhere more so than in CPS, which now has the largest league; 31 schools have teams, and 19 offer an elective course in debate. And young women like Marin have flocked to sign up; 55 percent of Chicago debaters are female, compared to only 40 percent in the National Forensic League, the national high school debate society.

NAEP test shines light on racial gap

Among the 10 districts included in NAEP’s 2003 urban sample, Boston is the best point of comparison for Chicago because the students tested are most similar on the major characteristics of race and ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch and parents’ educational level. (New York City is close, but the parent educational level is higher—for example, 43 percent were reported to have graduated from college, compared to 30 percent in Chicago.)

Certified teachers in short supply

Community-based centers are at a competitive disadvantage, Portia Kennel adds. Teachers in the Chicago Public Schools work fewer hours and have summers off while those employed by private child care programs typically work all day, year round. Kennel says certified teachers also worry about their professional environment.

Georgia upgrades teacher standards

In practice, Georgia officials got more than they hoped for. Today, the percentage of lead preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree is 81 percent, according to Gary Henry, a Georgia State University professor of education policy studies, who was commissioned by Georgia in 1996 to conduct a study examining the school readiness and primary-grade achievement of children in the state’s preschool program.

Illinois tackles obstacles to advancement

Currently many early childhood staffers pursue a two-year course of studies that yields an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. This route is heavy on child development, but light on academic courses such as English and math that would count toward a bachelor’s degree.

LSC advocates plan summit on equity

More than 30 organizations signed up as summit hosts, including Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. Key leaders like Schools CEO Arne Duncan, CTU President Deborah Lynch and state Sen. Miguel del Valle are slated to attend.

Actors in school reform turn authors for new book

Chapters on the community’s role in school reform were contributed by Russo; Ken Rolling, former executive director of Chicago Annenberg Challenge; Andrew Wade, executive director of Chicago School Leadership Cooperative; David Gordon, editor of Harvard Education Letter; Madeline Talbott, head organizer with Illinois ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).

Board set to vote on 2 new charter schools

In December, the board was expected to grant up to half of 13 new charter slots available in Chicago. But only two, Namaste School in McKinley Park and the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy in Rogers Park, were approved and are expected to open in the fall.

Early childhood programs in Chicago

Funding level FY03-04
Children served

Early childhood testing

What Where When

The Chicago Public Schools has adopted learning goals for preschool children
that focus on literacy and math and are aligned with Illinois’ early
learning standards and Head Start’s Child Outcome Frameworks. Here
is a sample of those goals:


Principals like Grow, teachers are so-so

The Consortium on Chicago School Research reports that teachers felt “moderately
positive” about their experiences with the Grow Network during its
first year in Chicago while principals were overwhelmingly positive. The
consortium surveyed 282 principals and 2,700 teachers of 4th- through
8th-graders in 345 schools.

Preschool’s patchwork quilt

State-subsidized childcare Federal Head Start State Pre-kindergarten