Rahm’s Education Platform (Guest Post by HSObsessed)

May 11, 2011 at 7:12 am 126 comments

Hi all, as usual I am overwhelmed with work and child-wrangling (son got sent to the principal’s office and I was such a goody goody in school I don’t even know how to process it.  Luckily principals are a lot cooler these days, versus my school days when kids got paddled!  To clarify, BOYS got paddled.  So he just got a very well-thought-out talking to.)

HSObsessed has been nice enough to pull together some info on Rahm’s promises to us so we can dissect them.  She apologizes for the lack of pithy comments but she/we can always add those in the comment section.  I am going to pull together any constructive discussion and try to get it into the hands of someone on his team who might be interested.

I also saw this story today on the Huffington Post, but haven’t had time to read it all yet.  From my initial skimming of it, my first pithy insight is that he is good with the sound bytes!


Mayor Emanuel’s CPS Agenda?

Rahm Emanuel will be taking over the mayor’s office on Monday the 16th. He got our votes by making lots of promises, and many of them had to do with CPS. Let’s hold him to his word, and demand that he actually make some of these education promises a reality over the next four years. Below is a summary, with quotes taken from his Education Agenda statement, published on his ChicagoForRahm.com election website.

What do you think he should make a top priority? Which one doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Lollapalooza of succeeding?

Allow good principals to replicate their successes: “Highly effective principals …[will have] the opportunity to manage additional schools, ultimately creating a network of schools that they would lead.”

Put principals’ feet to the fire: “A five-year contract — signed between the principal and CPS — will set clear expectations and accountability. Any leadership team that fails to live up … the school could then be closed, turned over to new management, or have its leadership team and staff replaced.”  (The contracts would cover test scores but also standards of student and staff attendance, parent involvement, graduation rates, fiscal responsibility.)

More decision-making power for effective principals: “Increased autonomy … the ability to personalize their use of time, people and money… successful principals will receive greater authority to purchase services from inside or outside the district.”

Eliminate the Assistant Principal title: The APs’ titles would change to Director of Family and Community Engagement, and that person will “manage all extended time programming (extended day, week and year) and would be charged with parent organizing, training, and enlisting assets of parents into the school.”

Develop the next generation of teachers and principals: double the number of teacher residency programs in the city, create a similar academy that produces 50 new principals a year.

Change teacher layoff policies: “In Chicago’s schools, layoffs are typically done by seniority. Rahm will change that policy to ensure that those who are laid off are the least effective teachers, not the most junior. This will require a new teacher evaluation system based on a comprehensive assessment of instructional quality and student performance, not simply results from one annual exam.”

Create a local competition similar to the national Race to the Top:  “The Chicago Education Innovation Fund would entice schools across the city to compete to achieve the most — measured by their ability to involve parents, train and support teachers, and get student results…”

School report card: Parents will be given a report card that reflects the school’s letter grades on criteria like “school improvement and organization, school safety, student attendance, staff attendance, graduation rate and entry into post-secondary education.”

Parent “trigger”: “If a majority of parents in a failing school sign a petition, they can force a transformation of the school — either by inviting a new school operator to take it over, by forcing certain administrative changes, or by shutting it down outright.”

Parent-Teacher agreements would be required to “build clear expectations for how parents should provide extended education opportunities for their children — from watching less television to reading together each night.”

Lengthen the school day and lengthen the school year. Include academic, athletic, arts, sports, and on-line programming in the lengthened school day.

Create new high school options via replicating successful neighborhood high schools, magnet high schools, and developing new schools.

Try to prevent high school dropouts, and weed out troublemakers: “Targeted investments in increased social supports for children with the greatest barriers to academic learning” but also create “a deeper network of alternative [high] schools for students who do not succeed in the mainstream.”

If you drop out, you don’t drive: “Rahm will push for a law that immediately revokes the drivers license of any student who drops out of high school.”

Adopt common core standards: Rahm proposed that Chicago adopt “new federal college- and career-ready curriculum standards.” (This appears to apply to high schools, but it’s not clear.)

Streamline central office: “Task the new CEO with shrinking the district office footprint.”

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Advice on attracting families to your neighborhood school Meeting at Lake View High School tonight

126 Comments Add your own

  • 1. second time around  |  May 11, 2011 at 7:38 am

    That is a lot to digest. I will have to organize my future response. For now, does that mean that a principal choose a new food vendor? (I’m referring to the comment on inside /outside resources.

  • 2. HSObsessed  |  May 11, 2011 at 7:57 am

    That’s as much detail as was stated, but I assume yes, that would include food vendors. I’m pretty sure there are a number of schools that “opt out” of the Chartwell behemoth already, like Namaste charter, which has the salad bar.

  • 3. HSObsessed  |  May 11, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I’ve now read Rahm’s Transition Plan, released yesterday and available on Chicago2011.org, which outlines his specific agenda for his first 90 days, first year and first term in office. There are 55 initiatives, and number 29 through 39 have to do with education. Most of what he put in his education platform is included in the transition plan. Noticeably absent are: the changing of the Assistant Principal title and responsibilities (maybe there was an uprising among APs?); the parent “trigger” initiative; the driver’s license thing; and the common standards.

    He specified that he wants the increased instructional time in place for the 2012/13 school year.

    I was very interested in #33: “Increase the number of non-selective world-class schools in every neighborhood.” Notice the word “non-selective”, which I’m interpreting as non-test-in but not necessarily non-lottery-in schools, since he’s a big advocate of charters. How will he do this? Kind of vague: “ Investing in existing schools, giving those schools the support and structure they need to succeed” and also “Introduce new school options that have demonstrated powerful impact in other cities.” That last part is code for charters for sure, but maybe also the voucher system? I’m not actually sure where Rahm stands on vouchers.

    I was also very interested in #35: “Overhaul Chicago’s public high schools.” But again, the how part is very vague, and understandably so, as it’s an enormous task. They’re planning to do this by “investments in school leadership” and more autonomy but also more accountability, longer school day/year, etc.

  • 4. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 8:48 am

    “Highly effective principals …[will have] the opportunity to manage additional schools, ultimately creating a network of schools that they would lead.” – I like the idea of a principal from a highly regarded school having the opportunity to run additional schools. Specifically, I believe you could take a principal from a highly regarded elementary school and create a feeder high school for that elementary school (along with several others nearby) and have him/her run that feeder high school at the same time. It would make the high school start off immediately with a more positive feeling and might make parents more willing to give the new high school a fighting chance. The schools that this person runs should all be within the same neighborhood so there isn’t an issue with the principal never being around due to all that traveling.

  • 5. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 8:56 am

    create “a deeper network of alternative [high] schools for students who do not succeed in the mainstream.” – I agree that if schools were able to “weed out troublemakers”, the remaining students (and staff) at the school will be far better off. The schools would become a place of learning and would be safer. As the students that really want to learn remain and others are moved to a place that is better for them, scores would go up, more kids would succeed, neighborhood schools improve, etc. I think CPS has its hands tied right now when it comes to troublemakers.
    However, I don’t agree that kids that want to learn, but are just having some learning disabilities should be placed in other schools. That is totally different – LD kids don’t impact school safety, culture of learning, etc.

  • 6. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    “Increased autonomy … the ability to personalize their use of time, people and money… successful principals will receive greater authority to purchase services from inside or outside the district.” – This makes sense. I agree! If this means that a school that is doing well could opt out of things like breakfast in the classroom or other mandates from CPS that don’t fit their school, then it is a win/win all around.

  • 7. Grace  |  May 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

    My big take-away — he’s putting big pressure on principals to implement the new, unproven teacher evaluation models.

    1.) Why train 50 new principals a year? And how can you do this so quickly?
    — Rahm wants new principals educated by groups similar to the Broad Foundation, which trained Brizzard for superintendent in 6 weekends, who believe in the corporate-style education reform agenda

    2.) Don’t LSCs have the right to hire and fire principals?
    — CPS central office controls who is in the principal selection pool, and LSCs may only interview candidates for the principal’s job who are in that pool.

    3.) Are the majority of principals at Chicago charter schools certified?
    No, not at all. (See ISBE charter school report card).

    4.) Will principals implement the teacher evaluation model rigorously?

    — If not, Rahm will withhold funding. Like Race to the Top, the Chicago Education Innovation Fund will withhold our tax dollars from our schools that do not conform to Duncan/Rahm’s agenda for reform.

    So far, his reform agenda is privatization through charters and union busting.

    AMP Schools.
    CPS already has about 80 (est.) schools that are given a good deal of autonomy because they are very well run. They are called AMP schools. My children attend one.

  • 8. cps Mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I am wondering about these “alternative” high schools. Yesterday I read an article about a kid in an Oak Park HS arrested for circulating a list ranking girls etc. The article said that this student will be transferred to an Alternative school in Englewood. Do these schools already exist? If so, how is it that the suburbs can dump kids in Chicago – that was interesting.

    I am in favor of alternative education as long as these kids can get the help they really need (physiologist, tutors, counseling, support for learning disabilities etc). I’m sure this all adds to financial burden but there may be gains and efficiencies in terms of consolidating and addressing problems.

    Grace – Are the majority of CPS teachers certified? Just asking because this is not something that I’m seeing at even the good schools. Also, is there a way to determine that certification makes a difference? I am asking this because in other professions certification simply means that you’ve passed a test – not that you continue your education or that you are any better at your job than your un-certified counterpart.

  • 9. Jennifer  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I really like the drop out/no driving idea but I think that has to come from the state level unfortunately.

  • 10. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Do the teacher evaluations include an anonymous evaluation by the parents and older students? It should!

  • 11. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I somewhat like the no driver’s license idea, too. But, I would actually prefer that Illinois make the driving age 18 instead of 16 for all kids.

  • 12. cps Mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

    @11 agree there – also read yesterday about a 4 year old killed by 16 year old driver. Both those lives are over. 16 is too young to be behind the wheel and certainly in Chicago, no real need with El system and the cost of gas. My son will get his license because it’s available but is not even looking forward to driving. Now that I’m thinking about it – is this really an incentive to stay in school?

  • 13. RL Julia  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I just worry that the ideas summarized in the article above (thanks HSObsessed)! Reflect a really punative culture/ideal. Yeah maybe my kid doesn’t really need to get a license at 16 but what about the young parent who drops out because high school doesn’t accomodate her childcare needs and/or is pushed out because she is basically truant because of a new baby and now has ONE less potential job option – do we really need to go there?

    It seems like this list of initiatives puts a lot of pressure on principals (and therefore teachers) to achieve without much of a discussion about finding extra resources for students who need much more than CPS currently delivers. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of the these ideas will be really great for my kids but I don’t see how they are going to be so great for the C student, the ELL student, the IEP student etc… Many of these ideas are going to push the schools to compete for more desireable families/kids while shunting the kids who need a little (or a lot) more out of the system…. Maybe I am over reacting here but….I don’t think that the solution to kids who need more is to effectively take them off the CPS rolls (responsibility and funding stream) and into an alternative school system – which perhaps (I am just guessing here) will be a nice way to improve the state drop out rate and test scores – all why saving money. Public education (unfortunately?) is supposed to serve the public no matter how needy, annoying, disruptive or inconvinient that public is.

  • 14. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I totally agree that public education is supposed to serve everyone, even the most needy. I don’t for one minute think that public education should ignore or push out those students. I actually believe that much more of our resources should be put into really helping them – but helping them in an environment where there are trained people that can help them and where they are wanted and feel like they belong. Those that show a real want and ability to learn, but just need additional help should be a part of the normal CPS system. Adding extra teachers within the main classroom or extra individual attention/classes/computer programs at home, etc. are all ways to achieve that. I know of some students that have an IEP for learning disabilities and they have an extra teacher in the classroom and this has benefited the entire class, not just that student.

    Those that cannot learn should be in a place that can serve them at all times. Those that will not learn should be in a place that can try to turn them around, give them support or whatever else is needed to get them on track. It just makes no sense for those that are totally disrupting the majority to be required to stay and keep disrupting or causing safety concerns.

    Money is tight at CPS, but I think the money is being spent in the wrong ways. Putting money into this area would benefit everyone.

  • 15. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    RL Julia, I know this is controversial, but each time I read your first paragraph about the 16 year old with a baby and their school doesn’t accommodate their childcare needs and now we are making it difficult to get to their job (with public transportation in the city, I disagree with this)…well, I just wonder if we are ultimately perpetuating this issue when we try to make it easier/less inconvenient to have a baby when you are 16. (I KNOW it really isn’t easy at all). But, it seems like having a baby at 16 is almost a popular decision instead of an accident (or just ignorant teens) in some communities. Shouldn’t we, as a city, work to change that attitude rather than accommodating this?

  • 16. ChiMom  |  May 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    15. Mom Too – Thanks for the post. Could not agree more.

  • 17. northwestsidemom  |  May 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Mom 2 I think your feeder high school idea is a good one and I agree 100% with making the driving age 18 – think back to how unaware of danger most of us were at that age and how easily distracted we were by ANYTHING – no way should 16 year olds need to drive cars….I get that in rural areas there might be some exceptions but in the city where public transportation is available, I just don’t see the need.

    I do actually think that being unable to drive if you drop out of school would really be an incentive to many…I just wonder how many high school drop outs have cars available to them to drive.

  • 18. @13 teen mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    yeah, I have to wonder along with the others how a 16 year old mom forced to drop out to support her child can afford a car, repairs, insurance etc. I also think that to see gains in CPS the majority needs to be addressed looking at the unusual exceptions on a case by case basis. In other words, plan designed not to be so rigid that kids fall through the cracks – like the kids that were disallowed breakfast for wearing the wrong shoes.

  • 19. HSObsessed  |  May 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    @ 8 — Yes, there are already alternative high schools for kids with behavior issues, like Youth Connections. I think the problem has been there aren’t enough of them and that it’s hard to remove kids with a history of behavior problems and get them a place at those schools. Many kids drop out of CPS altogether instead.

    @13 – I also noticed that both documents are pretty silent on any planned improvements for students with IEPs/in SpEd, unless they are covered in some of the wording that talks about getting all students the support they need.

  • 20. HSObsessed  |  May 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Some of my other thoughts –

    School “report card” for parents – Don’t we already have this, in effect, since we have access to reams of test and demographic data, as well as the My Voice, My School surveys, which show everything from how well parents feel the school is communicating, to how safe and challenged the students feel? This initiative should be low priority, since it’s tweaking stuff we already have.

    Parent-teacher agreement – While it’s nice to remind parents that they should limit TV and read to their child, I’ve always felt these initiatives, which have no teeth, are kind of a joke. Maybe I’m just cynical. However, the cost of printing 410,000 pieces of paper and asking teachers and parents to sign is probably less than $50,000, so I guess we should do it. Can’t hurt anything.

    Parent “trigger” of allowing parents of failing schools to invite in a new operator (read: charter organization!) is interesting. Yes, LSCs do have the power currently to fire a principal after her term is up (every two years?), but they cannot currently revamp the entire administration, as seemingly would be allowed under this initiative. However, in following education news in Chicago and nationally, I’ve noticed that parents of kids in failing schools are often the ones who protest loudest when their school is being shut down and/or reorganized. They cite everything from having to send their child to an unknown school, often farther away, to having sentimental attachment to the old school because they went there, or that their child had a great teacher, or they really like the current principal, etc. Perhaps it’s an entirely different story when “the man” is making the decision v. an organic decision made from within. Anyway, if this trigger is passed, it will be interesting to see whether communities of parents actually take advantage of this power.

  • 21. RL Julia  |  May 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Actually, in the teen parent scenario I had in my mind the teen was a dad who wanted to get a job delivering pizzas etc… a driver’s license is a credential of sorts and limiting access means that there is one more entry level job that isn’t an option.

    Regardless, teen births are actually down from say 10 or 20 years ago (http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/05/teen-pregnancy-rate-lowest-in-two-decades/) -however its not something that will ever be completely eradicated. There are some places where having a baby young is acceptable but study after study has shown internationally that when young women are given access to birth control, education and healthcare, birth rates go down. http://www.prb.org/educators/teachersguides/humanpopulation/women.aspx?p=1
    Now I am not saying that living in Englewood is the same as living in Chad but I am suggesting that maybe the root causes of teen pregnancy are similar in many instances.

    The tricky thing is that whatever you might think about the parent – whatever the reason for the pregnancy, in five years, that child is going to need to go to kindergarten – in essence you need to think about the education plans of TWO children.

    HSObsessed @19/20. I agree totally. If I had a kids with IEP, I’d be pretty disappointed.

    In terms of your assessment about closing failing schools- well – first, very few people in this world are comfortable with the idea of the unknown – even if the school if run by Hitler himself -its a known quantity and unless you are sending all those displaced to some top notch school with a proven track record (which let’s face it doesn’t much happen – you are just sending those families to a school slightly less worse in most cases) why get all thrilled about it. The other thing is that NO ONE wants a large unoccupied building in their neighborhood. Especially is crime/gangs etc… are already an issue.

  • 22. Mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    @20 — it was for the reason described in your last paragraph (the tendency of parents in failing schools to complain loudly when someone tries to close the schools), that Rahm’s plan (the one released yesterday) lists as the reason for having a school report card (the subject of your first para.). The plan suggests that if it is communicated better to parents in these terrible schools how bad their school is, they might not fight so much about closing down said schools and put their energies elsewhere. That was my take on it anyway. The report card would be something easily digestible to communicate with parents to get them on the same page and channel their energies for the good to preempt the tendency to cling to the status quo.

  • 23. copyeditor  |  May 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    About closing schools: Hamilton has long been a laggard, and the families in that district would have been divided into Burley and Blaine districts – both top schools – and yet, even with the knowledge that their housing values would increase by $50,000 because they would be in better school districts, the Hamilton parents wanted their sub-standard school to remain open rather than let their kids go to a horrible place in a bad neighborhood like Burley. Sheesh.

    Bottom line: If you can’t close Hamilton, you can’t close any school in CPS. Not one.

    What I want to know is, will Rahm finally do away with the breakfast ridiculousness? That would be a start toward extending the school day.

  • 24. Mom2  |  May 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    @22 – I am surprised to hear about the Hamilton parents that wanted to keep it open. I know some families from Hamilton that want/wanted their kids to get into Burley, so I cannot imagine that those parents would have been fighting against being able to have Burley be their neighborhood school. So, what parents wanted this? Are you certain that it was neighborhood Hamilton parents and not parents from other neighborhoods that had their kid/kids at Hamilton? (By the way, I hear it is now becoming a great school thanks to a change in principals and more parent involvement. Is that true?)

  • 25. copyeditor  |  May 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    @Mom2, it was a combination of Hamilton *preschool* parents who wanted to be able to prove that they could turn a school around and Burley, Bell, and Blaine parents who did not want the out-of-neighborhood sibling slots lost. Almost everyone I know in Hamilton district sends their children outside of the district for school, and the attendance there is low even with so many kids coming in from overcrowded schools. There’s some good energy there, but it still seems strange to me. And that’s the point: you have an underperforming school with very little neighborhood support and better alternatives, but if a few parents are vocal (and maybe use some clout), CPS will let it stay open.

    The neighborhood families who send their kids elsewhere were pissed, to say the least, as being able to send their kids to Blaine or Burley would have saved them money and hassle. And, it would have increased their housing value. The difference between a house in Blaine and a house in Hamilton is about $50,000, or it least it was back when houses could be sold. However, those families didn’t have a voice because there kids were already elsewhere.

    So that’s the point. Underperforming schools can’t be closed. For whatever reason, people like them.

  • 26. copyeditor  |  May 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Oh, and the Blaine/Burley/Bell parent involvement was that they wanted to support active parents turning local schools around. None of them came out and said that they were worried about losing their sibling slots or having their kids in crowded classrooms, but they were worried about it. Also, they weren’t worried about the kids in Hamilton so much as all the kids at St. Andrew’s whose parents might decided to save some money once they had a good public-school option.

  • 27. goingtogermany0693  |  May 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Regarding some AP’s: some could switch over to the parent/community role. Others in neighborhoods with gangs, poverty issues, high mobility, behavior issues rely on the AP to be the disciplinarian. Not sure those schools could do away w/ that in a year. Also, trying to convince/require parents to be involved when they don’t have the time, interest, money, resources is a hard role to have.
    Regarding licenses: what everyone needs to keep in mind is that some of these initiatives will take time (several years) to be running smoothly. The 16 yr olds for next year have never had this be a part of their schooling culture, so many will be resistant. We have to be prepared for other unintended consequences of trying to enforce this type of new policy. Whereas maybe 5 years from now, when the 16 yr olds in the year 2017 are reminded of the policy, it won’t be new to them. They will have heard about it for the previous 5 years and know that it is the rule.
    Principals changing new schools: the principals at great schools work REALLY HARD and spend a lot of time at their school making it sensational. If they have to help start up a new school, or help turn it around, a support person (say the A.P. ) should be able to manage things in his absence. Our principal knows the students by name, knows the parents and has worked hard to continue in the footsteps of his predecessor. In a few years, he could probably help another school, but then again, we have a great AP, involved parents, low behavior issues, few if any problems with poverty, welfare, poorly educated parents. When you have a great principal in a struggling school who can make great things happen over 4 years, it takes work to maintain that progress. My friend has done that on the South Side. He almost lives at work. I don’t see how he could do both and do them both well without experiencing major burnout, etc.
    Lastly, we all have to keep in mind that when a good solid foundation is built in Early Childhood AND CONTINUED, great things can happen. 2 fine examples are the Perry/HighScope Project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project. We cannot continue to wait until we see a problem with children in 3rd grade on their ISATS. We need to address the problems we see in Kindergarten and first grade, before high stakes testing. We are really good at putting a band-aid on what we think the problem is instead of getting to the root of the problem (which in the city of Chicago varies per neighborhood).
    I’ll get off my soap box for now.

  • 28. just a thought  |  May 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    It’s a bit much to ask principals to run more than one school of a decent size and do a good job. Do folks have any idea what it takes to run a school with all of the bureacracy, mandates, data analysis, classroom observations, etc…that has to happen in one building – let alone asking someone to do it for 2-3 buildings?
    There are supposedly good principals who are asked to manage or lead other schools…they are called CAOs.

  • 29. RL Julia  |  May 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I am with on the principal discussion. I actually wondered about that with Audubon – how is the principal going to keep Audubon the great place it is and at the same time start a new high school that is not geographically co-located at Audubon? It seems like something will slip. Overall though this particular idea seems pretty divisive – the goal isn’t that everyone can go to the neighborhood school and be guaranteed a great education – the goal is that you now should be following the philosophies and career paths/goals of an individual principal….

  • 30. Hawthorne mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I don’t see how any principal can run more than one school or even oversee more than one school.
    I agree with RLJulia when she said, “It seems like this list of initiatives puts a lot of pressure on principals (and therefore teachers) to achieve without much of a discussion about finding extra resources for students who need much more than CPS currently delivers. ”
    A longer school day and year? Yes.
    Remove disruptive kids who do not respond to interventions? Yes.
    But other than that, I felt discouraged by the plan, even though I didn’t really expect anything great to happen with the new administration. 90% of CPS kids need WAY, WAY more than the system currently provides. It is kind of depressing.

  • 31. cps Mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Jackson lang acd had an interesting format and may be where these statements are coming from. The principal retired 3 or 4 years ago and has since been hired to set up LaSalle 2 and STEM – maybe others. The AP left 5 or 6 years ago to become principal at Pritzker. Since then, they have had interns from UIC educational program act as AP (one of whom became principal upon retirement of the now consulting ex-principal). The primary function of AP at this school is working with families, after school programs, monitoring lunchrooms and recess, handling busing, special events etc. Very successful and very cost effective. They use the savings for other areas of the school like language and computers. The current principal does put in a ton of time and needs to be on site which was another reason the extension of Jackson did not go through (even though it was the principals idea)

    I think at some schools the AP does act as disciplinarian but does that function have to be done by an assistant prin?

    I do feel that the principal should have ultimate responsibility for the success of the school and the faculty, They also need to have the power to be able to make the necessary changes which they do not currently have.

  • 32. Chicago Gawker-  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Is it too much to hope for to have some mechanism for evaluation of principals even at schools that are not failing in terms of test scores at the school? Some kind of bottom -up evaluation by teachers and parents. Currently, principal evaluation is done only by the LSC and the members do not necessarily have views that represent the community. There are lousy principals that demoralize and drive away teachers and drive away students from the neighborhood school even at schools that are not technically failing. There should be some anonymous way teachers can report principals who discourage them from referring students for special services and other abuse that do not serve the kids. How about a principal report card from the teachers and parents? Does every evaluation of a principal have to be about test scores? That’s setting the rung pretty low.

  • 33. magnet mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I guess I’m not sure about the idea that the current Jackson principal came up with the extension. He distanced himself from any public meeting at which it was discussed. Parents were completely apoplectic at the school meeting about expansion- held while he was very out of town. I don’t think it was the flash of STEM insight that got that tabled. It was a good old fashioned blast of parent anger which goes a long way at a blue ribbon school.
    Jackson has the luxury of a very stable school population. Basic safety isn’t an issue they need to work on. This is sadly not the case at many CPS schools. I don’t think a Jackson model holds for schools that are not magnet based in their admissions. Note that the former principal is not turning around any neighborhood schools.

  • 34. HSObsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Re: Schools like Hamilton and Prescott, which were being threatened with closure and fought back successfully: My understanding that was based on underenrollment, not underperformance. You can’t blame the families there who were working to improve the school to ask for more time; changes don’t happen overnight. At some point, though, after new programs are put in, and there is still not enough neighborhood support in the form of kids enrolling, you have to question the viability. But not after only 1-3 years.

    About whether one principal can manage two schools: The principals of Ogden and Alcott elementaries are in their second year of managing the high school campuses of those schools, so it would be interesting to know how they are handling it and how the parents feel they’re doing. Both high schools at this point are very small, with less than 200 students each, I believe, so that might help make it manageable.

    But honestly, I think CPS needs to take advantage of the fact that the Chicago public is so “brand oriented” when it comes to schools. If they want a school to be in demand instantly, they need to follow the “second campus” model used by Disney II and LaSalle II. The newest SEHS is Westinghouse, and I’m sure in the long run it will be fine, and will over time attract a more racially and socioeconomically diverse population with higher incoming scores (as Jones has done over the last few years), but for now Westinghouse is still in a “build up” phase. If they had named the school Whitney Young West instead, they could have skipped the build up phase.

  • 35. cps Mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

    @33 – HS obsessed – totally agree about branding. Don’t you feel that closing a school based upon under-enrollment alone is appropriate. It seems to me to be a massive waste of much needed resources when a school continues to operate underutilized. Especially when there are other schools easily assimilated to that are better!! These parents need to pool their efforts together into making their school a success.

    @32 – Being a Jackson parent, I am aware of how it went down. It is involved and the discussions are over. My point was that possibly Jackson is viewed as a model (albeit not your typical school) but something to strive for. I don’t understand why this model cannot be a basis/goal for others. Other schools are already doing the same if not better and we can all benefit from one another. The students represent the general public – no testing. The teachers are great (some that are mentors going above and beyond and some not so good) like many other schools. The leadership is effective which makes a big difference between schools. If this new plan makes funding more equal to schools there will be little difference between a magnet and many neighborhood schools.

  • 36. RL Julia  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:04 am

    @32 – its the LSC’s job to evaluate the principal and theoretically, its their job to survey staff, community, parents and students in the process of doing so. We do an anonymus survey monkey survey for staff on our LSC and then do a short two or three question survey on report card pick up day for parents and kids – we also use the data from the my voice/my school survey to gage happiness.

  • 37. Grace  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:45 am

    @ goingtogermany,
    Kinda curious . . Do you have experience with the school system in Germany?

  • 38. copyeditor  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

    About Hamilton: the school underperforms Bell, Blaine, and Burley despite being in an adjacent attendance area with almost identical demographics. That’s why few families in the neighborhood send their children there and why it has low enrollment. I mean, how much time should CPS give the parent volunteers when the system is already strapped for cash and when the alternative schools are better? That’s what was so odd.

    I don’t know about Prescott’s scores.

  • 39. Mom2  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:42 am

    @37 – I’m curious how a school closing would have worked at a place like Hamilton. Would all the kids currently going to Hamilton and Hamilton preschool (and any siblings) automatically get a place in either Blaine or Burley or would only the kids from the Hamilton neighborhood get an automatic spot at those schools? If it was the 2nd choice, I could see why the current parents would have fought to keep the school open. Otherwise, I don’t understand it.

  • 40. copyeditor  |  May 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Mom2, I don’t know about that, but my impression is that it was the neighborhood parents, especially in the preschool, who fought the Hamilton closing. I could very well be wrong about that, though.

  • 41. CPS  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    @copyeditor – using your logic Coonley Elementary should have been closed in 2006 when it had 311 students. Now there are more than 600 students there…

    There is no reason to believe Hamilton won’t be in the same situation in a few years. They have more than 70 Kindergarteners this year. Test scores are related to the demographics (socioeconomic status) of the school not the neighborhood.

    There is something powerful about walking a few blocks to your neighborhood school – Audubon, Coonley, Blaine, Nettlehorst and Burley are examples of this.

  • 42. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    HSObsessed, thanks for writing what I was thinking about Hamilton! While Burley and Blaine are both great schools, my sense is that the Hamilton group felt they could have their own great school nearby, within walking distance. B&B are probably close to capacity, no? I think squishing more kids in wasn’t going to please anyone. Hamilton, like a lot of north side schools was o the upswing, but needed more time. Waters, Coonley, etc were in the same boat a few years ago. Coonley saw the need for something to attract parents and got the gifted program, Waters used guerilla marketing tactics to get the neighbors into the school. I believe the CPS lore is that they were able to show that the test scores were on the rise and that parents were involved, which CPS valued and gave them another chance. It is a tough situation though. You get to low enrollment and they cut the librarian, gym teacher, music, etc and then it’s hard to get families to enroll.

    I have sympathy for the Hamilton group because I know they worked really hard. However when it’s some random school that I’ve never heard of, I admit that I often think “oh, boo hoo hoo, sometimes you have to just suck it up for the greater good of the system.” I just would like to think that CPS really thinks it through strategically, which I’m not sure I have faith that they do all the time….

  • 43. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I’m still on the fence about elem principals expanding to HS. the Alcott principal is one of the best-regarded on the north side, but then look at this school – HUGE parent involvement and HUGE fund raising. He had all the right input. I admit I loved the guy – it was one of my first CPS school tours for TBPK. I freaked out seeing the inside of a school initially, imagining my baby being there with the noise kids and loud bells ringing. But I remember he was amazing at talking the talk to parent. I pulled out my checkbook at the end of the tour to reserve a spot. I think Bell and Coonley are the only other schools where I felt such confidence in the principals. (both retired now.) Anyhow, we haven’t heard anything definitive about Alcott HS, have we? I’m not sure if the skills it takes to build a great elem school translate to high school. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. In any case, it would seem like someone like him should be advising other neighborhood schools, but what if they don’t have the parent/fund base that Alcott does? How do they replicate what he’s done? Guess I’m just thinking out loud here…. I know we have the Area Officers and in theory they should be the great ones advising the principals in their areas. I get the sense they’re stretched too thin for that? And I know under Huberman, they focused a lot on test scores.

  • 44. Mom2  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    How do you even know what area your school is in and who are the area officers? I hear “AO” mentioned often in blogs, but I have never heard anything about who they are and what they do for my school. Without that knowledge, I can see many people thinking that this might be an area to cut back on in terms of trying to save funds for things like special education, school improvements, etc.

  • 45. cps Mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    You have to be able to draw a line. It sounds like the same schools competing for the same kids. Does this mean that there are too many programs or just a question of what to do with the “undesirables” – this is a question. The UIC area has multiple programs and magnets yet the neighborhood school is at 50% capacity. All of these programs take away from the neighborhood school and then it becomes underutilized. Who are the kids they are intending to attract – those going to Coonley, Bell, Blaine, Nettlehorst?

    Yes, it’s nice to walk down the block but even in the day when kids just attended the neighborhood there was always a segment that did not live nearby – maybe we walked more. It’s wasteful to keep an underutilized program alive in a time of severe deficits.

  • 46. Angie  |  May 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Hamilton had a waiting list this year, so there is plenty of parents interested enough to keep it open. And why shouldn’t they? It’s in a good neighborhood, close to public transportation, and the new principal is working hard to make it better.

    Sorry, I have no sympathy for those who bought condos in the Hamilton district, and now hope to close down a decent school so their kids can attend something better. They should have done more research beforehand.

  • 47. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    With Hamilton, I’d like to think that someone looked at a map and saw schools that are full in the lower grades (Blaine, Burley) and thus assume that there is the need for another good school nearby to take the overflow. When you have parents complaining that they have no good options, and there is a school in a nice area with parents (and supposedly admin) and long waiting lists at nearby schools, it seems crazy not to give it a couple years. (again, biased by my familiarity with the school, from a totally mercenary pov, maybe it actually IS crazy…)

  • 48. Hawthorne mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm


    Above are the scores for Hamilton. Last year, their 3rd graders ALL met state standards in math and 93% met in reading, with a ton exceeding. Seems like progress is happening to me. Plus, James Gray, the principal they hired maybe two years ago is awesome. I know many teachers who’d cut off their right arm to work for someone as good as he is!

  • 49. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I’ve been meaning to mention as well, in the talk about Waters, that last year’s 3rd grade class had similar test scores – 90%+ meet/exceed. That was the first group of students from the group of parents who helped to revitalize the school. as another poster pointed out before, the scores there used to be in the 30% range meet/exceed. I think there is a lot to be said for demographics (although the test scores had risen significantly there before that – in the 70% meet/exceed range.) Good principal + involved families = success (in terms of test scores, at least!)

    One thing about Waters is that it’s not in any magnet zone, which I think helps. You have plenty of kids who may have just missed an options cutoff and didn’t get into a top magnet to make it worth the drive so a lot of bright kids with involved parents are going locally. It certainly helps keep a good student base when the options are limited. That what I’m curious to see with Rahm’s plan. If CPS keeps adding “choice” it makes it harder to apply the “what’s working” at the neighborhood school level since you’re left with the kids who’s families may be less education-involved. Explain how THAT’s gonna work!

  • 50. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    @43, I think you’d have to ask the school who the Area Officer is. It is a very behind the scenes position, which seems a bit weird to me. The LSC I was on, I kept thinking it was weird that we did a whole review of our principal without connecting to the AO woman. I know of another school who did work closely with this person. But would it not have interested her to come meet the LSC and see what they’re saying and let us know what she thinks, given we were ready to renew a contract? It feel very bureacratic to me. The person comes out for a school walk through maybe once or twice a year and gives some feedback on how to improve. Seems like a good idea in theory. I have no idea how it’s working in real life. All I know is that the area officer for our area has been very well regarded because the test scores across the north side schools are all up. I have thought about sending her a note saying “you’re welcome!” on behalf of all the parents who have busted their butts improving those schools (and ATTENDING those schools) and she comes out looking great. Maybe she really had something to do with the rising test scores, I have no idea. I do know that a lot of pressure was put on the principals for the scores under huberman….

  • 51. cps Mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I guess this is why they have problems closing schools

    @48 yes – my point about choices. I love having choice but it does change the whole neighborhood dynamic.

    I am not advocating closing any school in particular especially if it’s performing. My issue is with the “under enrollment” factor. I do not know any particulars here at all and talking about closings in general. And yes, as someone mentioned, how many years do you wait to see enrollment up when the preschool families will be vying for space at other schools and in the meantime, no budget. I am totally confused as to why the resistance to merging to a better school. Traveling a mile and 1/2 vs. 2 blocks would not keep me from embracing an established performing CPS school.

    I do see the emotional attachment.

  • 52. Mom2  |  May 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the info cpsobsessed. I agree with you that it is certainly the parents busting their butts improving schools that makes the most difference and should be welcomed and applauded. It seems odd to me that (if I have this correctly) an important person in charge of an entire area of schools would not make themselves known and available for feedback, suggestions, etc. I cannot find anything posted on the web that lists CPS schools by area and their area officers or how to reach them. Besides the LSC and their role, is the AO the “boss” of the principal at a school? What else are they responsible for? Would someone contact them if they were having issues with their school? Anyone know their job details? I’ve always wondered.

  • 53. HSObsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I think the parents/kids at Hamilton will have the last laugh here. The 2010 ISATs for 3rd graders show that 96% of them met or exceeded standards. This is right in the same range of both Burley and Blaine, which posted 98% and 91%, respectively.

    That same class of 2010 3rd graders (current 4th graders) had a full 54% in the “exceeds” category, which is higher than 3rd graders at Nettelhorst, Ogden, Alcott, Franklin and Audubon. They are ALL great schools, I’m just saying that Hamilton has had less “buzz” over the years, but I think they’ll do just fine. It’s great to hear there’s such demand for entry level spots. Hopefully they’ll be able to retain the kids over time.

  • 54. cpsobsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    @51, I know! My assumption is that these people are stretched pretty thin and don’t have time to hear every little piece of feedback from parents, but you’d think they’d be made more public, as you say. The only time I’ve seen ours was when our school elected the new principal. At the school where I was on the lsc doing the principal review, never saw her. I talked about getting input from her, but there are some weird power issues involved. I need to write that up as a whole other topic….

    Anyhow, here is the only place I’ve ever found anything related to the area people (now called CAOs.) Not sure how you’d find them if you don’t know their name. They seemed to be assigned to a cluster and area.


    This CPS omdudsman has all the phone numbers you need… if you can figure out how to find the person you need!

  • 55. HSObsessed  |  May 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    There’s always a lot of grumbling by teachers that the CAOs are overpaid, do nothing, and do nothing to add to students’ learning. I know nothing first hand, though. To track down yours, you can try looking under Chief Area Officers and Elementary Areas and Schools here:


  • 56. Mom2  |  May 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I know nothing about CAO’s and even though you supplied this great link (thanks so much), I find it quite amusing. I tried to find a list of schools and their area. When you keep clicking, you can get to a map that shows areas/clusters and you might be able to tell based on that map where your school falls. But, if you aren’t sure, and you click further to see the list of schools, it just takes you to a link that says “area X school list”. You click on that and you go to a place where you can type in your school’s name. But, that will not tell you the school’s area. Oh, CPS, you make me laugh sometimes.

  • 57. HamiltonLSCchair  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve been the LSC Chair at Hamilton for three years, I live in the neighborhood and my son was in kindergarten when I was elected and the school phase out was proposed. The parents fought the closure because they were invested in the school and we’re improving it from the ground up based on hard work and fundraising. Plain and simple. Yes, many of the families at Hamilton aren’t from the neighborhood, so if the school closed they would have to go to their neighborhood school or try their luck in the lottery. We fought for our school and won and I’m, personally, very proud of that victory. We are following the same model that built Blaine and Burley less than 10 years ago.

    However, I’ve even prouder of what has been accomplished in the last two years. We’ve hired a dynamic new principle, grown our enrollment and tripled our annual fundraising. Hamilton was chosen this year to have a comprehensive gifted program and we’ve opened a computer lab and completely redone the library. Next year, the school will open a science lab and a new outdoor garden.

    As for LSCs, it is their responsibility to manage the school’s discretionary budget (non-personnel), hire and fire the principal based on annual reviews and approval of their four-year contract. The LSC also provides a budget to the school’s parent fundraising group on the amount of funds needed and what projects and/or programs are to be supported.

    What is important is that families commit to their schools to get involved and support their child’s education in the best way that they can. Be proud of your school, but don’t tear down others schools or speak to issues when you don’t know the facts.

  • 58. Hawthorne mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Regarding CAO’s , I can echo what 54 said. When I was teaching, I felt like they were useless, counterproductive and were not aware of how the latest education research should be implemented (and I am talking BIG, BIG mistakes that our CAO made) if they were even aware of best practices AT ALL. Like most things in CPS, a big *%!!!*# waste of time, effort and money. I mean really, do we really have no one at the top capable of leading our schools?

  • 59. 2ndtimearound  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    @Grace #36 – No. I’m a former CPS south side teacher who now lives on the North Side and I have children in a CPS school. goingtogermany is the name of my blog. That’s all.

  • 60. magnet mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    With all due respect to Hamilton’s Lsc chair the budgets voted on by LSCs must support the school improvement plans written by the school community, then publicly presented and voted on by the LSC in an open door session. Parents should always take part in the writing basically every two years of the plan,updated annually.
    The deeper goals and funding of you child’s school is mapped out by this blueprint and the goals to be met by isat testing are also in this plan. The school improvement plan is a public document and a copy of it is always kept in the office for anyone to study. Check yours out if you haven’t. It details everything down to how much parents will be involved and what your community partners roles are.
    If your school leadership wishes to reprioritize funds allocated in the school improvement plan the LSC must vote on that change in an open meeting posted 48 hours in advance.
    LSC powers are balanced by your public input. Parents not on the LSC are also ideally on the committees that evaluate your principal. The committee that evaluates your principal should be seeking input from the school community annually. Exciting really all this opportunity to be part of how your school progresses.

  • 61. magnet mom  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    With all due respect to Hamilton’s Lsc chair the budgets voted on by LSCs must support the school improvement plans written by the school community, then publicly presented and voted on by the LSC in an open door session. Parents should always take part in the writing basically every two years of the plan,updated annually.
    The deeper goals and funding of you child’s school is mapped out by this blueprint and the goals to be met by isat testing are also in this plan. The school improvement plan is a public document and a copy of it is always kept in the office for anyone to study. Check yours out if you haven’t. It details everything down to how much parents will be involved and what your community partners roles are.
    If your school leadership wishes to change funding allocated in the school improvement plan the LSC must vote on that change in an open meeting posted 48 hours in advance.
    LSC powers are balanced by your public input. Parents not on the LSC are also ideally on the committees that evaluate your principal. The committee that evaluates your principal should be seeking input from the school community annually as well in a public way though the input you give is confidential.

  • 62. 2ndtimearound  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    @#60 – And that’s where things often get tricky, is the LSC’s. Some school are unable fill all of their LSC spots, due to lack of involvement or understanding of the role of LSC. Some LSC’s are handpicked by principals who then tell the LSC how to vote on important issues. And that is why some principals NEVER leave the school: because the LSC that they handpicked, who is ignorant of the rules/responsibilities will vote for their contract to be renewed, etc, etc. LSC’s can do great things if they are run by people who know what they are doing.

  • 63. Brent Peebles  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I am a parent of a sixth grader and third grader who are thriving at Hamilton and have been doing so for six years.

    I am a co founder of the Hamilton parent/fundraising group, founded approximately 6 years ago.

    Hamilton has consistently demonstrated high academic achievement and has been recognized by CPS for academics over the years.

    We have had under enrollment challenges in the past.  We as Hamilton parents understood that our primary challenge was marketing not academics.  

    I, along with many others, have dedicated countless hours and significant $ to help keep Hamilton a vibrant educational center in every sense of the word.  Like any parent, I want the most for my kids.

    In terms of the CPS close down, and as one of the people who met with CPS officials, I strongly believe that Hamilton was following the roadmap that CPS hopes all its schools can achieve for improvement:  strong academics, committed educators, high parent involvement, and significant fundraising activity.  Ultimately, CPS leadership recognized that the pieces were in place at Hamilton, and enrollment growth would soon follow.  That has proven true.

    Thanks to the supportive posters out there.  We have worked and shared with many other schools over the past years.  I am proud of what has happened and excited about what more will happen at Hamilton and other under-the-radar schools with strong parent/teacher support.

    Finally, I am disappointed that these public forums can be used to cause harm by users with generic ids, but that’s my own issue to deal with.

    Brent Peebles

  • 64. HSObsessed  |  May 13, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Congratulation to everyone at Hamilton for your ongoing achievemnets. I love to hear these success stories, because every strong school makes CPS as a whole a better system. It has been recognized on this blog (in other threads) over and over how much work and unflagging dedication it takes by committed parents to do what you’re doing. Again, kudos.

  • 65. Sarah  |  May 13, 2011 at 8:01 am

    As the mom of a very happy Hamilton kindergartener, I am grateful to the parents, faculty and staff who fought to keep Hamilton open and work tirelessly to keep it thriving. We need more, not fewer, great educational options on the north side of Chicago, and I’m proud that Hamilton is one of them.

  • 66. cps Mom  |  May 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for your post #62 – it explains the situation. I know that school closings are not always a clearly defined issue. But you’ve said it – you’ve proven to CPS that the school will/is achieving the enrollment requirements. Good to know that CPS listens before they cut the program.

    I wonder about other schools slated for closure and how this issue should be addressed.

  • 67. Mom2  |  May 13, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Just want to make sure that no one out there thinks that any of my posts indicated that I thought they should have closed Hamilton. I was responding to “copyeditor” and I just wanted details on how it all happened because I knew a family at Hamilton that liked it but was still applying to Burley because they thought it could offer more. On the contrary, I am thrilled that Hamilton now has a group of very dedicated parents and a new principal that are all working together to have a wonderful school and another great choice on the north side and having the gifted program is a wonderful addition. They are doing a great marketing job, too which always helps! That is exactly what I think we need everywhere, and now we need it on the high school level, too!

    I know that is a much tougher egg to crack, though, because kids only go to their high school for 4 years. I can see, from my own experience, that parents seem to lose that drive to improve a school when they know they only have 4 years at a place. I think they believe that, by the time they put all that effort into improving the school, their child will be gone. That is why groups like the north side parents initiative are fabulous because they are working to improve their neighborhood high school BEFORE their child goes there. That gives a lot more time to make it right. I am very thankful for them.
    Come to think of it, with many parents thinking/hoping that their child will end up at one of the SE high schools, CPS loses a lot of potential help with any one high school. Since you don’t know where your child is going, parents put nothing into any high school and just focus on their elementary school. That is certainly a draw-back to the SE process right now.

  • 68. Jennifer  |  May 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I have experience with both the British and Dutch school systems if anyone needs info.

  • 69. Grace  |  May 13, 2011 at 10:17 am

    @ Going to germany, I was once a northsider but have boomeranged back to the southside.That might explain why I agree with your posts!

  • 70. Grace  |  May 13, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Once called Area Instructional Officers, or AIOs, now CAOs, I’ve read they cost $18 million across CPS. They do visit schools and make suggestions regarding curriculum, apparently, to teachers and principals. As H-mom says, they are not viewed aas helpful.

    They get to decide contracts with vendors for their region, and they can hire staff, who may be experts in reading or math curriculum.

    Parents are supposed to have access to the CAOs, in theory.
    If for example, a parent didn’t work effectively with a principal to get an IEP for his child, you would think that the CAO would be the next step in resolving that issue. But I am not sure it actually works that way, given the number of frustrated parent who each month come to the Board of Ed meeting and advocate — in 2 minutes — for their child. Then the President of the Board of Ed might assign someone on the CO staff to address the issue. CPS makes the process difficult for a reason, I think.

  • 71. Grace  |  May 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Area Instructional Officers, or AIOs, had a name change under R.H. and are now CAOs. Often former principals or a.p.s, I’ve read they and their staffs cost $18 million across CPS.

    They visit schools and make suggestions regarding curriculum or instruction, among other things, to teachers and principals. I have to echo H-mom; they are usually viewed as interfering by the folks in the classrooms.

    They also get to decide certain contracts with vendors for their region, like landscaping or tutoring, and they have hired staff, some of whom may be experts in reading or math curriculum.

    Once I attended a parent meeting in a library held by a CAO. He was showing the new library to the school children’s parents. Otherwise have had no interaction.

    If for example, a parent didn’t work effectively with a principal to get an IEP for his child, you would think that the CAO would be the next step in resolving that issue, wouldn’t you?

  • 72. magnet mom  |  May 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Wow. I think that the case manager or special ed team would be your best advocate in terms of iep issues.Or an outside professional to consult. Going to a CAO is a really drastic kind of step in any case. I don’t think they handle single student iep issues.
    A nice friendly way to meet your CAO is to ask the LSC to invite them to a meeting to introduce themselves

  • 73. Psssss......  |  May 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Burley has terrible value-added scores in math. Much worse than Hamilton.

    Burley does very well in reading — far better than Hamilton. What up with that math program at Burley?


  • 74. Raechel  |  May 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    We have 2 kids in CPS- one 2nd grader at Skinner West, and one K at Hamilton. We are in Burley district. We CHOSE Hamilton for my son, as he is a summer birthday and as previously stated, Burley is packed. My hope was that the low key buzz about Hamilton would be true and that he would thrive there. We are thrilled with the school. My son is reading chapter books at the end of K. His teacher had to advance the curriculum for kids like my son, and she was able to do so with the support of Principal Gray. I would not dream of changing to Burley. My guess is that we hear sour grapes due to home values in hamilton from copyeditor, not a judgement of the school.

  • 75. copyeditor  |  May 14, 2011 at 8:17 am


    I don’t live in Hamilton district. I know people who do, and they don’t send their kids to Hamilton. And to get back to my original point: at the time that CPS wanted Hamilton closed, the school was underperforming, was underenrolled, and most of the people in the neighborhood could not understand why it was open. The alternative schools, Burley and Blaine, were established high performers that pulled most of their enrollment from out of their attendance areas and thus had room for children in the Hamilton attendance area. And, many of the people in the neighborhood were hoping that the Hamilton building would become a new high school, because there is a shortage of quality high schools on the north side.

    Compare the test scores between Hamilton, Blaine, and Burley from three years ago when CPS made the initial decision. Compare the test scores three years ago, or even this year, in the upper grades.

    So if CPS can’t close Hamilton, what kind of school can it close? I’m guessing none, which means that that part of Rahm’s education policy will be a failure. That was my point.

    All over this city, there are people who love their schools and will fight to keep them open, even if it makes no sense to the people who are outside of the school.

  • 76. copyeditor  |  May 14, 2011 at 8:30 am

    And, by the way, it’s great if the Hamilton things works. That would be a good thing, and maybe they needed the threat of closing to things that maybe should have been done years ago, like getting a new principal.

    I don’t wish anyone ill here, I was simply making a point about how emotion is more important than logic in school closings.

  • 77. chicago parent  |  May 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

    OT- I am sorry for being off topic. Can anyone share information about Stone Scholastic Academy? We are considering this school.

  • 78. Raechel  |  May 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Hamilton was underenrolled, for reasons not known to me. I did live in the neighborhood in the late 90s, and have considered why it was underenrolled at that time. I remember thinking that there are no kids around when I lived there, at least in immediate proximity to the school. Now I have learned that the school for many years took kids from St Vincent De Paul, which although less so now, was for at risk kids. That would explain the test scores, for all the same reasons it would evey at risk group. I suspect a combo of things made Hamilton underenrolled. Fortunate now it is different, thanks to the community, parents, and the leadership of the principal.

  • 79. HSObsessed  |  May 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I lived near Hamilton as well in the ’90s, and it’s true that Hamilton took in kids from other areas. They were bussed in from areas of the city whose neighborhood schools were bursting at the seams, mostly with new immigrants. This was the situation with most schools in the area like Burley, Jahn, Audubon, Coonley. Besides Bell, Blaine was the first school to begin to enroll the kids of the people who were gentrifying the neighborhoods. If it weren’t for the kids who were bused in, those school buildings would have been shuttered for years. CPS used to publish statistics what percent of kids in a school were from the school’s enrollment boundary, and those schools were always in the low double digits.

  • 80. just asking  |  May 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Why does the CPS web site show that Hamilton has “low academic rating”, “on probation”, scores across the board progressively lower from 2008-2010? Enrollment 206.

    At first glance, doesn’t look good.

    74-75 there does seem to be an issue trying to close schools.

  • 81. Raechel  |  May 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Others that posted could probably answer this more accurately, as as I had said my chills is only in k, but my impression is that as the grade levels go up, the number of kids from the more economically challenged neighborhoods get more. I do not know numbers, but this seems like the answer. From what I seem all the kids are nice. My guess is the test scores are lower in the higher grades.

  • 82. klm  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I know that we all want ALL CPS schools to be like Lincoln, Blaine, Bell,…et al., but after reading about education almost obsessively since becoming a parent years ago, I’m a little discouraged that the “great CPS neighborhood school” model can be replicated throughout CPS until society does something about the shameful achievement gap between white/asian kids and black/hispanic kids. We’ve all read the stats: average black males score lower that white males diagnosed with learning disibilities, average black male 8th graders read about as well as white female 4th graders, etc. (Sometimes the sky REALLY is falling). Now, we can (and should) debate until the end of time about why this is, what to do about it, etc., but as far as “turning around” a CPS school, it usually means making it more more attractive to white and asian parents, thus starting the “virtuous” cycle of making a school more white, asian, middle -upper-middle class, etc., so that the poor and working- class minority kids won’t be there in such large numbers as to keep ISAT scores low. It’s “gentrification” of neighborhood public schools that we’re talking about more than actually fundamentally “fixing” or “changing” a school to improve the outcome of current students. So, I wonder if the schools like Blaine, Nettelhorst, etc., really are fundamentally so much “better” than before or has the student body simply changed so that high-scoring socioeconomic groups have replaced low-scoring ones. Now, don’t get me wrong. Living in a dymanic, socioeconomically diverse city means accepting change and not complaining about too many of the subjective “wrong” kinds people (i.e., not like me) moving into a neighborhood (as opposed to the objective ‘wrong’ kinds –criminals, drug dealers, gang members, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with a middle-class, more white neighborhood having a school that reflects this reality and parents of any race or socioecomic group that don’t want their kids to go to schools with lots of thugs, gangbangers and low-achieving chronic truants are not being “narrow-minded” , they’re being good, protective parents. However, as long as race and socioeconimics remain the primary determinates of scholastic achievement in this country, the easiest was to quickly create a “high-achieving” school is to change its demographics by making it more attractive to kids in the high-achieving groups.

  • 83. HSObsessed  |  May 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I want to add a little to what klm said. As a school gentrifies, the test scores posted by its students go up, partially just because more kids of higher SE background (of any race) score higher on average on standardized tests. That’s just a reality: A student who is the offspring of two college professors (again, of any race) is going to come in to CPS with higher average academic ability than the child of recent immigrants with few English skills and limited education in their home countries. There is a theory that when a school maintains a mix of kids from all SE groups, everyone benefits. Studies have shown that the higher SE kids bring skills/achievements that set the bar higher in the classroom, and their parents demand accountability, communication and results from teachers and administration. In addition, all the kids benefit from the diversity of perspectives brought by a varied school population, and incidentally, test scores of all kids go up. I can’t remember what the “tipping point” is for what percent needs to be comprised of higher SE kids before this takes effect, maybe 30 percent? Or 40? Unfortunately, there are relatively few CPS schools that have at least 40 percent students who are NOT on free or reduced price lunches (38 schools out of 675 total). In effect, geographic realities aside, there aren’t enough higher SE students to spread around CPS schools. So the more we can bring in to the system and keep, the better for everyone, according to this theory, at least.

  • 84. RL Julia  |  May 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    klm – what you are talking about is one model of how a school gets better but hardly the only model and surprisingly enough not the only model in force at CPS.

    What I think is crucial to a school’s overall improvement and individual children’s academic success is that there are parents who have high academic expectations for their children, that there are teachers and administrators who have high academic expectations for their students and that the parent community of a school or student is available to make sure that the school has the information it needs to teach that student and vice versa – in short to make sure the job gets done.

    Parents cannot expect their children to do well in school if their attitiude is that the school is going to pick up the slack or that their child’s experience and/or success in school will be a summation of only what they were taught in school – it takes more than what CPS currently provides to make it to an SEHS – and that is even if your kid goes to an SEES (imo). On the other hand, teachers and administrators cannot expect parents to want to be involved or to continue the learning at home if they discourage parents from being in the building and/or don’t communicate constantly with them about expectations, curriculum and etc….

    What I have seen most commonly is that there is a breakdown in communication with everyone involved thinking that the other parties will do the work and then no one does anything and the child/ren in question are not educated.

  • 85. copyeditor  |  May 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I totally get your point, KLM. I hear about how the Nettlehorst parents turned the school around with the Nate Berkus cafeteria, and I think that’s really nice and all, but is Nate Berkus designing for schools in Roseland? Are the Blackhawks providing funding in neighborhoods where kids don’t play hockey?

    I don’t know what the answer is. Even though my family is in that “desirable” white, overeducated, etc. etc. category, the schools need to work for all kids. And if they don’t, something needs to change. I also know that we can afford to move, afford private school, and afford supplemental programs. Most families in CPS can’t afford to do that.

    This is all very hard.

  • 86. Angie  |  May 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Well, I’m going to disagree with the majority, and say that the teachers and school system in general need to figure out a way to teach kids without the parent involvement. Relying on PTA is fine and dandy for schools like Nettelhorst or Lincoln, but in a low-income school, there will be parents who work 3 jobs just to keep food on the table, parents who don’t care what happens to their kids at all, etc. There has to be a way to educate the children without relying on mom and dad. Maybe create some incentive for the good teachers and principals to work in underpeforming schools and turn them around.

    That’s where the longer and more productive school day that starts in early childhood would be helpful, too. Preschool for All, while better than nothing, is only 2.5 hours long, and not nearly enough for a disadvantaged child. IIRC, there is a research that says it is cheaper to educate a young child than to incarcerate him when he grows up and starts making trouble.

    Education needs to be a priority, and the sooner the lawmakers realize that, the better.

  • 87. klm  |  May 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    @86… I agree with you that schools need to “improve” , “change”, …WHATEVER in order to serve kids of ALL socioeconomic classes, ……BUT the fact remains (and I would give almost anything for this not to be the case) that African-American and Latino kids are not being served well in virtually ANY school district in America, so how can CPS be any different? My family is “mixed” (A-A and white). I have a A-A niece that is happy to be in certain South Side high school where only 1% (yes –ONE PERCENT!) of the graduates meet the “college ready” standard on the science portion of the ACT —and this is a “good” school by Lawndale/South Side standards. OMFG! I know all about the struggles of being low-income and the disadvantages of “bad public schools” –I had to deal with both growing up. However, what I’m talking about seems to go so much deeper than simply “improving public schools” in the traditional sense (longer hours, more emphasis on reading and math, more ‘effective’ teachers, etc.) and needs to be addressed more as a larger “social” problem. We need to press CPS for better results, for sure, but there’s no school district in America (that I know of –and I read about education all the time) that has eliminated the “achievement gap”, so I’m simply trying to talk realistically, not “how I want things to be”. In a perfect world, yes there would be schools that eliminate the “achievement gap”, but the ‘real world’ is a complicated, history-laden, heavy morass that has left so many minority kids 2,3, 4 grades behind their non-minority (and Asian) peers. Sad but true.

  • 88. Parkmom  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    @86…Relying on teachers to fill the void of an absentee parent is not the answer to a child’s success in school. Educators can only do so much and ultimately parents must reinforce the learning process at home. It is sad that the prevailing attitude among some politicians and voters is to have education take a back seat to other issues. However, parents and educators must keep applying pressure on our lawmakers to keep education as a top priority among social issues. I say this because I immigrated here with English as my second language. Both of my parents worked but they found the time to make sure my 3 other siblings and I absorbed the school subjects. It is possible to overcome problems with the right support and tenacity. I don’t have the answer for those kids whose parents are absent but the answer cannot be resting only on the shoulders’ of educators.

  • 89. Angie  |  May 17, 2011 at 7:38 am

    @88 Parkmom: “Relying on teachers to fill the void of an absentee parent is not the answer to a child’s success in school. Educators can only do so much and ultimately parents must reinforce the learning process at home.”

    Very well, but what if the parents simply won’t do that? Do we send over the cops and force them to help their children? Do we give up on these children altogether?

    @87 klm: Maybe it’s time to look beyond the American school districts and find out how education system works in other countries. If their children are ahead of Americans in all the test scores, they must be doing something right.

  • 90. cps Mom  |  May 17, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I agree parents need to be involved and support their children in order to have success in school. I do however agree with Angie in that parents should not be expected to teach at home. It’s one thing to bring home homework that is practice of the days lesson and the parent provides a quiet work area, answers questions, general support but if the student comes home not understanding the work or what needs to be done then there is a failure somewhere. I guess that the strength or weakness of a school and it’s staff would be how they respond to that. It’s great when a parent can be involved in school activities, pta etc but not always possible.

  • 91. klm  |  May 17, 2011 at 8:55 am

    @89 It’s intersting that you mention the U.S. vs. other countries on test scores (the ‘PISA’ international exam comparisons is what we hear about). A Swedish blogger studied scores, academic data, etc. and found that when comparing white native-born to white native-born students around the world, the USA comes out NEAR THE TOP –beating France, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Australia, Austria, etc. Also, Asian-American students do as well as kids in high-scoring Asian countries. (I can’t link, but you can Google ‘Super-Economy: Kurdish-Swedish Perspective on the American Economy…USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia, PISA scores’ and you’ll be able to read it yourself). Apparently, the reason America’s overall average is so low is that African-American and Latino students score so low that it brings the entire average way down. Also, it points out that the USA spends more than any other rich country per person on education (with the exception of tiny, price-inflated Luxembourg). So, here again, the “achievement gap” is front and center as the root of so much of our nation’s social and economic problems and a depressingly clear signal that something needs to be done. As an American who has lived, studied and once even worked abroad I can attest that it’s a real myth that we Americans are ill-educated and kinda’ more stupid when compared to other countries. Somehow, we’ve managed to create a rich, dynamic economy with a per capita output much higher than that of Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, etc. –so we can’t all be bad when it comes to being educated, right? Even in suburban schools, the racial gap between white and (especially) black but also latino students is truly shocking and upsetting. Look up the stats for places like Evanston Twp HS and Oak Park/River Forest HS and the disparity between whites/asians and blacks/latinos is truly shocking, even in these non-inner-city, high-spending, culture of high-achievement type schools. The “achievent gap” must be addressed, otherwise our country’s future will be much more polarised, unequal, etc., not because of purposeful dicrimination necessarily, but because so many non-Asian minority kids are unable to participate in the “education and skills required” modern, post-indutrial American economy. This hurts us all.

  • 92. RL Julia  |  May 17, 2011 at 9:22 am

    One of the problems we face is that Americans don’t value education. Also while I find it interesting that white American score commensurately with white Europeans, I don’t necessarily find it relevant since America isn’t only a “white” country. Certainly homogenous populations are perhaps easier to educate than heterogeneous ones but again, that is not the reality of either CPS or increasingly the country as a whole.

    A few things that would help would be – the designation of national standards for education that every school would be held to and paying teachers more – and thinking about changing around the school day – and perhaps paying the really good teachers more to stay in the classroom – rather than move into higher paying jobs in administration. Right now somehow the thinking goes is that teachers are somehow compensated for their work by a combination of pay and time off.

    First, any teacher doing a good job isn’t taking tons of time off- they work 60-80 hour work weeks during the school year and spend the summers doing professional development activities – many of which they have to write proposals for in order to fund.

    Secondly- since their classrooms are their own, it is not unusual for any kind of “extra” in the classroom is the teacher’s own personal property including libraries of books, containers to store things (like crayons), reading lofts or other kinds of furniture and etc…. So right there all the time and money teachers are supposed to be reaping -gone.

    Additionally, there is the problem that because to do the job properly one generally isn’t taking much time off or making tons of money, the best and brightest minds don’t tend to go into teaching – at least as a long term career choice. Top that off with the fact that teaching is often regarded as a low status job full of incompetents and there you go…

  • 93. Mom2  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    “One of the problems we face is that Americans don’t value education. ” – I disagree. “America” is made up of all kids on cultures and that is a benefit and a draw back. There are some cultures in America that greatly value education and you see that by how well those students do in school (despite financial issues, etc.). (I wont name specific cultures, but you all know based on statistics what I mean). There are other cultures that do not value education and you see that in the scores of those students. How do we change those cultures to have them see the value of education and raise their kids with that in mind? That is where we need to start.

  • 94. suburban mom  |  May 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Does anyone know where Rahm is sending his three children? I havent’ seen this anywhere in the media.

  • 95. klm  |  May 17, 2011 at 11:33 am


    I agree–it IS a myth that Americans don’t value education. How many stories have we all read about kids pushing themselves too hard to get into the “right” college, the emotional problems related to all this “pressure to excell”, etc. However, within groups (class as well as racial ones) we can find historical reasons why some groups have tended to be more “education-obsessed” than others. Historically, some poor and uneducated groups didn’t emphasis school, since they were too busy just trying to work in order to survive, and even if they were educated, they were not allowed to fully participate in society, etc. –education beyond the basic level was not historically feasible, so there’s not the historical emphasis on education, etc. All parents in modern America want their kids to go to college, be successful, etc., but not all parents are culturally and factually prepared to do whatever has to be done to insure their kids’ educational future. Some people think their kids must be doing great if they’re passing on to the next grade, while others have an emotional breakdown over a B+ on a report card. Some parents send their kids to whatever school CPS says is where to go, others (us here on the’CPS Obsessed’ blog) know that it’s important to research test scores, visit before enrolling, look into magnets, RGCs, hold your nose and move to the suburbs –even if you have to live in a trailer park to have access to “good” schools, avoid the “failure factories” in CPS, etc. Within my own extended family, I see differences in attitudes about school –I’m frequently upset that many/most of my extended family is so oblivious about where they send their kids, seem happily satisfied that their sons “didn’t fail a single class” this year (at schools where most kids are nowhere near grade level in the first place –hardly a big achievement). Yes, many had babies at 16 (and usually another soon after) and work hard to take care of their kids all alone, which limits their capacity to be hawkish about school. Another relative (an A-A college grad) took her daughter out of her neighborhood CPS school literally within a few days of enrolling, she was so disgusted by it (her daughter was starting to read in K, while most of her classmates couldn’t count to 10 or even know all their colors and made fun of her daughter for talking ‘proper’ [already in K?!]). She found a good parochial school with a space clear accross town, paid the tuition even when it was not easy, drove to/from that school (40-60 minutes each way depending on traffic) every day for 9 years, poured over homework, did the flash cards, etc. HER daughter now goes to Payton and we found out recently that she’ll be going to Wellesley next year –yeah! Some parents will literally do almost anything in order to insure their kid’s future, while other just “leave it up to the teachers” and let things fall where they fall, often because that’s all that they know to do. So, yes, many/most American parents do the right thing for their kids, but many need to be “taught” what to do in order help their kids become all that they can be.

  • 96. ChicagoGawker  |  May 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Agree with both RLJulia and Klm on the value Americans place on education. Yes, America has many cultures and subcultures and some of the people from them will do what klm’s amazing sister did. However, I fear that foremost in such parents’ minds is desire that their children get good paying jobs someday so they can have productive lives, and fear that they will be shut out of the mainstream. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but it can overshadow the worthy goal of education as an end in itself-becoming the kind of critical, independent thinker necessary for a democracy. How many of us want our kids to be Political Science, Philosophy, or English majors in college? Too scary, bcs. these majors are not getting jobs to pay off their huge college debt. Better to do computer science. This is all different in Europe.

  • 97. RL Julia  |  May 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    If American’s valued education – truly valued education for the sake of itself, then we would have a system of financing education that insured that every child had access to decent, free and/or affordable education from Pre-K – HS if not four years of college. Teachers would be considered to be valued and esteemed members of society and would be compensated accordingly (as well as consistently held to a standard). We might have state-wide or nationally administered exams that indentified children as being intellectually gifted and would provide programming for them in order to meet their needs. We might provide free college education via state-run universities to those who were capable of doing the work. All of these educational opportunities either used to exist in this countries or currently exist in other ones – but don’t exist here.

    I am not saying that there aren’t individuals who aren’t concerned with THEIR children’s education – there are plenty of us out there trying to game the system and get our individual children the best education we can afford).

    I am saying that as a country of people we are not very much concerned with the education of our populace as a whole. If we were – we might be able to find the money to do the above things – even if it meant not paying for other things (like wars for instance).

    I believe that

  • 98. Grace  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm


    Here’s the link. Excellent blog posting, thanks klm.
    This begs the question — How can all of Duncan’s teacher and school bashing be based on our weak showings in PISA?

  • 99. magnet mom  |  May 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    In many European countries school diverges fairly early in the game. In Germany by 5th or 6th grade students move into one of three paths- university, vocational or technical. There were plenty of Goethe reading bus drivers when I lived there but in a social democracy the ability to live decently is much more real for a mix of educational paths. Unions and labor laws create security for workers at least in Germany that are being dismantled here. I
    Looking at education in isolation from the general treatment of children in our society gives an imperfect picture of how we can deal with the shortcomings of the American education system. Asking teachers to solve the huge problems we have in this country, in our own city, is unrealistic. Looking at our own horrendously segregated city is just staggering in itself. Schools that improve in the style of Nettlehorst- turning the corner largely by shutting off the busses that carry children from other parts of the city should be looked at carefully. Hats of to Hamilton for improving their school with all families on board.
    The idea of the neighborhood school at the new white upper middle class Chicago holy grail has it’s own problems. Damned students who live in hopelessly poor parts of our city are classed as basically untouchables in this “movement. ” and closed out of the the safe schools that changing neighborhoods rejected as unworthy before.
    Requiring every school to be balanced racially and economically would change much of the educational profile in our city but few wealthy tax payers would tolerated this idea. The testing that catches small children on a good day and gives them a label for the rest of their elementary life in Chicago is very different from the years of study and work before the division into different school in Europe. Perhaps this longer time allows the system to find those who are really more suited to schooling in academia or medicine or law.
    Industrial societies that respect the basic rights of all members to a decent safe education, health care and retirement will trump ours as this century moves ahead. Who of us really has time to step away from raising our own kids to really change Chicago much less our country. I have to say that as much as we have tried we focus on our own kids as much as we can.

  • 100. klm  |  May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm


    I understand your misgivings about testing kids as young as 4 or 5 for “gifted” or classical SE schools –point taken. However, the way that most Western European countries segment students so early is not the same thing. Yes, CPS is providing some kids an environment that’s “above grade” for the few that can benefit from it, but it’s not telling the other 99% of kids that they’ll virtually never be able to advance to a pretigious professional job (e.g. physician, nuclear engineer, etc.) the way that schools do in places like France or Belgium do so early on. For all its flaws, the educational system of the USA is truly much more flexible in allowing less well performing students to have a “second chance” (or 2, 3, 4 second chances, sometimes). Here, people theoretically can be horrible k12 students, take time to “grow up”, then go to community college, get good grades, transfer to a good university and if THEN qualified, go to grad school and become even lawyers and physicians. If you’re a mediocre 11- or 12-year-old student in France, medical or other prestigious post-k12 schools are not in your future. Pretty much EVER. My brother-in-law is from Belgium. His daughter came to live with him in the U.S. after 8th grade and went to a nice, suburban public high school. She wants to be a psychologist and will start college here in the fall. In Belgium, (at 14!) she was told that she can’t be a psychologist because of previous test scores and grades –end of story. Tell me that she (and her father) aren’t grateful for THEIR American public education. No American child’s future life path is so clearly, “officially” decided for him or her at such a young age. That’s definitely one positive thing about American education, I believe.

  • 101. cps Mom  |  May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    @99 – The union and labor laws in Germany are crippling businesses who can no longer operate with the something like 130 days per year that employees get off, a work day that ends at 3 etc. The only way for German companies to compete and maintain production is to go under, which is exactly what’s happening with competition from countries like China and everywhere else in the world that do not have 4 week summer shut downs. Unemployment has become a huge problem in Germany.

    As far as requiring schools to be balanced racially. We had this with the old magnet school process and was well tolerated if not sought out by “wealthy tax payers”. As it stands, equaling integrating elementary schools would be impossible because people want to attend schools in their neighborhood and the pool of children attending CPS does not break out into nice little equal bundles, as we have experienced with the magnet program.

  • 102. copyeditor  |  May 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I’m sorry, but writing off 60% of the kids in Chicago and 30% of children in the United States just because rich white kids are doing fine should NOT be acceptable to us as a nation. is this really what we want to be? I find that “everything’s just fine if your white” and “you can’t expect teachers to teach kids who aren’t middle class nudge nudge wink wink” to be offensive, not to mention dangerous for the future of our city and our country.

    And, if we only include the top American kids average against all of the kids in Sweden, shouldn’t we be better?

  • 103. RL Julia  |  May 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    102 – thank you.

  • 104. klm  |  May 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    The idea was comparing (for example) average native-born WHITE kids in Sweden (excluding the large Swedish immigrant population) to average native-born WHITE kids in the USA. NOBODY is saying that all’s OK, since white and asian kids are doing fine –THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE IS BEING SAID HERE. By pointing out the “achievement gap” I think that the idea is to shock and upset people into thinking in terms that can realistically implemented to reduce such large gaps.

    Also, if you click on the link of the above study of international test result comparisons, you’ll find that the USA (at least in the author’s analysis) does better than most countries in reducing the disparity in academic achievement than than lots of countries (France, Sweden, germany, etc.), at least in terms of non-white immigrants. I remember reading an article (NYT?) several years ago about how German educators were visiting the US in order to study how we were able to, comparatively speaking, succeed in educating our immigrant children (believe it or not –I wouldn’t have had I not read it!). Apparently, the children of Turkish and other immigrants (even 2nd and 3rd generation ones) were not doing well in German schools and there was a concern about how badly this affected German society, social cohesion, economic competetiveness, etc. Immigrant children in Germany were “ghetto-ized” and in the worst performing schools, very few were able to continue on the better “Gymnasiums” (for the university-bound), most were in the “lowest tract/path in school, etc. Germans worried that Turkish kids were lowering their overall education rankings by bringing down the average, etc. I know the same could be said about France and its North African-origin kids (their ghettos are in the ‘suburbs’, far from the best public schools which are in the whiter, wealthy city areas, most often –kinds the opposite of here), having lived there for a few years. Our problems in the USA are not unique (in a good or bad way) –many countries struggle with these issues.

  • 105. copyeditor  |  May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Okay, that makes more sense. But I think we can do better, and really, we have to.

  • 106. Hawthorne mom  |  May 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I really appreciate this discussion and at the same time, it is painful to me.
    I do really want schools to be better, to do better, to do more, especially with our lowest performers. And I do think there are models to follow. The one that appears to have essentially erased the achievement gap is Harlem Children’s Zone. This is a non-profit group, that runs a few charter schools, within a wide berth of community support. If anyone is unfamiliar, HCZ does intensive marketing to poor families, tries to get parents into parenting classes and pays them with food gift cards if they attend a certain number of sessions. They then try and get those parents, who’ve been taught parenting and literacy methods, to enroll their kids in their early-early childhood program for 2 year olds (?). Then, those kids go onto preschool, for, I think, ten hour days. Then they go onto the charter school with smaller class sizes. The program provides mental health help, nursing help, social work visitation, medical and dental care on the school site, extra curriculars, and more…..and when the kids get into college, people help them while they are in college too. At HCZ, nearly 100% of their students, nearly all minority, disenfranchised and poor, all 100% pass the state tests.

    Programs like HCZ, which could very well be implemented, which could really serve the poorest of our kids and send each and every one to college or some kind of better life……no one. wants. to. pay. for. that. (and plus, HCZ, I would bet money, has a giant turnover rate of its staff due to burnout, especially the teaching staff….typical turnover in CPS is that we lose 50% of all teachers within 3 years, I would guess with HCZ it is closer to 80%)
    Anyone who is demanding things get better for ALL of Chicago’s kids better be ready to back up their moral outrage and pay up. In order to replicate the kind of support that HCZ gives (a kind of 24/7 help), our taxes would at minimum, quadruple.
    You cannot put 32 at risk kids (and there are many, many schools with entire classes full of at risk), one teacher, no aide, no class library, no supplies, a wacko principal, not enough books, etc, etc. and help them significantly even with superhuman efforts by ONE teacher….32 kids who walk into kindergarten not knowing their NAME, not knowing the difference between letters and numbers, not ever having held a book, and not to mention that they have 10% the vocabulary that their middle class peers have (which essentially kills any chance they have at being able to develop good reading comprehension). We can’t maintain THESE kinds of conditions that exist in at least 60% of our schools system wide and say, well, teachers and schools just have to work harder. If we really want to eliminate the achievement gap, we have to implement radical kinds of systematic change, like HCZ. (and have a society willing to sacrifice their own money to do it) The idea that we can just “demand more” of our schools and have them do better with kids who are academically “bleeding out” makes as much sense as demanding that doctors cure stage 4 cancer patients without any medications, MRI equipment or surgical equipment and no nurses or anesthetists to help them either.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am just as frustrated with CPS as the next person. I just don’t believe it is as simple as trying harder. I think the whole system has to be changed on a scale like HCZ.

  • 107. cpsobsessed  |  May 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    As usual, very well put, Hawthorne mom. I have to believe that anyone in this country who has read the basics about education obstacles has to agree with what you’ve said. I wonder if it’s noted stated outright more often because its impossible to achieve? So we just use the “work harder” argument because that’s the only option that anyone can think of without the massive funding you describe? Or I suppose there is an element of “classism” in saying that lower income kids needs all that intervention.
    I guess the question is how to make some kind of improvement knowing that model will never happen in a whole school system. Makes me want to cry.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 108. Angie  |  May 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    @106 Hawthorne mom: Just curious, how much does HCZ program costs per student, from the time they start school to graduation? And how does that compare to the cost of one life-time welfare recipient, who is on it from birth to death? Or the cost of one violent criminal, who has to be caught, tried and put in maximum security prison for 10 or 20 years?

    I think the first thing our society has to figure out is how to break the cycle. How to take a neglected child and give them the opportunity to get somewhere in life, so that his or her future children will not suffer from the same poverty and neglect.

  • 109. Neighbor  |  May 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    “Does anyone know where Rahm is sending his three children? I havent’ seen this anywhere in the media.”

    In an interview I saw with him on Sunday, he stated that his wife has made the decision but has not informed him.

  • 110. Hawthorne mom  |  May 18, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Angie, I don’t know what the costs are so I can’t compare, but you bring up a good point. I think what would be difficult/impossible is the “sell” to taxpayers, to pay the costs of both welfare/jail AND the costs of an all-inclusive school like HCZ while the benefits of such a system takes time to come into effect. There is a group in Roseland working towards starting an HCZ duplicate….hopefully they will experience success and things will grow.
    CPSobsessed, there are smaller and effective changes that can take place. I don’t know if CPS is a place where that can actually happen on a large scale.
    I can see that not all kids from poor homes need the level of intervention provided at HCZ, and it would be difficult to provide it for some and not others. I don’t know how/if HCZ addresses that issue. But what I think they do well is that they realize, ALL kids need significantly MORE help than what a 7 hour school day can provide. No matter their socioeconomic status. It is just that some kids get the help they need at home and some don’t. Even HCZ realizes that parents who do certain things produce kids able to learn. They are simply providing things for kids instead OR teaching and training/givng support to their parents to be able to do it. I highly recommend reading Geoffrey Canada’s book.

  • 111. klm  |  May 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I’ve read Geoffrey Canada’s book and loved it! I’ve been reading about HCZ and Mr. Cabada’s efforts to change the “culture of failure” that keeps far too many of our American kids down. There have been many articles about him in the NYT, interviews on CNN, he had a role in “Waiting for Superman”, etc. The reason I brought up the discussion about “achievement gaps” and schools in the fIrst place is because it’s so obvious that in order to bring inner-city and other “disadvantaged” kids up to where they need to be, we need a drastic commitment to change to culture surrounding these kids (at home, at school, in the neighborhoood, etc.). Just adding an extra hour of school, etc., is nice, but there won’t be real change until the forementioned “culture of failure” is turned into “a culture of success”. I’ve read, “Walking to School”, the book about “turning around” Nettelhorst. Now, I think it’s great that parents got involved and created a beautiful, well-run, welcoming evironment, etc., (again, changing the “culture” of the school). Before the “change” nobody in the neighborhood sent their kids there because of low test scores, the “thug and gangbager” dress and language of some students being bused in from outside the neighborhood was genuinely scary, etc. However, it seems so sad that in order to “change” a school (especially to do it relatively quickly) for the better, there needed to be things done to make the school less frightening to middle-class people. The parents and school administrators didn’t work hard to fix the school for the then-current poor/working-class mainly minority students, they did it so that middle-class white people would start seding there kids there. It’s nice that neighborhood kids in East Lakeview now have a public “school to walk to”, but what about the kids that were bused in the fill up the spaces that no local parent wanted until “the change” happened? The reason I brought up all the scores of white and asian US students was to point out that the American education system isn’t necessarily so bad (white and asians kids seem to compete well with the rest of the world), but that non-asian minority kids are seriously not well served by our schools, with broader social problems also clearly contributing to this problem of an “achievement gap” in everything from unemployment, crime (look who’s in prison –it’s middle-class kids with parents bought ‘Hooked on Phonics’), higher education, etc.

  • 112. Grace  |  May 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    The cost of the HCZ program, without the afterschool programs, come to $15,000 per student. I’ve heard that total cost is over $18,000. The Obama administration is implementing the model around the country.

    From wikipedia
    “The ambitious Harlem Children’s Zone Project has expanded the HCZ’s comprehensive system of programs to nearly 100 blocks of Central Harlem and aims to keep children on track through college and into the job market.[3]
    Quoting from the HCZ Project web page: “The HCZ Project began as a one-block pilot in the 1990s, then following a 10-year business plan, it expanded to 24 blocks and then 60 blocks. The goal is to serve 15,000 children and 7,000 adults by 2011. The budget for the HCZ Project for fiscal year 2009 is over $40 million, costing an average of $3,500 per child.” In addition to this private financing, the HCZ schools receive about $12,500 in public funding per student. According to The New York Times, these figures do not include the costs of the HCZ “after-school program, rewards for student performance, a chef who prepares healthy meals, central administration and most building costs, and some of the expense of the students’ free health and dental care”.[4]
    The HCZ and its promotion as a model of education to aspire to, especially in the recent documentary Waiting for “Superman”, have been criticized as an example of the privitization of education in the US.[5] University of San Francisco Adjunct Professor in Education, Rick Ayers writes that Waiting for “Superman” “never mentions the tens of millions of dollars of private money that has poured into the Harlem Children’s Zone, the model and superman we are relentlessly instructed to aspire to.”[5]
    The Obama administration announced a 20 Promise Neighborhoods program, which hopes to replicate the success[6] of the HCZ in poverty-stricken areas of other U.S. cities.[7] In the summer of 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program accepted applications from over 300 communities for $10 million in federal grants for developing HCZ implementation plans, with grant awards to be announced in September 2010.[8] [9]

  • 113. HSObsessed  |  May 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I think one of the reasons some people endorse charter schools is because they are closer to the HCZ model than the usual public school: They have much longer school days, longer school years, teachers “on call” for their students at all hours, higher set expectations for parents’ involvement with their child, and often a K-12 system. I’m not sure about class sizes. One big difference in CPS charter schools that would make a huge differerence is starting earlier, like at age 2 y/o or at least at age 3-4. And full days of quality care and instruction would be ideal, not the 2.5 hours of preschool for all that is often the only thing available due to funding. And as I understand it, charter schools often do all this for less money than the average public schools.

  • 114. RL Julia  |  May 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    In the end of it all, in Chicago (if not this country) children whose parents are not interested in their educations generally don’t do well in school -unless there is another adult around who is consistently interested in their education and who is empowered enough to advocate for them as necessary. This one factor more than anything makes or breaks a kid in terms of their academic success.

    This was the fact years ago as well -its just that 30 years ago there were more vocational options for children who didn’t do well in school that paid a living wage so people perhaps didn’t pay as much attention.

    I would love to be proven wrong on this. I would love to find that one kid who is going to Payton (or whereever) who managed to navigate the CPS system on their own with no adult intervention and managed to get the best education CPS has to offer.

  • 115. cps Mom  |  May 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    @113 – also check out HS obsessed post under the voucher thread.

    Speaking of schools going above and beyond and teachers “on call”…

    I know that it is a lot (no actually too much) to expect a teacher to be at your beck and call but I wonder if some would agree that more contact/interaction between teachers and parents would be beneficial all the way around.

    My comment stems from comparing how communication is handled now that we’re in HS vs our elementary experience. Our SE HS, like many other schools, lists teachers on the website and has an e-mail system linked to them for all issues that arise. You are guaranteed an answer within 24 hours. It’s not a thing where you can ask what’s the homework etc (they do post that separately on line) – it’s for real issues and has an important purpose and has been a life saver for us. Teachers available by request in person. I am pleasantly surprised to have such great treatment because this is in contrast to our elementary experience. The K-8 experience involved showing up in the AM while they’re trying to gather and control the kids, the teacher may or may not be available and they may not be available in person in the immediate future. I walked in every day for a week one time before getting a quick “I’ll look into it”. They even went so far as to have policy against giving out teacher e-mails (although a few exceptional teachers would do so on their own). Also, parents without the ability to “stop in” basically would not communicate with the teacher unless they were called in or at conferences – which was the majority.

    Since there seem to be several teachers/ex teachers that post such good comments, I’m (very respectfully) wondering if others don’t find this a bit backward and a possible area for improvement. Seems to me that technology can help bring better communication.

  • 116. Hawthorne mom  |  May 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I agree that in many cases, communication lines need to be improved between teachers and parents. We’ve had excellent response at our current school and I’ve been so happy with that. But I have friends elsewhere that have teachers who won’t do email. I mean, who doesn’t “do” email? I think it is reasonable to have a teacher call you back, email you back or otherwise respond to any contact within 48 hours. Teachers really need to be available in person either before or after the kids are there by appointment at all schools.
    I found, that when I was teaching, doing home visits at the start of the school year dramatically improved the entire year of communication for me and for my students’ families. It took forever, and I am not sure I could do it now that I have my own children, but it broke down a barrier for me that I’d always faced before. (and looking back, some of the areas I went into probably weren’t very safe and it might not have been a smart thing to do alone) I think sometimes, some parents are intimidated by schools and teachers. The home visits eliminated all of that.
    While I don’t think it is reasonable to ask teachers to do home visits (I did it on my own) , I would love to see, at the start of every school year, maybe something sort of like open house, but a few days where teachers could be paid to come in and meet with families one on one. To give parents a chance to ask questions, and the teacher too. You know, have some coffee and cookies and just take some time to get to know eachother.

    I often look at CPS, shake my head and think, this can never be fixed. But I guess when you break it down into smaller tasks, like improving communication as one issue, it is more doable. It is hard for me to understand why any teacher would not be responsive to parents who want to be involved. I’ve mostly had experience with the opposite problem, parents who did not want to do anything associated with education. It was disheartening.

  • 117. HSObsessed  |  May 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    That’s crazy that the school had a policy against teachers giving out their e-mails, or that some teachers don’t “do” e-mail. What could they have against it — I suppose that some parents would abuse it and e-mail every night? I wouldn’t think that’s common, but maybe I’m wrong. Our school prints teachers’ e-mail addresses in our school directory. I think I’ve e-mailed each of my daughter’s homeroom teachers maybe 1-3 times a year.

  • 118. Grace  |  May 19, 2011 at 8:07 am

    @113 Geoffrey Canada and HCZ, as you no doubt know, are backed by more than a few very wealthy hedge fund owners. Some of Chicago charters get large amounts of private funding, too, in order to provide a longer day, etc. for students. I haven’t seen the numbers lately that show they educate their students for less than the traditional school does, have you? Suppose I could try and hunt down. : )

  • 119. Grace  |  May 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Also, on the topic of communication with teachers, has anyone seen the district 299 blog on the parent contract Rahm has proposed? Eric Zorn did a column on it yesterday. A lot of teachers who post there say this is an old idea. One teacher’s comment really impressed me, though, and made me understand how hard it is for teachers.

    Her post starts with … Fascinating said:
    “I am willing to take on faith your best intentions, even if you are a child with children, whose mother was a child when she gave birth to you. Even if what I see of how you feed and clothe your children when you have it in your power to do better, and put your own problems above the future of your children.
    But I, who have attended and paid for 10 years of higher education to be a better teacher to your children, attended endless workshops on my own time in order to be the a person whom you consider worthy of being in loco parentis, teacher, confidant, emergency ATM, clothing store and snack mom, am reviled out of hand as mercenary, cynical, uncaring and heartless, a welfare queen stealing from the public.”
    More at district 299

  • 120. Grace  |  May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

    It’s long, but seems even-handed. And has a lot of interesting links at the bottom.


  • 121. cps Mom  |  May 19, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for all the responses. I understand that there are a wide range of needs in education from intervention to just trying to make things run smoother. Certainly communication will literally mean taking a parent by the hand vs. an e-mail. I certainly applaud those teachers that do both.

    Both schools I have been involved with have provided a solid education with many benefits for our family. It just seems so much easier when educators are truly accessible. I think too that parents are more likely to understand the intentions and difficulties experienced in educating their child. Avoidance, “too busy” attitude, and resistance to facilitating access to the teacher can lead to an atmosphere or feelings of confrontation. We’re all on the same side. I hope that this “parent contract” addresses that.

    At the same time, I do appreciate that a teachers personal time needs to be respected. With some guidelines, I don’t see how this could not be overcome.

    I’m hearing the term “teacher bashing” thrown around. I think to have a discussion about how to improve CPS, existing problems with teachers, parents, students, policy, leaders, facilities, etc need to be raised. It’s all part of the process and teachers should not take general issues as a personal attack.

  • 122. magnet mom  |  May 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

    The school improvement plan for each school actually already has a part that is the parent compact which details the role of parents in their student’s achievement as defined by each school. this is written ideally by parents in the process of writing the improvement plan and is sent home before it is approved. So this is actually already kind of in place- it’s better than a school wide pledge because each school can tailor the compact to their individual school ie- if your school has and arts or science focus you can tune it so that your student is getting more exposure per the compact to these ideals. Has no one read these compacts at their own schools or helped write it?

  • 123. magnet mom  |  May 21, 2011 at 10:06 am

    oops sorry for the typos, thats an arts or science focus. check out your school improvement plan it should be in your school office ready to be read. Look under parent school compact- it also details the parent teacher relationship as per your school. If you read it this week and think it could use different language- that is you don’t like it -this is the season to change it and get the change approved by your LSC which approved it to start. Your school should have a SIPPAA committee that meets monthly to dicuss these issues that has parents teachers and administrators on it already.

  • 124. Grace  |  May 22, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I’ve seen a SIPAA, but never heard of a parent- school compact. Maybe I’m the only one?

  • 125. magnet mom  |  May 22, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Check out the improvement plan for your school. It’s in the early part of the plan – sort of the preamble. Everything in your school budget has to be tied to the school improvement plan so you want to really have read through your school’s whole plan and make sure you understand the goals it sets out. This is the second year of the 2010-2012 plan but they can be amended. If your school has an NCLB PAC and budget for parent involvement there are funds to be spent- though they should be spent by now for this year- purely for the development of your parent stakeholders- even to develop parent teacher partnerships as long as the finds include parents.

  • 126. płotki z plastyku panelowe  |  January 12, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    płotki z plastyku panelowe

    Rahm’s Education Platform (Guest Post by HSObsessed) | CPS Obsessed

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