School budget forecast: cloudy


Columbia Explorers Academy reaped extra cash because of faulty enrollment projections.


Each spring, the district kicks off the budget process by estimating school-by-school enrollment. A Catalyst Chicago analysis found that this year, one in five schools—most often, neighborhood schools—had projections that were substantially off, affecting staffing levels.

Seeking 10,000 LSC candidates

This year, organizations that are trying to recruit parents and community residents to run in the upcoming local school council elections will have to sign up candidates before they receive full funding from the district for their efforts. It’s a far cry from the heyday of LSCs when private foundations fronted the money—as much as $400,000—to seed candidate recruitment.

Showdown at Curie High School

The April 2007 meeting of the Curie High School local school council began, as always, with Secretary Norma Valle taking attendance. It didn’t take long. Only six members were present—parents and community representatives, all of them Hispanic. No teachers, no students, no whites, no African-Americans, no principal.

But the lack of a quorum and the absence of Principal Jerryelyn Jones wasn’t much of a surprise. Calling the meeting and highlighting Jones’ absence was the whole point.

Fallout still echoing at Curie

The dust seems to have settled on the Curie High local school council following last year’s tumultuous and very public battle over the decision not to renew a popular principal’s contract. But things could heat up.

Q&A with Michael Feinberg

The mantra “no shortcuts” reflects the longer school day, Saturday school and daily homework that are staples of KIPP. Co-founder Michael Feinberg is adamant about the need for more teaching time to improve learning, especially for low-income kids who start school behind their middle-class peers. KIPP now operates a national network of 57 schools, including KIPP Ascend on the West Side. Feinberg, a Teach for America alumnus who was in Chicago recently, talked with Deputy Editor Lorraine Forte about motivation, expectations and lessons learned when another campus here, KIPP Chicago Youth Village, closed in 2006.

Comings and goings

COLLEGE CENTERS CPS has opened College and Career Resource Centers in 64 high schools and plans to open centers in 16 more. The centers are run by counselors and staff from the Department of Postsecondary Education and Student Development, and are equipped with computers, printers and hard copies of college resource materials. Students can drop in during the school day or after school two or three days a week to search for information on colleges, careers, scholarships and financial aid; or to seek help from counselors.

Is it possible that LSCs can—and do—work?

The death knell is ringing for Chicago’s local school councils, and it has been for years. But as it turns out, LSCs just won’t die. It’s not for lack of trying on the part of those who have the power and means to kill them. Mayor Richard M. Daley took his best shot a year ago, when Curie High School’s local school council handed him a smoking gun in the form of a questionable decision not to renew the contract of a popular and competent principal.

Better choice, better budgets

Every spring, thousands of children in urban districts from New York and Boston to Oakland and Seattle turn in lists of schools that they hope to attend in the fall. Those lists are then fed into a computer program that, in a single whirl, churns out school assignments for each child.

Projections leave budgets in flux

Each year, schools play the enrollment game, hoping the district’s projections are on target. If they are too low, schools find themselves scrambling to have enough teachers and staff ready to go on day one. In these four schools, 2007 projections were off—either too high or too low. Here’s how administrators coped with the faulty projections.

Potholes swallow seniors

Tripped up along the road to college, many CPS grads never apply or wind up going to schools beneath their qualifications. A new report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research follows a 2006 study that showed low grades and less-than-rigorous classes led to only 35 percent of CPS graduates getting a college degree within six years of leaving high school.

No pipeline to needy schools

Poor, minority schools are under-represented among the schools that host student teachers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), an institution that provides nearly a third of the district’s new teachers. In 2005, only one-fifth of the college’s student-teaching sites consisted of high-poverty, segregated, low-performing schools. “Without sustained practice in these schools, teacher candidates will be less inclined to seek or accept jobs in these communities,” according to a UIC data brief.

Wanted: diversity in teacher pool

The University of Illinois at Chicago hired a recruiter and gave him a specific charge: Find promising minority students and steer them into education—with the goal of increasing the pool of teachers the college could send to the most challenging CPS schools. Research shows that students of color are more likely to commit to teaching in lower-income African-American and Latino communities, UIC officials note.

New plan to keep freshmen on track

Research confirms the early signs that students are on their way to dropping out of school: They are older than their peers; they are failing classes; and they are increasingly absent. Now, CPS is trying to figure out what it can do to get these students to change course. The biggest effort will come in new “freshmen on-track labs.” These dropout-prevention programs will be piloted in six high schools in the fall. Each lab will cost $310,000 for 18 months.