NPN School Fair 2011

October 16, 2011 at 1:09 am 160 comments

I had a CPSObsessed table at the NPN (Neighborhood Parents Network) School Fair today and wanted to report back on some of the happening and my observations.

First, for anyone who has been to the crowded fair at school gyms or park buildings, the new location (which was an auto “multiplex”) near North and Clyborn was very cool and spacious (although parking is a drag.)  The fair was huge, mainly with private and religious schools exhibiting.  We had a small corner for about 10 CPS schools, an OEA booth, and an early childhood education booth.  Brizard showed up for a bit in an unofficial capacity dressed as an everyday day in jeans and a sweatshirt, looking very friendly, as usual.

I asked one of the NPN organizers why there were so few CPS schools and she said they make their best effort to contact as many as they can each year but few seem to respond.  So if you’re part of a friends-of group that is trying to promote their school’s attendance, it’s worth making sure that you get in touch with them. 

It was fun to meet lots of CPSO readers and to spread the word to new parents.  So if you see some new people on here, please be nice.  They’re just getting the hang of our beloved school system. 

I met Buena Park Mom and we talked abou the challenges of “turning around” some of the Uptown elementary schools that have a high transient or homeless population.  Tough job, indeed.  She would like to request that Mayfair Dad move into the neighborhood to help her out. 

Most of the parents I met have kids who are younger than PreK age but are starting to look.  I reassured many people that the school landscape has changed dramatically for elementary in the past 5 years and could continue to do so and the time frame until they have kids is high school is light years away.  So much can change, I hope, I hope.  But it was a good reminder of how many more elementary options there are that are really considered to be “good” schools now versus in the past.

I had one Dad ask me what my list of top 3 schools would be if I could choose any.  Tough question.  I think for every school that has been at the top of my list, I’ve met at least one family who left or really disliked the school.  And of course many schools that are under the radar that people really like.  It’s all so personal and each school has some pros and cons, typically.  If you have a Top 3 list, feel free to share. 

Some thoughts I had after 4 hours of talking about schools:

CPS needs to streamline the preK process like they’ve done with the elementary schools.  It feels so clunky, diffcult to apply to, and somewhat rogue.  

The name “Magnet Cluster” has got to go.  It purposefully confuses all new parents.

I like that we have a system-wide policy that prevents red-shirting as it takes out that decision for parents.

Living in a neighborhood that has a decent local school makes all the difference between intense panic and a more relaxed approach to figuring out schools.  I think that is the most major thing I would recommend to families settling in the city.  Easier said than done, of course.

The tour process is still so ineffiecient.  In *my* opinion, CPS should require all lottery and selective schools to attend their school fair (held earlier this month) so parents can effieciently get a sense of any school on the central application (other than open enrollment schools.)  Maybe parents still need to see the place in person, but the amount of time required to figure out how to select your 20 schools for your application seems daunting.

Speaking of the 20 schools you can apply to, I discussed it with one mom who has an organized list on her iPhone of her top schools and her backup schools.  It makes sense to include some “backups” which are up-and-coming neighborhood schools and/or large schools where your odds of getting in are better.  If you go for 20 low-odds magnets and open enrollments (a la Blaine, Burley, Nettelhorst) you may end up with nothing.  Less important if you have that good neighborhood school!

Overall it was a fun day.  Thanks for everyone who stopped by to say hi.  We have a lot more lurkers than you think….

Entry filed under: Applying to schools.

CPS and CTU need a time out New High School ACT Scores are out

160 Comments Add your own

  • 1. new parent  |  October 16, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I went to the NPN fair yesterday and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of schools there to sort through. I spent the entire time at the fair, going from booth to booth learning about each school and I must say, there was one school in the madness that stood out for me, head and shoulders, above the rest. I was actually quite surprised about my number one pick, but I am curious about what others who attended thought about Ravenswood. I was SO impresssed with the school and with the principal. At most booths, there wasn’t an administrator present, or if there was, they weren’t necesssarily welcoming or informative. The Ravenswood prinicpal was amazing, as was the teachers and parents helping people. As I walked away, I KNEW I had to see this school in action. As I was speaking with the principal at Ravenswood, Mr. Brizard tapped her on the shoulder, gave her a hug, and told me that he had just visited Ravenswood and that the school was amazing! He introduced the principal to his wife and then his wife said that they were looking for schools and that she wants to come tour Ravenswood. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

    I know that Ravenswood doesn’t have any special gifted or classical programs or anything, but I am so excited about this school AND as I walked around hearing other parents, many had the exact same feeling that I left their booth with. I can’t wait until I see it in action and I am also glad that my first pick is a CPS neighborhood school. I am just curious what others have heard or think about Ravenswood. Thoughts?

  • 2. Mayfair Dad  |  October 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I have a good friend who is active on the LSC and Friends Of organization at Ravenswood. Heather Connolly is one of those transformative principals that can turn a school around. Great things are happening. Parents are very involved so be ready to jump in feet first. They are following the Nettlehorst playbook, maybe even better than Nettlehorst!

  • 3. Paul  |  October 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    It was nice to meet you in person CPSObsessed. Thanks for all you do to keep the conversation going.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  October 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I met the Ravenswood Principal as well. I agree – it’s great to see an administrator who will come out to talk up the school and meet prospective parents.
    I think it’s definitely worth touring the school and for the north side would certainly be on my consideration list. It has somehow remained a little more “under the radar” than say Blaine, Nettelhorst, etc.but I tend to like the schools that have a sort of quiet following and can attract people from a moderate radius around the school. It would certainly be a good option for anyone in the Uptown area, as it’s pretty close.
    If you go on the school tour, let us know how it was. I toured the school, wow, must be around 5 years ago and it had a nice vibe. With the new admin and a lot of new teachers, it’s worth a visit.

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  October 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Are you guys seeing an advertisement on here? I logged on as not-myself and was surprised to see a video ad….

  • 6. CityMom  |  October 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t see any ads…

  • 7. Daddy of Zane  |  October 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    It was great to meet you too! We enjoyed speaking to several CPS principals at the event, especially Ravenswood, CICS Irving Park, and North River. But it seemed that the CPS participants were pitching their tuition-based pre-K programs more than their K-8 curriculum.

    We spoke with the principal at Audubon and learned that although they’re in the Options for Knowledge Guide for 2012-2013, they don’t plan to admit any students from outside the attendance area except for siblings of current students. This begs the question of why they’re in the OFK Guide in the first place. So one definite takeaway for us is we’ll plan to contact each individual school for our list of 20 to make sure they have room for students outside the attendance area, otherwise, why waste a spot?

    I found a CPS report yesterday and it might be another useful tool in gauging whether a school will be accepting students from outside their attendance area. It’s a study showing % of space utilization for each elementary school. It’s a year old now, so not something to rely upon by itself, but you can look at it and see why Wildwood (88% of capacity) is telling prospective K parents that they only will be taking siblings next fall:

    Click to access Elementary_School_Space_Report.pdf

  • 8. cps grad  |  October 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    I see the ad…

  • 9. NPN parent  |  October 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Wow! I met the Ravneswood principal as well. Very refreshing! I went onto the Ravenswood website (apparently they are redoing their site so it is not completely loaded with content) but found some GREAT video clips about the school. I have a friend who attends there and said that the entire staff is working together and great things are happening. She said that Mrs. Connolly is the real deal and that they are so happy. By the way— my friend moved her children from Blaine to Ravenswood and said that she felt that the instruction given to students was way better at Ravenswood! It will be good to keep an eye on this school.

  • 10. anonymous  |  October 17, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Saturday was the Jones College Prep Open House and Sunday the Whitney Young Open House. Line around the block for both, as expected. Both principals seem great and the teachers I spoke with were exceptional.

  • 11. anonymous  |  October 17, 2011 at 9:42 am

    New questions to ask at open houses or on school tours:

    1. What budget and staff cuts have occurred or do you believe will occur?
    2. Have class sizes gone up?

  • 12. CPSDepressed  |  October 17, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Heh. @11, the better question may be, how many teachers is your fundraising program paying for, and what is the average contribution per family?

  • 13. RL Julia  |  October 17, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I think that CPS schools tend not to show up for these events because most of them (that parents are interested in) don’t have enrollment problems – if anything they are oversubscribed -also as you noted, most of the families at these event have younger kids and in most cases, CPS early childhood/kindergarten programs are notoriously unstably funded.

  • 14. klm  |  October 17, 2011 at 10:44 am

    OK. I know I’ll be considered a “Debbie the Downer” here, but if Ravenswood seems so great, what’s up with its low test scores? I know tests are not everything and “low score” schools can turn into “high score” schools (a la Blaine, Nettelhorst, etc.), but the % of kids at Ravenswood (as of most recent published data) that are below and WAY below standard seems off-putting. Compare it to Blaine or Lincoln (or most suburban schools) and it seems pretty concerning.

    Also, a classmate (parents are city-loving, open-minded counter-culture types –not super judgemental yuppies looking for a ‘super school’ for their coddled darling) from my DC’s RGC started at Ravenswood for Kindergarten. Many/most kids were still learning their 1-20 numbers and letters, some even their colors. The kids that were starting to read were totally bored. They were very hopeful and eager, early Ravenswood boosters, etc., but ultimately felt very let down by the school’s “below grade” academic levels. One of the parents is a teacher in the suburbs and seems to know about these things –she mentioned how when neighborhood school CPS kids (even ones with OK grades) transfer to her school, they are typically 1-2 grades behind (she said she admits this to few people and is not the sort of person who gloats about Chicago-related issues –a true fan of rasing kids in Chicago is she!), so they really felt compelled to think of other options.

    Go ahead and throw stones. I can take it. However, when even the pro-typical open-minded, “urban hip” diversity-loving, muliticultural family that’s looking and wanting a CPS neighborhod school education for their child has serious problems with a school’s level of academic achievement it kinda’ gives one pause. Also, before people say, “Yes, but their child was GIFTED –of course she was bored!”, let me say that they also said a few other “regular” kids from academically-minded families left the school, having the same concerns.

    Don’t get me wrong –God knows I want to be proven wrong, but I’m just throwing out an experience of a family that I’ve become close to. Plus, the above-mentioned ISAT scores are hardly good news. Things can change quickly and it seems like Ravenswood’s Principal is a gem. Please, let’s all hopefully be talking in a few years about how Ravenswood is “bursting” because so many families are moving into its attendance zone (again, a la Blaine and Lincoln)!

  • 15. anonymous  |  October 17, 2011 at 11:15 am

    klm — i like it when you train your gimlet eye on puffery.

  • 16. anonymous  |  October 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

    An interesting post on how a great school follows a scripted curriculum in the tested subjects..

  • 17. cps Mom  |  October 17, 2011 at 11:28 am

    @14 – checked it out. Scores not horrible but show increase over 3 years. Math has broken the 80% mark. If I were looking now they could make my list if they can show a workable program on the rise with a plan for differentiation.

  • 18. 2nd grade parent of twins  |  October 17, 2011 at 11:36 am

    KLM, every school has started somewhere and I KNOW that great things are happening at Ravenswood. I see it with every time my child brings home work from this school. I have one student at Edison in the Gifted program and the other at Ravenswood. Ravenswood it teaching independent thinking and Edison is feeding my son more and more worksheets. I have seen much more critical thinking skills with Ravenswood than this “gifted” school. We are absolutely 100% happy with Ravenswood AND if you aren’t here, you can’t really tell me anything otherwise. The scores are from a school who was severely out of compliance in many areas before Ms. Connolly came and, as a result, we are still working out of this with children in our testing grades who are behind. BUT… if you look at our primary kids who are doing DIBELS and the other assessments in the non-testing grades, you will see that we are just as high as the other schools around us. Give us time. Your stone-throwing is not nice, especially if you aren’t here. You are merely using hearsay to get your points. Come and check it out and you will see what is really happening. Consequently, we are moving our twin at Gifted to Ravenswood next year so that he can learn how to think independently like his sister who is currently there. If I wanted him to do worksheets to learn, I could have gone to Target and got workbooks myself!

  • 19. RL Julia  |  October 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Glad to hear of another opinion – however, I did find it ironic that you sang Ravenswood’s praises all the while criticizing another school.(nevermind discounting klm’s opinion (not “stone throwing”) – which she offered practically begging to be proven wrong).

  • 20. CPSDepressed  |  October 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Ravenswood has a complicated history. There was some big issue with the LSC firing a principal a few years back. I don’t know all the details, but that may be behind some of the polarized opinions.

  • 21. Mayfair Dad  |  October 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    @ 20 & others: I won’t go into the Erin Roche saga here, but it was a very difficult time at Ravenswood.

    Test scores are disappointing, but scores probably lag a year or two behind the positive changes being implemented. They are already on the rise (as another poster pointed out) and I would expect this trend to continue.

    klm, you can train your gimlet eye on my puffery anytime. If anyone is curious about Ravenswood, call up the principal, schedule a visit and make up your own mind. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

  • 22. jjjs  |  October 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Some thoughts we need to impart on people:

    1. Black and Hispanic kids don’t bite

    2. CPS should get out of the Pre-K business in areas where the schools are already overcrowded (see South Loop)

    3. The name “Magnet Cluster” has got to go. It purposefully confuses all new parents.

    4. Living in a neighborhood that has a decent local school makes all the difference between intense panic and a more relaxed approach to figuring out schools. I think that is the most major thing I would recommend to families settling in the city. Easier said than done, of course.

    5. The tour process is still so ineffiecient. In *my* opinion, CPS should require all lottery and selective schools to attend their school fair (held earlier this month) so parents can effieciently get a sense of any school on the central application (other than open enrollment schools.)

    6. If you haven’t toured it you can’t apply.

    7. CPS should charge a (small) fee for the application and for each school applied to. We all know people who apply to places (read McDade) that they aren’t taking their kids to even though it is one of the best schools in the city.

  • 23. old irving preschool mom  |  October 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Mayfair Dad and others–thanks for the helpful (and encouraging) information about Ravenswood. I had initially “written off” the school due to the low test scores, but gained hope after I spoke with the principal at the NPN school fair. This school is back on my list for further consideration.

    For up and coming schools, I take the test scores with a grain of salt. It seems that recruiting of the transformative families takes place at K or 1st grade, and the test scores only reflect the older kids (3rd grade and up?). So, it takes some time for test scores to reflect a change in the school. Knowing that the change in principal is fairly recent may help explain some of that.

    On another note, Mayfair Dad, is there anyway I can talk to you briefly (or longer) off-line? It’s about CPS stuff in the area. If so, please e-mail me at Thanks!

    (CPS-Crazed) Old Irving Preschool Mom (longtime & frequent lurker, first-time poster)

  • 24. Love Mayfair dad  |  October 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Mayfair dad when will you have a booth at a school fair?

  • 25. CPSDepressed  |  October 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    One reason I am so depressed about CPS is that the secret to raising test scores seems to be to attract the “right” (which coincidentally rhymes with “white”) families to a school, rather than to, say, do a better job of educating the kids who are already there.

    That’s also why the “your kid will do fine anywhere” argument bothers me. I expect schools to add value.

  • 26. RL Julia  |  October 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I am with you CPSDepressed -sometimes it seems that way – however, I can think of any number of examples of schools who are doing well test-score wise and whose “value added” scores are always improving that aren’t super rich – Chopin and Murphy maybe Cleveland, Patrick Henry and Jahn all come to mind but I am sure there are more out there.

  • 27. klm  |  October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm


    I totally agree that the idea of “your child will do fine if you’re a ‘good family’ that reads and goes to museums’ no matter what the school your kids attend”, is total B.S. Only somebody that has never attended Ghetto public schools (as I have) would say such a thing –kinda’ like how only people that grew up upper-middle-class or above households seem convinced that money ifoesn’t matter in life (what a luxury it is to be able to think in such a way!). Anybody who’s even been poor would always disagree (welfare Christmas, anybody?). Perhaps a bright child will do fine for a few years, but eventually the absense of a “value added” education will keep anybody down, no matter how high their I.Q. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

    But also, I disagree with the racial premise. We all know that there’s more poor black people than white people in Chicago, but race is NOT destiny. As I mentioned before on this site (again, sorry to get too personal), I (a white person) grew up in a ghetto housing project and later a trailer park. My spouse grew in an an upper-middle class household (a physician and a college professor as parents) in an idealic college town, went to a prep school in New England (I swear to God), an Ivy League college, etc. –our socioeconomic backgrounds are almost a comedic spin on race and class as traditionally defined in America.

    Why is it when “achievement” and “test scores” come up certain people automatically assume it’s a white/asian vs. black/latino thing? I have many African-American relatives that are slaves of test scores and want only the best educational institutions for their kids –why wouldn’t they? Is this only supposed to matter whites and asians?

    What’s up with the whole assumption that “achievement” or “right” as you put it is code word for “white”?

    Do you honest-to-God think non-Asian/non-white parents don’t care as much about these things as white or asian people? Ok, I know that’s not what you were saying, but it could seem that way.

    As we’ve discussed on this site many times, there’s a (sadly) real American achievement gap between white/asian kids and black/hispanics kids, overall –sad but true fact. However, it’s not specific to households or varying socioeconomic groups within each race.

    Sorry for coming down do hard, but be the parent of A-A kids has made me a little sensitive to (well-meaning) white and other people that seem to believe achievement, test scores, etc., are by definition more of a “white” or “asian” thing than a “black” or “hispanic” thing and feel good about puffering about how “diversity” should mean accepting a cartain amount of “lower standards”. Why? Who’s being prejudiced here?

  • 28. CPSDepressed  |  October 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I absolutely believe that parents of all colors care about test scores, and I absolutely believe that kids of any color can do well in school. What bothers me is that whenever people talk about “improving” a school, it’s seems like it’s always about how to get the white families in. And that seriously disturbs me.

    I’ve seen a few of these elementary school turnarounds over the years. And to a one, at least on the North Side, it involves replacing poor brown kids with rich white ones. Blaine, Burley, Nettlehorst? Yep. The plans for turning around Hamilton, Prescott, Ravenswood, and Lake View? Yep.

    Although I am very white, it pisses me off as a Chicagoan who wants all the schools to improve. I’m disgusted whenever someone tells me not to worry about the test scores at a school because they will change as soon as the “better” kids start attending.

    The achievement gap is real, but it’s wrong. We’d all be better off if CPS addressed that instead of trying to raise scores by bringing in the white kids.

  • 29. anonymous  |  October 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    #11, schools can’t really say what cuts will happen. Only central office really knows that and even they don’t until money comes through from the state or feds (or doesn’t come through).
    I would expect that next year class sizes will go up. The economy isn’t getting better and with no balance of power with the new contract, I fully expect bigger class sizes. And principals have been knows to greatly under-report their class sizes to prospective parents or newly hired teachers. Haha.
    Of course, I am coming from the perspective of watching the speech therapist sit in the hallway on the floor with students because there is nowhere else to put them and from talking to my friend who teaches on the west side with 37 first graders and not even a part time assistant. (she’s fabulous and she’s quitting at the end of the year) That might have something to do with largely minority schools doing poorly. When you have no parent group to raise funds to pay for more teachers and the state won’t/can’t pay more to hire more teachers, 37 in a room is not atypical. Parents can care all they want, but if there is no $$, its hard to be successful. You can’t differentiate or do small reading groups with 37. You can do a lot of worksheets though.

  • 30. Ravenswoodmom  |  October 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    For those above impressed by Heather Connolly from Ravenswood, as well as the teachers and parents from that school present at the NPN, you are right to be! Ms. Connolly has done a fantastic job implementing positive instructional changes, hiring teachers who can teach kids at all levels (whether they are average, high, or low performing), and creating a consistent approach to learning. 18 is right to say that Ravenswood encourages kids to be active participants in their education. They learn to ask questions and engage in conversations with the teacher and each other. This is our 6th year at Ravenswood and the school just keeps getting better. Ms. Connolly and the parents are committed to keeping the class sizes as small as possible, because it’s best for being able to differentiate and provide the best possible learning experience. And, she’s committed to using resources as smartly as possible. I’m grateful that my children have had small classes, great teachers, and continue to receive art, music, gym, and now drama.

    As for test scores, it is still a school in transition. It still has a very diverse population, both ethnically and social-economically, which is something that it values. There is a large percentage of ESL/ELL students and it has a higher than usual amount of students with IEPs, particularly in the higher grades, because it has such an awesome special ed department. All of these things factor into how the test scores look. The school has seen steady gains, though, and I think it will continue to do so.

    In the end, choosing a school is such a personal decision. All I know is that, even through all the ups and downs that Ravenswood has experienced since my family has been there, it has always been a great place for my kids to learn. And, it has never been better than it is right now. It’s a second home for my kids, and the teachers really care. I know that my kids are challenged every day and they’ve learned critical thinking skills I don’t think they would have learned in some other places. But, every family has to find the place that feels right for them.

  • 31. cps Mom  |  October 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    @18 – As an outsider, I think your comments about “critical thinking” are interesting. Having twins, would present a unique perspective when comparing 2 schools. Having a child in a HS that emphasizes critical thinking, I totally see advantages to this type of learning. Working in groups to brain storm and problem solve also helps create a smaller classroom atmosphere because the teacher can strategically mix kids by skill and oversee 5 or so groups at a time. Interesting that you are willing to place both kids at the neighborhood program. That said, being only 1.5 months into the year – don’t rush to judgement on your well earned placement in RGC.

    What makes a school great? White and Black would probably say a diverse population. Cultural and academic education create a healthier perspective as evidenced at Young, Jones, Jackson, LaSalle, Skinner, Odgen, Lincoln Park and many of the centrally located schools.

  • 32. anonymous  |  October 18, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Alexander Russo said 12 hours, 14 minutes ago

    i’m told via Capitol Fax that Stuart Levine testified this morning in the Bill Cellini corruption trial that he also paid bribes more than 10 times to the Chicago Board of Education to get contracts for a bus company.

    anyone know who’s in charge of bus contracts these days?

  • 33. | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS  |  October 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    […] NPN School Fair 2011 CPS Obsessed:  The name “Magnet Cluster” has got to go.  It purposefully confuses all new parents. […]

  • 34. klm  |  October 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

    OK, I’m gonna’ go ahead and throw out some statistics for some of the schools being discussed here –partly to defend myself, but mostly to enlighten and give more food for thought. Using the “Illinois Interactive Report Card” (fantastic free resource) I checked out ISAT scores for 3 CPS schools discussed above: Ravenswood, Edison Regional Gifted and Lincoln. Just for fun, I threw in the Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth (the richest suburb I could think of). All these ISAT stats are for 2010/last year and I chose 3rd and 8th grade since they are the 1st and last year for which students are tested at each respective school (roughly the beginning and end points):


    Ravenswood (3rd grade/8th grade -% in each category)

    EXCEEDS 17/9 26/17 4/2

    MEETS 29/67 37/59 46/67

    BELOW 46/24 26/24 43/26

    WARNING 9/0 11/0 7/5

    Edison Regional Gifted

    E 83/67 77/90 40/67

    M 17/33 23/10 60/27

    B 0 0 0

    W 0 0 0


    E 63/42 77/61 16/36

    M 34/49 23/10 60/27

    B 0 0 0/7

    W 0 0 0


    E 72/26 87/69 18/23

    M 27/68 13/28 66/76

    B 2/7 0/3 15/1

    W 0 0 1/0

    From these above stats, I don’t think my questions about Ravenswood came out nowhere. This is just a snap shot, but don’t tell me there’s no reason to think twice.

    Again, I know ISAT scores are not everything, but having spent K-8 in inner-city public schools myself (and having suffered academically for it (my academically rigorous Catholic HS was at first a scholastic shock [and I was a straight-A student K-8]) I’m a little gun-shy about putting 100% faith in a low-performing school just because the place seems nice.

    Obviously, where one sends one’s kids the school is a highly personal choice, but isn’t the most important thing for kids to be actually learning (the foremention ‘value added’)?

  • 35. klm  |  October 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Sorry. I just looked at my own post and the stats aren’t very easy to decipher, but I hope people get my point.

  • 36. cpsobsessed  |  October 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Just curious why you’d include a test-in school to compare to. Who knows what they’re added value is given their pool of students?
    I’d find it more compelling to compare to other neighborhood schools with a similar socio-econ distribution. It took nettelhorst a pretty long time to finally see the good bump in test scores.
    Ideally we could compare to the schools that have the same soc-ec makep for grades 3-5 (the test grades) but that’s not available.

    I do think that asking about the scores is a perfectly valid question for the tour. Also, I know the new ravenswood principal said her staff will be something like 80 percent her own hires by next year. In cps it can take time to get the pieces in place, there’s no denying that. I don’t think any principal could make a big change in test scores within one year, possibly not even 2.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 37. cps Mom  |  October 18, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Couple comments on the stats above. (1) 2011 numbers take a jump up so looking at 2010 does not really give a full picture and (2) 3rd grade reading scores would provoke some questions from me.

    Would I consider this school over an already established high performing magnet or RGC program that given my location (northside, no proximity options, miniscule chance of getting in ) – probably not. Would I consider over my neighborhood school that I am shocked to see actually scores higher – probably yes.

  • 38. KS  |  October 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

    @36 I think klm compared Edison to Ravenswood because @18 said that they preferred Ravenswood so much that would would be moving their child from Edison to Ravenswood next year to join their sibling. I am not sure why they are waiting. If they really feel so strongly, they could move today and free up the Edison space for another family who actually wanted to be there.

  • 39. cps-mom to be  |  October 18, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I was at the fair on Saturday and was very pleased with the new venue. Although parking was a bummer, it was an issue at the previous location, as well. I met with several principals; Audubon, Ravenswood and Newberry to name a few. All were very positive represenatives for their schools and communities. How exciting to speak with enthusiatic administrators willing to come out on a Saturday to connect with perspective parents! Now, if we only get lucky enough to be selected for one of these schools…

  • 40. cpsobsessed  |  October 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Ah, got it. I read all the posts on my blackberry so I missed that.

    I don’t think the rgc’s tend to fill spots midyear. Or maybe they don’t do it past a certain point around late fall…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  October 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I get the idea that one wouldn’t want to pin their hopes on a school with nice parents and a principal who’s a good talker. I’m a dat person, so I get it.
    Unfortunately, to get to the point we’re at today where there are quite few neighborhood schools where “education-oriented” parents can feel decent about sending their kids has taken quite a few leaps of faith. Nettelhorst probably being the most famous and at-the-time possibly risky endeavor.

    I just hate to discourage parents from taking that leap if they’ve done due diligence because without those parents we’re going to remain stuck with very few “good” options. High school is the next frontier for leap-taking.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 42. junior  |  October 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

    After reading some of these comments, , I thought I’d look back at how I would evaluate elementary schools if I had to do it all over again. FWIW, here’s my take…

    –Test scores say more about caliber of the student at the school than the caliber of the school. Don’t confuse “high test scores” with “good school” — they are not at all the same. Likewise, do not confuse “low test scores” with “bad school”. While there may be a some correlation, don’t make the mistake of simply sending your kid to the school with the highest test scores. According to studies, there is some value to sending a child into an educational environment that is a little above his/her abilities, as those children can and do “stretch” their abilities.

    –“Value added” scores can give a little better indication of the school/teacher quality — these can be found here:

    Both of those measure are necessary to give you a fuller picture of the school, but both are also limited. Also, if you expect that your child will be on the higher-achieving end of the spectrum, then you want to look at the % of kids in the “exceeds standards” category — if there are enough high-achieving peers, then the school should be able to meet their needs; but if there are very few, then you might be concerned that the school will simply be teaching to the middle and an exceptional child will be bored.

    On the other hand, I’d advise you to take both of those measures with a grain of salt and dig deeper into the school culture to find out how content the children and parents are. Here’s my list of questions I’d use to evaluate a school. (I would suspect that positive answers to these questions correspond more closely to high value-added scores than ISAT scores do):

    –Ask people what are the main problems facing the school and what processes they will use to solve them.
    –What are the curriculum focuses of the school? What enrichment options are offered? How often do the kids take PE? How much emphasis is placed on homework/testing?
    –How much is instruction differentiated for different abilities?
    –Ask about the people who have left the school — what were their reasons for leaving?
    –Does your child have special needs and will they be met?
    –What is the state of resources at the school? What items are sacrificed for lack of resources? Is there much parent fundraising?
    –Are the teachers happy? Are there many “bad apples” in the teacher ranks? Has there been much turnover? (Turnover can be a bad or good thing, depending on if it’s the principal cleaning house, or if it’s the teachers fleeing a bad principal).
    –How much time is currently allotted to the kids for lunch and recess? What are the school hours? How will the hours and content of the school day change if and when the CPS longer day is implemented?
    –How extensive are student discipline issues, and how does the school actively discourage bullying and foster positive student culture?
    –What after-school/before-school/enrichment/curriculum options are available?
    –How diverse is the school? Does the school have a strong racial/ethnic/class identity and will your child fit comfortably?
    –Does the school leadership have a vision and is the leadership stable? What is the school’s track record on parental involvement/empowerment? Does the LSC provide strong parental voices, or is it a rubber-stamp for the administration?
    –Read the school’s SIPAAA plan. Is it thoughtful and coherent, or did they just go through the motions?
    –Trust your gut — what is that initial impression/mood when you walk into the school? Are people happy to be there or would they rather be anywhere but there?

    Finally, if you think that your child will be much better off in a magnet school versus their neighborhood school, please consider that a very large and robust study of Chicago magnet schools showed that children who “win” a magnet lottery do not score significantly higher than those who don’t win the lottery and wind up in neighborhood schools. If you’re choosing a magnet school solely to improve your child’s academic performance, you may want to reconsider.

  • 43. HSObsessed  |  October 18, 2011 at 11:24 am

    There’s some discussion above about how much a school is contributing to a child’s education, given their socioeconomic background, and that’s what value-added scores (VAS) measure. This is a new thing CPS has done for the last four years. I went on the CPS website and saw that they have posted new scores, for 2011, and even combined the scores from 2010 and 2011 so you can compare the change from one year to the next.

    I highly recommend you read at least a little of the background info at the link below before you delve into the data because it will make more sense. However, in a nutshell, VAS compare how a school’s population does on the ISAT test from one year to the next, and controls for factors that are known to affect test results, like gender, race, low income levels, ELL population, even mobility. So even a school with high levels of low-income, ELL, etc. and “bad” ISAT scores can have a good VAS because they are nonetheless showing gains in children from year to year in spite of all the hurdles they face.

    I find these numbers fascinating and much more interesting than pure ISAT scores. Here’s the link to the info to help you understand the numbers:

    To see the results for all schools citywide, it’s in a large Excel file which you can see if you click on the following link, then go to School Level Value Added Scores 2010 and 2011:

  • 44. HSObsessed  |  October 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Ha, junior, jinx on the value added scores. You’ll see what I mean once CPSObsessed approves my pending comment (needs approval due to embedded links).

  • 45. klm  |  October 18, 2011 at 11:50 am


    I included Edison because there was a parent here with a child there that was thinking of transferring him/her to Ravenswood (the difference in ISAT scores between those 2 schools really was an eye-opener, I believe) . Obviously, a school where kids have to score high on an ability test in order to enroll is hardly a very fair comparison point, but it’s interesting to see what a CPS school can be, I think.

    Again, I understand the point of comparing schools socioecomically, but why should there be an “apples vs. oranges” discussion when it come to kids’ educations? Do we really want to say, “Wow, that school’s scores are good for a place with lots on non-Asian/non-White kids…or these kids are smart for LOW-INCOME kids! –not smart like white kids in Kenilworth or Lincoln Park, but for GHETTO kids, they’re collectively only 1 or 2 grades behind –WOW!”

    I KNOW THAT”S NOT AT ALL WHAT YOU MEANT, but here again, why does socioeconomic diversity have to mean “lowering expectations” on or being “open-mindedly realistic” on order to compare schools “fairly”? I understand the reasons the “achievement gap” (which we’ve discussed ad nauseum here in the past, me more than anybody) is real and will obviously skew scores up or down, depending on racial/socioeconomic makeup.

    However, from personal and anecdotal experience I know how important high standards and high expectations are to one’s schooling and consequential life experience. The academic “culture” of a school means alot. Nobody is going to convince me that going to school where 50%+ of students are below-grade is not going to be all that different to one where vitually 100% are above or WAY above grade level. Really, how could it be? Here again, I’m not talking diversity or socioeconomics but measureable ACHIEVEMENT, LEARNING, etc. –isn’t that what school’s for?

    We all know how important it is to be educated and have the “right” skills in this winner/loser economic climate. It’s no longer OK just to go the college, but the “right” college, engineerging majors have better prospects than “soft” science majors, law firms advertise for applicants from “Top 20 law schools,only please”, etc. God knows I wish this weren’t all true, but anybody that reads newspapers or knows somebody that is unemployed/underemployed and looking for a “decent” middle-class-with-benefits job knows how tough it can be with the “wrong” skill sets. We all know people with B.A.’s and sometimes even graduate degrees that are barely making it and have to work at whatever job is there –restaurants, Home Depot, whatever,,,, etc. But I’ve never heard of a long-term unemployed pharmacist, physician or nurse practitione –but these jobs require knowledge that starts early and goes on to through competetive-admissions grad schools.

    Why is it that living the city we are supposed to have different/lower expectations about our public schools than people in Kenilworth, or at least try and be more “realistic” about our non-SE public schools?

    My own kids are A-A. I won’t for a moment accept the idea that any school with lots of kids that look like them should be forgiven for its lower ISAT scores because it’s not “nice” to justify certain kinds of high standards for anybody that is ipso fact “disadvantaged” for not being white/asian or middle-class. Why should anybody?

    Bottom line: Yes, I’ll judge a schoool heavily by its ISAT scores and doing so makes me, I believe a realistic, concerned, loving parent that wants what’s best for my kids, not some narrow-minded, middle-class china doll that wants to live in the city, but is too high-faluttin’ and oblivious to reality to accept a certain level of “realistic” accomodation for urban schools’ overall lower level of achievement.

    End of long-winded diatribe.

  • 46. RL Julia  |  October 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – ISAT score provide and interesting snapsnot of the school’s population but for the most part, I think it is helpful to look at the the exceeds population -if there are kids in that category it indicates a teacher who is capable of teaching to that child (in some manner). It is your job (particularly in the early grades) to make sure that your child is that child. As someone who has children in an academic center (well known) and a neighborhood school (under the radar -largely because of the test scores) I am coming to the concolustion that the neighborhood school was academically stronger in many way – although the academic center has better resources (and a largely more affluent student body to draw from).

  • 47. Gunnery Sgt Hartman  |  October 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    “Although I am very white, it pisses me off as a Chicagoan who wants all the schools to improve. I’m disgusted whenever someone tells me not to worry about the test scores at a school because they will change as soon as the “better” kids start attending”

    The % of white people in Chicago is around 30%. The % of white students in the CPS is 8%. That’s a disgrace. The fact is, that unless the white community buys into public education in the schools.then things won’t get better. Sorry, but in this case, having those northside schools populated by the kids of professional white and asian parent will lift the entire school system, instead of having it treated as a dumping ground for minorities. By the way, many of the northside elementary schools were busing kids in from out of the area simply to keep them open – these weren’t even the neighborhood schools for many of the kids, just a disconnected place to send kids and keep schools open.

    I won’t feel guilty about what happens in schools on the westside or southside because my kids are white and will go to one of the better neighborhood schools. I’ll be putting my time and, yes, money into the neighborhood school my kids attend, and if the black and hipsanic kids are along for the ride, all the better.

  • 48. RL Julia  |  October 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I think you are confusing the word white with economically affluent in this case Gunnery Sgt Hartman. What makes a school more successful is having parents who collectively have connections (to people with power and money), resources, money and the time and inclination to commit to improving a/the school, not their race.

    It just so happens that in Chicago those things are (more) associated with the northside of the city and with (to some apparently) whiteness – however they really should never be confused.

  • 49. Bookie  |  October 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    klm: You might like Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem:

  • 50. Downtown Dad  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    KLM, what’s up your butt about Ravenswood? What is with your pre-occupation with this school in particular? To compare it to a Kenilworth school? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    Thank you CPSObsessed for making the point that without parents willing to take a risk on an innovative new principal — where would we be???

  • 51. klm  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Bookie: Thanks for tip! I downloaded a sample on my Kindle per your suggestion. Many similarities –growing up white in the 1970s ghetto, etc. Thank, again.

  • 52. ExCPSmomba  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    “The % of white people in Chicago is around 30%. The % of white students in the CPS is 8%. That’s a disgrace. The fact is, that unless the white community buys into public education in the schools.then things won’t get better.”
    The white people are tired of “buying in” to a system that spits at them for high school — read Tier system. Sure, some of the grammar schools are good, but not enough. Why would anyone buy into this sytem if they don’t have to??????

  • 53. junior  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    @52 ExCPSmomba

    Hey, “momba”,

    Who died and elected you the voice of white people? I must have missed that meeting.

    Last time I checked, the Tier system eliminated race as a factor in admissions determination.

    >>”Why would anyone buy into this sytem if they don’t have to??????”

    Sad that you don’t see that as anything but a rhetorical question. I’d say that’s an impoverished perspective, just not impoverished in a way that would get you into the high school you wanted.

  • 54. CPSDepressed  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Well, it all boils down to CPS being difficult to navigate, and the rules change at high school in part because CPS has not done a good job of improving its high schools, and that pits people against each other in really unfortunate ways. Also, peer groups are a huge issue in high school, so the “your children will do fine anywhere” argument is even harder to take.

    The tier system officially eliminated race as a factor, but the unfortunate reality about Chicago is the the wealthier neighborhoods are more likely to be white than the less wealthy neighborhoods, and CPS graduates from Tier 4 are more likely to compete against well-prepared private school kids for those few slots. That makes for a lot of stress.

    The solution is better schools for all kids, and I wish there were more focus on that. Given how broke government is at every level, it may just be a sad wish.

  • 55. ExCPSmomba  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    54 — exactly!

  • 56. cps Mom  |  October 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    KLM – I was following you (at least your line of thinking) up until the college thing. Not that I would snub an east coast high profile school, but it is not the be all end all. We must be reading different newspapers. I have seen such articles as “on line degrees with big pay-offs”, “Students from top colleges not getting jobs”, “Young people in debt more than market wage can support”, ….. and so forth. Historically, lawyers have needed to be in the top of the class and attend a top law school to get a job with a large law firm or fortune 500 company but that does not keep the John Marshall grad from earning big bucks especially in this economy. Yes the health care industry is doing fine and all those medical assistants from Robert Morris are gainfully employed. The thriving tech industry may opt for the DeVry candidate over the top dollar MIT person. Steve Jobs not only didn’t finish college, he barely started.

    Of course I think a kid should do their best and reach for the stars but the path after high school is multi-faceted. In the game of life, the university label and GPA don’t stick with a person long. I do agree they can get you in the door but no guarantees that you will stay or be replaced by a lesser schooled but more experienced person.

  • 57. junior  |  October 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you for clarifying that you were speaking for *rich* people, not *white* people when you used the word *white*.

  • 58. CPSDepressed  |  October 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Spoaking only for myself: I’m was not speaking of rich people, I was speaking of white people, although in Chicago, they are often the same.

    I think there is an enormous amount of racism in CPS and in Chicago in general, and it is wrong to ignore it. There is an enormous achievement gap, too, which is also wrong, but it is real. And we can pussyfoot around it, or we can just admit to the problem and then deal with it.

    When Blaine, Burley, Nettlehorst, Hamilton, Prescott, Ravenswood, and Lake View talk about getting the “right” families, they are talking about white families, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. It’s easier to raise test scores in a school by bringing in children who test well (and cultural biases in standardized testing is also a real phenomenon) than by doing a better job with the kids who are currently enrolled. We’re supposed to be impressed that the Latino kids at Lake View average an 18 on the ACT, not upset. The ESL students everyone complains about, who drag down the test scores in the upper grades? They ain’t from Serbia.

    School reform in Chicago has been primarily about getting white families back into CPS. That is wrong, in my opinion, but it is the reality.

    I’m not knocking anyone of any race, I’m knocking the dismal state of Chicago Public Schools and of American education policy more generally. I hope that’s clear.

  • 59. Mayfair Dad  |  October 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    @ 24. I’m game, as long as Grace agrees to do it with me, with special guest appearances by RL Julia, Junior and CPSDepressed. It would be a hoot.

  • 60. James Gray  |  October 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    CPS Depressed

    As the principal of Hamilton Elementary I strongly disagree with your comments about my school. I can assure you no one at Hamilton has ever uttered the phrase ‘right families’ in the two plus years I have been principal.

    We are committed to enrolling a diverse student body and are proud to be one of the most diverse neighborhood schools in Chicago. Our students come from families of all religions, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

    From our website:

    Q: What are the demographics of your school?

    A: 39% of our students are white, 35% are Hispanic, 16% are African-American, 5% are Asian and Pacific Islander, 4% are Multi-Racial and <1% are American Indian.

    I am happy to address any questions you have personally. Please call me at 773.534.5484 or email me at You are welcome to visit Hamilton for a personal tour to see the great things all of our students are doing.

    James Gray
    Hamilton Elementary

  • 61. anonymous  |  October 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Added to the questions that Junior poses, I’d add this one:
    What percentage of your students go on to the top 5 SEHS’s (not just SEHS’s in general, because many elementary schools include Von Steuben and Mather in those simply because they have a stanine of 5 cutoff). I’d ask for this information in writing, if the school is willing to put it in writing. Anything that is not in writing, I’d consider suspect.
    Another good sign would be to personally ask teachers where their own children attend. Unless a school is jam packed, most neighborhood schools will make room for a teacher’s child. I know there has been changes regarding teachers’ kids and magnet schools, but not so much for neighborhood schools.
    I’d also say, please understand that neither principals nor teachers are actually going to be honest with you about many of Junior’s questions. No school is going to be honest with you about their behavior issues, teacher turnover, or honestly speak about differentiation (that one varies widely by teacher and school). You might get some pedagogical speech, but I’d highly doubt you will find out reality. I’d advise talking to a current parent who has sent their kid to the school AT LEAST 5 years to get a snapshot of those questions. (The very best way to find out what is really happening in a school is to have a friend who works in the building.) Re: special needs, I’d definitely ask where sped kids are serviced. I’d ask to SEE the room. Many times sped happens in hallways or closets. You do not want this. Be wary of what schools report as class size. Especially if they state numbers under 28. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it is not.
    I know I sound paranoid. I am just putting out there what I have seen happen and what my colleagues have seen happen over many years in many different schools.

  • 62. cps Mom  |  October 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    If you are going to ask about % of kids who get into SE you would also need to ask how many kids in these northside schools regardless of race or income are in tier 4. This question may not be a good gauge of the school.

  • 63. anonymous  |  October 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    @62, good point. That would also be good information to have.

  • 64. happy at hamilton  |  October 18, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    As a parent of a child at Hamilton in the lower grades, I too would like to address the minority comment above. My dd’s class has several African-Americans, several Hispanics and a couple of Asian children.

  • 65. RealityMom  |  October 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    61 – Teachers only bring their own kids to really good CPS grammar schools — we all know which ones. Most teachers send their kids to suburban grammar schools because that’s where the teachers live. Residency does not apply to most of the older teachers ones and many lie about their addresses. They won’t send thier kids to CPS schools — just like Mayors Daley and Rahm. P R I V A T E

  • 66. CPSDepressed  |  October 19, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Is Hamilton’s strategy not to improve test scores by attracting more neighborhood families? Is the neighborhood not blindingly white?

  • 67. CPSDepressed  |  October 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Look, this goes back to before school reform. Chicago is the only major American city to have avoided court-ordered busing, because by the time the CPS case made its way through the courts, there were hardly any white kids in the system. This was in the 1970s, when the Mexican population was much smaller, too. CPS started the magnet programs, RGCs, and selective enrollment high schools as a way to attract white families into the system in order to create diversity that way. Up until about five-ten years ago, white kids had a significant advantage in admissions into these programs.

    Coincidentally, schools that had a lot of white kids also had high test scores. School reform did very little to improve average African-American performance. That, to me, is a crime.

    The race preferences are gone, in favor of economic preferences, but the effect is basically the same because Chicago’s wealth more or less breaks down into economic lines.

    What I notice is that schools in white neighborhoods are working on programs to attract “neighborhood” families, and schools in non-white neighborhoods are working on “magnet” programs. At the high school level, compare the Lake View strategy to the Westinghouse strategy.

    We can talk about it, or we can deny it.

  • 68. klm  |  October 19, 2011 at 8:20 am


    I have no real “problem” with Ravenswood. As I mentioned before, I hope it soon becomes a “wanna go to” school, the Principal seems great, etc. I was merely pointing out some things to consider –that’s all.

    Yes, I used a Kenilworth school to compare because, “why not”? If we’re talking public schools, achievement, scores, etc., why not bring in a famously good suburban one for a base comparison? OUR KIDS WILL COMPETING WITH EVERYBODY ELSE IN AMERICA (and the world, for that matter)–not only kids from Chicago, so isn’t it good to know where other places stand, if even if for just 1 single comparative example (as here, above). Am the only person that finds ENORMOUS, HUGE disparities a problem? Where one goes to school really can determine one’s life direction in either a good or bad way.

    Also, unless somebody never reads, listens to NPR, etc., there is actually by most experts’ analysis an “education crisis” in this country –too few kids learning the skills they need, etc. At the center of all this is urban public education (e.g., Chicago).

    I have my own experience of going to inner-city public schools like the ones many kids in Chicago must deal with. It was not not a good one (and I’d be the 1st person to admit that it has made me a little jaded and cynical [perhaps too much so]). However, I’m sorry, but when it comes to public schools in America (specifically urban ones in the inner-city) sometimes the sky really IS falling.

    The whole point of this blog’s creation is to find a decent education for one’s child in a public school system that’s never been considered all that great (remember when the U.S. Secretary of Education declared Chicago Public Schools “the worst in the nation”?).

    I understand people castigating and being negative towards somebody the seems to be trying to throw cold water into a group of nice people trying to do something good.

    However, am I really somehow being such a “party pooper” for throwing out a few cold, hard facts? If every school were wonderful and a bastion of academic success we wouldn’t need to discuss anything here.

  • 69. Angie  |  October 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

    @66. CPSDepressed: And what is the problem with an attendance area school trying to attract neighborhood families? It’s better for children and better for the environment when they can walk to a local school instead of riding buses across town.

  • 70. Mayfair Dad  |  October 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The magnet school system, as originally conceived, was a variation on school bussing, and was introduced to comply with the ruling of the Consent Decree. African American children who were receiving an inferior education at their neighborhood schools were given open access to magnet schools, frequently in more affluent Caucasian neighborhoods. Transportation (bussing) was provided by CPS to facilitate the migration of low income black students into more affluent white neighborhood schools. Dr. Joseph Hannon, who oversaw the desegregation of the Boston public school system, was recruited to CPS to oversee the process.

    The lofty intentions of the magnet school solution had devastating consequences on CPS. It served to further cement the notion that schools in affluent neighborhoods were inherently better than schools in the ‘hood. The best and brightest students (along with their ambitious, education-minded parents) bailed out of the neighborhood schools to attend magnets. The truly at-risk kids were left behind because of parental indifference and other poverty-inspired hindrances beyond their control. Sadly – and this is a biggie – it relieved CPS of the responsibility to invest the resources to improve all schools when they could simply point at the success of some schools. This continues today.

    Magnets/gifted schools as a designer school upgrade to combat white flight to the suburbs didn’t happen until later, during the regime of Paul Vallas, when “choice” became the marketing buzz word. The brain drain that devastated schools in the ‘hood took root at neighborhood schools all over the city, Yuppy parents were keen to make sure Buffy and Jody attended only the most prestigious CPS magnet and gifted schools, thus assuring their offspring’s future success and signalling to the world they are “down with diversity.”

    The magnet school system needs to be dismantled, but not until my own Buffy and Jody graduate from Disney II.

  • 71. Skinner North Mom  |  October 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

    FYI, my children’s school, Skinner North Classical is having an open house today at 1:30 pm. Skinner North is located at 640 W. Scott (just northeast of Halsted and Division). You can park in the school lot behind the school.

    This is our second year at the school and we love it! Come check it out!

  • 72. CPSDepressed  |  October 19, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Angie, there is nothing wrong with neighborhood schools, not at all. Every single kid in Chicago should have access to a great neighborhood school.

    What bothers me is when people say things like “well, yes, the scores in the upper grades are bad, but those kids will leave soon, they are Not From The Neighborhood. We’ll get lots of neighborhood families who come in, and you can watch the scores rise!” Test scores should not be a measure of the demographics of the school. I know that they often are, and that is wrong. That is not the fault of the families who go to the school, it is the fault of CPS and the American education system in general.

    And if all it takes to raise test scores is to bring in white kids, is a school really adding any value?

    With Lake View, for example, I’ve more or less been told that the only reason the scores are low is because the kids who go there are poor and Latino, and if the school could just get those “neighborhood” kids to attend, the scores would go way up! Somehow, that’s supposed to be more reassuring to me than a concentrated effort to change the curriculum, the teaching, the school culture, whatever, in order to help the kids who are there now do better. Is everyone really okay with the idea that an ACT score of 18 for a Mexican kid is the same as an ACT score of 26 for a white kid? Is everyone really okay with schools that can get great test scores for white kids but not for everyone else?

    I can’t stand George Bush, and NCLB was a mess, but he was dead on when he talked about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

  • 73. cps Mom  |  October 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Mayfair Dad – so true, thanks. You have started my day off with a good laugh.

  • 74. Angie  |  October 19, 2011 at 10:29 am

    @72. CPSDepressed: “Test scores should not be a measure of the demographics of the school. I know that they often are, and that is wrong. That is not the fault of the families who go to the school, it is the fault of CPS and the American education system in general.”

    Oh, I agree with that. The school system needs to figure out how to teach the children they have, instead of the wishing for better ones or giving up altogether. However, when the “good” kids who value education start attending a school, they bring in a certain culture and a level of expectations that the other kids can follow. So it makes sense to try and attract them to a CPS school instead of losing them to private and suburban ones.

  • 75. AlsoAnonymous  |  October 19, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Mayfair Dad — I agree with everything you said. And I love the historical context.

    As a neighborhood school parent I also see the end coming to the magnet system. And I can’t wait for it, frankly. I’m tired of our neighborhood schools bursting at the seams while nearby magnets control their enrollment. Several of these magnets are going to have to become a neighborhood schools again … just as they were before.

    That’s what people seem to forget. Most of them were once neighborhood schools. It’s called change. It created the magnet system. And it can dismantle it, too.

    Remember the controversy between Mt. Greenwood and Keller? Read the thread on South Loop. And now Lincoln is bursting at the seams while surrounded by LaSalle and Newberry!

    I do think the change should be more gradual and planned than CPS has a tendency to act, however.

    And thanks to Principal Gray for making his comments. But I don’t think that, as a neighborhood school principal, you really have to defend your school’s demographics. It is what it is!

    People may be surprised to see the diversity in our neighborhood. I would argue it’s more diverse than magnets are becoming without the racial component in the application. I love it. And it’s 100% “natural.”

  • 76. Lurker  |  October 19, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Cpsdepressed…why do you feel the other (non-white) kids aren’t scoring as high? Do you think it’s bad that the SE schools try to recruit Asians?

  • 77. CPS Dad To Be  |  October 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    First time poster here — long time reader. We’re looking at CPS for our daughter next year and have been absorbing as much information as possible lately on all aspects of CPS and education in general. This is a great website for lots of info and perspective to think about when deciding whats best for one’s child and family.

    Here’s one other viewpoint to consider regarding the betterment of schools: Its much harder to correct things later on then it is to do them well initially.

    There’s general agreement that the initial environment and parents have the most influence on a child’s academic ability and eventual success. The reality and difficulty for CPS is that a majority of the kids coming into the system at age 5 are already at a disadvantage (parents do not care or are too busy to instill any interest in learning in kids before age 5 — if these kids mostly spend time watching tv, playing non-educational video games, or stuck in rooms or places with no enrichment, then how are they going to be interested in reading, math, problem solving, etc?).

    CPS can’t magically fix all that happened or is missing before the kids enter school. That’s not to say that its not possible to help these kids and get them on the right path. It is possible but it takes a lot of work and resources to do it effectively. This is something that schools like Ravenswood are attempting to do. Getting better programs and teachers is one way of attacking the issues they face and it does work but parental involvement also needs to happen even if it is as small as just being encouraging and supportive.

    Regarding schools improving when “white or better off kids” start attending, the improvement in the scores is not reflective of the efforts to really improve or fix the fundamental issues. I’m sure the new attending students help the others who are behind at some level but they alone cannot fix the fundamental issues.

    My belief is that if there were good (and low cost or free) pre-k or early childhood programs that fostered and encouraged learning in all of the neighborhood schools then the schools would get better across the board. Start as early as possible since the resource requirements at that level are not as high as devoting way more resources trying to remediate at the later grades. You would also have parents hopefully be more involved in their child’s education and learning at an earlier stage in development — its much harder to change the habit’s of parent’s but any progress here will have great benefits for the child.

    I’ve looked around but have not seen many CPS schools try to do this (most likely cost issues) . Many of the current approaches sometimes feel like bandaids rather than looking and trying to see what the fundamental issues are across the board and attempting to address them first.

  • 78. Mayfair Dad  |  October 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    @ 77 – Excellent post. There is ample evidence that supports the benefits of PreK education. You will observe when your own child goes to Kindergarten how some kids will be excited and eager to learn while other kids cling to parent’s leg terrified, crying for 1-2 hours after the parent leaves, and prone to wet their pants. Nothing has been done at home to socialize these kids and prepare them for school. Its sad.

  • 79. Lurker  |  October 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    @77 Great post. From Education Week: Diane Ravitch writes: “Yes, poor kids can learn and excel. But whether or not children are poor, education is a slow, incremental process. …” When children start so far beyond their peers, we can’t miraculously expect schools to bombard them with material and think that they are going to catch up.


  • 80. cps Mom  |  October 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Yes – 77 great points, I was about to say something similar but you put it so well. To add to your thoughts, if I may, @72 – the reason we think its OK for a Latino student to get an 18 ACT at Lakeview (or elsewhere) is that they are likely coming from 9 years of education at an under-performing school or have coasted through without parental support. At this point, no high school is going to be able to help that child catch up with his/her peers that have had a decent education and parents prodding them at home. I also believe that for schools like Ravenswood there will be a stretch of students in the higher grades in need of catching up. The goal would be to eliminate that. Consistency in admin, teachers, policy and programming all come into play.

  • 81. Gunnery Sgt Hartman  |  October 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    CPS Depressed wrote:” Is Hamilton’s strategy not to improve test scores by attracting more neighborhood families? Is the neighborhood not blindingly white?”

    Unless you consider hispanics to be white, the answer is no.

  • 82. CPSDepressed  |  October 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Gunnery Sgt., I live a few blocks from Hamilton. Those Latinos in my neighborhood have been hiding themselves well lo these last 15 years.

  • 83. Angie  |  October 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    @77. CPS Dad To Be: “if these kids mostly spend time watching tv, playing non-educational video games, or stuck in rooms or places with no enrichment, then how are they going to be interested in reading, math, problem solving, etc?”

    That’s what the teachers are for. School is a new environment for 5 year olds, so the teacher can explain that they are there to learn ABCs and 123s as well as how to behave, respect the authority, etc. It’s not too late to start at that age.

    Affordable preschools would help, of course, but will CPS pay for them? I don’t think so. Not when they are threatening to take away the meager 2.5 hours of Preschool For All year after year.

  • 84. CPSDepressed  |  October 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Here’s some demographic info on zip code 60657, which is where Hamilton is. It strikes me as rather white and affluent.

  • 85. cpsobsessed  |  October 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Coming in late to @58 CPS Depressed, my impression has never been that those school are aiming to attract a “desirable” type of family. Many of those schools (elementary) have come close to shutting down due to low enrollment and have been looking at getting ANY bodies in the school, period. Or CPS would close them down if their trend had continued.

    Under the gentrification model from about 10 years ago, as a lower soc-economic families were displaced, they’d go to their new school and the new “rich” kids wouldn’t even give the school a glance so enrollment would plummet. In my neighborhood only when the enrollment issue was critical did the principal begrudgingly “welcome” the more upscale parents into the school. In no way did he want us there.

    The new principal DID see the value in trying to draw in the neighborhood parents who yes, were more upscale and more vocal about improvement they wanted to see. By default does the school end up “courting” parents from more educated families? Yes. Is that the school or the principal’s fault? No. Bodies = money in CPS. I believe most principals think they can have a positive impact on test scores with whoever they have in the school. (Or I hope they think that.) They can’t make money materialize except by getting kids in that that building. Any kids.

    Our city is ridiculously segregated and with the small elem school boundaries we have, the schools end up being pretty homogeneous as well, but I don’t get the sense the schools are targeting upscale parents. Why bother, when it’s all lottery anyhow?

  • 86. me2  |  October 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    @83. Have you taken a look at a typical kindergarten curriculum recently? Children who come in with pretty much no exposure to anything educational or from homes where there isn’t a whole lot of parent-child interaction are already behind. The amount of and level of skills these kids are expected to have when they leave kindergarten is much different today. The sad fact of the matter is that to be successful, these kids need to come with a pretty good set of what were once the skills taught in kindergarten. The child who has not had the advantage of a decent pre-school program is starting out at a deficit. Many of them are able to catch up if there is enough support and resources available, but some kids will end up behind pretty much the rest of their school career. We have to put our money into early intervention/preschool education for low income and ELL students or the gap will never close.

  • 87. CPS Dad To Be  |  October 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    @83 Angie, I agree that teachers are there to teach and the responsibility of CPS is to educate. I believe majority of CPS teachers do this. But they can only do it on the level that the kids are starting at so if a lot of work needs to be done to get many kids interested or to deal with behavior issues then that time will be spent doing that and the kids will probably be behind on many levels to begin with. This is why I believe programs that start earlier have a better shot at getting kids to be at the level of learning for their age.

    I disagree with you that it is a teachers responsibility to teach children how to “behave, respect the authority, etc”. That is a parent’s responsibility. The teacher can only reinforce this but he/she should not be spending the majority of their time doing this. If a teacher is spending the majority of their time teaching proper behavior or dealing with behavior issues then the ABCs and 123s will not be getting as much attention as needed. Additionally, if the good behavior/respect for authority is not reinforced at home, then that makes things even more difficult.Teachers are really not there to fix what parents should have been doing for the first 5 years.

    I wish all kids could enter elementary school on an equal playing field but that is not the case. If something can be done to make that equal footing a closer reality then that is a very good thing.

    If early education or pre-K programs across all CPS schools are not possible then maybe CPS should invest more in great teachers for kindergarten and first grade for all schools. These would be teachers who have extensive training in early childhood education and dealing with children who are not interested or unmotivated. Hopefully having two such teachers per class so the focus is really on the student and their abilities and getting them up to speed to the level of learning for their age. Its definitely not an easy task in many schools but if it results in better students for later grades then its an overall win.

  • 88. Mayfair Dad  |  October 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    The low income kids are actually worth more Title 1 money to CPS schools, which pays for extra positions. Administrators at our neighborhood school pleaded with parents to turn in the free and reduced lunch applications, and nobody noticed if you drove up in a Lexus when you turned your form in. Also the reason for the auto-calls to remind you to have your kids show up for the first day of school.

    There is a large body of research to suggest early childhood/PreK education is hugely beneficial. Some would argue that, dollar-for-dollar, it is the single most effective thing we could do to repair education in the US. I will try to locate a few scholarly articles.

  • 89. Angie  |  October 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    @86. me2: Funny how the doctors don’t expect me to treat my ailments, and the mechanics don’t expect me to repair my car, but the teachers fully expect me to teach my children and bring them to school aready knowing all they need to know.

    It would be great if every child had access to a good early education, but where is the money going to come from? The countries that have it also have higher taxes. Will Americans go for that, particularly the rich lawmakers that have no trouble paying for private preschools for their own children?

    @87. CPS Dad To Be: “I disagree with you that it is a teachers responsibility to teach children how to “behave, respect the authority, etc”. That is a parent’s responsibility.”

    And what about the children whose parents refuse to do that? If the teachers won’t do it either, then who will?

    “If early education or pre-K programs across all CPS schools are not possible then maybe CPS should invest more in great teachers for kindergarten and first grade for all schools. These would be teachers who have extensive training in early childhood education and dealing with children who are not interested or unmotivated. ”

    Now this would be great, and solve a lot of problems in the school system, but how can CPS be persuaded to do it?

  • 90. Lilith Werner  |  October 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I am concerned about some comments posted about LVHS and misperceptions held about my vision for our learning community in this thread. I would like to invite anyone to meet with me or my admin team in person so people can see how committed we are to ALL students. Come tour the school, talk to teachers and department chairs, interact with students, meet with us. I guarantee you will be impressed by our collective knowledge base, professionalism, data-driven instruction, and our sense of care for students.

    Lilith Werner, PhD
    Lake View High School

  • 91. cpsobsessed  |  October 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for posting, Dr. Werner. I haven’t written up my notes from my visit to the school yet, but I was stuck by the strong level of dedication to the current student body.
    There are certainly efforts underway to get more of the neighborhood population to attend the school and an appreciation for what some of the *new* parents might be looking for, but I agree – a clear sense that the goal of LVHS is to improve the school for whoever attends, whether the student population there evolves or not.
    I like that both groups are being considered.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 92. anonymous  |  October 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    We already have great kindergarten and first grade teachers. And very, very few kindergarteners are unmotivated. I have been teaching for years and have yet to meet a 5 year old uninterested in learning. Some have emotional issues, learning issues, and parental issues, but I guarantee you, every single one of them want to learn. It would be better to reduce class sizes to 15 or less in the primary grades so those great teachers could meet the needs of every single child.
    Just like any other job, there are parts of my job that I do not like. I do not enjoy dealing with disrespectful behavior. But like it or not, I do deal with it. If I didn’t, no learning would ever occur. In classrooms where parents demand good behavior, kids learn more. I deal effectively with most young child types of behavior, but when I don’t have 5 kids swearing, spitting, biting, rolling on the floor, or otherwise just not listening, we can spend a whole lot more time on reading.
    And while I expect my doctor to treat my ailments, I don’t expect her to come to my house to make sure I take the medicine she prescribes. I expect my mechanic to fix my car, but I don’t expect him to come and fill my gas tank up for me. Teachers can and must do great work during the hours they have students. Parents must make sure their kids are reading. A LOT. And doing homework, correctly, on time.
    My best students all have something in common. They have parents working with them at home. Not that I don’t try incredibly hard to “parent” the kids whose parents can’t/won’t during the school hours, but several hours a day with two other adults that talk to and read to and care about their kid is hard to make up for during the day when I’ve got 25-35 other students.

  • 93. swede  |  October 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

    You would never expect your physician to miraculously make your lungs like those of another patient who runs 2 miles a day, eats well and never smoked, when you have been smoking packs a day for the past 6 years. In the state of Illinois a child is not required to start school until they are 7. Students show up for first grade at 7 and cannot identify individual letters. Some cannot even distinguish between a letter and a number. I’m not exaggerating. I have several friends who teach in CPS and I’ve literally sat with my mouth hanging open in astonishment listening to their stories.They love what they do, and the kids in their class, and do everything they can to help them, but we cannot expect teachers to be miracle workers. More early education needs to be available, but communities must somehow work to let people know it’s available and encourage their members to utilize it.

  • 94. anon mom  |  October 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

    @89–Physicians DO expect you to heal yourself. Sadly, they know from experience that you (and this is the general “you,” not you specifically, as I don’t know the specific you from Adam. I have. however, sat through countless hours of qualitative research listening to physicians) likely won’t. That’s why something like 20% of adults in Chicago have Type 2 diabetes. Accompanied by hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Laregly lifestyle ailments, which are treated (sometimes suboptimallly) with medication, because it’s a lot easier.

    I believe if you look at the literature (which I don’t have time to search right now–I’m going to post and run between meetings) you would find that early childhood education (read: Head Start) can effectively decrease later antisocial (dare I say criminal) behavior. So perhaps we could take some of that money from prison building and invest in early childhood education (which has been proven to work) instead of incarceration (which very clearly does not).

    I live in a low income neighborhood. Daily, I interact with 3-year-olds who can’t talk. 5-year-olds who DON’T KNOW THEIR REAL NAMES. Kids who are so starved for positive adult interaction they are eager to hold your hand or climb into your lap. Because that’s the key to what they’re missing–adult interaction. Children from families who do not live in poverty hear MILLIONS more words by the time they reach Kindergarten, and this deficit often cannot be overcome.

    So here’s where I differ frm Mayfair Dad–many of these kids are totally fine leaving Mom and going off with a teacher, because s/he isn’t used to being constantly by her side. They often don’t cry, because it doesn’t get attention–and when it does, the attention is negative (I have seen moms spank their kids for crying. Yep–gets ’em to stop EVERY TIME *eyeroll*).

    So maybe it’s not that we have “lowered expectations” for these children. Maybe it’s that the expectations are in line with where the child is, and what’s a reasonable gain for that individual child–based on skill, aptitude and attitude.

  • 95. RL Julia  |  October 20, 2011 at 11:11 am

    92 – well said. Early childhood education (or education in general) has to be a partnership between the teacher/school and the parent/home. Unfortunately, the current system in Illinois is that early childhood education comes from one set of funding streams, kindergarten comes from another and 1-8 yet a third. Until Illinois makes Kindergarten a mandatory educational experience I don’t think schools will be able to make the commitment to kindergarten that will effect the sorts of changes desired/being discussed on this board.

  • 96. me2  |  October 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    @89 Angie. You are correct that my doctor does not expect me to cure myself, or my mechanic expect me to repair my car, etc., but I believe that they expect me to take some responsibility for my health and basic car maintenance. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask parents to take some responsibility in preparing their child for school. Just like if I don’t take care of myself or my car, I can probably expect a lot more health and car problems. Whether or not the child has had access to pre-school, he or she hasn’t lived in a vacuum up until they start school. I know and accept the fact that if I want my child to be successful in school, I have to put some time and effort into that endeavor as the parent. I certainly would not expect their teacher to be solely responsible for their success in school. Unfortunately, some parents don’t see the value of this, just can’t be bothered, or are incapapable of providing this support. Yes, it is the job of educators to teach, but if the parent is not putting some effort into the process, you will continue to have children who fail to achieve.

  • 97. Angie  |  October 20, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Well, maybe the solution is to have these neglected kids repeat kindergarten or first grade once or twice until they learn what they need to know. Give them a year to learn what the school is all about, and then start catching up on reading and math.

    Maybe in this situation teaching the proper behavior and social skills is actually more important than the academics. I’m OK with these kids not knowing high-level math and science, because they can learn it later in life if they want to, or they can get jobs that don’t require it. But I’m not OK with them not learning anything at all and becoming violent thugs and gangbangers or lifetime welfare dependents.

  • 98. Mayfair Dad  |  October 21, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Interesting New York Times article on the benefits of early childhood education:

  • 99. CPSDepressed  |  October 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

    And, here’s a very interesting story on the issues and politics involved with trying to close the achievement gap:

  • 100. klm  |  October 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

    @99 (and others)

    The statistics about these things are so beyond upsetting. We’ve all read about them: 54% of A-A 4th graders are funtionally illiterate. The average Hispanic 12th grader is 2-3 years behind his white/asian peer, the average A-A 12th grader is 3-4 years behind his white/asian peers (especially upsetting to me, a person married to an A-A and with A-A kids).

    One great point that I now have observed is that the discussion about these achievement gaps is being debated and studied for what it actually is –non-asian minority kids not knowing or being able to do the academic work that they should in order to succeed.

    It seems so glaringly obvious in 2011, but from the 1960s up until the early-mid 1990s, the prevailing thought among many academics and leaders (black, white and latino), but mostly those with a left-of-center view [i.e., 95%+ of college professors or ‘civil rights leaders’]) was that there was no problem with minority kids –it was “the system”. I went to college in the 1980s and I remember classes where any talk of an achivement gap was considered racist –blaming the victim, etc., which did nothing to address the issue. Achivement tests were “culturally biased” and thus worthless for any advocate of multiculturalism (many of whom considered them a cog in the American michine of racism and which was the explanation for disparities, not any deficiencies among black or hispanic kids actual academic ability, textbooks were “racist” (not enough on black and latino history, so kids can’t self-identify and relate, resulting in kids that lost interest, lowered self-esteem, etc.), too many white teachers biased against minority kids and trying to teach in a racially unsensitive way, the unfair imposition of “Euro-Centric” values on standards onto non-white kids, etc. …blah, blah, blah, …(of course, none of this seems to have ever stopped Asian-American kids from doing well). OK, in the context of American history (of which I’m very aware) a certain amount of of this thinking is very understandable –but it hasn’t helped black and hispanic kids that are falling behind and stuck in failing schools.

    People bring this up all the time, but say what one wants to about George Bush and NCLB (an Act that had broad-based partisan support at the time –Ted Kennedy was standing next to Bush when it was signed) one good thing is that the “achievement gap” is now cvontinuously published and data are regularly exposing this terrible problem (school by school, district by district, state by state, etc.). Thank God we can now measure and openly talk about the fact that too many black and hispanic kids can’t read, do math or know basic science. At least now we have an honest basis (and it’s great to see the consensus build between civil rights leaders and conservatives acknowledging this) upon which to deal with things, rather than dismiss things as part of some racially-biased plot to keep non-white kids down.

  • 101. cps Mom  |  October 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    @99 interesting article – particularly this part “The question of whether affluent and disadvantaged kids need a different kind of education — different instructional strategies, different curriculum, maybe even different kinds of teachers — is a serious one. This discussion is easily demagogued . . . . But it’s not racist to say that poor kids — who generally come to school with much less vocabulary, exposure to print, and much else — might need something different — more intense, more structured — than their well-off, better-prepared peers.”

    This may support the success that we are seeing in charter scores.

  • 102. Mayfair Dad  |  October 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Its not a melanin thing – its a poverty thing.

    Poor kids need something different from a public school system than more affluent kids. Both deserve to get exactly what they need.

  • 103. CPSDepressed  |  October 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    It makes me angry that so many people are willing to write off their fellow Chicagoans at kindergarten. That is all.

  • 104. klm  |  October 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm


    I’m inclined to say that poverty (and the present effects of past poverty on some newly middle-class families –styles of parenting, ideas about the role of parents in teaching [don’t the TEACHERS get PAID to do that?]) etc.).

    However, there’s an achievement gap even with the children of college-educated middle class families. Look at all the controversy about the gaps at high-spending, generally high-achieving, fairly nicely integrated HSs (e.g., Oak Park, Evanston, etc.) .

    Also, there’s traditionally been a “third rail” that until the last decade or so many social scientists never want to discuss or examine for fear of “blaming the victim” or coming accross as insensitive towards particular groups, such as attitudes and cultural traditions around school and learning. Some groups have been so traditionally denied opportunities, had to struggle just to get by, etc., a culture of “education is most important” was a luxury denied. It’s not race-specific. Black Americans of West African and West Indian origin are on average better educated and make more money than average American familites and their kids achieve in school (there’s been some controversy and discussion how it’s these kids that are benefitting more often from affirmative action in education and commerce, not the ghetto-living ancestors of American slaves for whom it was originally designed).

    There are white “Appalachian-Americans” that have suffered for generations from systemic poverty and lack of educational achievement (I’m related to some, so I know these people are not doing “Brainy Baby” exercises, highly involved with homework, etc., since I don’t think it ever occurs to them to do these things).

    Most people who are parenting the “wrong way” in terms of not producing cognitively proficient, educated kids aren’t being “bad parents” –they truly don’t know any different, in most cases. For them, parenting means feeding and teaching kids to “keep in line” and “behave” (with threats of corporal punishment and verbal reprimands), and having them “keep busy on their own, to leave me be” (the old ‘A good child is seldom seen nor heard’). The nurturing, positive reinforcements (“good job!”), spending time and reading/talking/discussing/explaining/doing that are more common in middle-class families is largely absent in the poorest neighborhoods –and when a generation suddenly becomes middle-class, sometimes there’s the residual tradition of a parenting style that doesn’t seem to promote as much educational success.

    I think just about everybody has noticed and been upset by all the screaming at and hitting on kids observed too frequently in poorer neighborhoods. I know, I grew up in an inner-city housing project and later a (no other way to put this) “dumpy” trailer-park in a rough industrial suburb. There was screaming, spanking, “whippin'” galore at both places. The “scream at and threaten-with-the-belt” method of parenting is something I’ve never witnessed in my current middle-class neighborhood. Not even close. My brother-in-law volunteered at a Head Start in Lawndale. There parents told him to “go ahead and give a smack” when their kids were out of line. One of the teachers used a metal sppon to thump the kids on the head –and the parents were fine with that. Can anybody imagine this happening at a pre-school outside the ‘hood? Parents would be be damanding that the authorities get involved and have the teacher arrested!.

    Obviously, ther are other issues, too.

  • 105. RL Julia  |  October 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    102 – You hit it exactly on the head- every kids needs should get what they need – but what we get is a school system totally in denial about the fact that no kid is “average” – this means that despite the fact that 85% of the kids at CPS are in poverty, there is no accomodation or expectation (aside from lowering expectations) that those kids need something different – or that some kids are accelerated and come to school knowing more or being willing to move at a faster pace.

    I currently have two kids in my house desparate to get out their current schools because the classes move too slowly and they’d like to be challenged (I am sure they will change their minds should this ever actually happen). A happy problem to be sure but after years of having their educational needs basically ignored unless I am a major nag – and even then, it doesn’t stick half the time.

    If we lived in the suburbs (I am thinking Evanston here), the school would have basically taken it upon themselves to identify, test, recommend, arrange for transportation etc.. any acceleration necessary.

  • 106. BuenaParkMom  |  October 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Geoffrey Canada’s book and his approach to the education of low-income residents of Harlem. Basically his research led him to the conclusion that starting a if you wait until kindergarten to immerse a child in a language rich environment, they are still going to have a gap when compared to a child who has been immersed in a language rich environment since leaving the womb. He started recruiting parents while they were still pregnant and holding “Baby University” to teach parenting techniques and instill the importance of language rich environments and give them the techniques/support to make it happen. He attributes this to some of the success they have had in decreasing the achievement gap with their test scores along with having a specific teaching culture of “going above and beyond” for their students. Whether or not you like charter schools, the man is getting results. Of course the sad thing is just like here, these children need to win the lottery to get into one of his schools. I personally am a big believer in early childhood education and I don’t think we have enough access to it for everyone. I think every child should go to preschool, and I think it is probably even more important for low-income children and well worth the investment from a societal stand-point. Unfortunately, I don’t see us making an across the board investment any time soon.

  • 107. BuenaParkMom  |  October 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Oh and the offer for Mayfair Dad to help out (or anyone else for that matter) absolutely stands 🙂 if you know someone who wants to help out!

  • 108. anonymous  |  October 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Angie, repeating a grade has been statistically shown to cause more harm than good. Also, kids don’t just need to “get up to speed” at K-1 and then they are fine. Certainly, if they don’t get the help they need in early primary, their future isn’t good. But kids living in poverty need an entire school career of intensive support. Meaning, they need extra help, one-to-one help, from PreK through the end of high school. Without it, it is pretty hard to succeed. Essentially, someone needs to “parent” the students beyond the school day and school year, whether that be the school itself, social services or whoever.

  • 109. anonymous  |  October 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    And Geoffrey Canada has it right. He gives intensive support from the womb through college. Isn’t that the same thing we give our own successful children? His schools have 10, yes 10 hour days, the kids are given free extra curriculars. HCZ also sends psychologists, nurses and social workers to the homes. This goes from birth through college.
    This is what our city should be offering to neighborhoods and kids who need it, complete with second shift professional staff. My own kids don’t need a (much) longer school day. But probably 70%+ of the city needs something similar to what Canada has designed.
    The idea that we can add 60-105 minutes onto our day and make a huge dent in achievement without funding it properly would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so sad.

  • 110. Angie  |  October 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    @ anonymous: “Angie, repeating a grade has been statistically shown to cause more harm than good.”

    Kids who go to CPS preschool , whether tuition-based or PFA, are essentially repeating a grade by staying there for 2 years. It does not seem to be harming them, so why would it harm kindergarteners who are only a year older? Sure, the neglected kids need more support, but if they learn the basics after repeating a year, they should be able to function better in the next grades.

    And it is my understanding that schools with the high number of free lunch students get additional funding from CPS. So where does that money go?

    Geoffrey Canada’s school sounds wonderful, but I have not heard CTU mention that type of education or ask to implement it here in Chicago. What is their position on this issue?

    “The idea that we can add 60-105 minutes onto our day and make a huge dent in achievement without funding it properly would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so sad.”

    Adding 45 minutes of work to teacher’s day and moving their lunch to the middle of school day so kids can have recess is not laughable to me. In CTU speak, additional funding just means letting teachers keep their short workday and hiring more staff to cover those extra 45 minutes. And even if teachers were made to work 8 hour days like the private sector workers, they would still keep all the extra vacation and holiday time that they have now. If that’s slavery, then what would you call working 8 hours every day, and getting only the major holidays and 2-3 weeks of vacation per year?

  • 111. 1togoplease  |  October 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    @110. Geoffrey Canada’s school is not a public school. It receives milliions of dollars in funding from private and corporate sources. I don’t know exactly how you think that the CTU could be involved in opening this type of school that offers all the supports that Mr. Canada offers to the students and parents who attend his school. Mr. Canada also requires the parents of the students to sign a contract that clearly states what is expected of them. If the parent does not meet these requirements, the child is dropped from his school. This is not the case in public schools. I can’t see CPS hiring health professionals, social workers, etc. to provide out of school support for students and their families. They are not going to work for free. If we want to help students, these are the types of supports they and their families need.

    As far as additional funding for schools with high rates of poverty, yes, there is more money from the federal gov’t. However, their are a lot of rules regarding how the monies can and cannot be used. Very often what the school needs the most is what they cannot use these monies to purchase.

    As far as what I would call working 8 hours a day, only major holidays off, etc. is a personal career choice. Having worked in both the education field and the “private” sector, I might have been required to spend less than eight hours at a school building, but I certainly put in more than eight hours a day plus weekends when I was teaching. Again, it was my choice. I work less hours now and get better pay and benefits in my current job than I did in teaching!

  • 112. CPSmommy  |  October 22, 2011 at 3:02 am

    To Angie.

    Your earlier comment: “Kids who go to CPS preschool , whether tuition-based or PFA, are essentially repeating a grade by staying there for 2 years. It does not seem to be harming them, so why would it harm kindergarteners who are only a year older? Sure, the neglected kids need more support, but if they learn the basics after repeating a year, they should be able to function better in the next grades.”

    I have had two children complete CPS pre-school. Both went for two years and had the same teacher both years. I can promise you, our experience was NOT that they repeated pre-school by attending for two years. The class was divided between 3 year olds and 4 year olds. The curriculum was completely different from year to year.

  • 113. Christine  |  October 22, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Maybe part of the problem is that we group children into their grades by age rather than ability. There is absolutely no reason why school grade levels HAVE to be done that way, except that it’s easier on the paperwork.

  • 114. anonymous  |  October 22, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I have heard the “teachers should work an 8 hour day” argument over and over and over and over.
    We do and then some!!!!!
    I can tell you that I teach Kindergarten and I am currently working 60+ hours a week. 30 of those are in front of children. “Face time” as some have called it. I, not kidding, literally RUN every where I go when students are not with me to try and get all the stuff done I need to. The other 30 are spent doing the following:
    -calling and meeting with parents
    -meeting with other staff
    -lesson planning
    -grading/assessing/interpreting assessments and making decisions based on those assessments
    -researching and learning best practices
    -going to silly BOE required meetings
    -making copies
    -filing papers
    -creating new games
    -cleaning up the room
    -and on and on
    I think what you are asking is that you think teachers should be putting in 8 hours of face time with kids. That is not possible. That is like asking a college professor to teach 12 courses a semester. This is a very sore point with me at this moment, not because I don’t like my career. I LOVE my career. But I am beyond exhausted. My own children rarely see me because I am working like a dog. If you really think teachers have it easy, here’s my suggestion. Email cpsobsessed. She will give you my email. If you will get background checked and cleared, you can come into my classroom. (BOE policy) You can follow me around for a few days and see how “easy” it is. I welcome you.

    As to “where does the federal money go” for the poverty level kids? There is very little of it to begin with. Usually that money goes to fund teaching positions because the state doesn’t provide enough. Seriously, at my school we have our principal, our assistant principal, our clerks and our security guard covering teacher lunch time because EVERY SINGLE teacher assistant must be in the classrooms working with sped kids every single scheduled minute of the day because we don’t have enough money to pay for them. We are operating on a shoe string budget. Do you think someone is pocketing that money? We have limits on the number of copies we can make because the budget is so tight!

    And the CTU and Geoffrey Canada? Please! Canada’s school is private and is funded by millions of privately donated dollars. Why do people keep asking the CTU what they are going to do about it? What are YOU going to do about it? Why aren’t YOU lobbying for this in congress? Why aren’t YOU starting a group to organize and fight for this?

    You wrote “In CTU speak, additional funding just means letting teachers keep their short workday and hiring more staff to cover those extra 45 minutes.” Huh? Do you even know anything about schools?

  • 115. cps Mom  |  October 22, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Angie – I understand what you are saying and see your point

    First, regarding kids repeating grades at K and 1 – It is common place to “engineer” a kindergarten start. Kids with summer birthdays (I’ve seen all the way up to Feb birthdays) start Kindergarten the next year by design. This is a huge advantage for a child. Even a September or October birthday can many times put a kid ahead of the pack. In essence, these kids do repeat pre-school. At my magnet school, kids that were not at grade level did repeat K, 1, 2 even 3 to get up to speed and, for the most part, it worked.

    As far as the 8 hour day – anonymous, don’t take it personal because this comment was not directed at you since it doesn’t sound like you leave at 1:45 sacrificing kids recess and other developmental needs. This behavior sanctioned by CTU is what concerned parents call “CTU speak” and is what parents view as an upshot of CTU getting involved in education policy that affects our children.

    My question to you, anonymous, from your comment “The idea that we can add 60-105 minutes onto our day and make a huge dent in achievement without funding it properly would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so sad” – Why can’t teachers get behind the longer day especially since you are already “putting in the time”. Viewing this as “extra” time I think is part of the problem. Making this an opportunity to restructure and reallocate work and lesson plans with the extra benefit of more “face time” for kids would probably be more beneficial to all.

  • 116. 1togoplease  |  October 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Wow! Don’t you think it’s a little much to ask for teachers to get behind adding an extra 7 or so hours to their week in addition to the time that most already spend outside of the regular school day for $1250 a year? Most teachers have families,householsd to maintain, and bills to pay just like everybody else. Do you really think this is fair compensation for the additional time? I don’t think most teachers disagree with the need for more time to be effective teachers, but I know I would balk at the idea of being constantly asked to do more with little or no renumeration for my effots. I know that when I am asked to head or assigned a new project or take on more responsiblity for my job, my pay is adjusted for the extra time or responsiblity that I have taken on. Why shouldn’t teachers have that same expectation?

  • 117. mom2  |  October 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    @116, I’d like to work where you work. Most people I know that work in the private sector in today’s economy do not get compensated extra for working more hours or taking on additional responsibility. Instead, we are paid a salary that covers getting “the job” done – whatever that takes. And, if you ask for more money, you are told that you are lucky to have the job as you see many others in the company being laid off or being told to work part time so they don’t have to pay benefits. I’m glad you have had such a great experience in your company. I really don’t think it is like that many places these days.

    Those facts are why parents are having such a hard time understanding the CTU position. I very much appreciate all the hard work they do and their devotion to my kids and everyone else. All parents want what is best for their kids and therefore what is best for the school and the individual classroom. So additional aids or classroom supplies or smaller class size makes sense. More money for a teacher to take home when CPS and the city are broke doesn’t. Yes teachers work hard and many stay after school to clean their room and take home papers to grade, etc. etc. We all work hard and work late hours and we have had to deal with the economy and we have had to make adjustments. Teachers should have to, too.

  • 118. Angie  |  October 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    @114. anonymous: No thanks. Why don’t you follow around a teacher in Houston and find out how they are able to work the longer school day and the school year? It’s not like CTU is being asked to do something unprecedented or work more than other teachers in the country. They are just being asked not to work less.

    Also? If every CPS teacher really does all the things you listed, and the children are still falling behind, then maybe that’s not what needs to be done.

    @116. 1togoplease : ” I know that when I am asked to head or assigned a new project or take on more responsiblity for my job, my pay is adjusted for the extra time or responsiblity that I have taken on. Why shouldn’t teachers have that same expectation?”

    What happens if you fail to deliver the said project? What if the work you do gets lousy results? Do you still expect to keep your job and get a raise no matter what?

    Or let’s consider another example. You do an excellent work on your project, but the person in the next cubicle completely blows his. Would you really want him to receive the same raise or bonus that you earned with all your hard work?

    I do think it’s fair to ask teachers who have a short day to work a little longer and to teach the kids a little better. I also think it is unfair to give the same 4% raise to everyone regardless of the quality of work they do. Better teachers should get more, and bad ones should get nothing.

  • 119. anonymous  |  October 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Angie, learning cannot happen without me doing all the things I listed. Those are just the basics. Every single teacher does those things. And just so you know, MY students are not falling behind. In my classroom, 25% of my kindergarteners are already reading (something they could not do when they walked in the door 6 weeks ago). I will have every single one of them reading at a 1st grade level or above by June, guaranteed. And yes, when pay for performance is instituted, which it will be, I will be expecting a HUGE bonus..
    The board of ed should be paying for a full time teacher’s assistant in my classroom so I don’t have to do all the paperwork baloney. Do you realize I have to take 3, yes 3, sets of attendance every morning? Attendance on the computer, attendance in hard copy because the computer system isn’t reliable, and breakfast attendance. All that while trying to mop up spilled milk, collect homework, run book bins, comfort a crying kid, talk to the parent who just doesn’t understand an appointment is needed and answer a phone call from the office. All at the same time. If I had help with all those things (most of which anyone could take care of), I might have 50% of my classroom full of immigrant, ESL, some of them homeless and poverty level kids reading.

  • 120. Esmom  |  October 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I am so incredibly impressed by everyone’s knowledge and expertise but I cannot lurk anymore and let Blaine be lumped in casually as a top school. We had a stomach wrenchingly horrible experience there and while I realize we are just one family I’m afraid it’s indicative of larger problems. Not trying to stir up the pot, please believe me I am happy to talk offline to anyone who asks.

  • 121. anonymous  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    #115, I sometimes struggle with “getting behind” the longer day, because yes, while I am already putting in hours significantly longer than that, we are being asked to put in a large percentage of more “face time” with kids. This would mean my 12 hour days would become 14 hour days. It isn’t like we can just add 60-105 minutes and my hours will be the same. Whatever face time teachers have with kids, you have to at least double that time to account for all the other work involved. At that point, I am either done with teaching and I’ll just go and open my own tutoring company or I’ll go suburban. Which I am sure someone will now tell me is my right to do.
    Parents complain constantly about “why can’t we get rid of the bad teachers” when really the question should be “why can’t we keep the good ones?” And with my track record of great results (and my grade level colleagues get the same results), CPS does not want to lose me. Maybe it sounds arrogant, I don’t really care. I am good and I have the hard data to prove it. But I don’t plan on being around long.
    And Angie, Houston? Really? Texas is considered one of the worst education states in the country. Worse than CPS. Terrible policies. I won’t teach in any system that I wouldn’t send my own kids to. Over my dead body would I ever allow my children to attend a school in Texas. Too bad Houston schools don’t have the hard data to show improvement from their longer day. Texas?????? That is pretty funny. If you want to cite a good school state, look at Wisconsin or Minnesota. They are the best of the best.

  • 122. CPSDepressed  |  October 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Anonymous, this is not a problem with parents or with taxpayers. Most people that I talk to would love it if good teachers could be paid more. However, they don’t want bad teachers to get paid more; they want bad teachers to be retrained or to be fired.

    Your union is opposed to anything that might reward some teachers at the expense of others, especially if it is based on performance. If you do not like that arrangement, you should not teach in a unionized district.

    Why don’t you call up Karen Lewis and ask her what can be done to reward good teachers so that they stay, and what can be done to get bad teachers out of the system? I’m sure that she will be really tell you, brother or sister, is that the problem is that the Man wants you to be a slave!

    Finally, teachers need to stop going on (and on and on and on and on) about how they work harder than every single other person in America. This does not create warm and fuzzy thoughts in the minds of parents and taxpayers, who like to think that they work hard, too. In fact, as I look at the calendar for the month of November and think of how I am going to have to re-arrange my schedule to accommodate all of the days off that my kid gets and I don’t, I think that maybe, just maybe, teachers don’t work so incredibly horribly terribly much harder than I do. I know- blasphemy! You are working on your response right now about you work 24 hours a day, 7 days a year, 365 days a year, so how dare I think that you will not be working just as hard on Veteran’s Day as you do the 364 days a year!!!!!!!

    And, finally, maybe the teachers unions should do something about the featherbedding in the taxpayer-supported pensions. Because, um, it’s not making your average taxpayer happy.

  • 123. CPSDepressed  |  October 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Um, really bad grammar in that post. I must get more coffee.

  • 124. cps grad  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I teach in the suburbs and we have so many SUPERB ex-CPS teachers in our district. It really is hard to see how CPS teachers are mistreated by their district.

    @All of those non-teachers out there–

    What a lot of people don’t understand is that those suburban schools with much longer days have more prep/planning periods for teachers built into the schedule. On the surface the work day looks longer but in reality the working conditions are very different. 1) smaller classes = less paperwork. 2) Suburban classroom teachers often have less “face time” with the kids and can do some planning/collaborating during school hours while CPS teachers have to do much of it after school hours. CPS says that they are going to guarantee 4 duty free preps a week with the new schedule, but this is still less than what many suburban districts give their teachers. A regular classroom teacher gets a planning period when the art, gym, music or Foreign Language teacher takes the class over and relieves the classroom teacher. Problem is CPS isn’t going to pay to have enough PE teachers so that the kids get the state mandated PE every day. CPS isn’t going to hire both an art and music teacher for every school. CPS isn’t going put Foreign Language in every school. For a small school it would take approx 3 extra teachers to do this and a large school might need 5 or more extra teachers. Do you really see CPS paying well over $100,000,000 to hire those extra teachers and give our kids the broad quality education they deserve? (486 X 3 X $75000 —# of elementary schools X # of teachers X salary + benefits).

  • 125. cps Mom  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:09 am

    @121 – It sounds like you are saying that in order to teach well (kindergarteners reading by October is pretty incredible at any non-gifted program) there is a certain “face time” to “behind the scenes time” needed. Wouldn’t the system benefit if we could re-evaluate the way we are currently doing things so that kids get the “face time” that they need in order to bring up their academic standing. It sounds like the time to prep and maintain a class is disproportionate to the time to run the class. I admit that I am just a parent looking to get what I see the kids need, more “face time”, and not aware of all that’s involved behind the scenes.

    As an example, our school fund-raises for a handheld interactive system that instantaneously gives a test and grades it, shows a working model requiring input etc – technology can be our friend. These are real tools that require funding, as you’ve mentioned, but I don’t see many schools seizing the opportunity to collect 75,000 to 150,000 that could put some large “one time” cost resources like these in place. I also don’t see much willingness to look at our current system and change (something that is free). This would require some upfront time but could bring efficiencies quickly.

    We know that teachers leave at 1:45 to 2:15 with little or no outside work. Can we insure that kids at the worst schools can get some extra time or should they continue to pray for a charter lottery?

    We now currently hold the title of “worst high school ACT’s” ever in Illinois. K-12 is all one system – the elementary schools feed the high schools. Are we going to do something about this or is CTU going to continue their old school politics.

  • 126. cps grad  |  October 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    @124— Having a machine instantaneously grade papers may seem like a time saver, but it takes away a valuable information from the teachers. I am a math teacher and in my subject, contrary to popular belief, getting the “right answer” is NOT the only goal. It is all about thinking and how you reach your answer that counts. For example: Suppose student A gets the wrong answer because of a small arithmetic error or careless copying mistake. Student B reaches the correct answer but has used faulty logic or has made a string of critical and “very wrong” mathematical errors that “undo” each other resulting in the correct answer. This not an uncommon occurrence. Which student needs more help? Which student understands the math more? Student A might just need a reminder to “be more careful” or some work on number facts, while Student B might need much more help “unlearning” mathematic misconceptions. Unfortunately we haven’t gotten to the point where a machine can tell the difference. As a teacher I want to know what types of mistakes my students are making so I can give them the best feedback and support they need. Grading an assessment is not only for assigning a student a grade, it is a learning opportunity for both the teacher and the student.

  • 127. cps Mom  |  October 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    @126 – oh I agree – the tool I mention is only one item in the arsenal that saves time. Having instantaneous feedback can help in many ways – this particular tool is used for science. What I hear you say about math is absolutely true. Kids are not graded on the right answer for homework and the answer is not the only aspect of a test grade either. Kids work in groups to brainstorm and work on problem resolution. Wouldn’t you agree that more “face time” with the teacher to work on critical thinking skills would benefit your math class? More work in class with the teacher might also change the dichotomy of work needed outside of the class by the teacher?

    I want to add that I fully expect a teacher that does the minimum to be completely against an extended day. I wonder why we can’t work toward providing a reasonable resolution to this problem given the extreme amount of time that good teachers do put into their profession.

  • 128. cpsobsessed  |  October 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Allright people, act sane. We’re in the NYTimes:

  • 129. cpsobsessed  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Wendy Katten from Raise Your Hand found this nice link about length of school day and # of days of school and said this:
    “No state averages a 7.5 hour day, so I think it’s accurate to say that it’s false when CPS says this 7.5 hour day will “put us on par with the rest of the country.” No one is as short as 5hr45 minutes either.”

    US average length is 6.64 and # of days is 180. Anyone know how many we have?

  • 130. cpsemployee  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    My school is open campus (45 min lunch/recess combo) with a 3:30 pm dismissal so that is 6.5 hrs. CPS has 171 days.

  • 131. Oh, brother.  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Until you’ve taught children or youth on an on-going basis, it’s very difficult to really understand what it takes or to understand how teacher compensation and a unionized district functions. As parents, we can get very righteous about what we believe the teachers and their union “do wrong.” But a bit of humility and earnest inquiry in our approach to the world of delivering public education would really help just about now. One might even learn something. (Flame away, I guess.)

  • 132. anonymous  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    CPSdepressed, I am surprised you’d send your own children to a system with unionized workers that you so clearly hate.
    No, I would not go non-union. If I did, my only option would be charter and charters are beneath my skill set, education level and experience. Charters (not ALL, but MOST) are for first year teachers who can’t get a job anywhere else, like most Catholic school teachers. At least, that’s the perception among educators. They hire uncertified teachers which I find abhorrent. Plus, why take a job with longer hours, a longer year for at minimum a 10K pay cut when they don’t offer bonuses anyway? The only school I have ever heard of offering a bonus paid the teacher $1500. Uh, I’d be looking for 15K. Especially if I was taking such a huge hit to begin with. A colleague who helps hire teachers for CPS interviewed one guy coming from a charter that had 3 administrators in one year. No thank you.
    I did have to laugh about your Veteran’s day comment. My husband and I were just in process of hiring a sitter that day so I could get some work done! You do realize that of all the days off in November, which I agree are poorly planned, two are national holidays (Thanksgiving and Veterans), one is parent teacher conferences, the other two are PD days (not like I am going to be out at the beach) and one is the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t really know why they planned two PD days though in this particular month.
    I don’t think anyone is saying teachers work 364 days a year. But neither do 90% of teachers leave at 1:45 without bringing work home. First of all, those teachers start at 7:45 (which really means they are in the building at 7 a.m. long before most folks are stopping at Starbucks). Secondly, I personally do not know any teacher who doesn’t take work home. No one is saying we are the only profession who does either. I seem to remember you have a family member or two who are teachers and I can only imagine they drive you crazy. It also comes across that your own profession works you too hard and pays you too little. That is hard. I feel for you. (no sarcasm intended) I understand many folks are very bitter about teachers’ vacation time. I get it. And believe me, I appreciate every single second of my summers because I am able to work a second job that pays for the money I spend on my classroom doing really cool stuff that CPS and parents don’t pay for.
    #125, Kindergarteners reading is not and should not be incredible. It is not rocket science. It is now the norm and is expected at pretty much every CPS school. I have 5 small groups I meet with 1-2 times a week, including the one boy who did come in reading at a 2nd grade level, and I meet with him one on one. We read and write constantly.

  • 133. Oh, brother.  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Or, on second thought, don’t bother, brother. The court of public opinion is speaking as one, reflecting @122 CPSD’s pitch-perfect message. Unionized public teachers, you can’t win. Give up now.

  • 134. cpsobsessed  |  October 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    @131, thanks for the flame invite.
    I agree about the humility, in all aspects of life. As for inquiry, I find it difficult to determine what is “best” in terms of education. For every study that says one things, there is another that says the opposite. Not that the data is wrong, just that there isn’t always a right vs wrong approach in education, nor in many other professions where so many personal and non=quantifiable skills some into play. And where the “data” (students) differs so much across schools, districts, cities, etc. If you know how to better inquire, please let us know as we are an inquiring bunch here who enjoy reading (granted, also picking apart) data.

    I think we need to give up on the “who has it worse” debate. It’s a no win. I think we can probably all agree that teachers have some awesome perks (can leave work when school ends if you need to, summer break, tenure) but some huge burdens as well, more than normal in a underfunded urban school district. To me, job daily life quality shouldn’t be a key factor in this discuss. It’s a job like anyone else’s and deserves fair pay. Or course the “fair” being the debatable part.

    I was telling a new person (younger, no kids) about my blog this weekend and the whole union issue and they asked me “so what do you think is the solution.” I didn’t even know. I realized later that my first thought was that Illinois needs more funding which we all know. But in the absence of that (since it’s unlikely to happen) THEN WHAT? What do we say is the solution? Actually, I don’t even know what the problem is any more…… the arguing overshadows it.

  • 135. Mom  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    It is always pointless to argue with the 1 teacher in 5 or 10 who is amazing at her job. If 10 out of 10 were getting their K students to read after 6 weeks in class, we would not be having the discussion we are now. Yes, this teacher should be awarded a medal (and given a raise). Unfortunately, we can’t afford to do this, nor do the rest deserve it. So now what? Shouldn’t the kids come first? Or should we just keep sucking it up while the majority of kids flounder and fail to realize their potential?

  • 136. cps grad  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I just wanted to put this out there because I’m not sure if the general public is aware, but many days off in school are required by law as outlined in the Illinois School Code.

    Schools must have:
    4 at least institute days a year (generally 2 in the beginning of the year 1 in the fall and 1 in the Spring)
    Parent teacher conferences
    State and National holidays.

    Districts must file for a waiver to have school on any of the holidays, including Pulaski day, Lincoln’s birthday etc.

  • 137. anonymous  |  October 24, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Short of more funding, regardless of anything else, we can add recess at least in schools where there is outdoor space and it is safe to play outside. Doesn’t solve it for everyone, but it will for some schools. Recess means cross body movement which activates the brain and point blank, they need it. We teachers can take our own classes outside and it doesn’t have to come immediately after lunch. That “could” solve the supervision issue for some.
    If I could make one small change for at least some schools, this is what I’d do.

  • 138. CPSDepressed  |  October 24, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I don’t hate unionized workers, but the union does not have my kid’s best interests at heart. The union has the best interests of the average teacher at heart. That’s what solidarity means. I don’t think unions are the only problem in public education, but I also don’t think they are helping.

  • 139. CPSDepressed  |  October 24, 2011 at 6:55 am

    One more thing: you said, @132, That you are surprised I’d send your own children to a system with unionized workers that you so clearly hate.

    I don’t hate the teachers, but I do hate the whining. And I would never send my children to most schools in CPS. I suspect that’s true for most of the parents here, or we wouldn’t have this obsession with the system. It is failing way too many kids. Those of us who have the knowledge and means to make it work for our kids are doing just that, but please be assured that, for me at least, enrolling my kid in CPS does not mean that I’m a big fan of CPS or CTU.

  • 140. MarketingMom  |  October 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m not a fan of the CTU either, but since I am paying taxes like everybody else and unable to afford private school for my 3 kids, I have to deal with CPS. CTU is about the money and that is why folks can see through its shenanigans, especially in this economy.

  • 141. Wisher  |  October 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

    What did she say — that teacher who used to post here with the handle Hawthorne Mom or something like that? She posted a list once of her grounded recommendations of what would “fix” public education. It was very impressive. Anyone have the link?

  • 142. cpsobsessed  |  October 24, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I’ll see if I can find it that list. Basically the gist was;

    -Early intervention (good prek education)
    -Small classes
    -Intervention for kids who are falling behind to keep them caught up in math and reading
    -(And I’m sure some other things to round out the learning)

    And most importantly, this had to happen all at the same time and keep going throughout the years. It’s not a one_year fix.

    Hawthorne mom, if you’re still reading and want to send me your list, I will post it. 🙂
    And hopefully JCB, Rahm, Arne Duncan, and karen lewis will all read it.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 143. klm  |  October 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    OK, we all know most teachers are ”good people”, want their students to succeed, etc.

    However, there are so many examples of “bad teachers” clinging to their tenure, whereby in any other non-unionized job that requires higher education, they’d be fired for doing a sub-par job, etc.

    My own middle-school “public” school started at 8am and went to 1:30pm. We were walking home, practically being run over by the teachers in their cars. I swear I’m not exagerating. Plus, ALL THE TIME OFF!!!!! Summers, Winter Break, Spring Break, etc….. The one recurrent theme among my teachers to us kids was that “kids just aren’t as smart as they used to be…”.

    I know that there is an army of genuine saints out there trying to educate our kids that is being underpaid and that is underappreciated. I GET THAT.

    However, tenure and certain union rules in some school districts have genuinely screwed a large number of American kids out of a quality education (not in Glencoe or Lake Forest, of course –but poor and working-class kids in the kinds in places that don’t get much attention or have ‘high’ expectations). I had teachers that read newspapers, napped with their heads on the desk (I swear on my life –nay on my KIDS’ lives –that I once was assigned the task of ‘waking up’ a teacher before the bell rang [on a fairly regular basis]) and talked with ‘friends’ (fellow teachers) in the hallway or lounges instead of actually “teaching” during class hours. Whether they did a “good job” or a “bad job”, whether they got their master’s degree from Harvard or Billy Bob’s Weekend Easy College of Education, it didn’t matter –their paycheck and raises were guaranteed through tenure rules and “just showing up” for the requisite time period (as if they were unionized factory workers making the proverbial ‘widgets’ in a factory instead of being the seminal adults in kids’ future development).

    If teachers want to “teach”, pay them well, expect them to work long hours and treat them like “professionals” (meaning high expectations and not lots of ‘exuses’ when things don’t work out).

    Meanwhile, the CTU honest-to-God wants us to believe that its AVERAGE teacher is working 10 hours a day, is totally overworked and is underpaid and undervalued in every way (I’m a lawyer and I’ve never made as much money a year as one of the teachers in the CPS school nearest me that teaches 2 half-day (2.5 hours each) Kindergarten classes (with good health insurance, pension benefits and tenure against being let go, no less –those kids of guarantees are unheard of wherever I’ve worked). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining about this as much as wondering what more some teachers want.

    Teaching, as I can imagine, is hard, hard, HARD work. But, so are so many jobs.

  • 144. cps grad  |  October 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    @cpsobsessed-129—This is the same link I posted montghs ago on this website see my post #115 on Rahm vs the union

  • 145. liza  |  October 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I can’t speak for all teachers, but I will give you an idea of what I want. First, as far as bad teachers, yes, there are some – not as many as some of you seem to think. I have worked with a few in my long career. I want the principal to do his/her job. There is a a process to getting rid of bad teachers and many principals simply don’t want to bother. It is time consuming and a lot of paperwork. Bad teachers can be let go. I have worked for 4 different principals in two different schools. Only one of them ever took the time to remove an ineffective teacher. The others simply made things difficult for them so that they left for a different position (usually with a glowing recommendation b/c it was easier to get rid of them that way). Teachers cannot fire other teachers even if we know they are horrible. Yes, there are guaranteed protections from our Union, but it’s not like they are insurmountable obstacles. It’s simply making sure the reasons for letting a teacher go are documented and performance related.

    I don’t want to be compared to the private sector. There really is no comparison here. I work with 32 children every day which is a huge difference from working in an office, factory, etc. I am required to effectively manage my time and theirs to meet the needs of all my students, from the one who still does identify all the letters of the alphabet to those who are reading well above grade level expectations. I have to reach them all. I have to think out of the box because the reading program I must use does not address the needs of all my students who pretty much are all living in poverty. The mandated math program I am using doesn’t meet their needs either. I know my students are not making the grade on the ISAT, Scantron, etc. They make growth, but it is nowhere near closing the gap. Now RTI has become mandated, and I now have to find more time and materials to meet the needs of my two tiers of students because there isn’t a dime to back that up from the Board.

    I would love for someone to ask me what is working and what isn’t working. I would love to be involved in making the decisions about what type of reading and math program would help my students the most, rather than being told this is the program I must use, and I had better not deviate from the program or the pacing schedule by someone who has not been in a classroom for 10 years or was in a classroom for 2 years, sometimes not even in a major urban school system. The real kicker here, in two or three years time when there is a new person in charge or they realize it’s not showing the big gains in scores that were promised, we throw it out. The schools must them purchase the next hot program that is going to save the schools at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the cycle continues.

    Lastly, I would love for CPS to realize that if they are really serious about closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, they need to invest in great preschool and early intervention programs. They must invest in providing real and consistent intervention to students who are lagging behind using sound educational practices in all grade levels. Instead of buying into every quick fix that comes down the pike, take the money and put it in early education and small group intervention for the thousands and thousands of students who need the extra help and push.

    Yes, I do realize that we need additional time to provide the kind of support many of CPS students need and deserve. However, more time doing the same old, same old is not going to get us any closer to the goal. I am also very disturbed by the way this longer school day was pushed without any real thought or plan behind it. The fact that CPS was able to offer a “reward” of $150,000 to schools and a 2% pay raise for teachersat schools who broke with an agreed contract when for months all we heard was CPS cry poor left rather a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure they are pretty unstable financially, after all the waste and excesses I have personally witnessed over the years it comes as no surprise.

    If CPS acted in the best interest of the students, rather than in the political and business interests of some, they would have embraced and invested in these types of programs years ago.

  • 146. BuenaParkMom  |  October 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Here’s what I don’t get about CPS. There are a handful of schools working with high-poverty populations that have amazing results with their children. Frazier International comes to mind. Why don’t they take whatever that school is doing and replicate it in schools that aren’t doing as well?

    Also, Geoffrey Canada’s schools ARE public schools. Supported very well financially by a fundraising arm, basically it’s “Friends Of” group, but still public. I’m not saying every aspect of the school is feasible but it seems like big school systems are not doing a good job of really evaluating what is working and implementing it in schools that are clearly not working.

  • 147. cpsobsessed  |  October 25, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I was just thinking that same thing today BuenaParkMom. We know there are some schools (elem) that have nice test scores despite having a large lower-income base. Why isn’t there more learning from within the system? Perhaps it’s not always easy to identify what elements are “working?”

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  • 148. cps Mom  |  October 25, 2011 at 8:29 am

    @148, 146, 147 – I too think there are good examples for a school that is struggling trying to implement new policy. No need for the “same old same old”.

    As a parent, I am glad that CPS could find the money and earmark it for a specific purpose that will benefit the kids.

  • 149. Mom  |  October 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Does anyone have experience with Kids Care Transport?

    Thanks for any information.

  • 150. Stepper  |  October 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    “Bad teachers” — Gallows humor here, but if you’re frustrated by “bad teachers” now in grade and high school, just wait until you’re paying through the ying-yang for sucky college profs or instructors. Just saying. (wink)

  • 151. Stepper  |  October 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    @145 Liza


  • 152. RL Julia  |  October 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    145 Liza- your principal should be asking you what is and isn’t working – that’s how it goes in my neighborhood school.

    146/7/8 if a background in program evaluation has taught me anything it is that programmatic success is difficult to replicate. You can replicate the program structure but what really makes a program or curriculum work is the individuals implementing it- if you have competant administrators and hardworking talented teacher and committed parents who are all agree on a common goal and common pathway to acheiving that goal, it will happen – but if you don’t have those sort of intangibles – you could have the best model in the universe and nothing will happen. There are no easy fixes.

  • 153. cps Mom  |  October 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Good point RLJ, thanks

  • 154. Liza  |  October 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    @RL Julia – Your nieghborhood school is probably not on the Probation list. It’s a whole different ballgame. Area/Network make most of our choices as far as curriculum, materials, and programs. I work for a good principal, but he has to comply with Network/Area demands. Teachers and administrators are not given much input in these schools. We don’t have much input from parents, not because it is not encouraged, but most of our families are having a hard time keeping body and soul together. Many of our parents are third and fourth generation welfare families. Education is not on many of their high priority list. It can be very disheartening and one can get very discouraged, but the faculty and administration at my school goes above and beyond to try and stem the tide. Their dedication, commitment, and support are what keeps our school and me from just giving up and looking elsewhere for a teaching position.

    I will still stand by my comment that it was wrong of CPS to offer a reward, bribe, or whatever you want to call it after cutting teaching positions and reneging on a contract agreement because there was no money. It seems to me if they had that kind of money and enough to pay off 25 more schools, they might have wanted to put the almost 2 million already handed out with additional monies into early childhood and intervention programs that have been gutted because of the budget. Maybe lower class size in 1st and 2nd grade, provide a reading specialist part time to schools to work with small groups or help get RTI up and running, etc. They might have gotten a little more bang for their buck.

  • 155. anonymous  |  October 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Liza said,”they might have wanted to put the almost 2 million already handed out with additional monies into early childhood and intervention programs that have been gutted because of the budget. Maybe lower class size in 1st and 2nd grade, provide a reading specialist part time to schools to work with small groups or help get RTI up and running, etc. They might have gotten a little more bang for their buck.”
    Sing it! More reading specialists, lower class sizes all over but especially in the lower grades are a big part of what would help.
    And yes, to the poster who stated teachers need to tell their principal what is working and what isn’t, unfortunately in most schools, neither teachers nor principal have much say. I feel like I personally have had to learn to become a master of complying with all these mandates at least in appearance, and then going on ahead and really teaching what needs to be taught behind my closed door.

  • 156. Anonymous  |  October 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Liza, everything you’ve said makes good sense. Thanks for moving the thread away from the negative to what we can do.

    Why not replicate what works at schools like Frazier? Wrap-around services, after-school programs, homework help, reading coaches, smaller class sizes, and a special team of dedicated professionals, as RL Julia said.

    Because it is expensive? Then why not focus scarce CPS dollars on the disadvantaged kids and leave schools that are working well out of the longer day?

  • 157. RL Julia  |  November 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Sort of like separate but equal?

  • 158. liza  |  November 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    @156 I wish CPS would replicate the programs and perks that magnet and SE schools get in the plain old and forgotten neighborhod schools. Frazier boasts a maximim class size of 25 (I just got my 33rd student yesterday) and an IB program which allows them some latitude in choosing their curriculum.

    One key to their success is the parent expectations. It is a non-selective enrollment school which means the parents need to take the time to fill out an application, get in the lottery, etc. to get their kid in this school. Most of the time, they are very involved in making sure they and their child are doing what is necessary to be successful.

    As to the question why doesn’t CPS have these types of programs for all students? They cost money! I also think that schools in poor neighborhoods don’t really have much influence politically. Politicians talk a good game about alleviating poverty and providing services, etc., but nothing really happens. The cost of breaking the cycle is high, but If we want to change things for all kids, we need to provide quality education for every child, and support and education for the parent, especially for families who don’t know how to become a partner in their child’s education. If we don’t, we will continue to see kids who are not prepared to be contributing members of our society and the cycle will just continue with the next generation.

  • 159. momof3boys  |  December 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm


    I love Ravenswood! My DS just graduated from there… My YS was there pre-k to 1st. we switch our older one from Bell and well, he got the grades and the scores and now is at LTHS. Best move ever! My other one would have stayed but is at a rgc closer to home. I love the principal and the teacher and I try to volunteer when I can…

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