Mayor Candidate Follow-Up (guest post)
Yeah, another great posting from our guestposter, who we can call HSObsessed (for High School obsessed.) Read on…..
So where do the candidates stand on the issues facing CPS high schools? I’ve read the written policy statements for five of the candidates (Danny Davis doesn’t seem to have a website yet for his mayoral campaign?) and I watched yesterday’s RYH debate, held at Walter Payton High School. Davis did not appear because he was called to Washington for a vote.
Honestly, there’s not a huge amount of specifics there for those of us focusing on high schools. Many of the candidates speak about needing to make every school a school of choice, including high schools. Here’s a round up of the HS info I got from the debate and the written statements:
Carol Moseley Braun:
When asked to give CPS a letter grade as it stands currently, she gave it a “D” (later changed it to C- ), saying that high schools like Walter Payton have raised the bar for all schools, but there are too many “dropout factories” within the system where more kids drop out than graduate, and teachers just show up to collect a paycheck.
When asked at the debate what she thought of discretionary admissions to selective enrollment and magnet schools, she conceded that she sees no problem with principals giving special consideration in admitting a child for having a talent or attribute that would add to the overall success of the school.
Her written education statement is very brief and doesn’t mention high schools at all.
At the debate, Chico said that parents want different schools with different focuses, that he was proud to have been on the team that developed new schools, including the selective enrollment high schools, and that the city “could use another round of them” in all parts of the city. His written statement specifies that he supports developing more SE HSs.
In his written education plan, Chico supports a voucher system that would give $7,500 for each HS student in a “chronically failing school”.
He plans to increase options of high school students who are not planning to attend college with technical, career and work-study programs.
In one of the boldest statements of his plan, he promises every high school student in CPS a laptop as part of his program “Closing the Digital Divide” to replace paper textbooks and to increase online lessons and learning. (He also wants to give every K-8 CPS student a laptop as well, and as the parent of a child who has trouble taking responsibility for the location and upkeep of things like gloves and small musical instrument cases, I shudder at the logistics.)
He wants to increase security in the schools with anti-bullying initiatives and more police presence when needed.
He favors creating alternative schools for disruptive students and those who are much older than others at their grade level (presumably from failing multiple years).
He supports allowing high school students to take college classes at the City Colleges of Chicago when the course is not available to them at their high school.
Miguel Del Valle:
At the debate, when asked to give CPS a grade, he separated his grade for elementary schools (C, with some Bs and As), with his grade for the high schools, which are “a different story” and which earn a D in his book because “most high schools are failing.”
In his written plan, Del Valle speaks of giving high school graduates who are “not secure in the basics of reading, writing and math” a “second chance” through the City Colleges system. (Huh?? Should they be graduating in the first place?)
He also advocates the dual enrollment with City Colleges for ambitious high school students who want to get a head start on college credits.
At the debate, Meeks pointed out that of 162 high schools in CPS, only 16 have kids generally performing at grade level.
He said he would not begrudge the students of Walter Payton or Northside Prep their schools, but wants to replicate that for every school.
In his written statement, Meeks stresses that for learning to occur, the school climate has to be conducive to it, and he believes CPS should institute a character education program to teach students to think critically and act responsibly.
He states that schools should use suspensions and expulsions less and instead have integrated systems of mediation, peer juries, peace circles and other alternative dispute resolution strategies.
No, he wasn’t at the RYH forum, and no official explanation was offered, but moderator Andy Shaw twice made subtle digs at him by imploring the audience members to demand that their mayoral candidates meet them and face the public “in unscripted formats”. Because this is a round up of the opinions and plans of the mayoral candidates on CPS high schools, I’ll include the high school details of Emanuel’s written plan, in case you haven’t read it yet.
Emanuel said he will “focus first on turning around Chicago’s dropout factories (and their feeder schools)” by creating new school options for families by replicating successful neighborhood high schools, magnet schools and developing new schools.
He wants increased use of social workers, college counselors and staff charged with intervening and supporting students before they drop out and he supports a “deeper network of alternative schools for students who don’t succeed in the mainstream.”
He plans to marshal the use of community-based organizations, non-profits, universities, private corporations and other civic institutions “to bring their people and programs to support struggling schools by providing mentors, tutors, job training,” and more.
My general response to all the candidates is, yes, yes, much of this sounds great! How exactly will we do this? Be very specific in your response! What has been tried already and when, why didn’t it work, and what exactly will you do differently? There was a lot of talk about how the “system is broken” and some criticism of the “bean counters” who have been running CPS for the last 9 years (so, Huberman and Arne Duncan screwed it all up?) and that it’s time for an educator to once again lead the system (like they did before 1995, when CPS was declared the worst public school system in the nation?).
And one small follow up question: Where will you get the money(I’m looking at you Chico, with 50,000 vouchers for either $3,700 or $7,500 each for a cost of about $275 million)? Some of the candidates touch on funding, speaking vaguely about getting private donations, getting more federal funds, trying to get TIF money released, making the state of Illinois pay more, or reducing central office bureaucracy (sorry, “slashing” that office down has supposedly been done every year since I’ve been following CPS, and by now it should be just Terry Mazany at 125 S. Clark, answering his own phone). Has none of this been tried before, and why didn’t the money flow in last time around?
What did you think?
UPDATE: Here’s another recap from Nettelhorst Vigilante, Jacqueline Edelberg: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacqueline-edelberg/chicagos-mayoral-candidat_b_796930.html
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