Not just for poor schools anymore

The district’s alternative certification initiative has changed dramatically over the last three years: Some programs that worked with CPS have ceased operating or been scrapped, and prospective teachers no longer receive tuition subsidies. But perhaps the most significant shift has been in the district’s mission for the initiative, which CEO Arne Duncan has lauded for bringing experienced career-changers into the classroom.

A makeover for bilingual ed?


A kindergartner at Sawyer Elementary gets help with English vocabulary.


CPS is not doing an adequate job of preparing English learners to tackle the same work as their classmates, a new commission says. Meanwhile, these students are facing new assessments under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But a major overhaul may be in the works.

Schools on the chopping block?

CPS officials plan to announce a new round of school closings and restructurings Thursday afternoon. Mayor Daley and Schools CEO Arne Duncan have indicated recently that the district will close or consolidate as many as 50 underenrolled schools over the next five years.

CPS budget hanging in the balance

UPDATED JAN. 10: CPS will receive $147 million in state aid after legislators accept Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s changes to the 2008 budget implementation bill, which increases per pupil spending by $400, to $5,734. Schools throughout the state will get a total of $617million. In addition, schools will receive additional special education funding of $1,000 for each certified teacher and $700 for each non-certified staff member.

High schools neglected under NCLB

No Child Left Behind is not helping low-performing high schools to improve, a panel of educators said recently. What’s needed is more funding and accountability measures that include graduation and college performance rates as well as test scores.

The College Challenge revisited: Support, perseverance are key

What does it take to get a college education? Six years ago, Catalyst Chicago began to examine that complex question in “The College Challenge,” a series of periodic reports on the struggles of nine black and Latino students from Chicago Public Schools who were aiming to earn a college degree. With this report, Catalyst checks in with five of them to find out what made the difference in helping them surmount the hurdles.

Ren10 still missing the mark in some communities

Chicago Public Schools is closing in on its goal of opening 100 new schools under Renaissance 2010, but almost half of the communities identified as most in need of high-performing schools have yet to get them.

After the fourth round of new schools approved recently under the district’s controversial program, 10 of the 25 “priority communities” identified in a 2004 report by the IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) have yet to get the new schooling options they need.

Bilingual teachers scarce in preschools

Getting young children ready for school by exposing them to language, equipping them with reading readiness skills, and instilling a love of exploration and learning is the key to preparing them for school success. But that task is more difficult for youngsters whose native language is not English—because of the lack of bilingual preschool teachers.

A double hurdle for high schoolers

Academic progress is often tougher for high school English-language learners, who comprise about 10 percent of all bilingual students in CPS. Educators note that older students face two hurdles: learning to speak a new language while also learning high-school-level academic content.

Teaching kids in two languages

Walk into a 5th-grade class at Whittier Elementary in Pilsen and students are reading about the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of democracy—in Spanish. Whittier and a handful of schools use dual language instruction throughout the grades. The goal: Kids who are fluent in both English and Spanish.

New test, more accountability

For decades, teachers and parents had little formal data about the English skills of bilingual students and how well they were likely to perform when they transitioned into an English-only class. Now, the state’s two-year-old English proficiency test, called ACCESS, is providing that missing piece of the puzzle. But the news is mixed. Fewer than a quarter of CPS bilingual students reached benchmark proficiency levels this year.

Taking the ISAT

Starting next year, English-language learners will have to take the same achievement test as their English-speaking peers.

English learners falling short

A driving force behind the creation of the new Commission on Bilingual Education and World Language is the concern that Chicago is not doing a good enough job educating its non-English-speaking students.

Rising to meet the challenge

Five years ago, Catalyst Chicago published the last in a series of reports on the struggles and successes of nine African-American and Latino graduates working toward a college degree. This month, we revisit “The College Challenge” to find out what happened to them. Their stories provide real food for thought as the district continues to roll out its High School Transformation Project.

Comings and Goings

MIDDLE SCHOOLERS DEBATE Twenty students from six schools—Alcott, Brighton Park, Kellogg, Smyser, Owen Scholastic and Lincoln—participated in the first After-School All-Stars Chicago Middle School Urban Debate on Nov. 17.

Programs cut, added

Three years ago, prospective teachers looking for a fast track to the classroom in CPS could choose from among 14 alternative certification programs. Now there are only seven.

Pre-k does focus on quality

As advocates for early childhood education and care throughout Illinois, we were glad to see David Kirp’s interview by Cindy Richards in the November 2007 Q&A column. We agree with David Kirp that low-quality early childhood programs are not the best use of scarce resources. We wish to address the mischaracterization of Illinois’ early childhood education policies as “promoting quantity over quality.”