America’s childhood obesity epidemic has been widely publicized. But the obesity rate for children in Rasheema’s neighborhood is almost four times the national average, according to a recent study by Sinai Health System.
Some studies suggest that being overweight leads to lower test scores; in some cases, replacing class time with physical education boosts them.
Health centers in public schools fill a void in the lives of many adolescents in poor communities, offering primary health care services to those who need them. But high costs keep health centers essentially out of reach for most schools.
Student health is becoming a higher priority for the central administration, which has expanded its health services and programs in schools. Here is a sampling of projects, some initiated by CPS, others by non-profits or universities working in partnership with the district or individual schools.
CPS officials plan to release in June recommendations for improving student health—the third such effort since 2002. Observers in Chicago’s health community have their fingers crossed that this effort will get off the ground.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging schools to take a broad view of health, one that incorporates students and staff and a range of issues. Specifically, it has identified eight areas of well being that studies have shown to be correlated with academic achievement or with mental or physical health.
Is CPS behind the curve on this issue?
They are. New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland—all have been promoting long-range facility planning. There’s an entire discipline around school design that CPS has dabbled in, but there’s a lot more they could do.
In November 2003, Revere, with the help of two outside partners, launched a two-pronged strategy: First, renovate homes through and second, build 90 new homes over the next three years.
Small schools that opened under the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative have made small strides in improving attendance and student grades, according to an article published this month in the Journal of Improving Schools. South Shore High’s new small schools are in line with a number of the key findings.
Chicago International decided to apply for a charter in South Shore in part because of an Illinois Facilities Fund report ranking the neighborhood first on its list of communities that most need high-performing schools, says Elizabeth Delaney-Purvis, executive director of the Chicago Charter School Foundation,
South Shore Cultural Center received landmark status, and capital projects are underway to build a dance studio and cooking school in the field house. Throughout the 30-year renewal of South Shore, few of the community’s better-off families have put their children in nearby public schools, opting instead for private schools or long commutes to magnets elsewhere in the city.
A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.
Chicago Public School officials acknowledge problems of under-reporting or misreporting of school-level suspensions. According to data from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), for instance, 74 schools reported zero suspensions in 2003—but some principals at those schools admitted to Catalyst Chicago that those reports were inaccurate.
CPS’ top budget official says the district stands to get only $35 million from the budget proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which he first shared with legislators just a week after CPS made its pitch. The governor’s budget would give schools across Illinois only $140 million
Tatyana Hopkins sits in the front row of her 5th-grade classroom at Henson Elementary in North Lawndale. But she still squints to read words on the chalkboard and sometimes asks a classmate to read them for her.
A November 2004 report by the Illinois Facilities Fund highlighted South Shore as a community in need of higher-achieving schools. Researchers examined neighborhood demographics, population trends, public schools enrollment and achievement, and private school options.
Most of Gladstone’s students are low income—like CPS as a whole—and qualify for free eye exams and glasses—through either Medicaid’s KidCare program or a private program, like Sight for Students, that has partnered with CPS.
Tips for schools:
3. Make sure the disciplinarian has a list of students who failed the most recent vision screening. Students with poor vision sometimes are the ones who act out.
Recess went by the wayside decades ago at most CPS elementary schools. Today 90 percent give kids only a rushed 20 minutes for lunch, leaving little if any time for recess, according to a Catalyst survey of 320 schools.
“Several studies suggest that providing more time for physical activity (by reducing class time) can lead to increased test scores, particularly in the area of mathematics.
It’s not much of a stretch to see how poor nutrition and little or no exercise can be a drag on how well kids do in the classroom. And eyeglasses, well, there’s a no brainer. Unfortunately, easy logic does not translate into easy action. Last year, more than 60,000 Chicago Public Schools students failed vision screening tests.
You can’t change anything by yourself, so talk to other people who may have similar concerns and then generate interest in finding solutions. Nurses might know about asthma, primary teachers about hygiene, and gym teachers (who see a lot of kids) about children who are overweight.
CPS has hired Boston Consulting Group and the American Institute for Research to assess the current state of its high schools and develop a 10-year plan to improve them. The assessment is funded by a $2 million grant awarded to the district late last year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A judge has put a multi-billion-dollar price tag on improving education in the city’s schools, ordering that $5.6 billion be spent every year to insure that children receive the ‘sound education’ guaranteed by the state constitution, according to the Feb. 15 New York Times.