Updated Sept. 11, 2007– Teachers have ratified the tentative contract agreement reached between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public School officials in late August.
In a new, state-of-the-art community center near 69th and Sangamon in Englewood, slots for early childhood programs are going begging. Meanwhile, a few miles north at the El Hogar Del Nino child care center in Little Village, slots are at a premium. The bottom line is the same in both communities: Needy children are going without the benefits of early education.
When a vote to authorize a worker’s compensation settlement came before Mayor Richard Daley’s handpicked School Board back in April, the trustees did something unique—they split their vote. The 5-2 decision marked the third time in 12 years that the Board’s members disagreed on the record. Some say the Board’s stability has helped reform.
I have been working in and with Chicago’s public high schools and Chicago’s small schools movement for the past 20 years. It is ironic that since the start of Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, no one connected with the School Board, CPS leadership or education foundations has asked my opinion about small schools or anything else.
MORE SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFF Following dramatic cuts last year, schools may get between 300 and 400 additional special education teachers and aides this fall, says Gretchen Brumley, CPS director of finance for specialized services. Brumley says the additional staff are needed because of changes to students’ Individual Education Plans and the rising percentage of severely disabled students, who require extra help.
Chicago Public Schools leaders and those on the front line should be commended for progress they have made so far in a number of areas. Yet historically and now, reform efforts have a scattered or a single-minded focus rather than a systemic approach. High-stakes testing, teacher retention, school leadership, the achievement gap, violence prevention, truancy and a host of revamped instructional programs are all targeted reforms that have made improvements but were not pulled together to ensure all efforts were aimed at common goals.
Solving problems such as making schools safer and cutting the dropout rate will take input from those on the front lines in schools—parents, teachers and community activists. Here’s what parents, a veteran teacher and a leader from one of the city’s most vocal community groups told Catalyst Chicago about the direction CPS needs to take in the coming years.
A major focus for the district’s two top leaders, CEO Arne Duncan and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, is to provide training and support for principals and teachers. Duncan and Eason-Watkins talked about their vision for CPS on the August 12 edition of “City Voices,” the monthly radio show broadcast on WNUA, 95.5 FM. Following is an edited version of the transcript.
School Board President Rufus Williams says it’s just “not efficient” to expect Chicago Public Schools, year after year, to travel to Springfield and lobby for basic funding. That time would be much better spent, he argues, getting principals, teachers, parents and community leaders on the same page toward providing high-quality education to every child in the city. In an interview with Editor-in-Chief Veronica Anderson, Williams lays out his priorities.
With Chicago Public Schools now in its 12th year under mayoral control and the district’s signature Renaissance 2010 initiative at the halfway mark, the time seemed ripe for Catalyst Chicago to take stock and ask the big questions: Where is the district headed? How can the district motivate key players and lead schools to the next level of achievement? What needs to be done to solve problems such as school violence?
Maria Guzman says isolation and lack of communication between schools has been her biggest challenge in trying to get the best education for her children. “If schools aren’t giving information about getting from elementary to high school, or from high school to college, you don’t know your options,” she says.