Q&A with Allen Bearden

Should the union push for more partnership schools?

If the programs that the union is implementing help those schools show progress, then by all means, they should be replicated and allowed to continue.

Notebook

A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.

Rocky start for renaissance

Renaissance 2010 has touched off a firestorm. Its leading edge, a Chicago Public Schools effort to transform public schools in tandem with another agency’s plan to redevelop public housing, provoked a lawsuit over school closings and protests from longtime residents who fear they will be shut out.

Principals firing more teachers

The number of non-tenured teachers fired from Chicago Public Schools has more than doubled over the past five years, rising to 144 in 2004 from only 56 in 1999.

Too many schools too soon?

New York City is rolling out small schools at breakneck speed. But depending on who’s doing the talking, the initiative is either a bold undertaking or a recipe for turmoil. Both views provide lessons for Chicago.

How to manage a multiplex

As home to three small public schools, Cregier Multiplex was a CPS model for shared space. This summer, it also became a cautionary tale for how not to manage a multi-school campus.

School closing policy

In February, the School Board adopted a policy giving itself wide latitude to close schools for academic and non-academic reasons. The only brake is the district’s desegregation consent decree, which averts closing schools when integration would be reduced. However, the decree could be lifted as early as 2006.

Dropout programs hit with funding cuts

Eleven alternative schools lost about 30 percent of their expected budgets for this year—a total of nearly $2 million—when the Illinois State Board of Education turned down City Colleges’ grant proposal for the first time in 18 years.

Matching teachers to schools

At a Chicago Public Schools teacher fair this summer, Lori Cunningham joined hundreds of principals and school representatives from across the city who were looking to recruit the best and the brightest to their schools.

Doing renaissance right

The School Board pulled a bait and switch with funding. First, school officials announced that many new Renaissance 2010 schools would be housed in district facilities—an arrangement that has worked out nicely for some existing charter and contract schools. Later, officials revealed that the district would charge the new schools rent and fees for the privilege, cutting into the already modest funding they get to educate children.

Cookie cutter charters?

low funding from CPS may put a brake on their ambitions. Under Renaissance 2010, the School Board is promising charter and contract operators that they will have a shot at space in CPS facilities. But some charter operators say the rent and operations fees the board plans to charge are cost-prohibitive.

Businesses not rushing to sign up

The mix of candidates who want to run charter and contract schools comes primarily from the ranks of universities, nonprofit institutions and leaders within Chicago Public Schools, according to letters of intent filed with the district and a list of attendees from summer training camps for applicants.

CPS turns to outside contractors

Contract schools are a novel idea that has its roots in a disputed part of state law. A 1995 amendment to the Chicago School Reform Act gives the School Board the authority to contract with third parties for services performed by union members.

A new class of public schools

Called performance schools, they will operate under five-year performance agreements and will report directly to central office, not an area instructional officer. They will be encouraged to negotiate with the Chicago Teachers Union to waive work rules such as the length of the school day and year.

Too many schools too soon?

New York City is rolling out small schools at breakneck speed. But depending on who’s doing the talking, the initiative is either a bold undertaking or a recipe for turmoil. Both views provide lessons for Chicago.

Flight to suburbs? Not from CPS

Among educators in Chicago, conventional wisdom maintains that teachers in city schools routinely flee to jobs in the suburbs, lured by lower housing costs and, in high schools, higher salaries.

Elsewhere

State officials are planning for school districts to begin pairing their best teachers with the lowest-achieving students, according to the Sept. 9 Post and Courier. The state Supreme Court ruled in July that school districts need to do a better job of educating needy children. Local school superintendents say experienced teachers are likely to resist reassignment without incentives.

Pro-charter school groups must speak up

I have no problem with the skepticism of those who need to see concrete results before they are willing to adopt reform. Similarly, I understand that the union’s job is to protect their members and, for whatever reason, they feel threatened by charter schools. What concerns me is the lack of response from charter school proponents via mainstream channels.

Comings & Goings

The North-Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia, officially opened Sept. 8th. The school was designed to provide overcrowding relief in Humboldt Park. CPS touted its opening as part of Renaissance 2010, although plans for the school had been in the works for years.

Founding board of directors

Arne Duncan: Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
Lula Ford: Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission
Sandra Guthman: President and CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation
Timothy Knowles: Executive Director, University of Chicago Center for Urban School improvement
John W. Madigan: Retired Chairman and CEO, Tribune company
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