Mid-level school district staffers play a vital role in communicating district initiatives to schools. They design materials, train school faculties, and monitor their progress. But according to a recent study, most central office workers use a top-down approach that overlooks the experience of school-level educators.
Are activists satisfied with CPS’ response to their concerns?
They should stop implementation of the plans until they can engage the community more meaningfully.
A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country
In March, Chicago Public School officials predicted that a third of new teachers for the coming 2004-05 school year would be hired from alternative certification programs, a figure that CPS said would be more than double the number hired from such programs in 2003-04.
CPS officials say the move to convert child-parent centers or pre-kindergartens or Head Starts will free up $4.7 million in federal Title 1 funds for the district’s reading improvement initiative. Critics charge the district is penny pinching a high-quality, nationally-recognized preschool program.
The signup letter the School Board sent parents read like a legal document and didn’t go out until just before school started. Some of the private tutoring companies couldn’t find enough teachers or classroom space.
Secondary schools have long offered courses that count for both high school and college credit. A cutting-edge extension of this practice is early college high school, where students simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
Community Links in Little Village is a blend of established reform—such as small class size and block scheduling—and more experimental strategies to improve high schools.
In August, a third Big Picture-inspired school, City as Classroom Charter School in Pilsen, opened its doors. Founder Lisa Arrastia notes the school will borrow heavily from that model—”We’re doing the long-term internships and the projects”—but will also take cues from progressive, independent schools like Francis W. Parker, where she formerly worked.
Fewer than half of the teachers hired in Chicago Public Schools through the national program Teach for America stay on the job for three years, the commitment required of teachers in other alternative certification programs.
To find out if your child’s school is required to offer tutoring, contact the school or call the CPS Office of After School and Community Programs at (773) 553 3590.
WHO CONDUCTED IT: Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, in collaboration with Patricia Burch, assistant professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison and James Spillane, associate professor, Northwestern University.
3300 N. Campbell
Enrollment: 125 juniors
Opened: July 2003
*Classified as a branch program of Lane Technical High School
Community Links High
2400 S. Marshall Blvd.
Enrollment: 35 freshmen, 30 sophomores
Opened: September 2003
BACK OF THE YARDS
4946 S. Paulina Ave.
Enrollment: 30 freshmen, 30 sophomores
Opened: September 2003
In June, Teach for America received a flurry of media attention when a national study was released that showed students taught by the program’s teachers did better in math than students taught by other teachers at the same schools and in the same grades.
In June, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a plan to create 100 new schools—a mix of charter, contract and small schools that are not required to seat elected councils. Under the Chicago School Reform Act, councils have legal authority to hire principals, and set priorities for spending discretionary funds and for their schools’ improvement plan.
To help new teachers develop classroom management skills, Manley began a program last year in which veteran staff show newcomers what to expect by role-playing as problem students. The veterans chew gum in class, talk back to the new teachers and turn their backs on them while they talk. To defuse situations, teachers may learn to ask a disruptive student to step out in the hall for a talk or use other methods to defuse situations.
The alternative certification programs CPS works with are geared primarily toward career-changers who teach while taking education coursework at local colleges and universities. The schools also enroll candidates who are not planning to work in Chicago.
Research on whether teachers from alternative programs help or hurt student achievement is inconclusive. But some educators charge that such programs often put under-prepared novices in the most challenging schools.
Remember the good old days of high school? Cliffs Notes, study hall, doodling while the geometry teacher droned on about congruent triangles. How about wading through a sea of hundreds, or even thousands, of students seven periods each day to get to class on time?
With the new leadership finally in control of the Chicago Teachers Union, a wave of political firings leaves in doubt where the union stands on teacher leadership in school reform.
Knowing firsthand the conditions at my school, it was obvious that some of the responses were without foundation and totally ridiculous. Also, considering the fact that 66 percent of teachers and paraprofessionals system-wide did not even bother to fill it out, it speaks volumes about how unreliable this survey was.
William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the founder of the Small Schools Workshop, has written a new book, Teaching toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom.
Chart: Alternative Certification and shortages