Retirees become ‘sounding board’

Former teachers are guiding rookies at 80 schools through the Retired Mentors Program, a two-year-old partnership with the Chicago chapter of the National Retired Teachers Association, the educator wing of (and precursor to) the American Association of Retired Persons. Chicago’s project, part of a national initiative launched in 2002, is serving 163 new teachers this year.

Is it fair to ask poor kids to ‘do more with less?’

As an educator and an administrator, I’m always thinking of ways to provide children with the best education possible. Public education is supposed to be “free” in Illinois, but we know this isn’t true. Some one has to fund it. When schools rely on property taxes then it stands to reason that schools in poor neighborhoods will be drastically underfunded.

Principals survey

Despite ongoing concerns about waning interest in local school councils, a survey of 350 CPS principals shows that an overwhelming majority (83 percent) believe their LSCs contribute to school improvement.

Cultivating a crop of urban teachers

Meetings, coaching and online discussions are just a few of the strategies of the New Teachers Network, a two-year induction program that is a project of the Center for Urban School Improvement at the University of Chicago. Along with the camaraderie of working with other newcomers and learning new teaching techniques, the meetings also provide a place to pick up practical tips to ease day-to-day life in classrooms and schools. Ultimately, the network’s goal is to retain newcomers who are committed to teaching in urban schools and have the potential to make a positive impact in their classrooms and schools.

Making new teachers better

The teacher induction program run by the highly regarded New Teacher Center at the University of California-Santa Cruz goes beyond the basics to provide intensive support for both mentors and beginning teachers. The goal is to not only keep teachers in the classroom, but to improve teaching as well by introducing newcomers to best practices.


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

Three views from the trenches

Research shows that teachers who receive support from mentors are more likely to stay on the job than those who are left to struggle through their rookie year on their own. Consulting Editor Lorraine Forte and Associate Editor Debra Williams spoke with veteran teachers Mary Hanson and Brenda Humphrey and newcomer Margaret Evans about the challenges of being a first-year teacher, what good mentors provide and what keeps teachers in the classroom.

Mentoring not so GOLDEN

One first-year and two veteran teachers talk about what it takes to survive the first year of teaching.

Last school year, Chicago Public Schools hired over 2,700 new teachers. Before the end of the year, nearly 200 had quit, leaving not just their schools but the district. A similar scenario has played out for each of the last several years. While attrition in teachers’ second and third years has slowed somewhat, more new teachers are quitting before their first year is complete. Good mentoring can make a critical difference in keeping new teachers on the job.

Ounce of prevention for teachers worth a pound of cure at schools

This year, some 300 newly hired teachers in Chicago Public Schools are participating in hands-on mentoring and induction programs that provide them with social supports with peers and instructional safety nets from experts. As good as that sounds, though, there are a couple thousand more new public school teachers who do not have access to these supports and are left on their own to flounder.

Renaissance school’s success not supported by test scores

Thank you for the powerful stories in your March 2006 issue about the impact of the Chicago Public Schools’ Renaissance 2010 program. We need more careful analysis like this before any Renaissance 2010 programs are proclaimed models. It was therefore frustrating to see the editorial characterization of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) as a “proven program.”

Community groups find teachers in their own back yard

Grow Your Own Illinois aims to solve the perennial problem of high teacher turnover in low-income schools. The initiative, modeled after a program that started six years ago in Logan Square, provides teacher training for parents, community leaders and paraprofessionals who are already active in schools. “We want to help regular people in the community become powerful teachers,” says the program’s director.

Performance goals

Under the new probation policy, schools are rated on an eight point scale. Three points or less lands a school on probation; six points or more gets them off. Those in the middle may fall into either category at the district’s discretion.

Research summary

Researchers evaluated the quality of professional development at seven of 23 small high schools that are part of the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative. During 2004-2005, they interviewed 59 principals and teachers, observed 47 staff meetings and conducted case studies at three schools.

Comings and Goings

CPS REORGANIZATION Central office will undergo yet another reorganization, this time in an effort to cut $25 million in administrative costs. To streamline the bureaucracy, Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan will have fewer people reporting to him directly.

Q&A with Tio Hardiman

The best way to deter violence in schools is to develop relationships with kids, says Tio Hardiman of the Chicago Project on Violence Prevention at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Hardiman, who spoke candidly of running away from home as a teenager and eventually moving to another side of town to avoid gangs, advocates using former gang members to work with kids. He talked with Senior Editor Elizabeth Duffrin.