Q&A with David Vitale

It will take a minor miracle to make statewide school funding reform a reality, says David Vitale, who presides over the distribution of $5 billion in resources to schools. Just a week before CPS released its 2006 budget, Vitale explained the district’s rationale for recent budget policy changes to Editor Veronica Anderson.


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

College dreams get reality check

A student planning to enter Truman College in Uptown takes computerized placement exams.

Two reports show that while most Chicago Public Schools graduates plan to continue their education at a 4-year college, many of them land instead at City Colleges, taking remedial courses. Educators say both high schools and colleges need to do more to raise students’ skills. But efforts to impose tougher standards have yet to take hold.

Uncertain future for funding reform

Advocates for school funding reform are focusing on “next year” after a once-promising spring legislative session left them empty-handed. “Next year” is an election year, when the governor’s office, two-thirds of the Illinois Senate and the entire Illinois House are up for grabs. Champions of a tax swap proposal designed to bring in more money for schools plan to use that to their advantage.


Boston: Charter unions?

For the first time, about 50 teachers from a dozen charter schools across Massachusetts have joined the state’s main teachers union, according to the Aug. 10 Boston Globe. The new teachers will be associate members with only limited benefits, but union officials say the move will begin paving the way for giving charter teachers a voice on matters such as work hours and pay. Charter proponents say the union is trying to damage the charter school concept. Teachers, however, cannot bargain until 60 percent of teachers at a school agree to join the union.

Pennsylvania: More math

A new $5.3 million initiative is intended to spur school districts to require high school students to take four years of math, according to the Aug. 5 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Only about a third of districts now require four years of math. Under the initiative, 63 school districts and three additional schools will share grants of $50,000 to $168,000 to improve their math curricula. Chicago Public Schools requires three years of high school math.

Florida: Intensive reading

More than 600,000 middle and high school students will have to spend a quarter of the school day in intensive reading classes this fall, after failing the reading section of the state’s achievement tests, according to the Aug. 4 Orlando Sentinel. Students will have to stay in the classes until they raise their scores. Schools are dropping elective courses to make time for the reading classes, and hundreds of teachers are taking courses to become qualified to teach reading. Science, math and social studies teachers will also be required to show that they are incorporating more reading into their curricula. Last year, only 44 percent of 8th-graders and 32 percent of 10th-graders passed the reading test.

Capital Dispatch

SPRINGFIELD—[/b]Chicago Public Schools is partnering with the state on a new $2.1 million federal program designed to add 250 bilingual teachers over the next five years. Recent college graduates who are fluent in English, have a bachelor’s degree and can pass a proficiency test in one of 14 languages (Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese) can apply. Participants will work as bilingual teachers in CPS for three years, while studying to earn their teaching credentials and a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University. The coursework is expected to take about two and a half years, says Robin Lisboa, division administrator for English-language learning at the Illinois State Board of Education. Courses will be held in Chicago.

How to make it through community college

In February, the U.S. Department of Education released a report on the educational careers of traditional-age college students who enter community colleges. Author Clifford Adelman, a top researcher at the department, spoke with Catalyst Chicago about the course-taking habits of students who were likely to earn an associate’s degree or transfer to a university, and offered the following advice to students.

Seniority law should not allow ‘bumping’

The Chicago Teachers Union is seeking to amend the State School Code so teacher seniority will be based on the number of years teachers have worked in the district rather than at an individual school. Last spring, a bill proposing to do just that did not get out of committee. Another one will be reintroduced either in October or January. I believe this is a bad idea.

Top brass on the line in Philadelphia, Miami

Chicago’s response to NCLB restructuring is modest compared to what’s in store for persistently low-performing schools in Philadelphia and Miami. Superintendents in both cities are putting themselves on the line by taking direct control of a small group of schools, a personal guarantee that those schools would do better.

National trend: Universities begin dumping remedial courses

Students who must take remedial courses in college are less likely to earn a degree than their peers, national data show. But efforts to improve the way colleges teach these courses are “spotty” at best, says Matt Gandal, executive vice president of Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group founded by governors and business leaders to raise high school standards and better prepare students for post-secondary education.

Schools get Fresh Start with union

Five of the schools slated for restructuring will partner with the Chicago Teachers Union in a five-year deal that gives teachers more say and schools more autonomy. The $2 million program—called Fresh Start—is a retooled version of the old CTU partnership schools initiative. It will include a total of 10 low-performing schools that have been on probation for at least a year and have missed performance targets set by the NCLB law for at least two.

How three CPS graduates got detoured to City Colleges

Like most Chicago Public Schools students, Gage Park High graduate Debbi Fernandez, and Bogan High graduates Gregory Thomas and Andre Alexander all wanted to attend a 4-year college. But without concrete planning to pave the way, they ended up at Richard J. Daley College on the Southwest Side. All of them said they felt unprepared for college and placed in at least one remedial course. They talked to Catalyst Chicago writer Kalari Girtley and Associate Editor Maureen Kelleher about their experiences in high school and college, and their hopes for furthering their education.

A back-to-school wish list for CPS

Anthony Chalmers set a straightforward goal for this school year. As a first-time principal of the latest addition to the Chicago Inter-national Charter Schools network—one of 22 schools opening under the watchful eyes of Rensaissance 2010—Chalmers wants students and teachers at the Avalon South Shore campus to have as smooth a year as possible. This may not sound like much to ask for, but if the majority of the city’s public schools ran as trouble free all the time as Avalon South Shore did at the start of its opening day, the district would make a great leap forward.

Comings and Goings

Moving in/on Mashea M. Ashton, previously national director of recruitment and selection for the KIPP Foundation, is now the executive director for charter schools at the New York City Department of Education. Prior to joining KIPP, Ashton was coordinator of the Charter School Resource Center for Leadership for Quality Education. … Allecia Harley, former director of coordinated school health for CPS, is now a consultant on universities and health care organizations for the Huron Consulting Group in Chicago. … Amy Short has been promoted from an associate to the director of finance and operations at The Chicago Public Education fund. … New Steering Committee members for the Consortium on Chicago School Research at UIC include Carol Lee, professor in learning sciences and African-American studies at Northwestern University and Barbara Holt, education director of the Chicago Urban League. George Lowery of Roosevelt University will be replacing Victoria Chou of the University of Chicago as co-chair.

At Clark Street Cynthia Kay Barron, previously an area instructional officer, is now small schools area instructional officer. … Mary Beth Cunat has been promoted from manager to director of the Office of Principal Preparation and Development. … Pamela Randall, previously a special assistant in the Office of High School Programs, is now a deputy high school instruction officer. … Rachel G. Resnick, previously the deputy chief officer of the Office of Early Childhood Education, is now the chief labor relations officer in the Office of Labor & Employee Relations. … Careda Taylor, who was a special assistant in the Office of School and Community, is now a deputy high school instruction officer in the Office of High School Programs.

Principal Contracts The following interim principals have been given four-year contracts: Joenile Albert-Reese at Pritzker, Jill Besenjak at Stockton, Patricia Bauldrick at Gillespie, Carol Briggs at Kohn, Janice Buckley at Dewey Academy, Euel B. Bunton at Phillips/Wells, Terrence P. Carter at Barton, Vera Curry-James at Brennemann, Elias Estrada at Oriole Park, Shirley A. Ewing at Beidler, Leticia Gonzalez at Saucedo, James Gorecki at Kennedy High School, Lucille Howard at C. E. Hughes, Elizabeth A. Kirby at Kenwood Academy, Jacquelyn Lemon at Dyett Academic Center, Kimberly A. McNeal at South Chicago, Richard S. Norman at Senn High School, Rita Ortiz at Dever, Sulma Rodriguez Grigalunas at Jahn, Linda N. Salinas at Hammond, Judith Sauri at Edwards, Sharon Spellman at Inter-American, Angela Tucker at Esmond, Alice Vera at De Diego and Helen Wells at Neil. … John A. Butterfield at Mather High School, Carol Ann Lang at McCutcheon, Patricia Lewis at Goodlow Magnet, Andrew Manno at Hubbard High School, Arthur Tarvardian at Taft High School and Carolyn Townes at O’Keeffe have had their contracts renewed. … Mary Cavey, former interim principal at New Field Elementary, is now interim principal at LeMoyne Elementary. … Maria Rodriguez O’Keefe, previously the deputy chief instructional officer of school management, is the new contract principal at Reilly.

Overcrowding leases CPS will lease three recently closed Catholic schools to relieve overcrowding. Good Shepherd at 2725 Kolin Ave. will become a branch of Little Village’s Zapata Elementary School, St. Bride at 7765 S. Coles Ave. will become a branch of Powell Elementary School and St. Camillus at 5434 S. Lockwood Ave. will become a new school to relieve overcrowding on the Southwest Side at Pasteur, Lee, Peck, Sandoval and Edwards.

Renaissance 2010 Proposals On Aug. 19, CPS received 57 Renaissance 2010 proposals for 2006-2007. Most proposals target the neighborhoods designated by CPS as priorities in terms of new school development: Austin, East and West Garfield Park, Greater Grand Crossing, North Lawndale, South Shore, Englewood and West Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Fuller Park. Proposals include 25 charter schools, 14 contract schools and 18 performance schools. Thirty proposals are for high schools; 11 are for combined middle school/high schools and 16 are for elementary schools.

Awards The Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Lend-A-Hand Program, a venture of the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Foundation, presented the Making a Difference Award to attorney Sonya Naar for organizing 10 lawyers to help students at John Barry Elementary School prepare for and conduct mock trials. It also gave the offices of Winston & Strawn LLP the Program of the Year Award for mentoring students and constructing a playground at Dodge Elementary School.