It’s the end of August 2010. A group of Illinois State University
teacher candidates has just been transplanted to Chicago for a program
that will put them in Little Village and Auburn Gresham schools for an
entire school year. The candidates are “teacher interns” at ISU’s Professional Development School program in Little Village.
On a hot summer night in July, 20 Illinois State University students
who are preparing to be teachers have gathered for class. The location:
a multi-purpose room in a Salvation Army building a few blocks from the
Pink Line. The subject: the culture and demographics of specific
Chicago communities. Both are unexpected. But to Illinois State University education
professor Robert Lee, the class represents the future of teacher
John Waters had only been a student teacher at Manierre Elementary for
a couple of weeks when he began to worry the school might close. Waters recalls that a CPS official came to a staff meeting at the start
of the school year and warned of potential school closings in the
community, especially if test scores didn’t go up. About half of the
students at Manierre met state achievement standards last year, far
fewer than the district average.
At Cárdenas Elementary, a year-round school in Little Village, Rachel
Bujalski is about to teach an art lesson to a kindergarten class. The challenge: They have just begun to learn English, and Bujalski is still learning Spanish.
Fewer minority teachers are joining CPS, while the student population is now more than 80 percent black and Latino. Meanwhile, education schools are emphasizing a new lesson: hands-on experience in the classroom and ‘cultural competence’ to bridge the divide with students.
“Fewer teacher candidates pass basic skills test” That headline topped Catalyst Chicago’s story on the impact of an
Illinois State Board of Education decision to raise passing scores on
the test that college students must take to earn admission to a school
of education. The board’s move was part of a strategy to raise the
rigor of teacher preparation in Illinois and, in turn, improve the
quality of the teaching force. In September, the first round of testing took place under the new standard—and pass rates plummeted to 22 percent overall.
STEP-UP is an offshoot of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline, which
began in the Latino community of Little Village in fall 2004. As of
spring 2010, nearly 140 teacher candidates had completed student
teaching in the Pipeline’s partner schools.
The federal government has spent millions of dollars to help local
universities prepare teacher candidates for Chicago Public Schools. But this year’s budget crisis has meant that far fewer new graduates ended up in Chicago’s neediest neighborhood schools.
Graphic: Basic skills test gap
Graphic: Lack of diversity
Graphic: Classroom mismatch