Mayor Candidate Follow-Up (guest post)

December 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm 69 comments

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.

Gery Chico:

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.

James Meeks:

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.

Rahm Emanuel:

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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Mayoral Candidate Education Forum Weds 12/15 – Webcast New policy on filling Gifted/Classical spaces mid-year

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  December 16, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Heh… love this line. Although I have no idea who Terry M is!
    I’ve been in the CPS building only once… it is a sorry little place to visit.

    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)

  • 2. Mayfair Dad  |  December 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    People are quick to criticize the laptop for every student idea and I would agree we have bigger fish to fry – still the idea intrigues.

    I recently read an article how some private universities have already transitioned to tablet computers instead of old fashioned textbooks. Overall, it actually saves money, not to mention better for the environment, less back trouble later in life, easier to store information.

    6th grade thru high school should be responsible enough to manage their own tablet computer. Maybe the Gates Foundation will want to pilot the program in Chicago. Quick, somebody call Bill & Melinda. (hint: Rahm has their number on speed dial…)

  • 3. clarificationplease  |  December 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    ” it is a sorry little place to visit.”

    what do you mean by this?

  • 4. cps Mom  |  December 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    All it takes is one drop for a computer to be ruined. I could see lap top carts with enough computers for a classroom at any given time – some schools already have this.

    After Meeks comments about city minority contracts today I would not vote for him if he were the only man running. I won’t get into it because this is about CPS but at this point not only do I not care about his policy but I don’t trust him to have all childrens interest at heart.

    None of the statements above have enough meat in them. Maybe due to political dancing. I do like the various statements about alternative education and reaching out to a student not functioning within the system in different terms. Can we look at our successes and duplicate them within the system to include all students? How is it that certain charter schools are so successful in the worst neighborhoods? They work very closely with the kids and are very demanding. The parents sign a contract that they will support the efforts. If the family does not comply with expectations, they are out. That’s a pretty big incentive.

  • 5. impossible  |  December 16, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Nobody really has anything substantive to say because the issue is impossible. Meeks is on to something with the funding injustice but apparently he doesn’t recognize the inequities in spending between the selective enrollment schools and the regular high schools. CMB is just an opportunist and has no basis to criticize anyone. The problems are systemic and I’m not sure that a public school district can fix them. I’ve been following Evanston Township High School closely because evanston is a city with resources that is diverse and well educated. Yet–still the gap between whites and minorities is there. So now the School Board is doing away with honors only classes. Go figure:

    http://evanstonnow.com/story/news/charles-bartling/2010-11-30/experts-at-eths-forum-decry-tracking

  • 6. Hawthorne mom  |  December 16, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    My issue with vouchers is that if the ONLY thing that changes in a kid’s life is the school, there won’t be any real change. A child’s education changes when the child, the parents, the community AND the school all work together. If you’ve only got one piece of the puzzle correct, it doesn’t work.
    And I wonder, which charter schools are you referring to #4 that are so successful? I don’t know of more than one or two charters in the entire city I’d consider successful. (CICS Irving Park and the Noble street charter HS by UIC)
    I just don’t see any candidate giving serious consideration towards how in the world they are going to pay for current ideas, let alone new ones. I also don’t hear any candidate talking about putting an educator in charge of the system. Until one of them does, I personally will not vote in this election. With all due respect to differing opinions, I think the candidates all are pretty worthless when it comes to schools.

  • 7. cps Mom  |  December 16, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Providence St. Mel has an Englewood charter (the Providence Effect) and so does Noble. There is another charter – name escapes me now – recently written up for 100% grad and college bound rate.

  • 8. Hawthorne mom  |  December 16, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    #7, you might be thinking of Urban Prep. Yes, 100% of their kids got accepted into college, that was well publicized. What they did not publicize was that the average ACT score for Urban Prep this past year was 15. Yup. 15. Not sure where or how their very dedicated HS counselors were able to get them into college, but I am annoyed that UP got press that made them sound like heroes, only to find out the great majority of their kids are nowhere near college ready. I wonder what kind of graduation standards the school has that would allow a child to graduate with that kind of an ACT score.

  • 9. Gayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2010 at 5:50 am

    I watched online, (thank you RYH), and heard references of “for the past nine years” several times. Is there a correlation to the claim that CPS has declined since then and the NCLB Act of 2001?

  • 10. cpsobsessed  |  December 17, 2010 at 7:19 am

    @3 – by “sad little place” I just mean that the CPS office is probably a lot like any government office. I’ve worked in corp America for the past 2 decades (10 years in an ad agency… places known for blowing money on nice offices.)
    It seems like the CPS building was bought from some other company and there was like a whole elevator bank just out of use (which looked a little weird), a general sense of the building being “used,” conference room with cheap furniture, nothing particularl attractive, piles of stuff all over the place, etc.

    Basically I just felt bad that many people who work hard to keep our school system running never get the chance to be in a nice office or a building that feels “nice” when they walk in every day. Of course it doesn’t make sense to spend money on the building and offices given the state of our budget. I just wish there was a magic way to spruce it up a bit. I think professional surroundings help people feel professional.

  • 11. cpsobsessed  |  December 17, 2010 at 7:25 am

    I read this in the Huffington Post article:

    “Braun was the only candidate who spoke to Chicago’s public/private school crush. Against the drumbeat for increased school choice, Braun tenaciously held on to the dowdy notion that we should just improve our neighborhood schools. “What makes Walter Payton a world class school?” she asked. It isn’t because it’s a magnet or a charter, or because its students have parents who love them more — Walter Payton succeeds because it has talented teachers, involved parents, visionary leadership and appropriate resources.”

    Just one of my annoyances as a data-driven person. What makes Walter Payton succeed? It’s because CPS has skimmed off the cream of the crop! Those kids would probably succeed in the “worst” school in CPS. And *if* the school has the great teachers, parents, and leadership, it’s because having the best students attracts those things.

    When I head examples of “what’s working,” I want to hear about schools that don’t get to select students.

    I do applaud CMBraun for pushing for improvement across the board (of course easier said than done, as we all know.)

  • 12. klm  |  December 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

    #8, I agree with your assessment of “Urban College Prep”. It’s so sad and upsetting for anybody that is concerned about disparities. I recall a Trib or Sun Times article about the school….one student (who wants to become a cardiologist) had a 15 ACT score (which ranks him in the bottom 14% nationally) and was admitted to Johns Hopkins (where the the average student scores are in the top 1-3%)!!??!! Now, I understand the altruistic concept of giving a break to a kid who has had to grown up in the hellish, felon-factory atmosphere of one of the worst American ghettos and done his best despite the odds, etc., but….. It seems almost cruel to put a young adult in that competetive college atmosphere where the average student scored more than 30 on the ACT, has had lots of AP classes, near-perfect HS GPA, etc. and expect him to compete. I hope that these young men do well, I REALLY do, but how prepared are they really for anything but the least competetive, community college-type schools? One of the other female-only charter high schools with many physician-wannabes prides itself on its college admission rates, but has never produced a student with the “college ready” score on the ACT science section (so ‘good luck’ in pre-med courses at the University of Illinois, take it from me). I’m sure that there are many other examples of these kinds of “successful” charter high schools, but it’s so sad that being “only” 2 to 4 years behind behind “suburban” grade level is the standard of success for poor minority CPS students at these schools. Note that the average ACT score at New Trier (an open enrollment school) is 27 and many other suburban Chicago high schools have average ACT scores in the 24-26 range. How did society ever let things get so bad?

  • 13. cps Mom  |  December 17, 2010 at 11:09 am

    The movie “Providence Effect” touches on this. Students from Providence St. Mel (a private school on the west side) are getting into top tier high schools including MIT. They have expanded into a charter school using their “winning teaching formant” in Englewood. There was no hint in the documentary that they were being handed spaces. They did go to great lengths to show how successfully they teach and handle the students with signed contracts etc.

    The same situation that you describe above does exist now in the Selective Enrollment schools with placement of NCLB students who are struggling and cannot compete with the other students who score in the high 800’s and have dramatically different elementary education. I don’t understand how throwing a child in the deep end benefits their self esteem or the chances of really working on their abilities to bring them further along.

  • 14. HSObsessed  |  December 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

    @cpsbsessed – Terry Mazany is the interim CEO who took over Huberman’s spot for now.

    @Gayfair Dad (Mayfair Dad?) – Chico and Paul Vallas led CPS from 1995 – 2001 as COB and CEO, so I think that’s part of the reference to the last nine years. Maybe NCLB is part of the equation, too; I didn’t think of that. However, NCLB is not mentioned in any of the policy statements, and there isn’t even any of the concern expressed about too much “teaching to the test” that we often hear.

    I don’t actually understand all the talk about how CPS has “lost its way” since 2001. Yes, there are still many CPS elementary and high schools that are struggling, but there were just as many, if not more, ten years ago. At least from the vantage point of a northside resident, the number of acceptable public elementary schools has increased incredibly. Back when I was planning my CPS strategy ten years ago, there only four non-gifted schools considered acceptable: Bell, Hawthorne, LaSalle, Lincoln. Many parents tried for LaSalle or Hawthorne lottery, and if that didn’t work, moved into Bell or Lincoln boundaries if that was possible, or enrolled in private (or moved to Naperville). Since that time, I can now count about 25 central/near- and mid-north elementary schools (non-test-in) that have become schools “of choice” for families just starting school. (That doesn’t even count about 10 or so additional schools in the far north/northwest areas of the city.) To go from 4 to 25 in 10 years is not exactly “losing our way”.

    When it comes to the argument about creating more special programs v. saying that we need to make every neighborhood school a school of choice, candidates are walking a fine line, and there’s no way to please people on both sides. As Chico said at the debate, parents want (I would say that affluent yuppie types “demand”) a variety of programs. They want something that sets their school apart, or that gives it focus and/or additional funding. The problem is, whether it is due to testing-based or lottery-based admissions, not everyone gets in to one of the “special” schools, and those who don’t get pissed off, and some of them are pretty vocal about it. One solution is to make every single school have something special about it that can be talked up, and that’s basically what has happened. Magnet schools were followed by Magnet Cluster schools, then more gifted programs, Early Years IB, Montessori, and so on.

  • 15. RL Julia  |  December 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

    @3 & 10 – “sad little place” pretty well sums it up. I liked the part about Terry Mazany answering his own phone.

    You have to remember that if we had nice things with functioning computers, printers, fax machines, phones etc… we’d be “wasting taxpayer dollars”! Almost all educational issues in high school were preventable problems that were not adequately addressed by the scholastic trinity (child, parent, teacher/adminstrationr) in elementary school. Puberty really plays with a kid’s priorities/attention/interest, it seems to me that if you hit 6th, 7th, 8th grades behind, you aren’t going to make up the work before high school unless some adult takes an above average interest in your education.

    It seems to me that if a kid isn’t “on track” by second grade, you have a problem that is going to be hard to solve – however, standardized tests results (which like it or not are a big trigger for everyone) are not distributed until the end of third or beginning of fourth grades. Then there is the whole social promotion thing…..

  • 16. SW Side Jen  |  December 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Did anyone catch when Meeks said “We need to have all-day Kindergarten?” Doesn’t CPS have All-day Kindergarten?

  • 17. Mayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    @ 14: Mayfair Dad is a distinct brand with a recognizeable point of view. Accept no substitute.

    Gayfair Dad? He might want to re-think his handle. I mean, sure, I understand why he wants to be like me…

  • 18. Mayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    HSObsessed:

    I would challenge your assertion of 25 (non-test-in) “schools of choice” added — maybe 25 additional “schools of passable quality until my kid tests into a gifted program or we win the magnet lottery” schools. This has more to do with parents getting involved with the Local School Councils and demanding improvement at their neighborhood schools. And chances are, these improved schools are located in established affluent neighborhoods or gentrifying neighborhoods, where parents understand the value of education and get involved. The real question-and the real problem-is how do you make CPS work for the kids from dire financial circumstances who have non-engaged parents? Fixing schools in “rich” neighborhoods is relatively easy.

  • 19. klm  |  December 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    # 16. No, not all CPS elementary schools have full-day Kindergarten. Lincoln Elementary (from what I hear and read, arguably the best neighborhood CPS school –its scores [even not counting the ‘International Gifted’ program kids] beat even most North Shore suburban schools) does not.

    # 14. I totally agree with you. Chicago has never been known for having good public schools. Ever. From what I understand, quite the contrary. Accodingly, there was never a “Golden Age” of public education in Chicago like, say Detroit (which, believe it or not, once was considered by many to have the best public schools of any large American city) or New York City. White ethnics (even poor and working-class ones) from the beginning sent their kids to their parish schools and anybody with money went private or moved out. Except for maybe a very few schools (Ogden, Lincoln for K-8, Lane Tech for HS –Whitney didn’t exist until the mid-70s, nor did Gifted and Magnet schools), long-time Chicagoans tell me CPS wasn’t even considered an “option”, except for people too poor or unaware of how bad the public schools were (i.e., anybody not middle-class or above) . Yes, there were always some “superman” or “wonderwoman” types that went on to do great things, but this was DESPITE the Chicago public schools. Now though, look at all the CPS schools on lists of “top 100” public schools. Things are not perfect –far from it! (look at how many CPS schools are at the BOTTOM 100!). However, can anybody really point to a time when there were more CPS options for “good” schools than now?

  • 20. cps Mom  |  December 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I agree that we do have a lot of great options. Better than most people think. Especially, as Mayfair dad points out, on the north side.

    Historically, you are way off. 1960’s and prior everyone went to the local school. My family including my father were products of CPS – professional engineer, CPA, business owner all grads from U of I. Whoever is left of the graduating class of 1945 Calumet high school still gets together to this day. My uncle, a pilot, went to Fenger. It seemed that most kids attending parochial school had strong religious ethnic roots – Irish, Italian etc. Tuition was more like $500 and families were obligated to support the church. I will say that since families paid money, they thought the schools were better. I would also say that the CPS schools started to digress in the 70’s.

  • 21. Hawthorne mom  |  December 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    In order to turn around the poorest of schools, basically, the school has to “make up” for what doesn’t happen at home. For that to happen, the school day would have to be 2 hours+ longer per day, plus Saturday school. Then, class size would need to be limited to 10-12 kids per room. Additionally, schools would need at least one reading specialist per every 50 students dedicated solely to working one-on-one with kids, and one ESL teacher per every 100 ESL kids working with groups of 5-10. And, each teacher would have to have every single supply needed, kids provided breakfast,lunch and dinner and social workers, psychologists and nurses on staff full time. Classes would need to be available for parents at night and on weekends, with babysitting available. Early childhood education would need to start for kids 18-36 months, half days, and for kids 3-5 years, full days.
    After 15 years in education, this is what I think would work in any gang infested, lower income, crime ridden, sometimes largely ESL communities.
    This won’t ever happen, but it is what the community on the west side where I used to teach needed for those children to have any kind of a chance.

  • 22. Gayfair Dad  |  December 18, 2010 at 6:03 am

    @HSObsessed. Thank you for your points.

    It has been my experience that the term “school of choice” has–since it’s very inception–muddied the waters by self-serving Principals utilizing the term to brainwash their local community, in order to hide extremely sub-par delivery of (public mind you) services. Many parents of the neighborhood schools go along with status quo, trusting authority, and would never rock the boat by questioning that their beloved (local yocal) neighborhood school is nothing but a ‘school of choice’. They find out they had the wool pulled over their eyes when high school rolls around.

    I am disappointed when I hear any mayoral candidate use that hackneyed term. They are in effect using it as a sound byte, much as the self-serving do.

    Oh yeah, many incumbent Alderman use similar tactics to do the same fancy footwork in seducing unwitting voters into believing their Ward, is a Ward of Choice.

    Golly, gee whillickers.

  • 23. HSObsessed  |  December 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    @18 Mayfair Dad said:
    ‘I would challenge your assertion of 25 (non-test-in) “schools of choice” added — maybe 25 additional “schools of passable quality until my kid tests into a gifted program or we win the magnet lottery” schools.’

    I know what you’re saying, because schools that are just beginning to form a core often lose kids over the years, but IMHO, once there is a “critical mass” of kids and families that have laid a good foundation, the school then becomes more likely to keep kids longer term. One component of this process is having a core of high-achieving kids in each grade, so that all families have the perception that academic standards are high enough for their own child. Each of the 25ish schools I have in mind already have 40 percent or more of their 3rd graders exceeding standards (not just meeting, but exceeding) on the ISATs in 2010. To give a comparison, in 2001, only TWO of the same schools were on that list: Hawthorne and Bell (remember, I’m talking only non-test in schools).

    @19 and @20 — Interesting points. I’d love to read a good overview of the history of CPS. I know generally that it took a big nosedive in the 1970s and 1980s, in parallel with the decades in which the city itself was really struggling.

  • 24. cps mom 5  |  December 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I wish you weren’t being so hard on Urban Prep. For an African-American teenage boy living in Englewood where he is at best most likely to drop out of school, or go to jail, or get killed, I think I would choose Urban Prep. If a kid can dodge bullets on the way to and from school and manage to finish h.s. with a less than steller or supportive home life, perhaps he can complete in college given an environment that is more condusive. I wonder if Buffy and Jody had to endure some of these same environments, would they even score a 15?

  • 25. cps Mom  |  December 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    @24 I agree. Many people are quick to condemn charter schools because they are not part of a teachers union. They provide a real service to those most in need. And it seems to be a workable one given the state of this financial crisis. Also keep in mind that these high schools take children with D’s from the local failing school and have average SAT scores of 19 (as in the case of Noble). Better and cheaper than vouchers.

  • 26. mom2  |  December 20, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    So, when someone analyzes these charter schools and compares them to the neighborhood schools, what do people find out was the reason why they appear to be more successful? Do they have more “select” students since you have to at least have a parent that cares enough to get you into this other school. Is it because they have an easier time firing “bad” teachers? Is it because they have less requirements to keep the “bad” kids? Have they found some magic formula for doing more with the same amount of money or do they end up with more somehow and if so, how? Etc. Etc.

  • 27. Hawthorne mom  |  December 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Maybe you are right. Maybe it is enough that a young man living in that kind of situation actually attends any school until 18 without getting killed. An ACT score of 15 would probably put them at about a 7th/8th grade math and reading level. But maybe that is better than what they’d have gotten at a neighborhood school? And maybe my definition of successful is or needs to be different for those kids than for my own?

  • 28. cpsobsessed  |  December 20, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I think both points are valid… it’s amazing when a school is able to motivate kids to stay engaged and get them beyond where they would have been without the school as their focus. But jeez, I’ve seen a documentary or news story about one of these schools – the day they got their final graduate into a college, so they could say they’d gotten every single kid into college. It was so great to watch and think about kids with opportunities. And yet utterly depressing to think that many of them would get to college and be on their own without all that support…. and maybe totally flounder.

  • 29. cpsobsessed  |  December 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    @26, I don’t know that the data supports charter schools being better. I think that’s one of the beefs of the Teacher’s Union. I’ve looked at some data, and it showed that for underperforming kids, Charters were a better choice to help them catch up, but for kids working at or above (grade level? state standards?) they didn’t differ from regular schools.
    The data was pretty limited so I took it with a grain of salt. But it depends on the focus of the charters. I thought the point of many of them WAS to help kids who needed some extra attention, so to me, that IS successful. If certain schools are focusing on kids who are behind, of course kids who are ahead are going to get short-changed.
    But it all depends on the school and the kids who attend, I suppose.
    I’m sure part of their succes is the selection bias you mention – parents who want to (and can) make the effort to send their kids to a certain school. I believe they also focus more on being forward-thinking about eduction, talking about college from the early grades. It’s just a matter of setting the bar higher for the kids and their parents.

  • 30. cps Mom  |  December 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    From what I have heard and seen (word of mouth, documentary on Providence, going to Noble open house) they are very strict and structured. The parents sign contracts that their child will attend school and do the homework. Any gang affiliations are prohibited and reason to drop the child from the program. The assistant principal usually functions in a disciplinarian role. Space is limited and they have to turn families away. The prospect of being removed from the program is a big incentive and the only chance of making it for many. Some schools are better than others and Noble now offers advanced classes. Getting the kids at the elementary level is best because they start grilling them at kindergarten for college.

  • 31. HSObsessed  |  December 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    A big study on charter school effectiveness published last year out of Stanford (Google CREDO Charter School Study) covered 16 states. It found that when comparing students who went to charter schools with those that went to conventional public schools (and controlling for demographics, i.e. they “matched” similar socioeconomic groups in both sets), that 17 percent of the kids going to charters had better outcomes, 37 percent had worse outcomes, and 46 percent had no significant differences.

    As to financial accountability, charters are notoriously difficult to study since they claim they are not required to produce the same data about money sources and spending that conventional public schools do.

  • 32. cps Mom  |  December 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    The report says that results vary by state. For the state of Illinois, Charter results are significantly higher with an initial loss of learning only in the first 2 years of school opening.

  • 33. cps Mom  |  December 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    One other thing to mention – there are a couple of charters that focus on the arts and require an audition. They have a college prep schedule up until 2:00 and then they work on their art until 4 or 5 – What an opportunity for many kids missing cut offs for selective enrollment.

  • 34. arts charter  |  December 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    ” What an opportunity for many kids missing cut offs for selective enrollment.”

    Have you taken a look at ChiArts??? It is not a a consolation prize for students who did not make it into SE schools! We are seriously considering it for my daughter who scores in the 99%

  • 35. cps Mom  |  December 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t blame you – I’ve heard great things. I’m just trying to put a few things out there for those who aren’t taking charters seriously (and even “bashing” them). They are a real option for many who depend on them and for those who seek the programs.

  • 36. Mike Mason  |  December 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    With some issues you don’t need stats and studies when common sense will do- the charter school issue is a case in point.

    In any organization if the ’employees’ are not accountable to the ‘bosses’ you are not going to end up with a good result. Simple as that.

    For a long time in CPS and most urban public schools the deal has been this-

    + Teachers will not be held accountable for the failings of the students

    + Everyone will blame the parents / students

    + Repeat

    What we do not know is what _would_ have happened if there were real accountability for the last _several decades_.

    What if the teachers were not straight-jacketed by their union work rules? Are there people that would have entered the business and affected enormous change? Is there an Albert Einstein of education out there that was squashed? Maybe laid off so a teacher with more seniority can keep their job? Or has been in the system but been unable to affect change?

    Change isn’t always incremental and rarely (never?) comes from bureaucracy. It is more likely to come from a random genius sitting in the corner.

    We have all seen movies about the teacher that gets the ghetto kids to pass Calculus 2 AP tests. It IS possible. The system just needs to be set up in a way to foster it.

    Across the country millions of lives have essentially been wasted because the needs of adult educators went before the needs of children.

    It is a moral imperative that that change.

  • 37. anonymous  |  December 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Mike – well put, couldn’t agree with you more.

  • 38. Hawthorne mom  |  December 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    How many parents who are commenting about how good they think charters are actually send their own children to a charter?

    When I was teaching, and even now, I still have major issues with my own union. But I was just as “straight jacketed” (#36) by my student’s parents who wouldn’t come to workshops intended to teach them how to help their kids, or who wouldn’t read to their kids a mere ten minutes a night. I was just as “straight jacketed” by the city of Chicago that couldn’t manage to supply enough books or paper or use of the copy machine. I was just as “straight jacketed” by the board of education that allowed principals to be in control of schools, but those principals wouldn’t take the time to properly document the failure of bad teachers for a mere 60 days (all that is required to dismiss them), so they’d stay around for years because the administrator didn’t do their jobs. My colleagues in the upper grades were “straight jacketed” by a system that allows children with serious behavior disorders, diagnosed or not, to disrupt learning day after day for years on end, ruining it for everyone. (you know, bringing weapons, starting fights, calling their teachers bitches, threatening to get their older gang banger brothers to “get” the teacher after school…..and my favorite…..bringing cocaine to school–a fifth grader–and the principal simply flushes it down the toilet because it is takes too much time to document and the principal doesn’t want a police report on file involving the school…..all everyday occurrences in the buildings I’ve been employed in)

    #36, I agree that the unions make some serious mistakes. But there is plenty of blame to go around. Don’t let too many made-for-the-big-screen movies featuring James Edward Olmos or Michelle Pfeiffer fool you. I see teachers pulling out all the stops on a regular basis, killing themselves for their students and miracles are the exception, not the norm. I used to do home visits for each and every one of my students within the first month of school and I can tell you, change is much more incremental and mundane than you might imagine.

  • 39. cps Mom  |  December 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    #37 As you know, I don’t have a child in a charter. Out of the 7 high schools that we applied to 2 were charters (1 that we were accepted into). We were fortunate to have options and received an offer to our #1 choice which we took. So, yes, I would have sent my child to a charter. I would welcome comment by anyone with first hand experience. What prompts me to speak about and defend charters are 3 things;

    1. Many students from our high profile magnet schools received and accepted spaces at charters (UIC, Muchin (named after the law firm that supports and funds it), Bulls, Noble Englewood, Ogden, Chi Arts – to name the most selected). So, this is not just a ghetto thing, as pointed out by #34.
    2. I have yet to speak to a teacher that supports charters because of the union thing – this is one place they put their own interests above the students. The day that Daley announced the Renaissance 2010 program creating many of these schools 2 years ago, all the teachers at our school wore black arm bands in protest – something that, as a parent, I did not appreciate. They were condemning the very schools that they were sending their students to.
    3. I personally know 2 students who are very happy and successful and they should be. As I mentioned above, I see them as a viable option for many and some fill a niche of their own creating quality specialty college prep education with art focus or foreign Asia society program (a program otherwise only offered by Payton).

    With all do respect to you Hawthorne Mom, because you seem to be an exceptional teacher and humanitarian, I still remain confused as to why these programs are not embraced. There is a need and there is funding (Gates foundation, corporate funding, private funding) and they are able to operate outside of the box (which I’m going to guess is what teachers find intimidating). They have a solution that appears to be making an impact so why not let them have a go at it.

    Talking about restructure of CPS – who are these 50,000 kids that need vouchers to get out? Are they victims of the kids with disorders mentioned above or are they the victims of uncaring bureaucrats relegated to primarily the worst teachers in CPS that are protected by unions? My guess would be a little of both (and throw the parents in for good measure too). Until these 2 things are removed from the classroom gains will not be made. If this cycle is broken early enough you may even get the parents to come along. Isn’t this what some of the charters are doing? I am just asking questions here – no firsthand experience.

  • 40. cps Mom  |  December 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Sorry about spelling errors – do should be due. With all due respect.

  • 41. mom2  |  December 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    It seems like everyone here could be a bit right. Most parents I know are looking for an alternative to their neighborhood school (well, those are changing on the north side for elementary, but not for high school). So, they like the idea of anything different – that would include charters. But, I think the reason parents like charters is because they have heard that the school can be more selective in who they take or at least in who they keep around (teachers and students). Not sure that is true, but that is what I have heard. So, parents like this because it may mean that there is less of a chance of their child being stuck in a classroom with a terrible teacher or disruptive students.

    However, and this is a big however, it seems like CPS should learn from this and should be able to have the same results at a school that isn’t called a charter school (or magnet or magnet cluster or even SE in some cases). If they could see what works for some charters, why can’t they achieve this?

    Who is in charge of those principals that don’t take the time or make the effort to document bad teachers so they can be removed? Is there some change that could be made so this process does take place – either by replacing principals or making the process easier for them? Why do schools have to put up with disruptive kids? Why can’t there be some other place for those kids to go so the rest can really learn? Why can’t this be CPS rather than alternative schools? Why not have specialty programs or tracks inside a school for those that want arts or law or science or high honors or whatever?

    If they simply turn away and don’t make changes to make CPS function like these other schools, or create all these special schools (enough for everyone that wants one) and end up with the “crap” in the neighborhood schools, then I am all for creating tons of these alternatives outside of CPS. I just want what is best for my children and everyone else. But, I think they are nuts that they cannot figure out how to do this within the confines of their own school system. Isn’t there someone out there that can look at this in another way?

    As I said before, I don’t think these schools have found a secret formula for teaching. I think they just have the ability to function differently and that is what makes them a place some people would like to send their children. (Although I do know there are plenty that I would still turn away as they are not at all up to my standards for my kids. But I would turn way many Catholic schools, too.)

    Sorry, thoughts are not cohesive this morning, but you get the idea. Everyone can be a bit right here.

  • 42. anon  |  December 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    It is not that easy to get rid of poor teachers. yes, the principal does have to document and then the teacher has to be given an opportunity to rehabilitate. And then it has to be heard before a state hearing officer, which involves pulling people out of the school and the evidence needs to be overwhelming to win. And then, the teacher will file some discrimination lawsuit which will tie up the principal’s time again–sometimes it does not seem worth it.

  • 43. mom2  |  December 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    @42 – That is exactly what I mean about CPS. If they don’t see that this (and things like this) has to be changed, then they are crazy and deserve all the better families wanting to leave their system. Thanks for pointing out some of the details that are normally left out of these conversations.

  • 44. Hawthorne mom  |  December 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    For the record, I wish it were much easier to fire teachers who are ineffective or just don’t belong in teaching.
    It would be helpful for me to hear from people exactly what kinds of changes they’d like to see the CTU compromise on besides firing teachers. I know I’d personally like to see my union agree to a longer school year, longer school day and mandatory recess for K-8, in exchange, NOT for a raise, but simply in exchange for supplying the basics…..books, paper, printer ink, paper towels to clean desks, math and reading games and teacher assistants in K-2 classrooms that have more than 20 kids in them. But, I can’t imagine any scenario where the city would agree to provide teachers with those basics. That would be too much like putting the needs of children first.
    But on a serious note, what do people want to see the unions do? And does everyone really believe simply getting rid of bad teachers will fix the system? I am honestly curious.

  • 45. cps Mom  |  December 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    One thing that these non union schools are able to accomplish is exactly what you say – longer school year and school day. I do know of one school that charges $250 for a uniform backpack equipped with all the necessary supplies. It may be a lot of money for some but it’s amazing how people can scrape it together when it’s important.

    I think that the purpose of unions – to make sure that its members are treated fairly in the work place – has morphed into something much bigger and too controlling. The fact that all teachers are treated equally for the greater good when realistically there is a wide range of performance (as with any profession) stifles those at the top and gives a free ticket to those at the bottom. Teaching is an art form, not easy to assess, but still measurable.

    On the issue of compensation and benefits, I don’t think this is within the domain of the parents but I also feel that in the case of a strike, the children should not be held hostage. I don’t feel that the classroom should be an arena for any political issues.

    We need specific policy with regard to when a child should be removed from a class or program and if so, provide an alternative program for that student. If we already have that, it needs to be stricter and enforced.

  • 46. anon  |  December 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    @43 These due process guarantees for tenured teachers are provided for by Illinois Statute (law).

  • 47. mom2  |  December 27, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    @46, if that is the case, then why does it seem as though a charter school has an easier time removing teachers that are no longer doing their job? It should be exactly the same. Is the issue only with CPS principals?

    Note, I certainly do not feel as though “bad teachers” are the only issue that needs to be addressed with CPS. The use of misuse of money at the administrative level is a very high priority in my mind and finding some way to allow kids that want to learn to be in a place where they are not disrupted by those that don’t care and only care to cause trouble for everyone else (teachers, students, administration, etc.)

  • 48. Chicago Teacher  |  December 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    It’s so difficult being a Chicago Public School Teacher and reading these comments. Yes, there are bad teachers. But there are very good teachers that are keeping the system going. I have been in this system long enough to go through several principals and administrations. I have worked for principals who were arrested and walked out of the building in handcuffs, I have recently worked for one who had a PHD from an online degree factory. I have been harassed by parents and children. I have worked in buildings with bathrooms that you wouldn’t use under any circumstances.

    The system is broken for two reasons.

    1. There is too much money to be made by greedy individuals who are running central office. It’s amazing how much money is available to our system, and yet, doesn’t go to directly educate your children. I have tried to get supplies in the past, only to be told that I needed to ‘make due.’ We have “made due” with old books, broken chairs and falling apart classrooms. I have spent hundreds of dollars copying books and worksheets because the copier at my old high school was considered the personal property of the principal’s pet. Millions of dollars in books and supplies were, literally, thrown away into dumpsters because some CAO decided to give a contract to someone new. I have personally pulled carton after carton of construction paper out of a pile and taken it to local elementary schools. Computers, printers, books, etc….all dumped. I have painted my classroom, repaired cabinets and brought in furniture from home. (Of course, this is all on my huge salary.)

    2. Believe it or not, children come to school not knowing very much. They are not like your children, whom you have taken the time to educate and nourish since birth. Some children don’t know whether they are boys or girls. They don’t know colors, how to read, how to count or what Lake Michigan is. Most have NEVER left the city limits, let alone their state. They will not go on summer vacations, go to summer camp, take violin lessons or spanish lessons. Their parents do not care to raise money to keep teachers in the school. They lock their children out of the house when they leave for school in the morning and do not let them back in until night time. Can you imagine being in your child’s classroom and seeing another mother come in…who is a prostitute? I have had a mom’s breast fall out of her dress while she was telling me how concerned she was about her child’s progress. (it was June and the first time she made it to the school.) She was not as bad, though, as the mother who told a teacher that “her boy needs some pussy, and that will make him grow up” when told that his behavior was immature and he needed to grow up. Most parents ARE NOT like those on this blog. They are not concerned about educating their children. They want babysitters and meals. The parents here are the ones that make the difference. Your children, hopefully, will never have to sit in the back of a class where drugs are being sold and security guards are making sure no one stops it.

    Teachers want their students to learn. But how can a literature teacher teach the required curriculum when her student still cant read? How does a math teacher effectively teach the required core requirements when a 15 year old doesn’t know how to add? How is a 1st grade teacher supposed to teach reading when her students have never seen books or know how to formulate a letter?

    Unless you have worked in these schools, under these conditions and spend day after day with these children and families, its not right to judge whether or not a teacher is doing his or her job.

    Sorry for the rant. Sometimes, things need to be said.

  • 49. anon  |  December 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    @47 “if that is the case, then why does it seem as though a charter school has an easier time removing teachers that are no longer doing their job? It should be exactly the same. Is the issue only with CPS principals?”

    Tenured teachers have the due process rights created by statute. Teachers at charter schools do not have the same rights–although I am not sure about the charter school where the teachers are organized. My kids have terrific public school teachers–one is at a SE high school and the other is at our local neighborhood school. But there are some truly horrible teachers out there too.

  • 50. mom2  |  December 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    All these comments make me feel like things are hopeless. How can we have all these important people “at the top” that just let all this happen and do nothing about it? Maybe we really do need a mayor like Rahm that is willing to come in a scrap all kinds of practices and people without fear. Something major has to change here.

    It almost seems like, although this may sound selfish, CPS really should consider breaking into two or three pieces. The needs of those people that are described by @48 are so drastically different than those of people that frequent this blog. How can one school system deal with such different issues adequately. Something has to, does and will fall by the wayside.

    @48 – I have read and heard other comments about life in classrooms at CPS schools that are quite similar to yours. Even an article in Chicago Magazine about Nettlehorst describes issues how the school, in the past, had posters that focused on stay in school and don’t do drugs (which totally turns off parents on the north side that couldn’t even imagine a child in elementary school needing posters like this to keep them on track in life), and describes teachers yelling at and even hitting students, etc. If it wasn’t for parents busting some #%*#, well…it sure seems like “CPS” didn’t care.

    Again, how different issues from those worries of parents on this forum. CPS really needs to be rethought and retooled in a huge way. It breaks my heart to hear stories like @48 describes. Much of that is not just a CPS issue, but those in CPS also cannot just ignore it. Kids with parents like that need extra help and should get it (and maybe not just extra teaching, but something much more) but they also should not cause all the other children within the system to suffer. Both things have to happen and they really need to be separated so different focuses can happen.

    I’m rambling again. Sorry.

  • 51. Chicago Teacher  |  December 27, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    @50 This statement is so true: “Both things have to happen and they really need to be separated so different focuses can happen.” You hit the nail on the head. There are so many issues facing children right now that impact their educations. As a society, we need to fix things. It’s not going to happen in the classroom alone. Change must come from communities, homes, churches etc.

    I truly appreciate your rambling.

  • 52. RL Julia  |  December 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    To Chicago Teacher @48 – thank you.
    To Hawthorne Mom – RE the unions – What I would really like is for the unions to agree to a longer school day without any particular pay raise and for some sort of merit pay. All the teachers I know who are great teachers put in the time already – a longer school day will give them access to the kids/people who they need access to in order to keep doing their job at the high level they do. Merit pay based on recognizing great teachers and growth would also be nice. I’ve never seen the teacher evaluation rubric, but the one for principles is sort of awful. I’d be all about a new evaluation tool if it makes sense as part of the merit pay bit.

  • 53. mom  |  December 27, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    At our neighborhood school, the teachers are volunteering their time before and after school to tutor in math and reading which really works out to 2+ extra math classes per week.

  • 54. cpsobsessed  |  December 28, 2010 at 1:44 am

    @48: Yeah, that makes me want to cry. In some ways it’s weird that THAT is not the topic of a documentary, rather than the whole lottery/charter system.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about why the big-city systems are “failing.” There’s not way, statistically, that it’s “bad teachers” that are causing the problems in Chicago, NYC, DC, LA, and Detriot. It suck for those kids. I used to work for a tutoring company in CPS and the woman who started it worked for schools in Detroit. The stories were so awful…. parents using the tutoring for free babysitting and not showing up for these little kids. The tutors weren’t allowed to drive them home, but the walk home was scary, so they’d drive along side, watching the kids walk to make sure they got home safely in the dark.
    And my mom, who has subbed in the worst CPS high schools, reporting “there’s no way to teache these kids at this point. they’re too behind.” How can even a great teacher make an impact? That is the million dollar question about CPS (and other urban schools.) And unfortunately, I don’t think anybody has found the answer. Shutting down failing schools and starting fresh is great… if someone has an idea for how to do things differently. My understanding is that in these neighborhoods there is often a huge mistrust of the school system. Principals/teachers have to start by overcoming that obstacle before even connecting with the parents.

    I wish there were more experimentation within CPS… like taking the top 20 teacher in the city (not sure how to determine that) and putting them in the worst school for 5 years to see what happens. I guess CPS doesn’t work like that, but that’s what annoys me. If it were a public corporation, they’d be moving people around all the time.

    In any case, thanks for your post. Definitely thought-provoking.

  • 55. copy editor  |  December 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I know that some teachers have terrible situations, but not all teachers are equally excellent. They just aren’t. @54 CPS Obsessed has a good point: in a company, the best teachers would be put in the worst schools – and get a raise in the process. Given the union policy that all teachers are equally excellent in every possible way, the best teachers can’t get merit pay, so they look for jobs in the best schools.

    Even at my son’s good school with all of its white middle-class kids, I know that some teachers there are better than others. The CTU would win a lot of support from parents and taxpayers if it would admit that.

  • 56. mom2  |  December 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

    @cpsobsessed – “In some ways it’s weird that THAT is not the topic of a documentary, rather than the whole lottery/charter system.” – I agree so much with that. I think it would wonderful if someone did a documentary that followed/compared two schools within CPS. Each receiving the same amount of money to start with but one with extreme success and the other with failure. Follow several children that may all live near each other, but some attend their neighborhood school and the others attend someplace like Hawthorne or another very successful magnet school that is not a “test in” type school. What is an average day like before school, at school and after school? What does the school provide in each case and what does the teacher provide on their own or what do they get from parents? What are the financial differences and why? What is different at home (since the community should be the same). Compare the principals, the rest of the school community, etc. Really see what makes the students successful or are students from similar poor neighborhoods more successful at these schools? I would love to know so much more of the detail behind why or if schools succeed when you take out parents income and the neighborhood where someone lives.

  • 57. anon  |  December 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    If you are interested in exploring this further, it is is interesting to see how Evanston is attempting to handle it. They are doing away with freshman honors and putting the top 70% of students together in the hope/expectation that the top scoring kids will influence the lower scoring (mainly minority) kids. I doubt it but will be interested to see what happens.
    http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/charles-bartling/2010-12-15/eths-board-adopts-freshman-humanities-changes

  • 58. Hawthorne mom  |  December 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/index.php?item=2658&cat=23

    I especially found it interesting to hear that at Crane HS, 2/3 of their population is considered chronically truant. Teachers cannot teach the kids who do not bother attending. This is not just a problem for high schools either. CPS has a huge mobility problem too, with a large percent of kids moving schools multiple times throughout the school year and a very large homeless population as well. McCutcheon on the north side has the single largest homeless population in the city (at least that was the case a few years ago) and demonstrates how hard it is to educate kids with nowhere to live.

  • 59. adad  |  December 30, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Since everything in CPS seems to be about your address (your neighborhood school, magnet proximity, your tier for SES schools) how do they even determine where the kids from the homeless population go to school? How do you apply without an address?

  • 60. Hawthorne mom  |  December 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Homeless kids are allowed, if their families wish, to attend the school they originally went to (until the end of 8th or the end of HS) before losing their home/apartment (if that was the case) and the city is required to pay for their transportation to get there, sometimes using taxis, CTA, or whatever means necessary.
    Or, as in the case of McCutcheon, there is or was several homeless shelters in Uptown, so that would be their address. If you google it, you’ll see that in 2008, McCutcheon had 80 homeless kids and CPS was proposing boarding schools to help meet the needs of those kids.
    And last, if a family has to “double up” with another family, a relative, friend, whatever…that is considered homeless, and that could be their address.

  • 61. anon mom  |  December 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    My son is at a magnet. our principal has told us that any homeless child who requests enrollment must be enrolled under CPS policy.

  • 62. Mayfair Dad  |  January 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    @ 56 mom2:

    I saw an excellent documentary comparing two Illinois elementary schools – one inner city and one downstate – and the challenges faced by teachers and administrators. It focused on the daily routine of the two principals and their contrasting leadership styles. It is (or was) available for viewing on your computer.

    I will try to track this down for you. Anybody else out there familiar with this documentary?

  • 63. Mayfair Dad  |  January 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    …His latest film is “The Principal Story”, which aired as part of the POV documentary series on PBS. It follows the stories of two Illinois principals, Tresa Dunbar of Chicago’s Nash Elementary and Kerry Purcell of Springfield’s Harvard Park Elementary. The vast majority of their students come from low-income families, and are under the constant threat of drugs and gang violence. Despite a host of obstacles, both women valiantly struggle to turn around their low-performing schools, and thus demonstrate the vitality of a dedicated principal in the current educational climate.

  • 64. mom2  |  January 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    @Mayfair Dad – thank you very much for this information. I will try to check it out. It should be interesting, but I am still hoping for a documentary comparing a high-performing school and students and a low-performing school and students with most other things being similar – (initial $’s provided and the students home neighborhood) just to determine what might work or not work, is the school location critical, is home life before and after school the most critical, is money contributed by parents that important, is the structure of the classroom important, is the teaching style or the principal attitude or involvement what makes a difference, is the amount of misbehaving students the issue, etc.

  • 65. grace  |  January 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Also, the PISA report, which recently showed that the highest scoring 15 year olds in the world are the Chinese, has its full report on its web site. Among other things, it said that an orderly classroom is the first requirement for learning.

  • 66. Mayfair Dad  |  January 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Here is an article I found interesting:

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/3143645-418/kenner-picks-principal-recommended-schools.html

    Synopsis: WY principal Joyce Kenner used her discretionary 5% admissions to beef up sports teams and the music program. She claims this added to the vitality and diversity of the school. (You had to know something was up when a supposedly brainiac school won the state basketball championship).

    I find this to be an egregious misuse of the privilege, but do others feel differently?

  • 67. cpsobsessed  |  January 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks MF Dad… was just getting ready to post this article!

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