What About School Vouchers? (Guest Post)

April 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm 158 comments

Since we’ve been discussing the frustration of some parent who have unacceptable neighborhood schools but didn’t hit the CPS lottery, I’m posting this interesting and informative write-up from HSObsessed….
School Vouchers Coming to CPS?

The school voucher issue is going to be heating up again soon. Former mayoral candidate and Illinois state senator James Meeks is a strong proponent of getting a pilot program running in Chicago, as a testing ground for further expansion elsewhere in the state. Last spring, the Illinois Senate passed a school voucher bill, but it was voted down in the House. Now the bill has been resurrected and is heading for another look-see by our lawmakers.

Voucher Pros and Cons

Under a school voucher program, qualified public school students can opt to “take” their education money and use it to pay for private school.

Supporters say that too many public schools have failed, and that private schools do the job better, for less money. They argue that vouchers give families a chance to vote with their feet if their local school isn’t up to par, and they force public schools to compete and improve.

Opponents say that public money should not be given to private schools, especially in these tough financial times. They say that sending money to religiously affiliated schools is an endorsement of religion by the government.  People have pointed out that the amount of the vouchers is too low to cover the full cost of tuition at many private schools, so it doesn’t help families who can’t afford to pay the balance. Some worry that vouchers encourage the skimming off of students away from public schools, making the situation even worse for those left behind. Finally, critics decry that vouchers do nothing to address the root problem that failing schools exist in the first place.

The Proposed Program for CPS

Since I hate talking in generalities and prefer facts and details, I downloaded the proposed bill and read it so you don’t have to. (But if you want to: IL Senate Bill 1932.) It’s 143 pages long, with 11 pages of meaty bits and rest boring stuff involving the tax code and school funding formulas.

The specifics of how it would work: This would be a voucher program for the city of Chicago only, a test program for two school years, followed by an evaluation of its status. I can’t find the voucher amount specified in the current bill, but it was reported last year that the amount would be $3,700 per child. Eligible students are those enrolled in K-8th grade at a CPS school that is either in the lowest 10 percent of performance (as measured by kids meeting or exceeding standards on the ISATs), OR those who are enrolled at a school that is considered in the 5 percent most overcrowded in Chicago and that have student populations that are 70 percent or more low income.  Approximately 30,000 students would qualify. The bill mentions briefly that the eligible child’s parents or custodians  will have to verify household income, so I assume there will be a cap.

The bill also says that private schools (religious and not) will have to register with the state to receive vouchers. They are not required to accept the voucher money as full payment for tuition, but they are not allowed to charge voucher students for additional tuition at a higher rate than other students. Participating schools are required to give voucher students the same annual performance measurement tests (I’m assuming the ISATs) as if they were in public school. They have to disclose the testing data and report attendance. If a child is expelled or moves out of the CPS boundaries, the school must pay back a prorated amount they received for the voucher.

Success Elsewhere

There aren’t many successful voucher programs already in place in the U.S., and Chicago would be the largest school system to implement one. However, a long-running voucher program that is doing well is right across the Wisconsin border. Milwaukee’s 20-year-old program provides vouchers of $6,442 per eligible student, and it now serves 20,000 students attending 102 non-public schools. A family of four must have a HHI of less than $38,937 on entering the voucher program. Participating schools must admit all voucher students and use a random selection process if applicants exceed spaces. The law also specifies that students must be allowed to opt out of religious activity. (Neither of those last two items appear to be a part of the proposed Illinois bill at this time, but there’s plenty of time for amendments to be made.)


Supporters of vouchers point to a 2002 US Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of a Cleveland school district voucher system (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris).  The court ruled narrowly (5-4) that the Cleveland vouchers did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”) The court said that even though taxpayer money was eventually given to religiously affiliated schools, enrolling their children at those schools was a decision freely made by parents participating in the voucher system, and it was one option of many; therefore, there was no endorsement of religion.

My Take (HSObsessed)

My first thought on reading the parameters about who would be eligible made me think they’re on the right track to making sure that the program would help those who need it most.  These vouchers will not be something that middle class families can obtain as a way of subsidizing the private education that they had planned for their children any way.

Upon hearing the $3,700 figure, I initially scoffed that the money wouldn’t go very far in Chicago. I also wondered whether there were enough private options in the neighborhoods that have the lowest performing public schools, because traveling to a far-flung private school might create logistical barriers. However, a brief look into both issues was encouraging. An internet search revealed that there are dozens of private schools in all areas of the city, and the going tuition rate appears to be at or below $3,700. For example, Bethune is a low-performing public elementary on the west side near Douglas Park, and a child who receives a voucher could attend nearby St. Agatha Catholic Academy a few blocks away for $2,600 per year.

Finally, I don’t think this will actually cost the state or CPS any extra money. I can’t claim to fully understand the nuances of school funding in Illinois, but It seems like merely a reallocation from some CPS schools to private schools. The “voucher schools” would lose kids to the private system and would have to adjust their budgets and staff accordingly. Fixed costs like the principal’s salary and utilities would remain for a while, until school consolidations occurred over time. But since a minimum of $6,100 is currently spent per child for public education, but we would only provide $3,700 per voucher, it seems like we would have $2,400 to fund those inefficiencies until it was all sorted out.

So will you support or oppose this legislation?

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  • 1. Jennifer  |  April 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I didn’t think there were any non-religious private schools that aren’t $25k per year. Hardly a free choice is it.

    I don’t know if I support this or not. Having worked hard and made sacrifices to ensure my children don’t have to be enrolled in a failing school, it’s always a hard pill for me to swallow when people are given opportunities my kids won’t get. But at the end of the day keeping these children in poverty by giving them a sub-standard education only perpetuates the cycle, so maybe it is in society’s best interest.

    I know that it’s not fair for children to have no option but a failing school. I don’t know if it’s fair to only offer alternatives to those on low incomes.

  • 2. RL Julia  |  April 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    First – here’s a link to an interesting article about KIPP schools and how they are funded from the NYT today (4.1.11 – hey this isn’t an April’s Fools post is it??) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/education/31kipp.html?_r=1&ref=education
    Basically it talks about how much KIPP really spends to educate a child – over and above what they get from any given municipality.

    I don’t have any opinion one way or another about school vouchers but I do think that it comes down to whether or not you favor individual choice over what might be good for a community ofr neighborhood overall -since vouchers have the potential to further decimate a failing school sending it over the edge that much faster. I also worry about people who take the voucher go to the private school and get the same low quality education they were hoping to avoid in the first place. In your example – was St. Agatha better than the local public option?
    Being in government, I also worry about the liability incurred by CPS with the vouchers – exactly what is the liability – say a kid is hurt in some way – are they a CPS student or a private school student? Picky, weird questions I know.

  • 3. copy editor  |  April 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    One note about the Cleveland vouchers: legally, parents can used them to send their children to suburban schools, not just private and religious schools. However, the suburban schools refuse to accept them.

    I lean toward allowing them. When public education works, it works well, but it fails far too many children in Chicago.

  • 4. Mayfair Dad  |  April 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I am intrigued by the “freedom to choose” aspect but worry that a change so profound with so many potential unintended consequences and the likelihood of CPS screwing up the implementation — it scares the hell out of me!

    Alternatively, if Mayor Rahm mandated accelerated curriculum available at all neighborhood schools, convinced his pal Arne to kick in some fed money to facilitate, and then slowly and cautiously began to dismantle the magnet school band-aid while shoring up the neighborhood schools, this seems less risky and more in keeping with society’s obligation to provide a quality public education to all children.

  • 5. Vouchers  |  April 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Vouchers for the 30,000 poorest inner city children will cost over well over $100 million.

    There is only one way to handle even one-third that number of children. CPS fires its principals and teachers, whom the Archidiocese then hires at much lower salaries and benefits.

    CPS rents many of its own schools to the Archdiocese for $1 a year.

    Adults and kids remain in place, only the Archdiocese is running a parochial school now, and as a result the principal and teachers no longer must meet many of the requirements that CPS does to ensure the children get a solid education.

    The disruption will still be enormous for everyone. I can see teachers fleeing CPS.

    The Archdiocese runs a bare bones operation. It does not provide help for special needs children nor in-house accelerated programs for other kids.

  • 6. Your examples: St. Agatha and Bethune  |  April 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    @ HS Obsessed. Funny you should mention that Bethune is a low-performing school. Its principal is Zipporah Hightower, and she has been a principal for less than 5 years and is well-liked by Rahm and on his transition team.

    Funny you should mention St. Agatha school. Fr. Daniel McCormick was convicted and sentenced for sexually abusing at least 2 young school boys while he was pastor there, 2001 to 2005. The Cardinal apologized but did not address the matter when he was first informed of it.

  • 7. What is the answer?  |  April 1, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I really have to ask what is the answer for the poorest children?
    I think CPS has to admit the seriousness of the poverty and crime that the poorest children and their families encounter. It will be an expensive problem to solve. But a $3,700 voucher represents a major cut in funding to educate the children who are the neediest.

  • 8. Vouchers  |  April 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Vouchers are another way to deprive teachers of union benefits, including pensions.

    CPS is by far the biggest employer on the south and west sides. Firing masses of teachers will hurt those families who have been living a middle class lifestyle and their neighborhoods. Many women are single moms, and this puts a lot of futures in jeopardy
    I hate the idea of vouchers, really.

  • 9. @ 2 RL Julia, more on KIPP schools  |  April 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    From Catalyts online magazine & blog, more on KIPP

    Catalyst In Focus

    Ed Week: High dropout rate for black males in KIPP

    KIPP charter middle schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local school districts they draw from, but 40 percent of the black males they enroll leave between grades 6 and 8, says a new nationwide study by researchers at Western Michigan University.

    “The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking,” said Gary J. Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, and the lead researcher for the study. “KIPP is doing a great job of educating students who persist, but not all who come.”

    You can read the rest at Catalyst

  • 10. Another Rogers Park mom!  |  April 1, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    FYI, Chicago Waldorf is less than 25k now… Used to be very reasonable, but has gone up about 16% a year in the 4 yrs since we left fir K @ Decatur, making grade school tuition apprix 16k! That is a “cheap” non-religious option!!! (read: sarcasm)! Lol…

    Fantastic post!!! Really well written and thought out, as well as researched! Thank you! $3700 sure would not go far for my wee pagan-Jews, nor would we be beneath the cap as it looks like the range is well below even a typical blue-collar HHI; that concerns me, as even though our HHI is well more than double the cap (as it stands in WI), we certainly cannot afford to pay out the remaining approx 24k (Waldorf) or 44k (Parker, Latin) for two kids supplemental tuition at a non-religious school! It would, however just about cover a catholic school… The opt-out would be a nice amendment, and then I’d fully support the bill!

  • 11. Another Rogers Park mom!  |  April 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Excuse my typos… On my iPhone! It has horrific intuitive text! Blackberry, my old love… I miss your REAL intuitive text! Lol!

  • 12. Another Rogers Park mom!  |  April 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    @ Vouchers! Wow, thank you for a unique spin I’d not thought of! Excellent points to ponder…

  • 13. Brigid Keely  |  April 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I’m a product of Catholic Religious Schools, which had relatively low tuition (much less than $25k a year, but this was the suburbs) in large part because a religious organization subsidized the education. Our tuition alone wasn’t enough to cover actual costs, a particular group of Sisters covered the rest. Which means that all students were required to take religious classes and also attend Masses, as part of paying that back, regardless of the student’s religion. And there were a LOT of kids who were Lutheran, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or Atheist.

    I’ve spoken to other Catholic School graduates and heard similar stories.

    IF the voucher system is implemented, I wonder how it’ll work. Would voucher students be charged the full (not subsidized by a religious group) amount?

    I’d really rather that more focus was put on improving existing public schools across the board. It’s ridiculous that a kid’s education– and future– is pretty much dependent on what neighborhood he or she lives in, and how savvy his or her parents are about navigating the CPS system.

  • 14. Mom  |  April 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    As someone who is from Milwaukee originally, I’d bet you’d get a very different response from Milwaukee parents if you tried to label the voucher system as “successful.”

  • 15. Hawthorne mom  |  April 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    It would make much, much more sense to me to take that $3700 per kid and hire more reading specialists to work with our low performers. And if CPS would stagger its reading specialists, so that some came in early and left early while others came late and left late, more kids could be served both before and after school hours. One of the issues I see in schools is that kids who are “low” are pulled out of the classroom, missing instruction. Why not create a schedule that allows most kids to stay in class most of the time, while having those kids getting more intensive help outside the school day?

    As a union member, if I thought charter schools or vouchers would actually help, I’d say dismantle the whole system. But since research has shown over and over that neither work very well, it seems like the answer is an expensive one, requiring hard work, time, expertise…..but CPS seems hell bent on the quick magic fix, so I guess the long road is out of the question.

  • 16. LR  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Let me preface this by saying I am opposed. However, I don’t understand how this costs CPS anything. In fact, doesn’t this save CPS money? If it normally costs CPS $6,100 (minimally) to educate a student and they give that student $3,700, isn’t that saving $2,400 per student times 30,000 students? It’s like bribing people to go away and CPS keeps the profits. Meanwhile they get rid of or consolidate some of their roughest schools. All under the guise of offering better educational opportunities to under-served children. I find this wrong, although, I am assuming CPS supports this legislation. Is that the case? They usually favor anything that will benefit them, and oppose things that will cost them money regardless of what is best for the students (e.g. Mandatory recess).

  • 17. @ 10 another r.p.mom,  |  April 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

    The $3,700 vouchers are only for the 30,000 poorest children. It won’t help anyone else.

  • 18. @ LR  |  April 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    T=You are correct. How can cutting the dollars for educating our neediest students improve their outcomes? Counterintuitive.

    The one school that has a track record of educating the poorest students in Chicago is Frazier in North Lawndale. It is a traditional CPS school with union teachers. It is a neighborhood school with a magnet program (stanine 5, lottery) that serves kids who are 90% low income, 90% ethnic minority and 90% of the students have met or exceeded their grade level scores on the ISAT.
    It offers a tried and true curriculum: the IB program for both primary and middle school years. It offers before and after-school programs, daily homework club and intensive intervention, according to news reports.
    You can imagine that none of this is done on the cheap. Neither could a Catholic school replicate this on $3,700 per student.
    So when Sen. Meeks is quoted in the media saying the reason he is pushing this bill now is because Ron Huberman told him that ‘Honestly, we (CPS) don’t have a plan for the poorest 30,000 of our students,’ you know that it is simply a politically expedient thing to say.
    CPS (controlled by Rahm) does support this bill. So does the Archdiocese.

  • 19. @ 13 Brigid --  |  April 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Good points. You may be describing a well-regarded Catholic girls high school that I know of.

    And I would agree that when the CPS students are not high needs — in terms of their socioeconomic and academic deficits –then the voucher would give them access to a safe, no-frills Catholic education, and let the nuns keep their endowment.

    But I imagine that there are many thousands of CPS children who have extremely high needs. Catholic schools will for the first time have to somehow educate and discipline thousands of those children, and the $3,700 per child just won’t take care of them. CPS seems to be admitting that they can’t do it now on nearly twice that.

  • 20. @ 14 Mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

    We would love to hear from Milwaukee moms / dads about their experiences with vouchers. Would you mind linking some of your friends to this blog? Thanks so much, I agree that this is an interesting discussion.!

  • 21. @ 15 Hawthorne mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I expect that you know more about this stuff than I do, so can I ask about Title 1 funds that go to tutors — reading specialists for pull out or after school programs now in CPS and in Catholic schools in high poverty areas? I know a lot of tutoring companies received these funds from CPS — Chico’s wife got a big chunk of change from this program, I think. And the CAO for Area 14, Ms. Saffold, was accused of asking for a $10,000 bribe from a former teacher who offered tutoring services to a number of area 14 schools through her consulting company.

  • 22. Vouchers  |  April 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Like charters, vouchers cut per-pupil spending dramatically. But the big benefit to CPS in both schools is in cutting pension obligations, thus weakening the teachers union.

    What is going on now throughout the country is a concerted effort to overturn the teaching profession: dismissing experience in the classroom, advanced degrees, NBCT, as inconsequential and unworthy of compensation.

    Because of the horror show in Wisconsin, Rahm will avoid a head-on clash. since his election, he has made the rounds and already reached out personally to police and firefighters, but not one word to teachers. His agenda would look comfortingly familiar to Gov Scott Walker.

  • 23. Sped Mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I don’t see much awareness or discussion of students with special needs here, but please remember the “least of our brethren” when considering public education policy and reality. Even kids with high IQs can have learning-impairing disabilities. Private schools do not need to follow laws about educating children with disabilities. And, it seems that we see higher incidence of disability among the children of the poor. Children in special education or with related accommodations rely on public education.

  • 24. Sped Mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    As an aside, the “divide and conquer” approach to public sector union busting by politicians is fascinating. Don’t these union-busters know that a huge percentage of firefighters and cops are married (or otherwise related) to teachers, nurses and other public service employees?

  • 25. Sped Mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

    BTW, Meek’s own school would benefit from a vouchers program.

  • 26. HSObsessed  |  April 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for all the interesting observations and discussions so far.

    I think most of the Chicago schools that would accept a $3,600 voucher as full payment of tuition would be associated with the archdiocese or another religious institution. After all, the schools affiliated with them are usually subsidized by them. This is a concern to me, and I would never support a voucher bill that didn’t allow a family/child to opt out of the religious component. But opting out could be awkward for a child, and I sympathize with a family who would like to use a voucher but feels strongly about not sending their child to a religious school, even though they can opt out. I’d like to know more about whether this has ever been raised as a concern of families in Milwaukee or elsewhere, and what they did.

    I agree that private/parochial schools don’t have a strong record of meeting the needs of special education children, as they are exempt from the laws requiring public schools to provide the least restrictive environment.

    Since I wrote the column, there have been some developments on voucher programs elsewhere. In Washington DC, there was a voucher program in place from 2004 until 2009, when it began to be dismantled, but this past week, House Speaker John Boehner, a big advocate and product of Catholic schools himself, tearfully led the House to pass a bill reinstating the program. It only applies to 1,000 students and is for $7,500 each.

    Next door in Indiana this week, they were debating a new program that would be the largest voucher system in the nation. It will be available statewide to even middle-class families, and those who are not in “failing” schools. The HHI limit currently discussed is $64,000 per year (it started at $100K!), and the voucher amount would be $4,500 max, with a sliding scale in place for those earning at the higher range of the cap. Another important difference in Indiana is that although there will be no cap on the number of students who can get a voucher after the program has been in place three years, only students who have been enrolled in a public school one year past kindergarten could get a voucher. To me, this voucher program seems overly broad, and not aimed at helping the kids in the schools struggling most, but instead is a thinly veiled way of diverting public education into private hands. (I foresee lots of Indiana parents enrolling their 6-year-old into public school for first grade for a “public school tour of duty” before applying to collect their voucher money going forward.) But since Indiana’s house and senate are both Republican-controlled, some form of the law is expected to pass pretty quickly. Keep your eye out for developments in DC and Indiana in the next weeks.

  • 27. Jennifer  |  April 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    The comments about public teachers also struck a chord with me, and I suspect that Indiana’s proposed plan is yet another attempt to cut the amount spent on giving our teachers a fair wage and benefits package.

    Sadly as voters we expect and demand quick results from our elected officials, both in terms of school performance and spending. This can never go hand in hand with a long term plan to invest in and improve public schools for all, which is why we are seeing all these schemes popping up.

  • 28. magnet school mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Hmm, my neighborhood school in Edgewater is the pits. I was lucky and my kids are at Franklin. Some of my neighbors are Section 8. $3700 isn’t going to get their kids into any of the private schools over here: over $8k for NCA, double that for Sacred Heart and the Waldorf. Who are they kidding?

    You can’t solve the problems of all around poverty just by blaming CPS. It’s only one aspect. Most of these kids are hungry, sleep deprived, scared to walk through their neighborhoods, etc. Vouchers isn’t the answer as it drains funds from CPS which is already bleeding. A whole child approach is needed. Education is only one piece fo the puzzle.
    What’s the answer? I’m not qualified to figure it out. It just makes me sad.

  • 29. Vouchers  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    A $3,600 voucher represents a cut of $2,500 per student.
    At a school of 500 students, that means $1.25 million less annually for just one school. That’s 12.5 million in 10 years. The impact will be enormous.

    Education within CPS will become more unequal than it is now — not to mention the inequality between CPS and suburban school districts and CPS. The President, Duncan, Rahm and Meeks must know this. Vouchers will widen and make permanent the gap between the races.

  • 30. Hawthorne mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    @21, to the best of my knowledge, the after school tutors that the archdiocese are probably not reading specialists, since most certified reading specialists can easily ask $75 an hour for private tutoring. Catapult Learning,one company that provides most of the title one services, pays somewhere between $15-25 an hour. Plus, I believe nearly all of the title one services are provided during the day (completely against the initial plan for title one). The people offering the title one services and the reading help are not required to be reading specialists, though, I have no doubt that some are good at their jobs.
    This part is just my assumption, so I could be wrong, but since there are SO many unemployed new grads, I think they staff those positions with teachers with no experience and just a basic El Ed degree. I can only guess they get bare bones materials too.
    Reading specialists, true reading specialists, can diagnose reading disabilities, do remediation and are worth their weight in gold. If it were up to me, every single school would have one reading specialist for ever 50 students in the school. And again, if we staggered our start and end times for our experienced, trained and certified reading specialists, kids would get the hour a day of intensive help they need, on top of the regular school day, every single day, until they were caught up.
    I am not sure if I answered your question….I hope I did. If not, feel free to ask for more clarification.

  • 31. @@ 26 - Quid pro Quo: vouchers and ESEAl  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    HS Obsessed — thanks a lot for your reporting on vouchers. I read this in EdWeek, and thought you might be interested.

    Does Obama’s Opposition to Vouchers Doom ESEA?
    By Alyson Klein on March 29, 2011 6:14 PM | 1 Comment | Recommend

    So, as I’m sure lots of folks in Washington know, the House of Representatives tomorrow is expected to pass a bill resurrecting the D.C. voucher program. This program is a top priority for Rep. John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House. And it’s sponsored in the Senate by Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

    The Obama administration, to no one’s surprise, has come out against the bill, saying:

    The federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement.

    The administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students. Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.

    The administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.

    But they don’t say: We will definitely veto your bill. UPDATE: Eduwonk notes, rightly, that this may leave the door open for compromise.

    Over at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli said that this dims (and maybe even totally dooms) the chances of an ESEA reauthorization this year.

    But despite that, it’s not clear to me that there was ever truly an explicit deal here, where Boehner said to the administration, give us the D.C. vouchers, and we promise to give you reauthorization. That’s partly because I get the sense that Boehner and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, are still trying to get a feel for where the new, more conservative House freshmen want to take the reauthorized law.

    Those freshmen are still getting up to speed on this very complicated domestic policy issue. Plus, they’re an independent bunch, so there’s no telling whether they would have (or still will) sign on to GOP leaders’ vision of where to take the new law, whatever that ends up being.

    So, even if the administration had said, yup, sure thing on D.C. vouchers as long as you give us ESEA, I’m not sure if the House would have then absolutely gone straight to work on, and finished, a reauthorization bill this year.

    But I do think there’s a rhetoric issue here. This is a top top priority for Boehner, an outspoken school-choice advocate. It almost certainly creates bad feelings that the administration isn’t supporting the only bill he’s sponsoring this Congress, particularly an education bill.

    And I’m sure that if ESEA isn’t passed this year (it’s already April and we haven’t seen a bill, so don’t hold your breath) many folks may cite the administration’s decision not to support the D.C. voucher program as a big part of the reason. Will they be right? Comments section is open.

    UPDATE: Check out what my fellow Edweek blogger, Sara Mead, has to say about this programs’ reach.

  • 32. Hawthorne mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    You did, beautifully. Thanks. One more question? What is the best school of ed for reading specialists?

  • 33. Going off topic: High stakes testing  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    There has been a lot of talk about high stakes testing because last week President Obama answered the question of a young boy at ta school where he and Duncan were giving speeches about school reform. The President said something to the effect that taking too many tests makes school boring. But the Race to the Top program wants to tie teacher evaluations, job security and bonus pay to annual tests like the ISAT.

    In light of what he said, I found this post interesting, and thought you might, too.

    If It’s Not Good Enough for the Obama or Duncan Children . .

    The other day the President referred to the Obama children at Sidwell Friends School taking standardized tests, but tests that do not decide if their school gets shut down, if the teachers get to keep their jobs or if they are given raises, or even if a nasty letter is sent home by the Feds to parents telling them their school sucks.

    From Monty Neill:

    > Bill Schechter here in MA, noting Obama’s talk on testing and that the MA board of elementary and secondary education will soon be debating use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, wondered if the schools that Obama (Sidwell Friends) and Duncan (Arlington,VA public schools) send their children to evaluate their teachers based on student test scores.

    > The responses, which Bill said I could share, are:
    > “We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.” (Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011)
    > “We don’t tie teacher pay to test scores because we don’t believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.” (Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011)

  • 34. Hawthorne mom  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Hmmmm, that’s a hard one. I have heard good things about Concordia and I am not sure if Erickson has a RS offering, but pretty much everything they do is good. I went to National Louis for ESL and Curr. and Instr. and thought it was a waste of time (they taught us all theory and, kid you not, NO practice, at least not anything you could use in an urban situation….maybe in some fairytale, private school with 15 kids in a room and nearly no sped kids).
    From my experience taking higher ed classes, I am all for the “go as cheap as you can” idea and then just read and read and read from people like Fountas and Pinnell and Allington. And watch your colleagues who know what they are doing. The longer I am in teaching the more I believe that classes don’t really help teachers improve their instruction very much. Professional learning communities that encourage peers to observe eachother teach and get/give feedback, I think, are the best way to learn.

  • 35. Hawthorne mom  |  April 3, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Thanks again for your insights.

  • 36. HSObsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Here’s an article in today’s HuffPo about vouchers, mostly about the Milwaukee program. A new study apparently reflects that children in private schools through the voucher program are not meeting standards in rates as high as those in the regular Milwaukee public schools.

    I wonder why it is surprising that the “voucher students” don’t do as well. In Chicago, if kids in the worst 10 percent of schools are eligible for vouchers, they are going to go into their private schools academically behind grade level in most cases, and the socioeconomic factors they struggle with will not evaporate overnight, either. Maybe it would be more fair to compare voucher students with students still at the schools they left behind.


  • 37. @HS Obsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Thanks for this. Just what I had hoped for, real number to frame the debate. In Milwaukee, the vouchers are worth $6,607 per pupil and cover 20,000 students. The program has been in place for 3 years, sufficient time to judge its impact.

    After 3 years, Math test scores for the students with vouchers were 34.4 v. 47.9 for similar students in public schools.
    Reading scores for voucher students hit 55.2 v. 59 for their public school counterparts. Compare this with statewide scores; the Math was 77.2 and Reading was 83.
    What does Gov Scott want to do? Go ahead with more vouchers, according to the article.
    Really, this is a civil rights issue. If CPS were to follow this example, it would effectively be washing its hands of these children in order to help out the Archdiocese.

  • 38. Vouchers in Indiana  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Here is something timely from a blog: School Matters, that is looking at Indiana Republicans current efforts to expand their vouchers beyond helping those kids in failing schools..

    Republicans’ shifting rationale for vouchers

    stevehinnefeld | April 4, 2011 at 3:29 am |

    URL: http://wp.me/pRcNV-y6

    It’s a rare treat when a public official directs journalists to a document that proves what he is saying isn’t true. So … thank you, Speaker Brian Bosma.

    The topic, once again, is school vouchers. Last week, the Republican-controlled House voted largely on party lines for a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers for low- and middle-income parents who transfer their children from any public school to a private school.

    House Democrats tried to amend the bill to limit the vouchers to students transferring out of schools that receive a D or F on Indiana’s school-rating system. Wasn’t the point of the voucher idea to help students escape “failing” schools, they asked?

    But Republicans rejected the amendment. Pressed by reporters after the vote, Bosma, R-Indianapolis, insisted GOP support for vouchers had always been about “giving parents choice,” not about getting kids out of ineffective schools.

    “No one in the Republican caucus has said this (was about failing schools),” Bosma said, according to the Indianapolis Star. He urged reporters to look at the House Republicans’ “Strengthening Indiana” plan. “It says nothing about failing or successful schools there,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s about empowering parents with additional choices.”

    Of course, the reporters looked at the plan, which is linked from Bosma’s own website. And the only language in the plan that could be a reference to vouchers is this pledge:

    “Provide Children who Attend Failing Schools Grants to Attend a School of Choice” (italics added).

    The voucher bill is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.

  • 39. Catholic School Parent  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I would like to point out that the Archdiocese of Chicago helps out CPS by saving it over $252,000,000 each year. Over 42,000 kids in the city attend Catholic schools.

  • 40. @ 39  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Catholic school parents make it all work for the kids. They pay tuition to the Archdiocese, volunteer tirelessly, donate books to libraries, fund science labs and tech labs.

    They get little support from the Archdiocese for the parish schools, and they have had to, unfortunately, leave the Catholic schools in large numbers because of the poor economy.

    They deserve some help, but school vouchers are for the 30,000 poorest CPS students. The voucher plan will not help these hardworking Catholic families.

  • 41. Your Numbers  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Catholic school parents save CPS $252 million a year, if per-pupil expenditures are $6,100.

    At $3,600 per voucher, the children cost CPS $165.4 million.

  • 42. Another idea  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:56 am

    You could also say that any parent who pays private school tuition anywhere — Latin, Parker, U of C Lab school etc. — is saving CPS money.

  • 43. Catholic School Parent  |  April 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

    @41 Could you say the vouchers would save CPS money since they would not be payingfor/servicing these students? The education cost of these students at CPS would be 122 mill. By not enrolling these 20K students. the state would only be paying 72 mill. Therefore someone is saving 50 million. Who?

  • 44. RL Julia  |  April 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

    @28 – I totally agree- giving the 30K poorest children vouchers isn’t really going to solve any problems – just another illusion of choice. If a family can’t manage to manage the child’s life outside of school how is giving them a sparsely funding voucher system to navigate really going to solve anything. The archdiocese does fine with kids who are school-ready -but then again so does CPS (for the most part) – and as mentioned – the archdiocese doesn’t have the mandate (and hence hasn’t developed the expensive to fund capacity) to really address kids with special needs.

  • 45. @ 43: The Numbers --  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

    CPS can save money by cutting the per pupil expenditure to $3,600 from $6,100 for 30,000 of the poorest students.

    But CPS has a $5 billion budget. What is $50 million?

    More importantly, are vouchers the right thing for the poorest children?

    Can the Archdiocese (who will primarily benefit) provide an effective education to the poorest students who have the greatest needs?

    It hasn’t happened during the past three years in Milwaukee, where 20,000 poor public school kids have been given vouchers worth $6,100. That’s $2,500 more than CPS proposes to give in vouchers.

    The scores for Milwaukee’s voucher kids are the lowest in the state by a lot. Nowhere are vouchers an outstanding success.

    Vouchers — like charters — are about weakening the teachers union, firing masses of CPS principals and teachers and getting the city out from under pension obligations that they haven’t funded over the past few years.

  • 46. Catholic Dad  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

    My child attended a Catholic school for one year where it currently costs $7100 for tuition and fees for non-parishoners. This does not include uniforms, before or after care, clubs, etc. This is one of the more reasonable schools on the north side. In order to keep the tuition this “low” they fundraise constantly. They raise hundreds of thousands in order for the school to stay open. That is with 15-20 kids per class. I don’t see how the vouchers could really cover what it costs to send a child there. The archdiocese does not give financial support to this school but they do dictate their curriculum. Oh, and the teachers there took a 3 year pay freeze (on already low salaries) in order to keep things going. Also, they have a mandatory number of volunteer hours for parents or there is an additional $275 fee if you don’t volunteer. And of course you are expected to participate (financially) in the fundraisers. I’m not sure where Meeks and others think students will go for that amount of voucher money.

  • 47. You can read more about  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

    what is going on in Springfield, and about the billionaires who are pushing the Duncan/Rahm agenda for corporate-style school reform here.


  • 48. @ 46 Catholic Dad  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I hear you. The reason that Catholic schools still work as well as they do for their kids is because of the families’, as well as the teachers’ and principals’, commitment to their faith community and to the children they love.

    I know principals who left Catholic schools in the city because suburban schools would pay a bit better wage. I know young, credentialed Catholic school teachers who have to live at home with mom and dad because they can’t afford their own place.

    What happens when the Archdiocese suddenly has to educate the poorest children who don’t have those kinds of family resources behind them?

    I think we know the answer to that.

  • 49. copy editor  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Heh. @Catholic Dad, public school is constant fundraising these days, too. When people talk about parental involvement, they really mean parental check-writing. Alas.

  • 50. Hawthorne mom  |  April 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I wonder if this goes through, if finally the archdiocese will have to follow the law in terms of reporting ANY suspicion of child abuse? I have never understood how, since teachers are all “mandated reporters” that priests or other church employees or volunteers are not. I realize the abuse issue is not unique to any one group, but I would be infuriated to realize MY tax dollars would be going to support an organization that has repeatedly hidden the sex crimes against children and from what I have seen, continues to do so.

  • 51. ChicagoGawker  |  April 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    As a Catholic, I am sorry to say that Catholic parish schools are simply not equipped to provide the LD, BD and other spec. ed. services that a substantial no. of kids who qualify for these vouchers would need. Our own kids with special needs or simply working below grade level, are referred to the CPS schools for services. Kids with significant behavior challenges are asked to leave. The idea that Catholic schools can educate any kid is foolhardy. We should in honesty refuse the vouchers.

  • 52. HSObsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Just want to throw in here that no child will be required to make use of the vouchers even if they qualify, so parents can assess whether they feel CPS can provide better or a private/parochial school would be a better environment. Also, no individual private/parochial school would be required to accept the vouchers. If the school decides it would like to receive voucher students, it must apply as a receiving school and follow any rules mandated in the bill (like the proposed testing) but nothing else (like mandatory reporting of abuse).

    If this is passed and let’s say 15,000 students take vouchers, would this be a great way of getting more children into the much-sought after charter spots? I think the oft-cited statistic is that there are 12,000 kids in Chicago on a waiting list for charters. There is likely a large overlap between the populations of those hoping for charter seats and those who would be eligible for vouchers under the proposed CPS program. (BTW, does anyone know whether charter schools are required to follow laws about providing for special ed students? I would presume that as public schools, they are, but I don’t know.)

  • 53. copy editor  |  April 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Catholic school teachers are mandatory reporters, but they can only report on what they know – and there aren’t too many pedophiles who are going to report on themselves.

    And although the Catholic hierarchy’s handling of the pedophile priests is a disgrace and a mortal sin, don’t kid yourself: it can happen anywhere. A teacher at New Trier was just fired for an inappropriate relationship with a student.

  • 54. Hawthorne mom  |  April 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Mandated reporters only have to report a reasonable suspicion of abuse, they are not required to have proof. (so while noone will call on themselves, you can easily call on someone else) I’ve reported my share of suspected abuse situations while teaching in CPS and in the Archdiocese and I can tell you that the Catholic school I taught in was the only place my leadership tried to dissuade me NOT to call DCFS because the principal wanted to “handle it”. (I called anyways. The child told me point blank the mother was beating him with an electrical cord.)
    Yes it can happen anywhere. NT handled things beautifully by reporting what happened as soon as they knew about it and handing the situation over to the police and firing the teacher. Unfortunately, priests and other leaders have been passed around without being fired and reported to police even when victims have come forward. That is what I have a problem with. Abuse happens everywhere. It is the cover up and the collusion that makes me want to scream. (all the while the church offers so called apologies….I mean really??? Apology without action means nothing)

  • 55. ChicagoGawker  |  April 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    @54, while I share your outrage, in fairness, they have taken action. If you were teaching at a Cath. school now you have mandatory “Virtus” training in how to prevent, recognize, respond, and report suspected child abuse. So would your principal and everyone who comes in to contact with students from the cafeteria lady to parent volunteers. Clergy have it too. You cannot even volunteer in a classroom until you get this training. You would have plenty of support in reporting that principal if that happened today.

  • 56. RL Julia  |  April 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    So basically what is being said here is:
    1. vouchers will be given to to 30,000 poorest CPS students.
    2. the vouchers can be used everywhere and should be expected to cover the full tuition costs of a year of schools (because the family can’t pay).
    3. any school can refuse to accept the voucher.
    4. it is generally agreed that private and parochial schools are not as well equipped to handle students with learning difficulties/differences as CPS.
    5. private and parochial schools can expel students who don’t conform to behavioral norms.
    6. private and parachial schools often have additional per household fundraising and volunteer goals and expectations.

    So basically, the only schools who will accept the vouchers will be those schools who can turn a profit or at least not lose money by accepting the voucher and so far no one has heard of a school (aside from Rev. Meeks potentially) who could education any child for the amount of the voucher .

    So this is going to provide “choice” how? And it is going to benefit the targeted children how?

  • 57. cpsobsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    @56 RL Julia:
    That’s exactly where I net out! We can discuss all we want, but I can’t get my head around how giving really poor families $3,700 is going to open any options to them. I’d assume they’d have to kick in at least $2K? extra, per kid. And assuming there were private schools like this, there’s no way they can accomodate 30,000 kids. Nor would they neccesarily want to take them — unless there is some kind of financial incentive that we don’t hear about.

    I thought Catholic schools were funded in part by the Arch and/or the parish (not sure I’m using the right words here) which is the main reason their tuition is so competitive versus other private schools. But I can’t see how that money can fund an extra 10K, 20K, even 30K of kids who likley need some extra help getting caught up in school.

    It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    I do recall reading once that CPS spends around 9K to educate a child and I wonder why they couldn’t just send kids to decent private schools (there are so with tuition in that ballkpark.) But clearly that full 9K isn’t available to hand out as vouchers.

    Ultimately, it seems like there is Choice and Perception of Choice. I feel like CPS can’t really make Choice work for now, so they’re working on instilling the Perception of Choice.

  • 58. HSObsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    @56 and @57 — I think may of us on this blog are used to seeing tuition from schools in affluent areas, and they charge a lot more than those in less affluent areas.

    According to a Trib article from May 2010:

    “Tuition varies widely among private and parochial schools in the city — from about $2,000 to nearly $30,000 a year. The average tuition and fees for elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago is about $3,300 a year, a spokesman said.”

    I don’t have updated figures, but the $3,300 tuition and fees amount seems about right to me.

    In order to see whether a $3,700 would be enough for kids to actually get an education elsewhere, I continued my non-scientific method of looking at the tuition rates of the Catholic schools nearest the CPS schools most likely to produce voucher students (see list below), and I stand by my initial reaction that that amount would indeed cover the bill. The likely “voucher schools” are schools like Dewey, in Washington Park (60609), Fuller in Grand Boulevard neighborhood (60653), Dulles in Woodlawn (60637), Holmes in Englewood (60609), and Smyth in Near West side (60608). Close to each of these (less than two miles), I found there are Catholic schools that charge non-parishioners less than $3,700 for tuition and fees per year, and often much less for the second child. Examples:

    St. Elizabeth in 60653: $2,500 for one child, $3,500 for two

    Academy of St. Benedict the African in 60637: $3,250 for one child, $4,360 for two

    St. Ann in 60608: $3,000 for one, $3,750 for two (yes, that’s what it says on the website — $750 more for an additional child)

    Some of the schools list tuition for one child that is higher than the $3,700 voucher amount, but would still be affordable for a family if they have two children and two vouchers. For example, St. Gabriel in Washington Park (60609) is $4,150 for one child but $6,350 for two.

    And yes, these numbers already include mandatory fundraising and building fees and uniform fees.

    Of the lowest performing schools, I think only kids at Jenner (Near North) and Armstrong (Rogers Park) would find it hard to locate a school anywhere close that would accept the voucher as full payment.

    The 40 lowest-performing CPS schools in 2010 on the basis of their meets/exceeds standards (from 33% meet or exceeds at Dewey, to 46% at Cooper):

    DAVIS, M

  • 59. HSObsessed  |  April 4, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Oh, geez. I just noticed there are two Armstrongs, and the one in Rogers Park is NOT one of the worst-performing CPS schools. Sorry!!

    George Armstrong is in Rogers Park, and it has 77 percent of students meeting/exceeding standards.

    Louis Armstrong is in South Austin, and it is in the bottom 40, with 44 percent of students meeting/exceeding.

    So this means that I only see Jenner on the near north side, as being far from more reasonable options. Looks like the closest is St. Stan’s in Wicker Park at $4400 for one kid, $6300 for two (within the voucher limits).

  • 60. Hawthorne mom  |  April 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I want to know why a charter school (Uno-Paz) on that list is still open!!!! How is it that normal public schools are being closed due to poor scores while charters are opened to solve that problem–yet, when a charter does as poorly as those on the list provided by #58, it remains open. Wasn’t the whole idea that charters would be closed if they don’t get scores up a significant amount within a few years?

  • 61. What if Catholic schools used ISATs  |  April 4, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    How can parents at the 40 schools listed above know if the neaarby Catholic school will be a better option?

    What if CPS decided to ask the Catholic schools to administer the ISAT test to their current students?

    Just to see what the number look like. So parents can compare apples to apples.

  • 62. school consolidations or closings, by substance news  |  April 5, 2011 at 1:35 am

    CPS schedules last minute ‘hearings’ on proposed school closings…

    George N. Schmidt – April 04, 2011

    In a last-minute press release issued on the morning of April 4, 2011, Chicago Public Schools Office of Communications has scheduled additional hearings in communities for some of the schools that will be up for closing at the Board of Education’s April 27 meeting.

    There is no mention as to whether Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany, Chief Education Officer Charles Payne, or any of the seven members of the Board of Education will attend any of those meetings. In previous years, CPS held the hearings but the CEOs never attended, and no more than two members of the school board ever attended any one hearing. In what many characterized as an act of cynical and cruel duplicity, CPS order groups of its mid-level management people to sit in seats usually occupied by top level bureaucrats, and many passionate parents, children, and teachers made their appeals to the silent witnesses, who they thought were the “Board.”

    Although the Board of Education’s public relations materials claim that the actions proposed are “consolidations”, they are in fact closings. Working on data that has been shown to be inaccurate for the past eight years, Chicago Board of Education members repeat the mantra every year that the Board has to save money by closing the buildings because they are supposedly underutilized. But no one from the affected schools is allowed to cross examine the Board witnesses to verify the testimony the Board’s attorneys and staff offer, and in almost every case since 2003, the facts have contradicted the Board’s staff’s version.

    Most school closings in Chicago, since Arne Duncan began them in 2002 with his first “renaissance,” have been to vacate the buildings so that privatization could take place.

    More than three-quarters of the buildings that have been closed by CPS since June 2004 (when the Board went after Calumet and Austin high schools) have eventually been given away to charter schools and other types of privatization, usually after massive and expensive renovations to the buildings take place once the buildings are cleared of true public school students.

    This years school closing lists continue the pattern, with Urban Prep and Talent Development just two of the charter high schools scheduled to get the buildings the Board is clearing out.

    An additional insult to parents, students and teachers in the past has been that the Chief Executive Officer has refused to provide the members of the Board and the public with complete transcripts and copies of all materials that are turned in to the hearing officer at each of the hearings.

    In some cases, as in Edison Gifted three years ago, the parents, community, students, and supporters of the school turned in more than 800 pages of materials. The members of the Board of Education voted to move Edison without reading any of that material, because it was never provided to them. Nor were the transcripts of the carefully prepared statements of the so-called “stakeholders” (see the CPS press release below). Like the materials, the transcripts are simply ignored by the Board at the time it votes to close the schools. Since Board members and the system’s two top executives generally ignore the hearings, the only record that is before the Board when it votes is the so-called “summary” written up by the supposedly “independent” hearing officer. Three years ago, Substance exposed the fact that two of the supposedly “independent” hearing officers were actually partners in the outside law firm that gets more than $1 million in business from CPS annually. The names of the hearing officers are not released to the public prior to the hearings.

    The following is the content of the hasty press release issued early on April 4 by CPS. Note that all of the hearings will take place between April 4 and April 11.

    For more information contact:, Monique Bond

    CPS Office of Communications, Phone: 773-553-1620, Fax: 773-553-1622, Website: http://www.cps.edu

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:, April 4, 2011, Chicago Public Schools Sets Public Hearing Schedule On School Consolidation Proposals

    Chicago Public Schools will hold a series of public hearings beginning this week on proposed school consolidations.

    The planned two-hour sessions will provide an opportunity for independent hearing officers to receive testimony from CPS officials supporting the consolidation proposals and from interested members of the public who want to comment on the proposals.

    Sign-up for persons wishing to speak at the public hearing begins an hour prior to the start of each hearing. Speakers are asked to limit their oral comments to two minutes to maximize the number of people who want to provide verbal testimony. Written testimony will also be accepted at the hearings.

    Following the hearings, the hearing officers will provide a summary of testimony and their findings to the office of Interim CPS Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany.

    The hearing officer reports will help inform final consolidation proposals the Interim CEO is expected to make to the Board at its April 27 meeting. No final action can be taken on any of the proposals until that meeting.

    The public hearings will take place in the Chicago Board of Education chambers, 125 S. Clark, 5th Floor.

    A series of community meetings with affected school communities has been ongoing and will continue this week, officials added.

    The hearing schedule, and the consolidation proposals, follows:

    — Wednesday, April 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St., Consolidate all small schools at Bowen Campus, 2710 E. 89th St., into New Millennium High School. Bowen was split into four small schools – New Millennium, BEST, Chicago Discovery and Global Visions – in 2002.

    — Thursday April 7, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Consolidate Hans Christian Andersen, 1148 N. Honore St., into LaSalle II, 1148 N. Honore St. (the two schools already share one building).

    — Thursday April 7, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Reassign kindergarten boundary of George W. Tilton, 223 N. Keeler Ave., to Guglielmo Marconi, 230 N. Kolmar Ave., and Laura S Ward, 410 N. Monticello Ave.

    — Friday, April 8, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Consolidate Philo Carpenter, 1250 W. Erie St., into Mancel Talcott, 1840 W. Ohio St.

    — Friday April 8, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Consolidate George Schneider, 2957 N. Hoyne Ave. into Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, 3149 N. Wolcott.

    — Monday, April 11, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Consolidate Jacob Beidler, 3151 W. Walnut St., into Willa Cather, 2908 W. Washington Blvd.

    — Monday, April 11, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark St. Consolidate Avondale, 2945 N Sawyer Ave., into Logandale, 3212 W. George St.

    Community meetings between CPS representatives and parents, guardians and other stakeholders began last week and will continue this week.

    Community meetings already have taken place at Tilton, Marconi and Beidler schools.

    Today, meetings are scheduled at Cather (at 9:30 a.m.), and Tilton (6:30 p.m.).

    Tomorrow, meetings will take place at Andersen (9:30 a.m.), with a second meeting scheduled for Marconi (6 p.m.).

    On Wednesday, a meeting is scheduled at Carpenter (9:30 a.m.) and on Friday a meeting is planned at Avondale (9 a.m.).

    Pending are meetings at Schneider and Bowen.

    The meetings provide an opportunity for school communities to interact with CPS representatives. The community outreach should help further clarify the reasoning behind the proposals and allow additional feedback from those affected by these proposed actions.

    Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 410,000 students in more than 670 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.

  • 63. LR  |  April 5, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Hmmm…school closings are a tough issue. I have a friend that works for CPS. We had a discussion about schools closing. He said CPS probably needs to close some schools. I asked why. He said to me, “Imagine a school where about one-third of the classrooms are taken up by storage of old books and other stuff.” (Ok, the thought of that depresses me) At the same time, CPS closes a school down and now there is a big vacant building in the middle of a neighborhood (which also depresses me). It just doesn’t seem like there is a good option in many cases. Unless the school closes and then reopens as a successful magnet or charter.

  • 64. cps Mom  |  April 5, 2011 at 8:22 am

    LR – yes I agree. Some need to close and better yet successfully converted. We need to put our limited resources in the right places.

  • 65. Some school closings needed  |  April 5, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Some school closings are needed. But here is an alternative to closings/turnarounds/principal firings that Vermont Sen. Sanders is proposing and says addressed the socio-economic problems associated with poverty.

    Sanders: Molly Stark School an alternative model
    Source: Bennington Banner

    By Dawson Raspuzzi

    April 2, 2011

    BENNINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is looking at the community school model used at Molly Stark Elementary as an alternative for the lowest-performing schools to keep federal funding without letting go of principals or teachers.

    Legislation introduced by Vermont’s independent senator earlier this month encourages the community model that forms partnerships between schools and community resources to focus on academics, health care and social services.

    Public schools determined to be in need of improvement under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act now have four choices in order to receive School Improvement Grant money: Closing the school, replacing the principal (which happened in Burlington last summer), replacing the principal and at least half of the teachers or becoming a charter school (which Vermont does not allow).

    Sanders’ proposal is to add a fifth option that he says would promote stronger families and healthier communities. It calls for offering a range of supports and opportunities to children and others in the community. The service providers might include doctors, dentists, family clinicians and others who would be available even outside of regular school hours. The senator’s office said the implementation cost would be covered by the federal money the district receives, so it would not affect local spending.

    The community school model has been used across the country. In Vermont, Molly Stark is the only school to adopt it, beginning in the mid ‘90s through the efforts of former principal Sue Maguire, according to Sanders’ office.
    “The idea behind a community school is that you have kids coming into school and they have all different opportunities. A community school levels the playing field,” said Maguire, who is now the principal of Mount Anthony Union High School.

    By putting health care and human services in a school, Maguire said students are guaranteed access, which in turn can make it easier for students to learn.

    “Having good health care, having good social services and all that, makes kids more available to learn. If you’re feeling sick, if you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep tonight, if you have these worries, it doesn’t matter how good the teaching is,” Maguire said.

    Sanders, a member of the Senate Education Committee who has long supported the community school approach at Molly Stark, said the bill gives school districts across the country more choices instead of forcing them to take “draconian” measures.

    “Schools in Vermont and across the country work every day to provide quality education for their students,” Sanders said. “When schools fall short, there should be more options that just firing a principal or replacing half the teachers or closing the school.”

    Sanders said the community school model engages the community and supports parents by providing opportunities for adults to increase their own life-long learning.

    “The community school approach has worked well in Bennington and could be a model for the rest of the country. Providing a variety of services that link classrooms to the larger community can help schools do a better job and students get a better education,” Sanders said.

    The senator’s office also said the method has proven to leverage existing federal, state and local education spending in a way that gets the most out of limited resources.

    In Vermont, the ten “persistently low-achieving schools,” based on standardized test scores in math and reading, are eligible for additional federal assistance. To receive the federal funds, those schools must take one of the four steps. The decision to apply for the additional funding is up to the district school board, although if it chooses not to apply it misses an opportunity to claim a significant amount of money.

    No schools in Bennington County are on the list.

    This year, Vermont received about $1 million in School Improvement Grant money, which is must less than it has in past years.

    Last summer, the principal of H.O. Wheeler Elementary in Burlington was let go in order for the Burlington School District to qualify for up to $3 million in federal grant money.

    The district, students and parents supported the principal, who had been in place six years, but the district could not turn its back on millions of dollars to help educate its children, according to the senator’s office.

    Sanders hopes his community schools legislation will be made part of a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which Congress is expected to consider this year.

  • 66. cpsobsessed  |  April 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

    @65: I think that is great idea about adding community resources. From my limited reading on the topic, it sounds like schools that serve disadvantaged kids often need resources for the whole family like those mentioned. It just seems like it would make more sense in a school that was more full, so more people could take advantage of the services.

    Regarding closing in general, as Mazany has pointed out, when the budget is being slashed, something has to give. Much like the entire state budget, nobody wants it to be done in a way that affects them. Objectively, given that CPS DOES need to save money fast, the idea of closings/consolidations seems to make sense. There’s never going to be a way to do it that won’t piss somebody off.

    People need to be heard, but 800 pages on why Edison shouldn’t close? Really? Boil the key arguments down to 10 power point slides and I suspect more people would be willing to read the informtion. I’m interested in hearing why those schools don’t want to close, but I’d never read an 800 page document.

  • 67. cpsobsessed  |  April 5, 2011 at 11:00 am

    @HSObsessed: Good research! But wow, how do those schools operate with such low tuition? Is there something about Catholic schools that I don’t understand?

    Teachers probably low paid?
    Parrish/Arch kicks in money?
    They see it as an “investment” in the future of Catholicism?

    I mean, if these schools are actually good, that is an amazing deal on tuition, right?

  • 68. pay & pension  |  April 5, 2011 at 11:51 am

    The Archdiocese saves a lot on teacher and principal pay and pensions. Did you know that up until a few years back, Catholic elementary school teachers did not have to be certified? That changed a few years back.
    Now the hard task is to find a math teacher who has middle school certification. And librarians are hard to find as well.
    A comparison of Sacred Heart, at one extreme, with St. Benedict the African or Mary Queen of the Universe would be helpful.
    As a percentage of operating expenses, parishes provide little support to their own middle class Catholic schools, while more goes to the needier schools from the Arhdiocese and Big Shoulders fund.

  • 69. RL Julia  |  April 5, 2011 at 11:51 am

    @HSObsessed – how do the parochiol schools you mention perform?

  • 70. ChicagoGawker  |  April 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    @68 The majority of Catholic schools receive all of their operating expenses not covered by the tuition they collect directly from the individual parish (church). The archdiocese (kind of like the corporate office) does not provide the funds for these schools. The members of the parish support the school or it closes. The archdiocese provides some $ to parishes in poorer areas only. Very few Catholic schools have tuition in the 3k range, most are at least double that for parishioners and even more for non-members.

  • 71. ChicagoGawker  |  April 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    @70 I took a look at the websites of the parish schools she listed, and none of them show the Terra Nova scores (the nationally normed standardized test taken in Catholic schools. BTW the ISAT is NOT a nationally normed test.) One of the schools was nominated for an award for the most improved test scores in the Archdiocese. While Catholic schools are a mixed bag, with only some being as academically strong as the top CPS schools, generally speaking ,it is safe to say that any are going to be a significant academic improvement as compared to the failing CPS schools noted here.

  • 72. cps Mom  |  April 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    If the education is a trade off from private to public would safety then be the main push for vouchers?

  • 73. LR  |  April 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    #70 – Just building on what you were saying, last year I did an analysis for our school of what Catholic Schools in the area (north side) are charging. Our school was on the low end at $5400 and that is inclusive of everything and we don’t charge parishioner/non-parishioner rates. At most schools non-parishioners will pay more like $7,000. And then pay hundreds more in registration fees, materials/book fees, and up to $1,000 per family in mandatory fundraising. So, yeah, the $3,700 they are offering will cover maybe just over one-third at schools around here. That being said, I know our school has generous scholarships and grants that they offer to low-income ($48K per year and under) families. So, if you get aid in addition to your state money, you might be able to cut it. Honestly, I believe they will do everything they can to accommodate the people that come to them. The Catholic church, for all their faults, does care about breaking the cycle of poverty. So, I’d like to think their support of the bill is altruistic.

  • 74. HSObsessed  |  April 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    @69 – Good question, and of course I’m not vouching for the quality of education at the schools I listed. It’s hard to find data about how Catholic schools do individually, although every year the archdiocese releases information about how they are doing as a whole on Terra Nova in general. FWIW, the CPS bill would require each voucher school to administer the ISATs to voucher kids.

    But in the end, aren’t the ultimate judges of how a school is doing the parents? In Milwaukee, if parents felt that the private/Catholic schools weren’t measuring up, they could return to the publics, but they haven’t. Participation has grown from 83 schools and 6,000 schools in 1999 to 102 schools and 21,000 students in 2010. Wouldn’t they vote with their feet if they were unhappy?

    @70 – re: “Very few Catholic schools have tuition in the 3k range, most are at least double that for parishioners and even more for non-members.” I’m wondering whether you can link me to where you found that information, as it would be important for lawmakers to know that. If the amount of the vouchers isn’t enough to cover tuition, the entire program is going to be useless. I have only found the “$3,300 average tuition and fees” that is quoted by an archdiocese spokesperson in May 2010, as well as all my anecdotal research that seems to back it up.

    @73 – From my research, it looks like the catholic schools charge what their market can bear, and in gentrified northside areas, yes, they charge a lot more. Importantly, however, none of the CPS schools likely to produce voucher students are located in those gentrified areas, so unless we believe that a “voucher family” from Woodlawn is going to want to take public transportation across the city to a school 22 miles away in Sauganash or other wealthier area, I think it’s most relevant to look at schools right in or around Woodlawn, which is what I did.

  • 75. @71 chicagogawker  |  April 5, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Part of the ISAT called the SAT-10 is normed and that is how CPS students receive their percentiles. The SAT-10 questions are imbedded in the first adminstration of reading & math. Each test has 40 items and 30 of the items are normed.

  • 76. Chicago Gawker  |  April 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    But is that a NATIONAL norm? Every standardized test is normed to something, but I wonder if ISATs are nationally normed. The goal is to meet STATE standards. Are those benchmarked to any kind of national norms? @HS obsessed, my statement that very few Catholic schools have tuition in the 3k range was ACCURATE ONLY FOR NORTH SIDE SCHOOLS. (Slow day at work and did extensive research on this) Catholic schools that charge 3k tuition are getting major subsidy from the archdiocese and the Big Shoulders Fund-private donors. You were correct.

  • 77. @ 70  |  April 6, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for clarifying. I misspoke and meant to say that at least at my parish, only a small percentage of the Sunday collections support the school. You are right that the families support the school or it closes.

  • 78. Bombay  |  April 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I totally support the voucher plan. Why? Because I can honestly say that I would never, EVER send one of my kids to one of the failing CPS schools that qualifiy its students for vouchers. Middle-class people have options –private schools yes, but (90-95% of the time) mainly being able to move to a neighborhood or community with decent schools. Why shouldn’t people that have NO OPTION but to send their kids to schools that virtually guarantee academic and social failure be given an opportunity for a better school if they so choose? In most rich countries the money follows the child to the school that he/she picks. In Sweden, for-profit companies run schools and all those who want to opt-out of their tradiational state/public schools are free to attend them. Why is this idea so “radical” to so many people here?

  • 79. mom2  |  April 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

    @ 78 – some questions – When you say, “free to attend them”, do you mean that the school is free? Isn’t college free to anyone in Sweden or is that just in Norway? Are the “for profit” companies being paid by the government for anyone that wants to attend these schools for free? Are these companies religious based? What are the taxes in Sweden?

  • 80. Chicago Gawker  |  April 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    After doing more research, it appears that Catholic schools in these areas do have some programs to help kids achieving below grade level. These schools seem to receive Title I funds. (And is this they are able to charge so much less for tuition???) From the Dept of ED. website:

    Once a state’s EFIG allocation is determined, funds are allocated (using a weighted count formula that is similar to Targeted Grants) to LEAs in which the number of poor children is at least 10 and at least 5 percent of the LEA’s school-age population. LEAs target the Title I funds they receive to schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families. Unless a participating school is operating a schoolwide program, the school must focus Title I services on children who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet state academic standards. Schools in which poor children make up at least 40 percent of enrollment are eligible to use Title I funds for schoolwide programs that serve all children in the school. LEAs also must use Title I funds to provide academic enrichment services to eligible children enrolled in private schools.

    -Another difference from Catholic schools in more affluent neighborhoods. However, I still question if these schools employ the full time staff to service LD/BD students. Title I funds appear to be focused on Reading. Do they use Title I funds to make up the gap in their tuition revenue instead of hiring LD/BD staff? An LD specialist at a Catholic school in my neck of the woods is unheard of. I still don’t see how this could work with larger numbers of students needing these accommodations.

  • 81. copy editor  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Yeah, Chicago Gawker, but let’s be real here: it’s not like LD services are great in CPS. Many of the families I know who have children with these issues spend a ridiculous amount of time fighting with CPS (often with the aid of lawyers) or throw up their hands and move to the suburbs – and many principals would prefer to have these kids out of their schools anyway. So I don’t know that the Catholic schools would be worse. That doesn’t mean they would be adequate, though.

  • 82. Bombay  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:07 am

    @ 79. Yes, the school is “free” for all kids, just like CPS Magnet schools are free for all Chicago residents,etc. The company is “Knuskapsskolan” and is not religious (kinda’ like Sylvan Lerning Centers, Kumon, etc). . Unlike CPS, most countries (like Sweden) let parents decide which school is best (even religious schools if they are perceived to be the best option) and the money (e.g., $10k or whatever) goes to the school where the kid decides to enroll. I’ve read about it several time. The money that tradtional Swedish “public schools” receive goes to Knuskapsskolan. Admissions is open to all students, regardless of ability. Instruction is individualized for each student, so that everybody gets the right instruction for them –‘behind” kids have a plan that helps them move forward with the help that they need, “gifted” kids have an individualized education program that keeps them engaged and helps them go as far as they want, etc. Swedish “public schools” have been changing/improving to keep their students from defecting to the for-profit schools and the for-profit schools work hard to keep and attract students –a viruous cycle that virtually everybody in Sweden has been happy with. The company has even been chosen to open a new charter school in New York City. Obviously, the public teachers unions and many public school bureaucrats hate the idea (God forbid there’s change that threatens their paychecks even if it’s in the best interest of kids). It’s ironic that a “socialist” country like Sweden embraces pragmatic competition in the public sector from even for-profit companies, but here people act like the world is coming to an end if public schools are exposed to any competition from anything outside the traditiona public school monopoly–even if the sysem is clearly broken. Google Knuskapsskolan for more info. I’d LOVE to have the “Kunskapsskolan” option for my kids –we could live wherever we wanted and be guaranteed an excellent “free” education, instead of all the B.S. that we on this blog complain about. I have a “gifted” kid and on “regular” that needs individualized attention –how nice would it be for them to attend the same school! Maybe there will be a Kunskapsskolan in Chicago when hell freezez over!

  • 83. cps Mom  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Bombay – I particularly agree with your comment that people here are defensive of public schools being “exposed to any competition from anything outside the traditional public school monopoly- even if the system is clearly broken.” Well said overall.

  • 84. @ 80  |  April 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

    @ 80 About Title 1 funds — a close friend and neighbor is a reading tutor at a low-income Catholic elementary school on the south side, one of two. Her services are provided to the Archdiocese through a tutoring company that is paid with Title 1 funds. From what I understand, those funds travel with the low-income child. She is not highly paid, no benefits. Of the school’s educational efforts overall, she is not highly positive. It is not innovative. Academics so-so.

    Bombay and cps mom — I realize that our kids are growing up right now, and we need solutions right now. I understand the pressure we parents feel when the local CPS school is not suitable.

    But I believe that it is important to hold voucher schools and charter schools to the same standards as the traditional CPS schools. if we don’t, we can’t know if competition really does work to improve student outcomes.

    If — from ISBE report cards — the majority of the competition in Chicago (vouchers and charters) doesn’t improve on current traditional CPS school, then we need to fix this.

    If we look at the issues holding back the poorest kids, and ask the right questions, I have some hope that we can come up with the right solutions that identify the social services, reading specialists, curriculum, and longer hours these kids require to succeed.

    It makes sense to me that those solutions should work for kids no matter if they sit in a Catholic, charter or traditional school.

  • 85. Checking the US site for Kunskapsskolan  |  April 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

    At first glance, the Kunskapsskolan President’s credentials are very impressive.

    Margaret Hoey
    President, Kunskapsskolan USA

    Margaret Hoey has participated in several charter school start-ups, writing applications, reviewing applications, setting up schools and managing charter schools. She is a graduate of Bank Street College of Education and Columbia University in New York, a special education teacher and a N.Y. Licensed Master Social Worker. She joined Kunskapsskolan in 2010 to head up the application for Innovate Manhattan Charter School and Kunskapsskolan’s organization in the U.S.

    Tel +1 732 309-3091
    E-mail: peg.hoey@kunskapsskolan.se

    Kunskapsskolan USA

    515 Madison Avenue
    18th floor
    New York, NY 10022

  • 86. Southsider  |  April 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

    You’ve noticed, perhaps, the population demographics and the immense social safety net that exist in Sweden, no? You’re familiar with the style of public education that exists in Sweden? Perhaps these factors provide an environment where a Kunskapsskolan school is more neutral within the Swedish educational system. The U.S. is vastly different from Sweden.

  • 87. Still checking the Kunskapsskolan US site  |  April 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I’ve found a little story on how this concept has been exported to the UK.

    The Conservatives like the K. schools. The schools use the Swedish national curriculum, same as Sweden’s traditional schools. It is a voucher program. ICan’t find the value of the vouchers, but has to be much more than $3,600 because the school day is much, much longer than we have now.


  • 88. More on K. schools  |  April 7, 2011 at 11:41 am


    K schools combine vouchers and the for-profit model.

  • 89. @ Southsider  |  April 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

    You’re right. Sweden is much different. For one, much higher taxes mean their schools are very well funded. Here, one hallmark of vouchers and charters is that CPS makes them do with considerably less than the traditional schools’ $6,1000 per pupil expenditures.

  • 90. Bombay  |  April 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I would like to point out that I recently read in ‘The Economist’ that the U.S. spends more on k12 education than Sweden in both as a % of GDP and as a “real” per student rate. Socioeconomics in Sweden ARE diffrent obviously (just the same way demographics in Iowa are different than Mississippi), but we can’t blame all out K12 educational problems on our less egalitarian socioeconomic stats. I believe that the real issue is NOT that we’re spending too little on K12 education, but that in too many cases the “Public Education Industrial Complex” works only as well as any self-serving monopoly frequently does. This seems harsh, but is there really any denying that so many poor American kids have not been served well by such a system. We can debate how to improve failing public schools until the end of time, but if there is no competition allowed, how well will the current system really improve? No accountability too often means mediocrity –it’ human nature.

  • 91. copy editor  |  April 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    To Bombay’s point, I’ve noticed that a lot of the discussions about education in the U.S. seem to devolve into teachers vs. parents or teachers vs. taxpayers, with the children getting lost in the equation. That bothers me. A lot. Some parents have the capacity to make sure their children get an education regardless of what happens in the schools, but many parents don’t. Yet we seem willing to just write those kids off.

    I don’t know if vouchers are the answer, but the current system is failing too many people, and that hurts all of us as citizens.

  • 92. Bombay  |  April 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t mean to take over this blog, but I have to point out that as an immigrant, I find it very interesting that the political party (Democrats) that is the presumptive party of the poor and working-class so often is the one that is opposed to charter schools or any meaningful competition to the current system (despite its glaring failure in term of educating poor and/or minority kids). I understand the power of the “Education Establishment” in terms of donations, union support, delegates to National Conventions, etc., but as an outsider looking at the U.S., it’s all so self-serving and reminds me of the self-interested bureaucracies in my home country ( India) that are by now legendary the world over. People on the Left in the U.S. so often revere Sweden as “the world’s most successful society”, with its strong uterus-to-grave safety-net free K-16 education (some graduate programs do require some amounts of debt), world-class “free” (except to tax payers) health care, high average income, etc. Sweden is also a very market-oriented, economically dynamic, pragmatic society where for-profit, market-driven companies are admired and utilized in order to create a better “public model” in education, health care, etc. Swedes know that competition creates a better outcome for the most vulnerable (the rich will always be able to take care of theirselves). Maybe a motto for school reform in the U.S. should be “if it’s good enough for Sweden, it’s good enough for us/U.S.”. People will pay high taxes in places like Sweden because they feel/know that they are getting so much in return (good schools for their kids, great health care, an efficient public civic model not afraid of innovation and welcoming of the private sector when it’s beneficial to the people paying the taxes, etc.). It’s interesting that corporate taxes are lower in Sweden than in the U.S. By contrast, in a place like Greece, people avoid taxes like the plague (tax cheating is the national sport there) because the public schools are horrible (people have to hire private tutors despite the fact that there are statistically 2-3 times as many teacher per-pupil than in Sweden or Finland), “public” health care is usually lousy and dependent on bribes, politicians are courrupt, “public workers” don’t work and retire at 50, etc. (hence the current economic problems). Why are Americans (specifically Democrats –the ‘friends’ of poor people) so afraid of losening a public monopoly that so clearly is not working well for the most disadvanted people in America? LET’S BE MORE LIKE SWEDEN AND LESS LIKE GREECE WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION! Nobody in Glencoe is compaining about its bad public schools (nor should they –they have world-class ones[New Trier is known even in India as a ‘destination’ high school]), but people on the South Side should be marching in the streets for better schools (even if for-profit companies do a better job). BTW, not long after I became a U.S. citizen I voted for the 1st time –for Obama, so don’t think I’m a right-wing nut job, b/c I’m not.. Please, fellow Chicagoans and Americans –welcome innovative entitities that will provide the best outcome fore our kids, period. In the long run, how can we continue denying the most vulnerable among (poor and minorites in the inner cities) us an option other than the current failing status quo?

  • 93. Hawthorne mom  |  April 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I am 100% for ANY new ideas that help kids. My main issue with some of the new ideas, charter schools for example, don’t produce better results than traditional public schools. No matter that there are tons of folks on waiting lists, 50% of a student population not meeting standards is the same at a charter as it is a a regular public.
    There are things that work with our lowest performing kids and schools but from what I see, our nation is not willing or able to provide the kind of long term, expensive, intensive support that those kids/schools need. It isn’t rocket science. We, and by we, I mean educators, know what works. But until we get class sizes cut in half, many more reading and learning specialists, a longer school day and longer year, more money to lure the top graduates into education, more community support and parent training, more accountability for teachers, administrators and parents….and drum roll…..here’s the key: ALL of these things, ALL at the same time, things won’t get much better. There is NO quick fix. The road to better education is long and hard and requires a terrific amount of effort by ALL parties.

  • 94. cps Mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 8:10 am

    @84 – just to add to a discussion about standardizing programs. It appears to me that some of the differentiations in programs can be defined, and certainly not limited to, the following
    – Charters/private have the ability to weed out undesirable students (limitations on this?)- CPS must be available to all
    – Charters/private can remove under-performing teachers/principals/Admin more easily than CPS.
    – Charters/private are run and funded by private institutions or tuition – CPS is not. Different reporting and accountability
    – Pay scales and benefits to teachers are variable (up and down) because a union protects CPS teachers.
    – Charters select students by lottery. CPS must take everyone and some programs have the ability to select by grades, testing and tiers.

    I would like to know how you would propose standardizing these programs. I think we should accept that they will be different and look toward what’s best for our children. A parent living in a difficult neighborhood is going to join a long list of families vying for a place in a school that will weed out disruptive kids and provide a decent or at least minimal education. A parent in a more promising neighborhood may be interested in specific “innovative” programing may not otherwise be accessible. Bombay is right, there seems to be some kind of political agenda that clouds the issues of getting the best education for the child.

    Charters are not necessarily worse than public schools. We have been referred twice now on this site to a Stanford Credo study that says that in Illinois, Charters are significantly better than their pubic school counterparts. This is all relative anyway and really about having the ability to make the best possible choice for your child.

  • 95. the vagaries of charter research  |  April 8, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Ed Week has a nice post on charter research, in case you want to go any further into this aspect. They do mention that there is a difference between the results you get from looking at charters with different demographics.


  • 96. Political Agenda?  |  April 8, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I have to respectfully point out that our Democratic President, ed Sec’y Arne Duncan and new Mayor Rahm all strongly support charters.
    You are right that the base of the Democratic party has long been union members; however, privatizing public schools through charters and vouchers cuts the number of union members.

  • 97. cps Mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 9:03 am

    @95 thanks – this article nicely gives a bit more insight. It’s good to learn from successes and failures and improve.

  • 98. Hawthorne mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 9:16 am

    IMHO, educator Hawthorne mom puts it best. It is clear what works for our poorest students, and it takes real money and leadership to achieve that. It’s not clear to me that a lack of innovation is holding back our poorest students. The deficits the poorest children start school with have to be addressed in a holistic manner.

  • 99. Time for a shot of humor  |  April 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

    From district 299 today

    Anonymous said:

    so the reason for a K-8 soccer academy in Gage park is “a good hook to inspire kids otherwise prone to dropping out or not being interested in school”

    Really? This will solve our problems? How would people react to a basketball academy in a black neighborhood? Or a baseball academy in a white neighborhood? Encouraging more sports fanatics won’t lead to more mathematicians or scientists. Its just taking advantage of parents and kids dreams of sports glory while getting another charter school to siphon off the best and brightest.

    Perhaps this school should be forced to take the most difficult students from the local neighborhood schools? I’m sure they wouldn’t like that, which is exactly why they are lying about their mission.

  • 100. The controversy in NYC  |  April 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Cathie Black, NYC school chancellor, resigned yesterday. She was in place for 3 months. She has an impressive business background but no education experience, and was moving quickly with numerous school closings that deeply angered parents and demoralized teachers.


  • 101. Hawthorne mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

    @#98, I appreciate your comments, but any chance you’d be willing to post your name as something else than Hawthorne mom? I think you are trying to respond to me, but it ends up looking like you ARE me, since I go by the same “name” on this site. Thanks!

  • 102. @ Hawthorne mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Sorry! I forgot the @ sign. Will be more careful.

  • 103. Hawthorne mom  |  April 8, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Click to access CPSONSperfreport.pdf

    Here is CPS’s report on charters. Some do better, some do worse than the district average. I would like to know how many special needs kids they take, how many behavior issues they force to leave, and how they’d do when comparing apples to apples. It is the same with my kids’ school, Hawthorne. Of course we do better than our neighborhood school. Our parents WANT to be there, our parents are better off financially, and we have a much lower level of special needs kids and nearly no kids who are ESL.
    This is what I mean…..yes, some charters are good and should be studied closely so we can learn from them. Some magnets are awesome, let’s learn from them. But in the end, what we do with our regular old neighborhood kids, what we do with kids with uninvolved parents, with disabilities, with a lack of motivation (not saying all kids at neighborhood schools fit this bill,but certainly there is a larger percentage at neighborhood schools), with serious deficits…..those issues can’t be solved through charters or through magnets. Charters, like magnets, effectively “weed out” their less motivated students simply because you have to make the effort to apply. And truth be told, there is a portion of charters that should be closed due to low performance but they remain open due to politics.

    Those kids need an intensive support system unlike what we currently have in Illinois. New York City has a program that is working, and ironically, it is a charter. Harlem Children’s Zone is amazing. But they do it through all the things I referenced in a previous post and more. 10 hour school days, birth to college education and support, etc….They target the kids and families that wouldn’t ordinarily bother to apply to a charter or a magnet. But their efforts are superhuman. However, they are funded nearly entirely through private donations. This is what we need, on a public level, throughout most parts of Chicago. It won’t ever happen on that scale, but it is what we need. I realize other people may have other opinions, so this is just mine. Vouchers are not the answer.

  • 104. Grace  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

    There is some interesting discussion on a new UNO charter soccer academy: district 299.

  • 105. LuluBell  |  April 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    My special needs kid won’t be able to use this voucher program – most private schools wont take him. It leaves out special needs kids, and they will get left in underfunded schools. This isn’t fair.

  • 106. @76 chicagogawker  |  April 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Yes, a portion of the ISAT IS nationally normed!

    National Percentile Rank (NPR)
    A portion of ISAT test questions in each content area is an abridged nationally normed
    achievement test, the SAT 10. Results from this component provide for the reporting of a
    national percentile rank for individual students. National percentile ranks indicate the relative
    standing of a student in comparison with other students in the same grade in the norm
    (reference) group who took the test at a comparable time. Percentile ranks range from a low
    of 1 to a high of 99, with 50 denoting average performance for the grade. The percentile
    rank corresponding to a given score indicates the percentage of students in the same grade
    obtaining scores equal to or less than that score.
    Percentile ranks are useful for comparing a student’s performance in a particular content area.
    Percentile ranks are also useful for comparing a student’s performance across content areas in a
    score profi le.

    Click to access ISAT_Interpr_Guide_2008.pdf

    When I googled it the 2008 ISAT instruction manual came up first but I’m sure the blurb above is in the current manual.

  • 107. CPS CEO -- Sneed says its Rauner  |  April 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Rauner is a big proponent of charters.


  • 108. coonleymom  |  April 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I am curious to know more about the “weeding out” at Charter Schools? Does anyone who keeps stating this have an example or evidence? My K son’s class at CICS-Irving Park has two special ed children with full time aids at their sides all day. No one has left the class, or been “weeded out”, even the those children who started below average at the beginning of the year. They have stayed all year, been worked with and have improved tremendously. My child attends a charter, I have seen no “weeding out”.

  • 109. cps Mom  |  April 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    A child can be asked to leave the school for gang related activities and chronic violations of their agreement (most charters have an agreement that is signed with the school that states that they will abide by the rules and regulations of the school). CPS cannot remove kids from their schools regardless of the infraction. We did go to a CPS magnet that gave the option of leaving or being held back a year if kids were not performing academically.

  • 110. cps Mom  |  April 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    They can remove kids for behavior not academics

  • 111. coonley mom  |  April 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    @90 is a great comment…keep them coming Bombay!

  • 112. Resider  |  April 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    @ coonleymom: This this from the bio of the CICS-Irving Park school’s exec director. She sounds like she has a clue about kids with disabilities.

    “Dr. Purvis earned her B.S. in educational research from Bucknell University, her M.A. in special education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and her EdD in special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.”

  • 113. ChicagoGawker  |  April 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    @106 Ok, but there’s alot of ways to monkey around with norms:

    In a 2009 study, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Institute for Education Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Education concluded that Illinois’ benchmarks for eighth-graders to “meet standards” on the ISATs ranked very low when compared to other states: 37th in reading and 44th in math. The study found that the benchmarks to “meet standards” in both reading and math on the ISATs were set at a point below the 25th national percentile.
    Using a low benchmark to “meet standards” on the ISATs gives a misleading picture of student achievement. It puts the focus on the percent of students performing above a very low threshold – a threshold that is based on low expectations and that is not aligned with the proficiencies

  • 114. Hawthorne mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 7:47 am

    @108, When I mentioned weeding out kids, I said was that the simple act of having to apply “weeds” kids out. It weeds out some of the ones who have parents who don’t care. The same way that magnets do.

    I also have friends who teach in charters. CICS is what I’d describe as a “good” charter based on reputation. But some charters aren’t like CICS. My friends (who teach in charters) talk about kids taken on a “trial” basis and then kicked out when either their academics or behavior is not up to par. And yes, that is against charter code.
    Look, all schools, charter or otherwise, do things that are illegal, unethical, etc….. I’ve personally seen schools violate fire code, tell teachers they can only refer a certain amount of kids for special ed evals (TOTALLY against the law!!!!!). I’ve seen students violently assault teachers (yes, in elementary school) and then the principal begs the teacher not to report it. I’ve never seen teachers and TA’s hit kids but my teacher friends have. I’ve heard teachers call kids names, principals fire teachers for standing up for special education law and other crazy stuff. All while parents are truly clueless.

    I am glad you and others are not seeing some of the worst of what charters (and regular schools) are accused of. But just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Dysfunction within schools, from my experience in CPS, is the norm, not the exception. I do send my kids to a CPS school though and like everyone else, I hope for the best.
    I WISH the charter school down the street from me (CMSA) was a good one, because then we could send our kids there for high school. Their avg. ACT is 17….only one point better than our neighborhood high school. I would say CMSA is underperforming and or performing the same as Sullivan. 16-17 on an ACT is the same to me. Failing. I’d say the CMSA is failing and should be closed. Why give all that money to a charter that can only offer one additional point in scores? If and when they can consistently show scores above 20, then I think it is worth keeping open. I really don’t understand why parents send their kids there, other than it might be safer than Sullivan and that their kids don’t have a chance at an SE school.

    That’s my whole point with charters. If a charter is doing significantly better than the neighborhood school, it should be open. If not, it should be closed. But yet, CPS keeps these underperforming charters open. Why?

  • 115. coonleymom  |  April 13, 2011 at 9:31 am

    How does one define significantly better? Is the school safer? If so, that would certainly make a difference to me. I am fortunate that both my kids go to safe schools (in elementary), but if my choice is between two schools that have the same ACT, and one is safe and one is dangerous-the choice is a no brainer for me. If we are talking about high school, what is the percentage of students graduating compared to the neighborhood school? I don’t think for one second that every charter is the same, just as every gifted, magnet or neighborhood. I do think we need to be very careful about grouping together schools when we say something negative about a type of school. Many parents need other options besides neighborhood schools. When you child does not get into a selective school, it can be very stressful. I just want people to know there are other options.

  • 116. cps Mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Coonley mom. Thanks for your statement. I agree with you completely.

  • 117. cpsobsessed  |  April 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Regarding the Charter schools that do the same job as neighborhood schools, my first thought was “yeah, that’s why Terry Mazany said he wants them all looked at more closely to see if they should stay open.” I think ongoing review is a good thing, but having just watched Waiting for Superman this weekend, where they feature some of the very successful charters (Harlem Success Acadamy, KIPP) I feel like some charters may offer more than just academics. If I had a child in an “at risk” neighborhood, I can see wanting to put them in a school that simply takes a different approach to the kids. These 2 charters both have a “we won’t fail you” mission. Maybe the academics are just the same as the neighborhood school, but longer hours and (what may be) a more committe staff, and a staff that is chosen because they really support the philisophy (and have to KEEP supporting it over time) could be appealing. Of course the safety too. And ability to kick out troublemakers?
    The private school where I sent my son for preK had very good test scores – probably on par with the top neighborhood or suburban schools. But I wouldn’t say it was a waste of money. Some parents just really liked that way of teaching, the environment, etc. That is worth something, in addition to test scores.
    I also have to think that any charter HS that opens by taking in kids who have been in CPS for 8 years has an uphill battle. As I’ve mentioned before, my mom subbed in the worst CPS high schools and repeatedly felt there was no hope for most of the kids. They were too far behind to catch them up.

  • 118. Grace  |  April 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

    @ 108 — charters weeding out students?

    Congratulations if your child is in a well-run school. We all want to do what’s best for our families. When my oldest first began at CPS a decade ago, I was skeptical of stories like Hawthorne-mom’s. (I had never attended CPS schools as a child.) I dismissed the stories for one reason or another. But they continued to occur much too frequently to ignore, I checked many of them out, and I had to eventually accept what I now see as obvious.

    [As a related aside, Chicago mag’s ranking of the top CPS schools listed two charters in an odd way: it aggregated the test scores of thousands of students at every school that UNO and CICS operates. That way, you could not tell the test scores of the individual charter schools. No other school was treated this way by the magazine. It is important to disaggregate the scores for parents to know how well each charter school is performing compared with a traditional CPS school.

    CICS’ 7,281 students ranked #160 on the Chicago mag list.
    UNO’s 3,334 students ranked #209 on the list.]

    Re: weeding students, from district 299 blog — UNO Invasion

    “When UNO-SA (Soccer Academy) starts taking your best students and kicking out their bad ones, sending them to you-you need to be ready for this. The Gage Park LSC needs to assure that the GP principal keeps track of this and not cow-tows to CPS/CAO in fear of their job. UNO will take your students in the summer.

    By magic, your students will disappear from your enrollment on IMPACT. You won’t need to transfer them out; they will just somehow be taken out of your enrollment and given to the UNO Soccer Academy HS. (This of course will screw up your programming for the fall and you will lose teachers, CPS will NOT care.)

    There will still be a few students that UNO is not sure about and UNO will try to get those students’ scores from you-to judge them for admission to UNO-SA. They know that when parents don’t have their teen’s EPAS scores or even report card, that the parents are not active with their teen’s education, so this is a yellow flag for them.

    Do not give UNO the test scores–that is illegal. If UNO wants scores, then they enroll the child and then they get to see the scores, but you see UNO does not want to enroll yet, because they want to assure the scores are good.

    If the parent is active with the child, they will come to you, Gage Park to get a copy of the scores–if they are the parent, you must release. Also, UNO will send parents to you w/o letter of admission and the parent will say, transfer my teen to UNO-SA without a letter. GET a LETTER from UNO with the teen’s name on it saying that they are enrolled. Make a copy of that letter. (A number of admitted UNO students will just disappear from your rolls, but there will be parents who say they are accepted when they are not and then the teen is sent back to you. So save yourself some time and programming problems.)

    By making UNO generate a letter of acceptance with the teen’s name on it, (and they are supposed to do this and please advise your parents to get an official letter from UNO, with the teen’s name on it), then the parents are protected too because now they have an official letter of admission; UNO will have a harder time denying the teen enrollment. You may also find that at the beginning of the school year, you are missing students-no shows. But they are not listed anywhere on IMPACT as being in another school or transferred out. However, they may be at UNO-SA since UNO does ‘try-out’ some students w/o placing them in IMPACT. This makes it easier to say go back to your neighborhood school and there is no transfer record for that student.

    It is not over yet for you. Rumors of $100 or free laptops for coming to UNO-SA will probably be spinning-flyers were given out last year at 39th and California by UNO last year. If parents ask you about it, tell them to get it in writing from UNO-SA.
    NOW-Make a copy of your final list of student in JUNE 2011 and make sure you have kept an online file, of ALL the EPAS scores for ALL of your students up to that date. Once UNO-SA takes your students, your scores will go down—yes, down when you get results in October, because UNO will take the higher scoring students.

    You will need this evidence to bring to your CAO when they go after you for this drop in GP’s scores. You will be able to show which students you lost to UNO-SA and defend why your scores fell, since you will have those transferred students’ scores from last year. (Once they are in UNO-SA, you won’t and can’t get their EPAS scores anymore.) Prepare for your special education population to increase when UNO-SA opens.

    Your enrollment clerk, principal and LSC should keep track of EVERY student who was in UNO-SA that has been transferred out and sent back to GPHS after school starts in 9/11. You should alert the CPS law department-to Pat Rocks, for EVERY student that is ‘kicked’ out of UNO-SA and sent back packing to you. UNO-SA probably gets to keep the taxpayer money for these students, but you will of course take them back and do, with what you do not have, as you always have.

    When you get 5 students kicked out, LSC members should go to a Board meeting and state this number publically.
    Best of luck GPHS. Here is hoping your LSC has guts! However, you may lose some LSC parent members since UNO-SA might just take their teens too.”

    Read more:

  • 119. Hawthorne mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    What a sorry state of affairs when the reality, for some people, is that they have to choose between an underachieving student body that is safe or and underachieving student body that is not safe! I’d never make that choice and I am saddened that anyone has to.

    I am just tired of the whole “waiting for superman” stuff. I LOVE harlem children’s zone. I love charters that do well. But for goodness sake, there are charters that are not doing well, still they stay open. Why is that!!!!
    I remember watching the Oprah show where she featured a clip of a charter school teacher who kept her cell phone on until 11 at night to help kids with homework. I was torn with admiration for her and the feeling that with that kind of pressure, she will burn out in another two years. I mean, why not simply provide a second shift teaching staff when kids really need that? It comes back to my frustration with the charters-are-the-answer movement. Is that what we really want to ask our teachers to do? And what about the teacher who has to go home by 5 to be with her family? Is she a bad teacher if she cannot be on call nearly 24 hours a day?
    There are some communities that truly NEED that kind of help. Do we want to continue burning through the young ones willing to work more hours for less money, who statistically leave the profession at a much higher rate than regular public school teachers? And why can a charter legally kick a child out for gang involvement and other negative behaviors, but a regular public cannot?

    I know that kids’ needs come first, but why does noone talk about BOTH providing good working conditions for teachers AND good schools for kids? When kids really need that “we will not fail you” option, when they need the school to be their parents, why not create a public system that has two shifts of teachers to help them….as a teacher who is uber committed herself, I understand the need and the demand for committed teachers….no going home at 2:30 for me when I was in the classroom! But how many people can be working or on call from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day?
    Do we really want to hold that young “available to her students” until bedtime up as the model of success? If we do, we need to start being willing to shell out some more serious money in taxes, because those teachers are working harder and longer than any physician or nuclear physicist I know. They need to be paid a starting salary of at least 250K to make it worth those hours and that kind of commitment.

    And I think we need to ask ourselves the question #115 asked….what is “significantly better”? I know my definition of that, but it is a worthwhile question for all of us. To me, significantly better means at least 20% points higher in the meets and the exceeds category. That would be my minimum. But others may feel differently.

  • 120. cpsobsessed  |  April 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    @Hawthorne Mom: I know what you’re saying about the charters. About 10 min into Waiting/Superman I told my mom there was no point in my watching the rest because I don’t blindly buy in to the “charter is better” argument. By the end of the movie I was sold on the specific schools featured, but it was clear (even stated in the movie) that a large part of the success is based on super leadership/big personalities/etc that would be hard to replicate all over the place. And no way would that model work for an entire school system.

    The fact that they put stuff in a documentary and play dramatic music to it, doesn’t make the info any more factual (although it comes across that way!) I agree, there certainly needs to be good compensation to keep people motivated to keep up the pace.

    I think the point you laid out a few days about how to improve the public schools was the best I’ve heard. I’ve told people about it all week.. .how you listed the things that need to happen and they ALL need to happen together. Sounds so simple, but of course much easier said than done. And we need money. It’s just interesting how simple it can look on paper (or screen, I guess) but how difficult it is to make it happen.

  • 121. Hawthorne mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I don’t know why this whole topic upsets me so much.
    I should probably just shut up. Why do I even care anymore? My own kids are fine and I hope to return to a classroom soon to make a difference for kids who are not fine. I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with this blog!

  • 122. Hawthorne mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks #120 and everyone else really. We all care about our kids and other people’s kids too. Whew, nothing can get me worked up like education! I guess other people must feel the same.

  • 123. cpsobsessed  |  April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Please keep posting! Your insights are so great and I think we all appreciate hearing from someone who has “been in the trenches.” The fact that you care also gives us hope that there are people in/will be in the system who keep caring so much about it.

    What about trying to get into some kind of education policy job? I have no idea how that happens, but I think you would be great at it. Maybe you can make an impact on more kids than one classroom at a time?

  • 124. cpsobsessed  |  April 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Sorry, to clarify, that was Harlem Children’s Zone Charter in the Superman movie….

  • 125. Hawthorne mom  |  April 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks CPSobsessed. Once in a while I go overboard and say things I later regret, trying not to do that so much!
    From what I hear, there are supposed to be TONS of retirements in CPS this year and next….someone estimated 10-20% of total teaching staff….due to new contract in 2012 and the loss of a bunch of benefits teachers currently receive….so I am hopeful I will find work this fall or next. I don’t think I have the diplomacy or the calmness required to work in policy though!!!

    If anyone is interested in reading more about what one of the leading reading researchers has to say about schools, I recommend the book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers by Richard Allington. It is a lot of teacher talk, but seriously a great book. I live and breathe by Allington.

  • 126. Grace  |  April 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Like cps obsessed, I appreciate your insights very much.

  • 127. @113 chicagogawker  |  April 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    The percentiles and meet/exceed stamdards measure very different things. The percentiles are normed and you can compare a child to their peers. The meets/exceeds etc. are based on scaled scores, which parents can use to compare their child’s growth throughout 3rd-8th grade. A child can have very high percentiles and only meet state standards. The two measures can not be compared. The scaled score encompasses the entire test vs. the percentiles which encompasses only a portion of the test. Yes, I will agree that the threshold for meets is set very low and children who meet can have a wide range of percentiles. For instance my friend;s daughter’s percentile was 92% but she only met state standards in reading last year. We determined that the weights of the extended responses on the total scaled score have a huge effect on whether a child meets or exceeds even if they are great at the “filling in the bubble” part of the ISAT. The point I am trying to make is that the 25th percentile can still mean that a child is below standards or can be in the academic warning category and does not necessarily mean that they are at grade level or meet the standard. CPS uses percentiles vs. scaled scores and I’m not quite sure why.

  • 128. Grace  |  April 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks, @127 CG, no one has ever explained this as well to me before, and, believe me, I’ve asked. Can you guide me to more information, research, etc., on this?

  • 129. Grace  |  April 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    That must be why the U. of C. Consortium on School Research has determined that there is no correlation between ISAT scores and a student’s performance on the ACT unless the child scores in the Superior range.

  • 130. Sideways  |  April 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm


    This website has a helpful explanation of test results in lay terms.

  • 131. @128 Grace  |  April 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Here is a link to the ISBe website related to the meets/exceeds/percentiles questions that you may have. This powerpoint presentation illuninated me regarding the differences between scaled scores & percentiles.

    This one is related to math but there is a reading & a science PPT too.

  • 132. HSObsessed  |  April 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

    For anyone still checking this thread, Indiana’s congress gave final approval to their expanded voucher program yesterday, and it will be signed by the governor this week. The IN program is very different from the proposed CPS program, because it doesn’t just apply to poorly performing schools, and because a family can make up to $60,000 and qualify.

    The CPS program is still being amended in our congress and is up for a third hearing in another week or so. I’ll try to keep an eye on it.

  • 133. HSObsessed  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Again, for anyone still stumbling onto this thread, here’s an essay by Michelle Rhee, former US Secy of Educ, on why she supports vouchers for poor children, printed on Huffington Post 05/11/12. I agree with her completely. If my neighborhood school were unacceptable and my child wasn’t offered a spot at another “options” school, I would bite the bullet and enroll her in a private school, but many families simply can’t reallocate their household budget to do that.

    Public Funding for Private Schools — How Can I Ask Parents to Accept Less than I’d Want For My Kids?

    When I first became chancellor of D.C. Public Schools in 2007, I was skeptical about the city’s parental choice scholarship, or “voucher” program. I’m a lifelong, card-carrying Democrat. In my mind, private school funding for low-income kids took money from traditional school systems.

    But as I got to know D.C. families, a number of mothers approached me and asked what they should do. They had checked out their neighborhood schools, and what they discovered was startling. In some cases, a mere 10 percent of kids were working at or above their grade level. That wasn’t encouraging. So, they tried to win spots in better schools across town or in high-performing public charter schools. But, more often than not, there were no spaces, and it was then these mothers would come to me and say, “Now what?”

    After facing this question a few too many times, I concluded that if I couldn’t offer them a spot at a public school where I would send my own kids, I also couldn’t possibly tell them to pass up a voucher for a good private school. Simply put, I was no longer willing to look these parents in the eye and say, “You know what? Give me five more years to make your school better.” I wasn’t willing to ask families to accept anything less than I’d want for my kids.

    I know some advocates of private school scholarships hope for a system where eventually all public financing for schools would follow children to the school their parents choose. I take an approach that puts more faith in the public school system. I believe we can improve our public schools. But as many traditional districts around the country are seeing, giving parents choice in the form of charter schools and private scholarships forces districts to improve to keep their students. I’m not for school choice for its own sake. I am for choice because it can, directly and indirectly, provide better opportunities for low-income children — not simply more opportunities.

    I also believe schools that receive public funding to educate poor kids ought to be held accountable for student progress. That means, like public schools, they should have to measure academic growth in objective ways, such as on standardized tests.

    I don’t believe in silver bullets. I don’t think there is any one answer to fixing this country’s educational shortcomings, and I don’t believe private scholarships alone are the answer. Rather, I think in the long run, our school system should include a mix of high-quality traditional public schools, successful public charter schools and private schools attended by some low-income children who receive publicly funded scholarships. I believe that kind of mix will create the right opportunities and choices to serve our kids well and push our educational system toward becoming what we want and need it to be.

    Why low-income children? I know that most American families would struggle to cover the costs of private K-12 education, particularly when they are trying to save for college. But I go back to the mothers in my school system in D.C. The parents who have no means to move to a better school district should be first in line for a scholarship.

    I know there are many who hold the view, like I did, that there is just something wrong with supporting private school scholarships. But I ask you to think about what’s worse: supporting public funding for private schools, or allowing poor children to stay in chronically failing schools? The research is clear — a couple of years in a row in an ineffective classroom can change a child’s entire life trajectory. We can’t and shouldn’t take that gamble.

  • 134. cps Mom  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Wow – thanks HSO, nice summary. I completely agree.

    “I’m not for school choice for its own sake. I am for choice because it can, directly and indirectly, provide better opportunities for low-income children — not simply more opportunities”

    “I think in the long run, our school system should include a mix of high-quality traditional public schools, successful public charter schools and private schools attended by some low-income children who receive publicly funded scholarships”

    Very nicely put. This information also goes nicely with discussion on Brizard/Emanuel plans for CPS. Seems to be congruous with current thinking.

  • 135. HSObsessed  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Interesting article in HuffPo Education today about the Milwaukee voucher program. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit saying that the voucher system discriminates against children with disabilities. The complaint says that the agency in charge of enforcing anti-discrimination laws is not in fact doing so, and therefore private schools are refusing to enroll voucher students with disabilities, or not properly accommodating them. As well as anecdotal evidence, the ACLU cites statistics, and the numbers seem to back up the claim: In Wisconsin, 14.3% of students have disabilities; in the Milwaukee private schools accepting vouchers, only 1.6% have disabilities; in the Milwaukee public schools, 19.5% have disabilities.

    Also in the article is the interesting tidbit that for the first time, voucher school students had to take the same standardized test that the Milwaukee public school students did, and the public schools outperformed the private voucher schools.

    Here’s the article, from Huffington Post:

    Milwaukee’s Voucher Program Discriminates Based On Disabilities, ACLU Says

    First Posted: 06/ 7/11 04:34 PM ET Updated: 06/ 7/11 04:37 PM ET

    NEW YORK — Milwaukee’s voucher system, which allows low-income students to attend private schools using tax dollars, discriminates based on disability, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and Disability Rights Wisconsin.
    The complaint seeks an investigation into the system, which the groups allege segregates Milwaukee students, and expresses the desire to end the alleged discrimination, halt efforts to expand the system until the discrimination is fixed and mandate better oversight.
    “This is creating a dual system of education and expanding it will make it worse,” Karyn Rotker, Senior Staff Attorney at Wisconsin’s ACLU, told The Huffington Post. The complaint names the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the State of Wisconsin and two private schools that accept vouchers.
    Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction will comply with any investigation, said spokesman Patrick Gasper. “Our data point to large discrepancies in student populations with formally identified special-education needs between the Milwaukee Public Schools and the schools that participate in the voucher program,” he told HuffPost. “We have expressed this fact to state elected leaders in the past.”
    The suit comes as Wisconsin and other states seek to expand their voucher programs. Along with charter schools, voucher programs are a central part of the “school choice” movement, which advocates say allows families to decide the best education route for their children. Tuesday’s filing touches on the pervasive criticism that such programs are ill-equipped or choose not to serve high-needs populations.
    Rotker and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney of Disability Rights Wisconsin, both said they had long heard anecdotal criticism of voucher schools’ practices regarding students with disabilities. “It’s been one of these urban legend things for a long time,” Rotker said.
    The complaint recounts stories of several clients who say they had been turned away from voucher schools based on their disabilities. For example, an ADHD-diagnosed student, identified as “K.S.” in the suit, was told by a school that it wouldn’t admit him if he did not take medication for the disorder even though his mother had decided he did not need medication. In another example, an 8th-grader diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder who attended Concordia University School on a voucher said she was expelled after having a verbal disagreement during a parent tour of the school.
    After Milwaukee private schools receiving vouchers took the same state exams as public schools and reported their scores for the first time this year, results showed that Milwaukee Public Schools outperformed the voucher schools. When students with disabilities scores were removed from Milwaukee Public Schools, the system’s average increased even more, Rotker said.
    Using the released testing data, the groups found students with disabilities were concentrated in the public schools. While the hard number of students with disabilities in the public system had not increased, their concentration within the system shot up to 19.5 percent — while only 1.6 percent of students in the voucher-accepting private schools have disabilities.
    “If you send some more kids to voucher schools, what will it become, 30 percent?” Rotker asked. “You’re creating a segregated system.”
    “Now we have data that shows how few kids with disabilities are being served by the voucher schools,” Spitzer-Resnick said. “You’ve got a double whammy: Kids with disabilities are not being welcomed into this so-called choice program which is a choice just for some, and then MPS’s public schools are becoming increasingly segregated.”
    Only 22,500 low-income students can now participate in Milwaukee’s voucher program, but the Wisconsin state legislature is seeking to do away with that cap.
    In a letter to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the three groups asked to discuss the lawsuit with the DOJ in the next few weeks.
    “We are reviewing the complaint and related documents to determine whether there are any federal civil rights violations,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a DOJ spokesperson.
    The complaint argues that the voucher system violates Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits “recipients of federal financial assistance” or “public entities” from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
    The voucher schools named in the complaint did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

  • 136. Grace  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Thanks, HSO, for sharing this. Just curious, has this tempered your previous enthusiasm?

  • 137. cpsobsessed  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

    “Also in the article is the interesting tidbit that for the first time, voucher school students had to take the same standardized test that the Milwaukee public school students did, and the public schools outperformed the private voucher schools.”

    Ok, now THAT is interesting. I wonder what the hypotheses are about that? I think it proves, once again, that there’s no easy answer.

  • 138. Grace  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Very interesting. Milwaukee public school teachers have many more students with learning concerns and still their students earn better test scores than the voucher students — after 21 years of vouchers.

    Catholic school teachers are very underpaid, and have meager pensions and benefits. Is it possible that Catholic schools simply can’t attract the best teachers? After all, teachers need a decent wage to support their families.

  • 139. Grace  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Did anyone read Diane Ravitch’s recent op ed in the NYTimes? I was hoping to hear the gang’s opinions on her assessment.

    In case you want to wade more deeply … from PURE, parents united to reform education.
    “The forces of privatization and test-based school segregation are on the defensive. Read about it here.” http://pureparents.org/?p=17369

  • 140. Angie  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Just wondering, how many disabled students are at Parker, Latin and other competitive non-voucher private schools? As far as I know, private schools are allowed to cherry-pick their students, and routinely turn down even kids without disabilities if they don’t like them. So what else is new?

  • 141. HSObsessed  |  June 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

    “Just curious, has this tempered your previous enthusiasm?”

    “As far as I know, private schools are allowed to cherry-pick their students, and routinely turn down even kids without disabilities if they don’t like them. So what else is new?”

    This is a huge concern to me. The law in Milwaukee says that private schools that agree to accept voucher students must follow all anti-discrimination laws, but apparently they are not, and of course, there aren’t enough state resources to investigate and prosecute failures. This violation would be concerning even if the schools were only enrolling 10% of their students as voucher students, but the lawsuit and article actually says that an AVERAGE of 83% of students in voucher schools attend using a voucher, and in “many” voucher schools, the number is 100%. So basically this means that these schools are operating completely on public monies, and yet they are exempt from the laws that protect students? That is completely unacceptable. Yes, private schools in general in Chicago and everywhere are allowed to admit whom they’d like, but once you sign on to a voucher system, you have to agree to follow the rules that apply.

    “I wonder what the hypotheses are about that? I think it proves, once again, that there’s no easy answer.”

    Totally agree there. You can take children out of public schools, but if they are fighting forces like poor nutrition at home, unstable home life, etc., then being in a private school environment will only help so much. Which to me, isn’t a good reason not to try it – kids in really dire circumstances need every chance they can get! But if the outcome are nearly no different or even worse than in public schools in other districts like Milwaukee, is it worth trying to implement in Chicago? Tough questions.

    Thanks for continuing the interesting discussion with me.

  • 142. Angie  |  June 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    What about the additional resources that public school systems allocate to disabled children, such as aides, sign language interpreters, speech therapists, and so on? When these kids are given the vouchers, do they also get extra money for the accomodations they may need? If the private schools are expected to provide such services without being reimbursed for them, I can see them being reluctant to do so.

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  • 146. another CPS mom  |  November 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I’m not sure that any voucher would put enough money in a parent’s hand of afford a decent private school. It might enrich folks like Rev. Meeks and his school, however.

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  • 148. local  |  July 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    @ 146. another CPS mom | November 15, 2012 at 11:12 am


  • 149. local  |  July 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    @ 138. Grace | June 8, 2011 at 10:15 am


  • 150. local  |  July 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Didn’t D.C. have a voucher system? I thought I read about students attending Sidwell (!) on it.

  • 151. local  |  July 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    “Michelle Rhee, former US Secy of Educ,” – She was head of DC public schools, not US DoEd. Thank god. (But, now we have Arne in that job and he’s kinda up her alley. Hmm.)

  • 152. local  |  July 2, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Ha! I totally bit on this old thread, which was reactivated by some spam. I vaguely wondered how it got so many comments in one day. I really need some sleep.

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