Making school a sanctuary


Students at Clemente High put their bags through the metal detectors that guard the entrance of the school.

Despite a districtwide decline, violence is up in some schools. Students and others say the district needs strategies to head off conflict, not more metal detectors and security guards. CPS is spending $14 million this year on an anti-violence initiative.

Plan to expand community schools

Chicago Public Schools will expand its community schools effort over the next year with an infusion of $7.5 million from CPS and between $700,000 and $800,000 from Chase Bank. Funding for the schools became a question mark this year, when three-year grants from the Campaign for Community Schools ran out.

Reading curricula narrowed to two

This fall the district has launched an initiative to standardize reading curricula in hopes of curbing the negative impact of mobility on reading instruction and achievement. The initiative has begun with 150 elementary schools that volunteered to be part of the first cohort. Over the next three years, 150 schools will be added annually, adopting one of the two reading programs the district has selected.

Ren 2010 part of contract talks

Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools officials say they spent a significant amount of time negotiating over charter schools and Renaissance 2010 during talks in August. Yet only one provision—the formation of a new committee to look into new models for performance schools—directly addresses the controversial program. Behind the scenes, however, the union’s opposition to charters appears to be changing.

CPS has made progress in teacher hiring

Chicago is one of a handful of districts in the country that has eliminated forced teacher placement, which results in dissatisfaction among teachers and principals alike. It is a great credit to the collaboration between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union, and an example for other districts to follow.

Koldyke wrong about LAUNCH record

In the September 2007 issue of Catalyst Chicago, you published a guest column from Martin “Mike” J. Koldyke. In his comments, he waxed eloquently about the evolution of his involvement with school transformation in Chicago. Many of his points are well-taken. However, there was one statement made by Mr. Koldyke that we found extremely troubling.

Success by the numbers

A mix of incentives and transparency is at the heart of a turnaround effort at Hearst, a low-income, predominantly African-American school that has languished on probation. The principal, now in his second year, is pushing a data-driven system that features new curricula, professional development and a reshuffling of teachers’ preparation periods.

Teaching alternatives to fighting

Problems with serious fights and gang activity inside schools disrupt education for elementary students, as well as their older counterparts in high schools. Principals of elementary schools with high rates of violence say that helping young children learn to resolve conflict without fighting is key to curbing the problem.

State sets meaningless standard

Under the Illinois criteria for designating a school as dangerous under No Child Left Behind, not one CPS building has ever received the label, even though numerous campuses have problems with violence year after year.

Parents want the real story

For parents, finding out whether their child’s school is truly safe can be difficult. CPS has yet to make school-level data on serious offenses, including incidents that sparked calls to the Chicago Police Department, widely available to parents and the public. And the district has no way of verifying whether principals report violations of the Student Code of Conduct to the Office of Safety and Security, as they are supposed to do.

Notebook

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

Q&A with Laura Potts Langdon

“Choices in Little Rock,” a social studies curriculum developed by the non-profit education organization Facing History and Ourselves, examines a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement: the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Laura Potts Langdon, an 8th-grade social studies teacher at Ames Middle School in Logan Square, talked to writer Yvon Wang about the impact of the curriculum on her students.

Be transparent, listen to kids

Imagine yourself as a teenager living in one of the city’s tough neighborhoods. In a fairer, more ideal world, when you got to school, you’d be in a sanctuary where, at least for the day, you could escape the troubles of the community, broaden your horizons and prepare for a better future.

Comings and Goings

NEW PRINCIPAL PROGRAM Teach for America-Chicago and the Harvard Graduate School of Education have joined forces to recruit, train and place top Teach for America alumni as principals in some of CPS’ lowest-performing schools.

WebExtra: The ‘Data Wise’ way

“Data Wise”—a book based on collaborative work between Boston Public Schools and Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty and students—lays out eight steps to help schools improve teaching by better analyzing student work and test results. The process could impact Chicago directly, as CPS is considering hiring “Data Wise” researchers as consultants. Here’s a look at the process.