WBEZ visits 2 Under-Enrolled schools

January 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm 323 comments

empty schoolroom

There’s an interesting story on WBEZ by Becky Vevea who visited a couple of the CPS-defined under-utilized schools to get a sense of what the space felt like and why enrollment was low.

The admin and teachers sound very dedicated, but it’s hard to justify keeping up buildings with so much empty space (and aggravating given how squished many other schools are.)  If only we could shift the space somehow…

You can read or listen to the story here:


Some key points and excerpts:

There is Drake Elementary school in Bronzeville with 243 students which makes it 40% full by CPS standards.   For grades K-8, that’s an average of 27 kids per grade.  But with CPS’ formula, a school with that enrollment will not get one teacher per grade, so the school has several split grade classes that are large.  And quite a few empty classrooms.  It’s a level 3 school.  82% of the students are low income.  There used to be housing projects nearby that have been closed or shifted to mix-income housing, which has lead to a declining population.  The principal is concerned that if planned development happens, the population of kids will grow again, leading to another need for classroom space.

The principal says:

“I really do enjoy having a school under 300 students, our being a family. I can know students by name, know their parents when they walk in the building, I think that establishes really good relationships with parents and students,” Warner said.  “I can actually keep up with them when I’m looking at data, I know who that number, that’s just a percentage on paper, but I know who that child is, to speak to them the next day.”

Another school, Till, with 477 kids is also at 40% capacity in the South Woodlawn neighborhood (also Level 3, 97% low income.)  But the school “feels” more full given that they have more classrooms filled because the principal uses discretionary funds to “buy” additional teaching spots.  (Drake may need to use this money to buy a couple other things that they don’t get because they’re so small.)  But Till has 2 buildings, each with an empty-ish top floor.  The principal prefers to keep the buildings separate.

“I think with the older kids and the younger kids, it needs to be a clear delineation,” The Principal said. “The development process for older kids is totally different.”

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New CPS Calendar for 2013-2014 Schools still possible for closing – 129 schools (20% of CPS)

323 Comments Add your own

  • 1. EdgewaterMom  |  January 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Doesn’t it seem crazy that a school with an average of 27 kids per classroom is considered 40% full?

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  January 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Well, I think the question is how many classrooms there are. The school used to hold close to 800 kids. So even if they got split out into even classes of 27 – there might still be lots of empty rooms…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 3. EdgewaterMom  |  January 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    So they currently have an average of 27 kids in each classroom that they are using, but they also have many empty classrooms? That makes more sense!

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  January 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Yes, I probably should have said average of 27 per grade!

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 5. anonymouse teacher  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    My question is then, if they close that school, where do those kids go to school? Does the district pay for transportation for those children and every single child who will/would ever attend that neighborhood school when they now have to travel to a different school? (imo, CPS should feel obligated to do so if they take their neighborhood school away from them) When kids now have to travel more than a mile, they need transportation provided. Less than a mile is walkable in most kinds of weather, but more? No way. I’d really like to know the answer to this question, does anyone know?

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I think that’s a big (key) question for these sparsely populated areas… If people are living few and far between, (not sure that’s the case, I’m just assuming) then how far is considered walkable to school?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 7. EdgewaterMom  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    @4 I probably should have listened to the story that you linked to! 🙂 I caught part of it when it was on the radio, but was multi-tasking and did not get all of the details.

  • 8. Anonymous  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Agreed. We walk a mile to our neighborhood school and it’s hard. More than that is insane.

  • 9. Gobemouche  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Maybe looking at their utilization reports will help us visualize the situation:

    Space utilization report for Till:


    Posting in two arts to get out of moderation.

  • 10. Gobemouche  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Space utilization report for Drake:


  • 11. cpsobsessed  |  January 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    So it’s saying that Drake should be filling 23 classrooms and Till 44?
    Or Drake would need 2 classrooms per grade at least (then a random 5 other classes.) And Till would need almost 5 classrooms per grade to be at full capacity. That’s a LOT of kids.

  • 12. Gobemouche  |  January 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Yeah, I guess so. Looking at Drake: they have 23 home rooms.
    23 x 30 students = 690 (ideal enrollment)
    But they only have 250 students.
    23 classrooms divided by 250 kids = less than 11 kids in a classroom.

    I don’t know what the right way to deal with this is. On the one and, yeah, I could see why CPS would consider closing a school like this. Especially if there are other buildings like this nearby.
    However, I really feel for these kids and the neighborhod. I wonder about the neighborhood. What kind of studies have been done about it? Is it in steep decline? Slowly gentrifying? Etc?

  • 13. anonymouse teacher  |  January 28, 2013 at 6:52 am

    And how many gang lines will kids have to cross to get to their new school? It is my understanding that this is the reason the commission stated they do not recommend any high school closings. Certainly, jr. high (and younger too) kids are involved with gangs and even if they are not, it is dangerous just crossing rival lines. I really don’t want to see even more violence in our city.

  • 14. Casey T  |  January 28, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Once again, there is a big elephant in the room that everyone is to politically correct to speak on.
    In some parts of town, there is a need to build a new school almost every year, but the residents of those areas would rather have a fasting protest instead of having their students bused to the near empty schools that are in African American communities.

  • 15. Redbone210  |  January 28, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I read the same article and found it interesting that the principals had discretionary spending allowances (didn’t know). But the article shows that no “one size fits all” approach can work.

  • 16. Teacher  |  January 28, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Yes, CPS principals do have discretionary funds but every school is different. Till would have more due to more students enrolled and because they have a higher population of free/reduced lunch students. Schools had 2 and 3 classrooms per grade eight years ago, but class sizes were 18-22 students in each room. The budgets for public schools has changed a lot!!!

  • 17. Anonymous  |  January 28, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Casey T, seriously? Busing is one of THE biggest expenses CPS has. How about moving some magnet schools in those areas where the neighborhood schools are overcrowded and re-assigning boundaries so EVERYONE can walk to school? Maybe more schools would become better, faster, a la Nettlehorst. And there’s be far less busing — lowering CPS’ expense.

    How about NOT wasting money on new charter school buildings when we “supposedly” have a glut of underutilized buildings?

    I don’t know the answer. But more busing is certainly not the answer.

  • 18. Rachel K  |  January 28, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I took Casey T’s comment to focus more on the upspoken racial segregation of the students as opposed to truly talking about busing. And yes, I am throwing the racial card out there because, make no mistake, it is a major component in all of this.

  • 19. My 2 Cents  |  January 28, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Drake is across the street from the Lake Meadows apartment and condo complex. There used to be public housing to the west, but it has since been torn down. Much of Lake Meadows is filled with college students (IIT), and young adults, but there is a good portion of families w/children. Most of the parents pursue the “better” nearby Pershing East Magnet school, but that school is very small and only holds 2 classrooms, K-3. If Drake closes, children will be terribly displaced. The next closest school is Pershing West, which houses 4-8 grade. The building is very large (formerly Douglas School). Up until about 2 years ago, it shared its building w/Chi Arts high school. Unfortunately, that building is at least 2 miles away from the bulk of the residents.

  • 20. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Casey T – Mostly, its just about simple geography. Where are schools overcrowded? On the far NW side. Where are schools declining in population? On the far SE side. Do you honestly believe the solution is to stick kids on a bus from, say, Dunning to Bronzeville? Come on. It doesn’t have to be racism, to say that you don’t want your kid traveling that far to school. And…isn’t part of the issue with school closings that people want to stay in their neighborhood for school? Why is it racism if people on the north side want the same thing?

    Chicago is a pretty segregated city. We all know this. I just don’t think that CPS should be obligated to solve that problem. That’s up to the entire Chicago community.

  • 21. Casey T  |  January 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks to sanctuary city status, Pilsen, Little Village schools are bursting at the seams with people, legal and illegal. It is not that far from those neighborhoods to the neighborhoods where former CHA properties were and the schools are now near empty
    In my parents day, they would have loved the opportunity to be bussed to less crowded schools instead of being crammed into un-airconditioned “Willis Wagons”.

  • 22. RL Julia  |  January 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    In the end of it all, even if some schools are overcrowded there is still a net loss of students to the overall system.

    While I don’t disagree at all, could someone outline just what they see as being the racial component to this? All I have is that the south and west sides are losing population which would speak to African American families leaving the city (something confirmed by the NYT in 2010). Is there anything more?

  • 23. Southside Daddi-o  |  January 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve already talked to my Alderman re: using existing under-utilized facilities in our neighborhood to relieve over-crowded schools. In our case, Sutherland, Cassell, Mt. Greenwood are really packed, and Kellogg and Barnard are rated as “Efficient.” What I brought up to my Alderman was moving the Vanderpoel magnet program to under-utilized Esmond, which is 500 students short of being “Efficient”-ly utilized. Vanderpoel could be used as a neighborhood school to relieve the overcrowding from the other neighborhood schools.

    The feedback was positive, and it is definitely something under consideration; hopefully this can occur within the next 2 years.

  • 24. CPSParent  |  January 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm


    Agreed. Like Edison moved to make the actual Edison building a neighborhood school again.

    Or…devil’s advocate here…

    How about making every school “as good as” or “better than” a magnet school?

    My 4 kids are in our neighborhood school (fantastic school despite the overcrowding) after having a terrible magnet school experience 6 years ago. “Magnet” doesn’t necessarily mean better…it just means that it draws from all over. (Remember – real magnets don’t pick up gold…..)

    We are in an overcrowded school on the NW side. There’s a “magnet” smack dab in the middle of our enrollment boundaries that would take a huge load off our school (which is at least 80% low-income — haven’t looked at most recent figures — due to sanctuary city status…most single-family homes here have 3 mailboxes, some have as many as 4) if turned into a neighborhood school. But we don’t get a look (or a new addition) because the school principal and faculty are “getting the job done” despite the overcrowding…despite the underfunding…because the parents care, are involved, the PTO contributes heavily, we seek grants, and the principal uses discretionary funds judiciously.

  • 25. Peter  |  January 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Does anyone know where one can find historical CPS enrollment figures? I thought overall enrollment has started to increase again.

  • 26. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm


    Looks like you can check 20th day CPS enrollment here, going back to 2005/06 school year:

    2005/06 420K
    2007/08 409K
    2009/10 409K
    2011/12 404K
    2012/13 403K

  • 27. Peter  |  January 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm


  • 28. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    @CaseyT, I’m sorry, I cannot post your most recent comments that include some broad generalizations about what certain racial groups in the city think. Feel free to comment on your own opinions, but I don’t know that any of us can summarize the thoughts of one entire racial group in the city, even if we are a part of that group.

  • 29. Casey T  |  January 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    The moderator must live in an ivory tower if they think what I have posted is not true.

    And since I abhor censorship in any form and fashion, I will take my leave from this site.

  • 30. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    This calendar has the dates this week with more community meetings. As RYH points out, it is worth checking your school’s status on utilization as well as those around it. Your school may end up being a receiving school which can impact space that is currently used for art, music, etc. (If you click on this link there is a link to the Utilization classification for each school.)


  • 31. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Speaking of RYH, they are having a “Get Involved” meeting tomorrow evening (Tuesday 1/29) if you think you’d like to help their efforts.


  • 32. liloleteacher  |  January 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    @my2cents, Drake should close and combine with Pershing West and it can be k-8. Pershing West is def. under utilized.

  • 33. local  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Do your principals use social media? SOCIAL SAVVY: CPS has compiled a Social Media Toolkit for principals who want to use social media to connect with their school communities. The online resource highlights creative and effective social media use by CPS schools in a “Social Media Trailblazer” video series. – From Catalyst-Chicago

  • 34. anonymouse teacher  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    RYH has on their facebook page that CPS banned the media from attending the space utilization meeting tonight. That doesn’t even seem legal to me. It certainly isn’t transparent and didn’t Emmanuel tout transparency as a tenet of his administration?

  • 35. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    A friend of mine just texted and posted a video from the meeting – lots of shouting/loud protesting. Large groups from Gale and Brennemann together wearing school colors, which is a nice show of solidarity. What a sad, crappy position to put people in…

  • 36. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    RYH is doing live Tweeting at the address above. Estimating 600 people! Trumbull (my neighborhood school apparently has a presence there.) Repeated Tweets that the crowd is yelling in response to the speakers, including chants of “No more charter!”

  • 37. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    RYH is live tweeting the meeting.


  • 38. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Woops, sorry CPSO. We must ave posted at the same time.

    I’m not usually a fan of twitter, but in this case it’s great!

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Yeah, I can’t fully embrace “the Twitter” but it’s cool getting live updates from meetings!

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 40. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I’ll be at the meeting tomorrow at Wright.

    I don’t even know how to tweet. Drat.

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    I don’t either – unless I’m at my laptop which defeats the purpose!
    Do you have a smartphone?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 42. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I do!

    How hard can it be to Tweet? Hmmm…I don’t think I know enough abbreviations 😉

  • 43. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I assume if you set up an account, it must be easily to get the app on your phone. Then you can follow all the cps-themed people. There’s some good stuff if you need yet another way to spend time online 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 44. HSObsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Raise Your Hand is doing a great job live tweeting. I can’t believe CPS banned media from the breakout sessions. Is that even legal? Anyway, the line between citizen/activist/media can be pretty blurry nowadays.

    In the mean time, DNA Info has already posted an article on the pre-breakout session meeting:


  • 45. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    SethLavin (who used to write the Wonks newsletter) also has some interesting Tweets going. There are questions being asked to the committee as to who is paying them, since it’s not CPS and speculation that they are employed by a consulting firm (which seems to rub people the wrong way although I’m not quite sure why but I imagine it has something to do with the general negatively toward “private businesses” in public education circles….

    Anyhow, I highly recommend checking out Twitter for the live updates during meetings like this. Very interesting!

  • 46. HSObsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    The CPS director of transformation is there, a former big law partner, but he seems kind of scared of taking questions from the very hostile crowd. Don’t mess with CPS Mamas!

  • 47. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for the tip on Seth, CPSO. Reading his and RYH’s tweets…getting the full skinny!

    What is up with people from outside consulting firms running these community meetings?

  • 48. HSObsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Consultants who live in the suburbs, might I add, per their bios on their website. “I feel your pain, people. Now excuse me while I drive home to Hinsdale.”

  • 49. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Most excellent snark, HSObsessed! I truly snorted out loud when I read your post.

  • 50. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    “Someone asks Babbitz why they’re opening charters if we have utilization crisis. No answer.”

    – Via Raise Your Hand

    That’s the 64 million dollar question, isn’t it?

  • 51. cpsobsessed  |  January 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Love it. It’s better than having the media there, frankly.

  • 52. Gobemouche  |  January 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Looks like the meeting is over. What was accomplished?

    Anyway, as I said, I’ll be at the Wright meeting tomorrow. There’s free wifi in the building, so I can use my iPad to update you all if no one from RYH is there to Tweet it all.

  • 53. Gobemouche  |  January 29, 2013 at 2:12 am

    From ABC news, with video:


  • 54. EdgewaterMom  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I was not there, but from what I have seen and read about last night’s meeting, it was disappointing on all sides. CPS did not handle it well at all, but the protesters really did not seem like they were interested in doing anything other than stop any schools from being closed. I think that it is obvious to most people that some schools will have to close – there is no way that we can afford to keep them open when they are so under-utilized.

    I don’t know what the best way to effectively engage the public in this process is, but clearly CPS does not either.

  • 55. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:27 am

    #54~EdgewaterMom~I wasn’t there either, but CPS own handpicked commission panel suggests they close no more than 20 schls bc they don’t have the resources to do it properly http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/17858750-418/school-closing-panel-to-advise-20-schools-a-year-limit-source-says.html

    Also, CPS sent outside marketing ppl NOT CPS officials. What does that tell you. Not only do they not handle things properly, but they aren’t listening, just faking like they faking a financial crisis when they have a surplus of $344M

  • 56. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:48 am

    @19 Thanks, My 2 Cents, for that detail. In general, this is what’s missing from the schooling closing debate.

    While CPS has seen declines in student population, I have not seen a release on their analysis of it. They cite Census figures about 100,000 fewer students, but the National Center for Education Statistics, which the Census Bureau supports, reports from its Common Core of Data (CCD) that in 2000-01 CPS had 435,261 students. Using the 20th day in 2012 number, CPS has 403,461, so a loss in 11 years of 31,800. This is a far cry from the 100k figure that CPS officials keep mentioning based on decennial census data. Census projections show increases in student-age population for Chicago in the future.

  • 57. HS Mom  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:03 am

    @56 – The loss of students has to be coupled with an increase in structures (if there is one) – new buildings, additions, old buildings still in use – in order to properly determine vacancy’s and under-enrollment.

  • 58. Anonymous  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Interesting information, Christopher Ball. Thanks for sharing. More than interesting, actually. Very important information.

  • 59. Peter  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:38 am

    The 100K figure was school age children in Chicago, not the CPS population of school kids. It is reather irrelevant. Also, this is a national phenom with declining birth rates.

  • 60. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

    The schedule for the rest of the meetings across the city this week is as follows:

    • Tuesday: Midway Network at Daley College, 7-9 p.m.
    • Tuesday: O’Hare Network at Wright College, 7-9 p.m.
    • Wednesday: Lake Calumet Network at Olive Harvey College, 7-9 p.m.
    • Thursday: Austin-North Lawndale Network at Friendship MB Church, 7-9 p.m.
    • Saturday: Englewood-Gresham Network at Kennedy King College, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

    Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130128/uptown/cps-school-closings-meeting-gets-heated-as-protesters-shout-down-officials#ixzz2JNuYUbal

  • 61. local  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    @ 51. cpsobsessed | January 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    “Love it. It’s better than having the media there, frankly.”

    This breaks my heart. I wish we had better and more comprehensive education journalism in Chicago.

  • 62. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I agree – the 100k kids in the city is a moot point. Why not also cite the population of the U.S.? As a researcher, it bothers me to see a point of data thrown around for PR purposes like that.

    However who really care how many the city/CPS lost. Isn’t the actual point about how much space we have vs how many kids we have? CPS feels we have space for 100k extra kids. Maybe there used to be 500k kids in CPS at one time? Maybe they overbuilt? In any case, there seems to be too much space. Based on Jeanne Olson’s numbers, one can clearly argue whether it is 100k too many or perhaps 30k? too many.

    Here’s my conclusions right now:

    From a fiscal standpoint, we are inefficient.

    Based on the meeting last night, a vocal group feels the only solution is to close NO schools whatsoever, no matter what. It stinks, yes. But I can’t see how NO closings is the best proposed solution. Really… NO schools? None at all?

    After the first part of the meeting, Uptown activist Ryan Polker, 22, whose dad and grandparents were teachers, grabbed a microphone at the front of the gym and screamed, “The voice of teachers, students, neighborhoods, are not being heard. … The community feedback is simple, just one sentence: zero school closings.”

    CPS has not yet come out with a statement on why they’re opening new charters at a somewhat brisk pace despite our inefficiencies. I’d like to hear a statement on that. Maybe they can convince me, maybe not. But I’d like to have it acknowledged or explained in some way given the stink they’re making about “right-sizing.”

    CPS set up this independent panel to supposedly provide a more objective analysis/reco. But the community seems to be frustrated that they’re not getting to talk to CPS directly. I’m curious if that’ll be handled differently at the meetings this week? Or if they’ll continue to strive to keep the meetings run by the committee? It has *seemed* that the committee is not serving up recos that necessarily please CPS so far. I saw an article this morning that indicates that the committee says that CPS can’t afford the costs of shutting down 100 schools in one year.

  • 63. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    @61: I think WBEZ is up for it. I recall them live Tweeting at the strike hearings, and they’re definitely doing some reporting lately that challenges the status quo of CPS….

    I more meant that the live Tweets are more… entertaining due to the spin they put on things.

  • 64. local  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    @ 44. HSObsessed | January 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    “Raise Your Hand is doing a great job live tweeting. I can’t believe CPS banned media from the breakout sessions. Is that even legal? Anyway, the line between citizen/activist/media can be pretty blurry nowadays.”

    That’s a really good question. I think it must follow Open Meetings Act if the meetings/hearings are mandated. How did these meetings come to be? That state law about school closing process?

  • 65. local  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    @ 63. cpsobsessed | January 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Yes, I’m feeling hopeful that BEZ ed reporting has turned a corner and is not just seemingly regurgitating the CPS talking points as it had prior.

  • 66. usedtoteach  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I went to the meeting last night as our school, McPherson, is on the list. Here’s what happened: walked into the gym to find the bleachers packed with parents chanting while CPS tried to speak. Apparently, CPS was supposed to set it up like the downtown board meetings: sign up for your 2 minutes. Since the meeting was going nowhere, they broke up into sub groups, in classrooms. The group I was in was lead by hired consultants. They were scribbling as fast as parents/teachers were talking but had no answers – they would report back to Byrd-Bennett (we think). Our group was quite subdued/respectful.

    A few tidbits:
    *There were some “suits” standing around the perimeter of the room who were silent. We finally asked who they were, more hired consultants? No, they were from CPS. I forget one woman’s title, but she was basically BB’s “assistant”. The weird thing (or maybe not) was they were so scared to share who they were! We had to pry it out of them. If BB wants a reason why parents are so suspicious of CPS, this is a great example.
    *As parents/teachers talked about their school, I realized that we all have the same common denomimators – high percentage of low income, minority, homeless and special education, level 2 or 3. I did hear from another parent at our school who works on the west side that admin, etc. on the west and south side are saying they chose these north side schools as tokens so they didn’t look like they were targeting only the west/south side. Take that as you will – you know how rumors start.
    *Supposedly CPS is counting special education students as only 1/3 of a student in their data to determine utilization. One special ed teacher said if she wasn’t mistaken, she thought that method had gone out with the abolition of slavery. I have a child with an IEP so I should be totally offended that CPS considers my son a third of a person but at this point I’m so jaded by how school districts treat special ed. students, I don’t even know what to say anymore.
    *Not surprisingly no one knew where the kids would end up going. For example, if Trumbull and McPherson close, that’s over 1,000 kids to place. Hello, Ravenswood?
    *It was the usual clusterf**k and frankly, I’m going to assume that CPS already knows who will be closed and this is their way to show that “we did reach out to the parents/community, really we did”.

  • 67. HSObsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    @61 – I also want to say I think the regular media members reporting on education from WBEZ, Catalyst and the Trib are great and that we get high quality reports from them. However, I agree with CPSO that it’s nice to have groups like RYH or individuals tweeting live because they report what’s going on but have more freedom to inject opinions, which makes it more entertaining.

    Re: school closing in general, I agree that “no school closings” is unrealistic. Many parents have a choice of where to send their kids, and they’re voting with their feet by sending their kids to magnets, SE programs, charters, privates, or whatever else, if they feel an option is better for them and they’re given that opportunity. So we have neighborhood public schools that are half empty. Many of them. For each of those half-empty schools, we as citizens are paying the salary of a full time principal, assistant principal, office clerk, custodian, cafeteria staff, etc etc as well as the cost of the electricity, heating, etc for the entire building. Those costs add up very fast. If three schools each built to hold 600 students comfortably each only have 50% enrollment and falling every year, it just doesn’t make sense to keep all three open. Figuring out which ones to close and where those remaining kids go is the tricky part, obviously, but it has to happen if we want to manage our city with any degree of fiscal responsibility.

    I don’t get the question of “Why are we opening charter schools if CPS enrollment is falling?” This seems to be a separate issue to me. Parents are demanding opportunities to send their kids to charter schools, so more charters are opened to accommodate them. Those kids who win the lotteries are not new students in the city; they’re the ones who are now leaving behind the half-empty neighborhood schools.

  • 68. junior  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    The community and CTU responses to the closings were a foregone conclusion. That’s precisely why CPS delayed identifying specific schools to be targeted (wouldn’t you do the same if you knew the automatic knee-jerk response would be to oppose all closings?).

    Look at prior school closings — even when arguably the worst schools in the system were slated to be closed and re-opened, the vocal dynamic was always against the closings. Look at police station closings — every community opposed closing stations (regardless of whether the station was needed from a citywide perspective). Everybody wants theirs.

    As for question about opening new schools while others are closed, I don’t necessarily see a contradiction. We move resources where they are needed. So, while there may be less schools utilized in one area of the city, other areas that are growing and suffering from overcrowding need more capacity. If there are overall 20,000 less students in the system, that could possibly mean that there are 40,000 less in one part of the city (lots of closings) and 20,000 more elsewhere (new schools). It should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, informed by knowledge of general demographic trends.

    What many people in this argument fail to grasp is that not utilizing public resources efficiently results in less resources being available for the other things that we want. (Remember all those wish list items of supplies/books, libraries, more teachers, enrichment, transportation, etc.). Eeking out greater efficiency is “free money” in a system where new funding is exceedingly improbable/impossible.

    We have chosen to put a large part of the pie into teacher compensation (roughly 60% of the total budget at compensation rates that are tops in the nation). Perhaps there is value in that. But invariably it means less money for other things.

    It also leads to a bias, from the City’s budgetary perspective, toward (cheaper) charters as the school of choice where new schools need to be added. Thus CTU must support an irrational position that there should not be any closings/openings of schools.

    I don’t know if the City’s plans are based on a solid foundation of well analyzed data and trends, but I do know that whether they are or not would have little bearing in how the affected school communities and CTU respond to the issue.

  • 69. CPS Parent  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Well reasoned Junior. On top of that, since CPS is not changing the student teacher ratio, qualifed teachers will move with their students (per the CPS CTU contract) to their new schools. Unqualified teachers will lose their jobs so the CTU, is in effect, supporting the lowest performers of their membership by oposing closings.

  • 70. HSObsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Yes, junior, nicely said. Also, everyone should keep in mind that we taxpayers must plan ahead for the nearly 18% pay raise over the next four years that the teachers got to end their strike. That’s money that has to come from somewhere, and closing schools that are being inefficiently used seems to be a very rational place to look.

  • 71. SutherlandParent  |  January 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Agree with pretty much everything junior said, except for this: “wouldn’t you do the same if you knew the automatic knee-jerk response would be to oppose all closings?” Since it is a knee-jerk response, CPS should be prepared for it. If BBB is serious about rebuilding community trust, then she needs to find someone on her (well-compensated) leadership team to stand up, answer questions and take some heat for tough decisions instead of forming commissions whose recommendations will be disregarded, hiding behind consultants and banning the media from meetings.

    Would I want that job? Heck, no. But then, I didn’t take that job 🙂

  • 72. local  |  January 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Interesting comment at Catalyst-Chicago:

    Rod Estvan wrote 0 sec ago
    Was the Truman closing hearing last night not news worthy

    I found it odd that Catalyst did not mention what happened last night at Truman College at the CPS listening meeting on school closings. Here is a link to the ABC news report http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=8971665

    I attended the meeting last night and the outrage of parents from most schools was palpable. What drove people over the top was the CPS declaration that all input from parent/teachers/community members would be conducted in “breakout sessions.” The media that was present at the Truman College gym would not be allowed in the breakout sessions. It was clear that most people attending believed CPS would manipulate any input given to create the message CPS wanted relative to the closing process. At that point the mass audience decided effectively the meeting was a fraud.

    In the ABC clip a reporter Diane Pathieu repeats a comment from an unnamed CPS spokesperson who stated they believed the vocal group was brought in by the teachers union. All I can say about that is I sat relatively close to the CTU vice president and could note no directives being given to disrupters and I also noted that one CTU organizer attempted to calm down a teacher from Gale Academy who was getting pretty vocal at one point. As far as I could tell the anger of the crowd was spontaneous.

    The comment on the video from Brenneman School Principal Sarah Abedal that she feared for the children she had brought to the meeting because people were not being respectful was interesting. I do not know this principal at all, but I read very hostile comments about her submitted to Greatschool.org that were somewhat shocking http://www.greatschools.org/illinois/chicago/962-Brennemann-Elementary-School/#!/reviews

    In general teachers do not trash their principals on that school review site and the level of hostility towards her is remarkable. I do know that she and her students were on the other side of gym from me so I did not hear what she was hearing, but on my side of the gym I saw no parents leaving with their children for fear of their moral corruption.

    Rod Estvan

  • 73. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Interesting comments from Ron E, although I can’t say I support his referencing comments on GreatSchools so he can disparage someone who expressed a opposing viewpoint in the meeting. (Shock, principal didn’t agree with the other CPS staff!) It sounded like an uncontrolled, contentious environment that wasn’t the place for kids. Why the need to get into personal detail about it?

  • 74. junior  |  January 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    local wrote:

    “Rod Estvan wrote 0 sec ago”

    Wow. You’re fast!

  • 75. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I think that means people are refreshing the page over there – which usually means juicy postings….I’ll have to take a look. 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 76. Gobemouche  |  January 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I think CPS needs to do a better job of explaining to parents why some schools will have to close and yet some areas will need schools to open. I understand why – and junior lays it all out nicely for anyone that doesn’t. But, I don’t think the majority of CPS parents spend their time on great sites like this one…sharing perspectives, data, and anecdotes about the realities of CPS. I’ve spent a stupid amount of timing looking at that utilization excel and the budget (I’ll bet you guys have too), but I’m sure that the majority of CPS parents have not. Clearly, CPS needs to do more because the question about more charters, less funds, and school closures keeps getting asked.

    It would be great if some awesome person would do a city overlay of utilizations, population decline, and charter openings.

    On a different note, what do you all make of this CTU report about the budget:


  • 77. junior  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Here’s Catalyst citing Sun-Times:

    “AN ACCUSATION: The Chicago Teachers Union accused Chicago Public Schools on Monday of manufacturing its fiscal crises, pointing to a newly released audited budget for the last school year that seems to show an extra $344 million. But CPS said the money, already budgeted for the current school year, only shows on last year’s books thanks to a Cook County fluke that saw property tax bills sent out on time for the first time in more than 30 years. (Sun-Times)”

  • 78. EdgewaterMom  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    “But CPS said the money, already budgeted for the current school year, only shows on last year’s books thanks to a Cook County fluke that saw property tax bills sent out on time for the first time in more than 30 years. (Sun-Times)”

    Does this make sense to anybody? How does the fact that Cook county sent out their bills on time change the budget? What am I missing?

  • 79. CarolA  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    LOL Welcome to my world! I have been sooooo confused this year is hard to explain. I feel like I’ve been turned around and around with my eyes closed and then sent walking (like we did as kids). I’ve had discussions with administration and been asked by them….did that help clarify things for you? My response: Not at all. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not going nuts!

  • 80. junior  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm


    If you get the revenue early, then it shows in the prior year’s budget instead of the current year’s.

  • 81. EdgewaterMom  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    So they count the revenue as soon as the bill goes out, as opposed to when it is actually paid? How late do they normally go out and when does the CPS fiscal year end?

  • 82. junior  |  January 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    No, I doubt that. But probably the money comes in sooner. The tax bills had not been sent out on time in 34 years prior.

    Maybe someone can hunt down the audit document and provide definitive answers.

    Here’s some background on the late tax bill ramifications;

  • 83. RL Julia  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Am I the only who read that CPS wasn’t going to open any charters in whatever schools they closed for at least five years? I don’t think that anyone is going to be happy with the schools that are closed – except to think well at least it wasn’t my school – however, that doesn’t mean that there are not compelling reasons to close some schools. I think CPS is doing a better than usual job (which admittedly isn’t saying too much) at explaining the criteria they are using to determine which schools will close. However, no matter what criteria they use or don’t use or how many times they tell people – it will not be enough and people will be unhappy with the process – if only because it is taking something away.

  • 84. local  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Rod Estvan was a financial guy. This is his take on it (from his comment at Substatncenews.net):

    By: Rod Estvan
    Two ways to look at CAFR

    As with all things in life there are multiple ways to look at anything. Some times many ways of looking at something are all correct and may present different truths. Substance and the CTU look at the CAFR as evidence that CPS’ claims of fiscal stress were bogus, teachers got ripped off, and fiscal claims as a basis for school closings are illegitimate.

    Here is another way of looking at the CAFR, the way I would have looked at a balance sheet when I was a risk manager many years ago when I left teaching for a number of years. CPS knows the exact capture date when the annual audit will examine its fiscal situation. Therefore, CPS like any other entity makes its balance look as good as possible in order to assure its creditors.

    There are a wide variety of ways to do this, one way is to project higher expenses than the district expects it will actually realize. Another way is to shift expenses between fiscal years, for example writing contracts for services provided during the latter part of the current fiscal year that would only be payable in the next fiscal year. Another way is to project lower levels of income than could be projected using another approach. The magic of accounting provides numerous other ways to skin this cat.

    All of these techniques are understood by analysts and accepted as part of doing business. To put it simply audits reveal some things but not others else wise the public would have been alerted to the pending fiscal collapse of several investment banks well before the onset of the Great Recession.

    The overall fiscal situation of public education in Illinois as a whole is not good as are the situations of cities and villages in our state. The driver of this problem is the effective bankruptcy of the State of Illinois. Legally the State of Illinois cannot declare bankruptcy so the fiction of the possibility of eventually coming out from under the current situation continues. To claim as elected officials from both major parties that the root of this problem is pensions is duplicitous, the root of our problem is Illinois constitutionally driven flat income tax.

    In our State the most wealthy among us are protected by the Constitution which forces to poorest tax payer to pay at the same rate as the richest tax payer on earned income. As we all know the solution school districts use is property taxes, which in the Chicago metro area are subject to legal increase caps. With the dramatic decline in property values, rates are increased just to keep school districts’ income flat or slightly below the rate of inflation.

    So I would say yes CPS historically presents its coming fiscal situation annually as a pending disaster. I would also say the CAFR is a snapshot frozen in time that creates more of a cash balance than the district should have using generally accepted accounting techniques.

    Rod Estvan

  • 85. Gobemouche  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    The reports are here:


  • 86. Gobemouche  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    The link above is where you can find the comprehensive annual financial reports. Fair warning: They’re each about 270 pages long.

  • 87. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    #84~Local~ITA w/Rod E. And those tax bills coming out on time totally screwed up my accounting. I couldn’t believe it.

  • 88. CPS Parent  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I’m no expert but I doubt CPS keeps its books on a “cash” basis. My assumption is that when the tax bills go out the portion due to CPS becomes an asset and therefore has to booked even if the cash is not in the bank. This helps with bond/credit ratings but does not mean there is cash “surplus”.

  • 89. CarolA  |  January 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I think Rod is right about two ways to look at things. I believe each side is right in it’s given time frame. As they say, timing is everything. CPS is sure to be giving correct information for that moment in time. I’m sure they realize they are under incredible scrutiny right now. Just the same, CTU will twist things to their advantage. In general, things need to change. Whether for the better or worse is yet to be seen. I just don’t see how things can get too much worse. I believe there was something said about not changing any closing schools over to charters. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t open a charter nearby in another building or new building. Careful choice of words is important these days.

  • 90. JustanotherCPSparent  |  January 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Just sat down at the Wright college meeting. Its pretty empty. I have a feeling this meeting won’t be as crazy as yesterday’s. The O’hare network is mostly over-crowded. But we’ll see what happens.

  • 91. cpsobsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Yay! Keep us posted…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 92. CarolA  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I was thinking of going, but didn’t want to deal with the craziness I saw on TV. Glad you went. Keep us posted! Thanks!

  • 93. HSObsessed  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    WBEZ Education is tweeting tonight from Daley College on the SW side. 200-300 people. Most public comments seem to be from parents and staff from overcrowded schools demanding more space.

  • 94. Gobemouche  |  January 30, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Ok. I’m going to try to summarize the meeting. I just couldn’t post during it, my keyboarding skills are lacking!

    The meeting at Wright college tonight dealt specifically with the O’Hare network. It’s the biggest network in CPS, with 41 elementary, 3 middle, and 10 high schools. Oh, and 1 charter.

    There were maybe 60 people at the meeting, not of CPS. The CPS presence seemed to outnumber everybody else. They passed out 3 printouts: space utilization for the network, a bullet point info sheet entitiled, “Addressing the utilization crisis facing CPS and our communities,” and a list of network schools to find what your break out group was. The meeting started with some introductions (Babbitz, Alverado, Leslie Boozer (?), etc). Then straight to commentary by anybody who signed up.

    Only 5 people were signed up to speak. The first was a teacher who expressed concerns about capital improvements. She pointed out how different the ohare network was because the issue there is overcrowding. Her basic mission statement was : more capital improvements (for smaller class sizes), and less charters.

    I should note here that the O’Hare network only has 2 underutilized schools: ASPIRA-Haugan Charter and Marshall middle. There are only 3 level 3 schools in the network. So it’s just a whole other animal compared to the majority of CPS.

    A teacher from Marshall Middle spoke. It was so informative and heartfelt. He told us how 5 years ago CPS spent $8 million to renovate and said it would draw more kids, but only 46 more enrolled. He said they felt like they were being starved for resources. Examples- there are no working toilets on the 4th floor and there is a hole in the ceiling of the auditorium. He talked about how they have to take in the kids from charters that get kicked out. He believes Marshall is efficient. He basically ended by pleading CPS to fix their school.

    A Taft parent spoke about overcrowding and the impact of going wall to wall IB. He was worried that CPS would wait until the start of school (Aug 26) to deal with the problem.

    Another teacher spoke (she didn’t say what school). She talked about how different areas of the city have different needs, but we all have one thing in common – we just want good schools. She noted that the best schools have strong parental involvement, but that charters don’t have LSCs. She brought up the CAFR, and the notion that the budget deficit is some kind of illusion.

    A parent spoke about having a kindergartener and having to find a different school other than their neighborhood school because she felt it was too overcrowde. After sending her kid on a bus to a different school, they gave up and enrolled in a parochial school. She’s with a new NW side school options group. She talked about how many schools in the ohare network aren’t accepting applications because of overcrowding. She brought up the schools that are over 100% full, and what does it take for CPS to finally deal with such extremes.

    After that, we were broken up into 2 groups (depending on what school you were there to “represent”), and sent off to a different room. Our room was lead by Anna Alvarado. She started a power point about CPS “core beliefs and values”. She gave some lip service to all kids deserving a high quality education and “equitable access” – for underutilized and overcrowded. She talked about underutilized schools and limited resources. She emphasized that there is no list yet. She praised B3 as a “neighborhood kid”, that she believes in neighborhood schools. Etc etc.

    Babbitz continues the power point. There were slides on:
    “what we’ve heard from this community”,
    “the challenges facing CPS”,
    “where we are and purpose for today”,
    “Safety, utilization, building quality, and ability to provide affected students with higher performing options guide our process”,
    “Our transition vision and goals that will ensure all students and families are supported throughout the process”.

    Babbitz talked about dealing enrollment. Said that the actual decline in enrollment is 35,000 kids. That 100,000 number that we keep hearing? Oh, that’s the decline for the city.

    He acknowledged that CPS has screwed up “logistics” in the past like not having boos on the first day of school.

    He said the deficit is real. Less property taxes, no more federal stimulus money, etc. Costs increasing.

    I took pictures of all the power point slides if anybody wants to see them.

    He said he’d turn the meeting over to the “facilitators”, but accidently answered someone’s question about charters first. Someone asked what is with the big charter push? What is the strategy? This person talked about going to their alderman to try to get a charter to relieve overcrowding and said they were told they would have to “do it themselves”. As in, find a facility before approval, etc. this is where someone else pointed out the contradiction. The board approves charters (and Disney II high school) without facilities all the time. At this point, Babbitz suddenly remembered that they (CPS) weren’t there to do a Q & A.

    Yes, at this point we were told the meeting was NOT a Q&A. Say what? We were to express our questions to the “facilitators” who would then relay them back to HQ.

    So that is what happened next. Two people -not from CPS- (I couldn’t hear their names, the room had weird acoustics) took over the meeting. They wanted us to ask all of our questions (again, questions that weren’t to be answered). It was all about “input gathering.” They said that they do not work for CPS, which is pretty unbelievable.

    This pretty munched stumped everyone. However, people rallied and began asking questions. Things like:
    Is there a 5 year plan?
    What is the format/formula for determining utilization?
    Who did the study about declining number of students?
    How many kids can keep going into overcrowded schools before some action is taken?
    Will CPS redraw boundaries to deal with overcrowding?
    Are there buildings in the CPS portfolio that the public is unaware of that could be used?
    Why are schools closing and charters opening in places that actually seem underutilized, not in the overcrowded areas?
    Why not focus on lower class sizes?
    How is class size determined?
    Etc etc etc

    What’s the answer to any of these questions? Who knows! That’s not why we were there!

    Then the facilitators did this very bizarre turn around where they just wanted us to tell them what makes our school great. Since our network has so many level 1 schools, apparently it’s up to us to tell CPS what the magic formula is. Or a not very subtle way of changing the subject completely. No matter what anybody said or asked, they just kept going…but what about your school? Tell us what makes it good.

    Finally, they wanted to know “if” our schools were closed or consolidate, or had a boundary changed, what could CPS do to make the transition easier. And they wanted to know what CPS could do to earn the publics trust. Um, how about just telling us before hand that a meeting is not about answers.

    Basically, it felt like they were patronizing us. I can only imagine how infuriating that meeting would be for patents on the opposite side of the spectrum. The ones with the underutilized schools.

  • 95. CarolA  |  January 30, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Thank you for taking the time to go to the meeting and summarize it for us. Unfortunately, it sounds like they will continue to do whatever they want and then say “we held meetings all around the city and took input from all to help make our decisions.” I think they already know what they will do, but there’s no way to prove that. Earn our trust????? hmmmmm

  • 96. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 30, 2013 at 7:59 am

    #94~Gobemouche~Thank you for writing that summary. ITA w/CarolA (#95)~they already have a plan but now can say they held meetings and received community input. There is no trust w/CPS or Rahm~too many LIES~especially saying that CPS lost 100,000 kids and then after Apples2Apples called them out on it w/their #s~they then started saying 100,000 kids lost in Chicago (BIG difference). Instead of being honest and having real conversations, they just lied to parents/voters/stakeholders.

  • 97. ZanesDad  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

    @66: I don’t think CPS is counting SpEd kids as 1/3 of a student. What may be happening is that CPS isn’t making any distinction between SpEd classrooms and “mainstream” classrooms when doing their utilization calcs. Obviously you’re not going to have 30 autistic kids in a single classroom – 8 or 9 is probably the limit. So CPS is effectively overestimating SpEd classroom capacity by a factor of 3 or so. Maybe that’s where this 1/3 business comes in.

    I was at the Truman college meeting and was in the McPherson/Stewart breakout room briefly. I felt bad for Craig Benes, I think he’s a nice guy and a capable leader but he’s just middle management in all this. People at the meeting who directed their frustration at him need to know that he probably has about as much say in this process as parents and teachers. BBB might possibly make eye contact with him when he gives his input but at the end of the day she and Rahm are going to do what they want. And they’re not going to show up at these meetings to take questions.

    It’s a lot of Kabuki theater, and I agree that it’s mostly to give the impression of fairness in the closing process, but the overwhelming majority of closings are going to take place on the west and south sides. There’s not going to be any big surprises when the “final list” comes out. FWIW, I highly doubt McPherson would be on it – where would they put 700 kids? They’re more likely to be a receiving school for some students.

    Also, the trib reported that the Loran consultants are being paid for by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation (i.e., Wal-Mart charter money).

  • 98. HS Mom  |  January 30, 2013 at 9:42 am

    @94 – Thanks for the report. As far as not answering questions goes, I really don’t blame CPS. Having attended the first community meetings about the selective and magnet school processes back in 2010, I’m sure they learned their lesson. They started with a presentation and then a line up of people with questions that they addressed. The information was not always correct or it changed. They figured out after a few meetings that they should probably quit taking questions. From a legal standpoint, there is no way someone could stand up and make representations about the questions posted.

    I agree, it’s not helpful in making CPS families feel that they are involved or have a say. What is new here at this meeting (vs selective enrollment and budget community meetings) is that they are “fact finding” and accepting questions. If they really do follow up and do something about the concerns that would say something. We’ll see.

  • 99. Gobemouche  |  January 30, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Forgot to mention something else from the meeting. A new phrase being used, “welcoming schools.” The schools that will receive kids from underutilized areas. This really concerns people from schools out here. They’re afraid that they will be forced to take in more kids in buildings that are already way over 100% occupied.

    More stats on the ohare network:

    -113% elementary school utilization (versus 80% all CPS)
    -116% high school utilization (77% all CPS)
    – 90 million dollars spent in last 5 years to add additional capacity.

    (90 million seems low for such a huge network with such an extreme overcrowding problem. Especially, when considering that just the Jones building cost over 100 million.)

    Just looking at the excel you see school after school that is over 100% full. Pressing, 158%. Von Steuben, 150%. Taft, 142%. Bridge is at a whopping 215% utilization rate.

  • 100. ncm  |  January 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Thank you, Gobemouche, for taking the time to summarize. It is disheartening to hear the numbers on both sides – overcrowded and underutilized. After reading this I get why some choose the private route – at least in part to not have to deal with CPS. We left a private for a SE and although my child has learned unbelievably more than if he would have stayed at the private, even with 25% more kids in his classroom, I can now at least in part answer the question “what are you paying for?”

  • 101. HS Mom  |  January 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    @99 – wow, isn’t Von a magnet? Are they letting in more than they have room for? That’s good of them to give kids a break.

  • 102. local  |  January 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Re: Sped & utilization (from comments at District 299 blog):

    (quotes below)

    Megaphone of Destiny said 3 hours, 47 minutes ago
    In reply to district299reader:

    I don’t think CPS is counting SpEd kids as 1/3 of a student. What may be happening is that CPS isn’t making any distinction between SpEd classrooms and “mainstream” classrooms when doing their utilization calcs. Obviously you’re not going to have 30 autistic kids in a single classroom – 8 or 9 is probably the limit. So CPS is effectively overestimating SpEd classroom capacity by a factor of 3 or so. Maybe that’s where this 1/3 business comes in.

    district299reader said 3 hours, 14 minutes ago
    In reply to Megaphone of Destiny:

    I have seen very few classroom for special education students that are the same size as a general education classroom. Usually, the special education classrooms are in rooms no one else wants-you know, the former offices, closets or the room next to the boiler in the basement. Years ago one of the TV stations did get a reporter into a special education classroom being held in a washroom-the teacher was reprimanded because she called the media. The worst one I saw was the 8 by 20 closet without a window which housed three adults and seven children, one of the children was in a wheelchair and one who had emotional issues (he didn’t like anyone in his space-so throw him in a closet/sardine can). We do not treat children with special needs fairly in CPS.
    district299reader said 19 hours, 23 minutes ago

    What is CPS doing about the 120+ special education vacancies? Children are being subjected to different subs everyday. The subs are not versed in sped strategies. These vacancies have been documented for at least twenty years. Why do so many young sped teachers leave CPS?
    1togoplease said 13 minutes ago
    In reply to district299reader:

    As a former CPS SPED teacher, I believe that many teachers leave CPS for other districts basically is for two huge reasons. The first being the total lack of regard for special needs students. Many students do not receive the services they should be getting under federal law. Caseloads for resource teachers is often well over 20 students across three or more grade levels. Self contained is often well over 12 without a full time teacher aid. Secondly, there is very little support from CPS. “Parf till you barf” comes to mind. Good, caring SPED teachers become quickly overwhelmed and frustrated. While some stay to fight the good fight, I have seen excellent teachers leave and go to suburban districts where things are usually a little, and sometimes, a lot better. It is very often, just demoralizing to work in SPED in Chicago. A good SPED program takes a lot of work with everyone working together toward the same goals. This doesn’t happen very often in most schools. It is often hard to find a gen ed teacher who doesn’t resent having SPED kids in their homeroom that will bring down test scores which have an effect on their evaluation, and who can blame them? SPED is something of a joke in CPS unless you are a very involved and savvy parent, and it is still a herculean task to get CPS to provide the appropriate amount and type of needed services.
    Rodestvan said 24 minutes ago

    I am not sure where to start. There are many schools where self contained classes are placed in what CPS considers to be standard sized rooms. Off the top of my head I can easily name two such schools Penn and Otis that have self contained classes in full sized rooms. There are many more.

    Are there situations where self contained classes have been placed in smaller classrooms. In one really upsetting situation I saw an 8 student self contained classroom for so called TMH students in a converted storage room with one window. But to be honest most principals that have integrity will not allow such things unless they are so overcrowded that regular education students are also experiencing that level of depravation.

    The CPS classroom utilization system does not measure students with disabilities differently than regular education students. But if students with disabilities are being educated in a self-contained setting in a standard sized room in a general education school (not seperate special education day school like Beard for example) and their classroom based of the Illinois Administrative Code requires no more than 15 students with appropriate aide support that class will be judged to be 50% underutilized.

    I think this is where the idea that some students with disabilities were being measured as 1/3 of a student may be coming from. Access Living has repeatedly objected to this and our letter to the Commission on utilization is on the Substance website.

    In relation to unfilled special education positions. CPS as of August 6, 2012 was still attempting to fill about 100 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the traditional track system, about 95 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the year round track system, about 95 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the traditional track system, and about 20 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the year round track system, for a total of about 310 positions back in August. This huge number was driven by a massive number of retirements in June 2012.

    As of today Jan 30, 2013 there are 42 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the traditional track system unfilled, 38 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the year round track system unfilled, about 20 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the traditional track system, and 11 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the year round track system, for a total of 111 unfilled special education teaching positions.

    As can be seen this is a dramatic improvement since August. The reality is there may be some schools that did not get three certified special education teacher applicants from the CTU laid off pool and a principal might not agree to hire the one teacher who might have applied which is allowed under the CTU contract. Newly certified special education teachers are far and few between right now which is why under CPS rules special ed teachers are considered exempt from the residency rule under Board rules.

    I do know CPS is planning on visiting schools of Education that have special education majors in an attempt to hire addtional teachers. I do think CPS should force principals to hire any qualified special education teacher who has applied for a position if the position has remained empty this long. But CPS is not doing this and I do not have data on how many if any positions are remaining unfilled based on principal choice.

    I hope I have answer all the questions.

    Rod Estvan

  • 103. Gobemouche  |  January 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    102-HSmom- Yes, Von Stueben is a magnet. It’s interesting to see their numbers, given people often comment that magnets don’t go over class size limits. Turns out, yes, they do. Von Steuben is pretty high on my list of high school choices for my kid, even with the overcrowding issue (and above some SEHSs).

    I also think that Von Steuben should serve as a model when CPS asks what we would like to replicate.

  • 104. HSObsessed  |  January 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, I looked up the space utilization numbers for Taft and von Steuben, and they’re crazy high. Taft’s “ideal” enrollment is 2184, but in 2011-2012, there were 2998 actually enrolled. (And that “ideal” is by CPS standards, meaning packing every classroom full.) Von Steuben’s ideal is 1104 and they had 1635 enrolled. I wonder if both those schools got caught in the same dilemma that LPHS did, when their acceptance rate went way up after they made offers in spring 2011. That was one of the first years that huge numbers of kids didn’t get SEHS offers, and tons more that one would have been predicted accepted the LPHS offers to the programs open for citywide applications. For Taft as well as LPHS, surging enrollment from neighborhood kids also likely played a big role. Since they can’t “undo” their offers to applicants, they had to make room. I know LPHS was more careful last year in this regard, in order to control enrollment.

  • 105. Gobemouche  |  January 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t know. It would be interesting to see their numbers for previous years.

    So here’s a list of magnets that are over 100% utilization. You have to go over 140% apparently to be deemed “overcrowded.” It looks to me like most magnets operate in high 90%.

    Stone, 111%, efficient
    Thorp, 112%, efficient
    Jackson, 117%, efficient
    Curie, 110%, efficient
    Beasley, 105%, efficient
    Black, 132%, efficient
    Drummond, 107%, efficient
    Gallistel, 212%, overcrowded !!!!!
    Kanoon, 119%, efficient
    Lasalle I, 107%, efficient
    Murray, 103%, efficient
    Sheridan, 112%, efficient
    Vanderpoel, 113%, efficient
    Wildwood, 175%, overcrowded !!!!

    The fact that CPS deemed Black to be “efficient” at 132% is mind boggling. How do they even let a magnet school get to 212%?

    It just goes to show that the Apples to Apples analysis of the CPS utilization formula is right on.

  • 106. wondering parent  |  January 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    @105 I saw somewhere that Vanderpoel’s magnet program should be moved to an underutilized school (Esmond).Can anyone tell me why Vanderpoel should not be converted to a neighborhood school — the space they have is too small, there is a underutilized building 2 miles away, the other neighborhood schools could use the release, and most of all VANDERPOEL IS A MAGNET!

  • 107. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    #106~WP~what school is 2 miles away that is underutilized in Beverly?

  • 108. OutsideLookingIn  |  January 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    If a school is in the 200%+ utilization range, where are they putting the students? In trailers? On the roof?

  • 109. SutherlandParent  |  January 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    @106, I think the idea is that Vanderpoel’s magnet program would be moved to Esmond, and the building would convert to a neighborhood school and take some of the overflow from Kellogg and Sutherland. I suppose then all the boundaries for Clissold, Cassel and Mt. Greenwood would shift some.

    While I would love to see fewer kids stuffed into classrooms at Sutherland, I wonder how that would affect the number of teachers assigned to impacted schools. As I understand it, CPS allocates a teacher for every 30 or so students. Vanderpoel has 305 students across K-8 with one class per grade. Say (for example), the school becomes a neighborhood school and Sutherland, which has three classes per grade for K-8, sent 15 kids in each grade to the new school, and Kellogg sends 10 (Sutherland is much larger than Kellogg, but I’m just making up numbers here). I’m going to assume that a few kids currently at Clissold would now shift into the Sutherland boundaries, so say Sutherland ends up with 10 net fewer kids per grade, which is a decline of 90 students. On the one hand, that would be great, since that kind of reduction in some of our grades would leave *only* about 31 kids per classroom. On the other hand, we’d also lose several teaching positions if our numbers dropped that much. So, we could probably say goodbye to the music teacher or art teacher or technology teacher. Or am I wrong about how teachers are assigned?

  • 110. cpsobsessed  |  January 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I met the founder of this arts-based charter school at the New School Fair. So why not let this open in the midst of all those overcrowded schools, then parents who want an arts-based education can take advantage of it?


  • 111. cpsobsessed  |  January 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    @109: i believe schools get the extra positions (library, gym, art, etc when they reach a point of critical mass (n=350?) and then maybe more as the school gets even bigger. So that kind of happens beyond the classroom teacher allocations, but schools can get creative with how they use the discretionary funds to make it work. I think it is below 350 kids where you really lose all that stuff.

  • 112. Southside Daddi-o  |  January 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    @107 Esmond is on 112th, Vanderpoel is on 95th. That’s roughly 2 miles away, give or take a 1/4 mile.

  • 113. another CPS mom  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Esmond might be 2 miles away, but, in a way, it’s a world away, according to District 22 cops.

  • 114. another CPS mom  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    That catalyst blog has named names in the utilization meeting funding and staffing: http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2013/01/30/20778/record-walton-foundation-funds-community-engagement

  • 115. Southside Daddi-o  |  January 30, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    @113 The 22nd District station is literally just a stone’s throw away from Esmond, if it makes any difference. I’m sorry, but as a 19th Ward taxpayer and parent, I feel that it makes little sense to maintain a magnet school when an underutilized school can better meet the needs of the magnet AND the overcrowded neighborhood schools.

  • 116. @115  |  January 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    There is nothing stopping you from applying to the proximity lottery for Vanderpoel. You choose NOT to apply & therefore CHOOSE to go to a school you deem overcrowded just because you DON’T want to integrate Vanderpoel. I believe in previous posts you thought Vanderpoel was too black for your white child. Why uproot students who are doing well. It’s a very SELFISH idea. FYI-Robert Black magnet school is in walking distance of my house and they don’t have space for my two children so they go to Vanderpoel. I am not on this blog crying that Black should be converted to a neighborhood school. All I think is oh well that’s the way this crazy CPS system works!

  • 117. passing bye bye  |  January 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Thank you #116-seesh….same deal over at Lincoln Elementary. There are half empty schools nearby (.7 of a mile). But they are half full with a certain kind of child. Just saying

  • 118. I hear you  |  January 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    @116, I agree with you and sincerely hope the plan to uproot the current students at Vanderpoel fails. As you indicated, there is space at Vanderpoel for more students, white parents just don’t want to send their kids there unless and until the black students are forced out.

  • 119. Southside Daddi-o  |  January 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    @116 yeah, 100% black or 100% white would be too extreme for my tastes. I’m just curious, why, if Vanderpoel is a good program and exceeds efficiency (as stated above), why moving it to a bigger space is such a bad idea? It seems to be a win-win: Vanderpoel gets more space, kids at overcrowded local schools get more space, an EXTREMELY underutilized building gets used effectively and saves the taxpayers money. What is the downside of moving the program to a nearby school?

  • 120. WildwoodRocks  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Wildwood, 175%, overcrowded !!!!

    Wildwood has been overcrowded for many years because it is a good CPS school. Most kids at Wildwood are neighborhood, but the rest of the neighborhood is afraid of the “different” kids attending Wildwood so they send their kids to the mediocure private school across the street. Would make sense to keep Wildwood as a K – 5 school and send 6-7-8 to Edgebrook with their new addition.

  • 121. cpsobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    So the Englewood area which is full of under-utilized schools has 12 charters. The O’Hare area which is full of over-utilized schools has 3 charters.

    Junior, you do make great points about why charters are still needed. The question is whether CPS is willing to open them in over-crowded areas. Is this even a possibility? I thought a lot of the funding that charters get are to help at-risk kids. I don’t know that Bill Gates wants to fund charters to bring a special themed school to the Lincoln Elementary zone so parents can have more options or to help ease overcrowding in successful schools.

    So I DO get that charters can still make sense, but when CPS cries “woe is us” that we have all this excess space but there are 12 charters in Englewood….well, they brought some of it on themselves. I’m not saying I disagree with the charters existing from a theoretical standpoint. But from a space utilization standpoint I’m having a harder time with it.

  • 122. Gobemouche  |  January 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    CPSO- This was one of the questions I asked above. Why does it seem like charters consistently still go into areas where schools are already underutilized while there are very few charters in the places where schools are actually overcrowded?

    FYI, there is only 1 charter in the overcrowded ohare network. ASPIRA-Haugan charter, which is not only a level 3 school, but is also noted as underutilized on the excel.

    A parent at Wright meeting said they went to the alderman to ask for a charter to relieve overcrowding. They were told – you have to do it yourself : find the organization and facility. They were told it wouldn’t get approval without a facility. Therein lies the contradiction – the board approves charters (and Disney II high school) without any building plan all the time.

    Again, I really wish someone would do a map overlay of charters and underutilized and overcrowded areas. Because something is off in this equation.

    Probably, CPSO is right, that charters organization funds go to where disadvantaged kids are. It’s just that in Chicago right now it seems that the disadvantaged kids are also in underutilized areas.

    But, using ASPIRA-Haugan as an example, even a charter that goes into a crowded and disadvantaged area is not a sure win.

  • 123. JustanotherCPSparent  |  January 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I am sorry, CPSO, you are right about 3 charters. My bad. I keep forgetting about CICS.

  • 124. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Some say that CPS charters have skimmed students from neighborhood schools, thereby leading to underutilized neighborhood schools.

  • 125. IBobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Maybe Charters go into disadvantaged neighborhoods where schools are “underutilized” (according to CPS’ formula, but see RYH apples to apples study on that) because they are low performing academically and CPS would like to make them someone else’s problem. ie. the Charters.

  • 126. Family Friend  |  January 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Various charter topics:

    @17 Anonymous: CPS is not wasting money building new facilities for charter schools. CPS does not build facilities for charter schools. It rents surplus space to charters for occupancy costs – maintenance, utilities, etc., thus reducing the cost of underutilization. Charters that build new schools raise funds, mostly from individuals, borrow money, or, in one or two very lucky cases, get the Illinois legislature to appropriate some money.

    @110 CPSO: I am sure that Orange School, the new arts school, would love to locate in an overcrowded area. But it is distressingly hard to find a facility in those areas, which is why some operators have been able to persuade Springfield to cough up some funds. Andre Agassi started a foundation that will build schools or repurpose existing buildings and rent them to charter schools until the schools are able to buy them, but they don’t even want to work with one-campus schools with good academic track records. They want replicators with good academic track records. Orange School would not qualify for that option, because it’s a brand-new, single-campus charter.

    @121 CPSO: Good point about charters being concentrated in areas with lots of underutilized schools. That is in part a function of CPS steering charters to neighborhoods where 1) there is space and 2) neighborhood schools are performing poorly. Orange School wanted to locate in Rogers Park, where schools are crowded and performing poorly – but not poorly enough, per CPS’ new guidelines, under which they will not allow new charters in any but the very worst performing areas. But parents are fleeing those areas rather than asking for new, different schools, so there aren’t enough kids to fill the seats of any of the area schools. Of course, those are last year’s (Brizard’s) guidelines; I don’t know where Orange School will end up.

    You may recall that I am on the board of a charter school located in Englewood. It started with just the fifth grade four and a half years ago, and now serves 5-9. Eventually we will have 5-12. Our first class started out an average of 2.5 years behind grade level in reading (on the Terra Nova exam) and nearly that far behind in math. Last year, when they finished eighth grade, the class, some of whom started in 6th and 7th so had less time in the school, was scoring an average grade level of 11.6 in reading and 10.9 in math on the NWEA. (I mention the tests because the educators out there will know that, to some extent, we are comparing apples and oranges and that actual progress is probably not as large as those numbers suggest. But it’s still very impressive.)

    Families in Englewood appreciate what our school does and many send their children there – we have more middle school children than any other school in the area. But since we haven’t taken new students after 7th grade, and since our population is fairly mobile, expected attrition will leave us with a H.S. senior class too small to offer the curriculum we want. Our board is deciding what to do – probably accept new students in at least 8th and 9th grades, which will allow for sustainability but will not allow us enough time to give a really good education to those who start later. There is always a trade-off, and we will no doubt be fundraising to pay for intensive RTI.

  • 127. junior  |  January 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    @121 cpso

    No doubt the underutilization is, at least in part, a consequence of CPS’ decisions to build charter capacity. I think more accurately though it is a consequence of school choice in general.

    Parents in schools that are perceived to be low-performing and/or undesirable in some respect — frequently in the poorest areas of the city — have various choices to find alternative schools:

    1. Suburban schools (witness the rise of not just “white flight” but also “black/brown flight” and the changing demographics of inner-ring suburbs.).
    2. Private schools — there are some low-cost schools in the reach of some families who reside in poorer neighborhoods.
    3. Magnet (and also SE) schools.
    4. Charter schools (both within and outside the community)
    5. Neighborhood schools in other communities (look at schools like Nettlehorst and Pulaski, which are in gentrified areas, but for a long time were filled with kids from outside their immediate neighborhoods).

    Many people have spoken with their feet. And they have frequently chosen to leave schools in the toughest neighborhoods. These schools might be doing very good work. But, there may be very little that these schools can do to prevent the problems of the community (gangs/crime/drugs/poverty) from infiltrating the school — indeed the school is part of the fabric of the community. It’s easy to see why those who have the mobility (read that word any way you want) to get their kids to a better school, do so.

    Is it CPS’s “fault” that the demand for charters is outpacing the supply? If neighborhood schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods are doing such great work, then why don’t the new charter schools that are built in those areas sit underutilized while the neighborhood school is full?

    Certainly, there is an argument to be made that school choices are not necessarily made on rational bases. Why do parents choose charters and/or magnets when they do not outperform neighborhood options? Why do charters like CICS Bucktown — an outstanding school — fail to attract its well-heeled neighbors (because upper middle-class parents have a negative bias toward charters?)? Are charters only about marketing gimmicks and snake oil designed just to get the hoodwinked parents in the door (and if you say ‘yes’, would you say the same for magnets)?

    I still think that choice and differentiation — not just of charters but of all kinds of schools — are on the whole good things. But the benefits do not come without costs.

  • 128. Paul  |  January 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    @127 junior, well put.

  • 129. OIPA momma  |  January 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm


    I note, however, that CICS-Irving Park has had no problem attracting “well-heeled” families who have poor-performing neighborhood schools.

  • 130. Gobemouche  |  January 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    127- Family Friend – I appreciate your perspective concerning charters and I’m glad that you post here. I’ve learned a lot from your posts.

    It may be the case that CPS rents space to charters. However, lets look at ASPIRA-Haugan. The ward built a new building for around $25 million dollars (I’ve heard different amounts). The expectation of residents was that it would be a regular CPS school that would relieve overcrowding. But it was immediately given over to a charter. That charter has maintained a bottom rung status since its inception and is a level 3 school. It is also considered to be underutilized by CPS. There are lots of other problems, for example, the school was sued for strip searching female students. Neighborhood schools remain overcrowded. There seem to be no repercussions from CPS, regarding failing charters. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this is for people in that ward/ network. This is the kind of thing that makes people wary of charters and distrustful of CPS.

  • 131. junior  |  January 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    @130 Gobemouche

    Here’s the thing… as bad as that school may be (i’m not actually familiar with it), every student there has made an active, conscious choice to enroll there. They are likely choosing it over some other greater evil. It seems like underutilization is not usual for charter schools. The beauty of the situation is this — if the school is so bad that they cannot attract enough students, then they will fail financially and fold. It’s like a built-in, reverse parent trigger. If CPS does not act, there still exists a mechanism for getting rid of it.

    When is the charter up and is there any move to challenge the renewal? Rahm has said he will hold charters to same standards.

  • 132. junior  |  January 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Two guys are out hiking. All of a sudden, a bear starts chasing them.

    They climb a tree, but the bear starts climbing up the tree after them. The first guy gets his sneakers out of his knapsack and starts putting them on.

    The second guy says, “What are you doing?”

    He says, “I figure when the bear gets close to us, we’ll jump down and make a run for it.”

    The second guy says, “Are you crazy? You can’t outrun a bear.”

    The first guy says, “I don”‘t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”


    Sadly, charters don’t have to be good to succeed. They just have to be better than the alternative.

  • 133. cpsobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Haha! Great one Junior! 🙂
    That is sort of what I was thinking the day I attended the New Schools Fair. People were making a stink that 1/3 of the charter schools in the city are Level 3. (maybe more, I can’t recall.) But going into that fair as a parent from one of the “crappiest” Chicago schools, I now have a 2 in 3 chance of my kids being in a higher level school than my current neighborhood option. That’s better odds than just accepting the status quo where I have a 100% chance of my kids being in a Level 3 school….

  • 134. Family Friend  |  January 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    @130 Don’t use Aspira as an example. (Don’t get me started.) Bad management for a long time. They are beginning to get their act together, organizationally and academically, and at least one of their schools now has an amazing leadership team. But the change was long overdue.

    This brings us to the topic of authorizer quality. The reason the national picture of charters is so bad is that two states, Ohio and Arizona, gave out hundreds of charters with little review of the proposals and virtually no oversight. Those schools were, for a time, more than half the country’s total, and they really dragged down the average. Arizona is on track now, and Ohio is at least getting roundly criticized for its practices. That doesn’t mean all Ohio and Arizona charters are/were bad. I think BASIS Tucson is the best public high school in the country. And Concept Schools, which gets really good results, started in Ohio.

    CPS is considered a good authorizer. It does a good job, in general, of reviewing applications before a school is chartered. But they have only recently been leaning on schools to perform as they promised. Some have been pressured to close, and some have been given “shape up or lose your charter” directives. The chaos on Clark Street has been a very bad thing. Sometimes our Executive Director is not able to reach a person who can answer her questions, because everyone is new, and no one realizes that such questions exist. Good charter schools do what they are supposed to do even without a competent authorizer, but they would all be good (or lose their charters) with good authorizers.

  • 135. Family Friend  |  January 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I don’t really mean you shouldn’t look at Aspira, but that it is not representative. It’s political. UNO got a charter, so Aspira had to get one too. UNO has done very well with its schools, which are managed by a team of professional educators. Aspira just got a charter. They had great policies they didn’t enforce, particularly as related to school culture, which means academics are not supported. You can’t teach if your classroom is in chaos, and you can’t impose order if you get no support from the administration. You said the ward built the new school — whose money? Was it CPS construction or City of Chicago construction? Again, probably politics. UNO got all that money from Springfield, so Aspira wants a new building too. But I did notice that two Aspira Haugen students are going to Jones, so it can’t be all bad..

    Note this is a pretty uninformed opinion as to the political aspects, but informed on the performance issues.

  • 136. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    The ones that want out of Noble Charter can’t afford it~$3,000 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/27/marsha-godard-chicago-mother-fined_n_2562353.html

  • 137. anonymouse teacher  |  January 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Underutilization is also a consequence of the demolition of housing projects and lack of jobs for low skilled workers. When families in poorer areas (where most of the underutilization supposedly exists and I say supposedly after seeing the formula and seeing the pics of schools where classrooms that are uninhabitable by roaches and rats are counted as usable by the BOE) can’t find jobs and leave the city, they may not be leaving due to poor schools. They may be leaving because they have to go move in with their relatives in another place.
    I don’t disagree that families leave the city/leave city schools due to low performing schools or go to charters that are sometimes just barely better. But it is important to remember all the other social and economic reasons why people leave an area.
    @125, I totally agree with you that CPS likes charters because then they can pawn off low performing kids on someone else.
    @126, I am skeptical. I’d like to see how many kids left or were asked to leave, how many students got those kinds of results over how many years, what kind of parental involvement is there, what the class sizes are, what kind of testing oversight was present (sorry, seen too many teachers and administrators outright cheat on tests and am jaded), etc. What school are you talking about? What kind of extra funding does the school get if any and from who? Why did students who were 2+ years behind not retake the Terra Nova’s in order to truly compare scores?

  • 138. @119  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Well then move your child to Esmond! Why are you trying to uproot mine!?

  • 139. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    You know, CPS tried to move a lot of self-contained sped rooms/students from Mt. Greenwood to Esmond a few years ago and tried to move Keller RGC to an underutilized neighborhood too (if I recall correctly). No one seemed to want to move.

  • 140. cpsobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    No one wanted to move?? Get out!!! I guess that’s a given – nobody wants to move. I know we’ve discussed this buy in NYC they take a harder stance on these jam-packed neighborhood and not everyone gets to attend the local school. I’m not sure if they do a lottery or re-district stuff, but they just do it.

  • 141. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    “Is it CPS’s ‘fault’ that the demand for charters is outpacing the supply?”

    Gosh, I wish I had the numbers on that. Do I recall correctly that during the CPS teachers’ strike that charters were putting out the call for transfer students, saying they had room?

    Will there be a saturation point where there are “enough” charters? How many neighborhood schools will remain? Or is the future of CPS to have elite public schools (SE, etc.) and charters for “the rest”? What’s the long-range strategic plan of this district?

  • 142. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    “No one wanted to move?? Get out!!!” Heehee. 😉

  • 143. junior  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    @141 local said “Gosh, I wish I had the numbers on that”

    From Tribune:

    There is a waiting list of 10,000 students for charter schools, which have been growing for the past seven years at a rate similar to what’s planned for the next five, according to CPS.

    You’re welcome.

  • 144. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Has the Tribune obtained proof of the “waiting list”? I have not seen that they or other media outlets have. If there’s a waiting list, why was there a recruitment call during the strike? Why do I get charter school flyers/postcards in my mail?

  • 145. local  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    The Trib attributes CPS. But, that’s not proof. Except for a really lazy reporter or editor.

  • 146. cpsobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    I’d like to understand that 10,000 number better. Who is on the list? Why are there underutilized charter if that’s true? Does that mean that any family would take any charter spot given? Or course not.

    I’m sure the lack of transportation makes it harder to allocate kids efficiently to the charters.

    And I’m puzzled by how many charters in Englewood are underutilized. Isn’t the city implying that people in the low performing schools are clamoring for charters? Maybe these schools are still new and growing?

    I do get the sense that the charters will be held to higher standards and closed down if they don’t make the cut. I feel like I heard that mentioned (or implied) at the New School Fair.

  • 147. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    If they had 10,000 on a waiting list, charters wouldn’t be sending my kids (who don’t live near them) info on attending~’no waiting’. Also, they had to come clean and say that they had room, so I don’t there’s a waiting list…they would provide it if it existed!

  • 148. Charters  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Nobel’s charter high schools have a waiting list! I am not a fan of charters but applied to two campuses for my 8th grader as a back up to selective enrollment, magnet and the catholic schools. My biggest concern was if the avergae ACT was at least 19 and I believe all if not most of the Noble campuses had a 19.

  • 149. cpsobsessed  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    That’s the thing – some charters probably have waiting lists like the top magnets do while others have to keep scrambling to fill up.
    I do wonder if that means 10,000 unique kids or applications? I think cps has mixed those up before.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 150. Gobemouche  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    junior – You said:

    “Here’s the thing… as bad as that school may be (i’m not actually familiar with it), every student there has made an active, conscious choice to enroll there. They are likely choosing it over some other greater evil. It seems like underutilization is not usual for charter schools. The beauty of the situation is this — if the school is so bad that they cannot attract enough students, then they will fail financially and fold. It’s like a built-in, reverse parent trigger. If CPS does not act, there still exists a mechanism for getting rid of it.”

    This is not really the case for Aspira. Here is why: Haugan Elementary is a PK-6 school. Students have no choice but to leave for middle school. What are their options? Basically, CPS has put them in the position of *having* to choose Apsira. This is what you don’t understand. There is not a neighborhood middle school choice. That is why the whole thing is a cruel joke on the neighborhood and the ward. The can go to Aspira, which is right down the street or they can try to get into APMA (which already has its own feeder elementary – Hibbard), or they can try to travel further out of their hood to Marshall which has its own set of issues (and its own feeder – Henry). They can’t go to Palmer or Volta, because they are overcrowded. But, again, they don’t have a neighborhood middle school choice. So this whole idea of supply and demand as applied to public education does not work in this situation. There is no choice. CPS made their neighborhood school a charter.

  • 151. Gobemouche  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Thinking about underutilized charters, etc.

    Lets look at Bronzeville for example. Per the excel, there are 27 district-noncharter schools and 9 charters (the highest of any area, except Mckinley). Of those 27 district schools, all are underutilized except 3. Of those 9 charters, all are underutilized except 2.

    So if the entire area is basically underutilized, why put in more charters? I am not fundamentally against charters, I’m just trying to understand the logic here. Is this the solution – things are bad, so throw a charter at it?

  • 152. Southside Daddi-o  |  February 1, 2013 at 12:01 am

    @138 Not meant as a diss, but how far of a commute is it from your kids home to Vanderpoel?

    @139 Lenart was moved from Scottsdale to 85th and Dan Ryan, so yeah, this isn’t just a wild and unique idea. I just don’t see why leaving a magnet school that gets very few local students, who, in turn, have to go to cramped neighborhood schools, makes sense. If Kellogg, Barnard and Sutherland could send some of their overflow kids to a neighborhood Vanderpoel school, and the existing Vanderpoel program was moved to a roomier space like Esmond, who loses? What’s the downside?

  • 153. junior  |  February 1, 2013 at 1:09 am

    If you believe CPS is lying about the 10,000 on the waitlist, then you should absolutely file a FOIA request and get the actual data. Would be a huge story!

  • 154. cpsobsessed  |  February 1, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I probably learn to figure out how to file one of those. Maybe I’ll put that on my new year’s resolution list… How many charters are there in the city? I have to imagine this number is self reported by the charters since applications aren’t centralized yet.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 155. Family Friend  |  February 1, 2013 at 9:57 am

    @137: No one has *ever been* asked to leave. Several students a year are expelled. Sample offenses: bringing a box cutter with a 4″ blade to school after threatening another student, stealing three computers from the school (student was given a pass on the first one).

    Used Terra Nova for the first two years, then changed to NWEA because it gives us better data on growth. We can’t afford two tests.

    Outside funding includes startup funds from the U.S. DOE, Walton Family Foundation, and furniture and equipment money from CPS. We have no rich donors. Other than startup funds, our biggest fundraising year has been under $20,000. Our budget and financial records are public documents. Our teachers’ starting salaries are on a par with regular CPS teachers, but our lack of funding makes it impossible to keep up. Last year’s 8th graders were not eligible for selective admissions schools (although a couple were eventually accepted int King) because we couldn’t afford a full year of science when they were in 7th grade. Note: our administrators are not paid on a par with CPS either.

    I myself have monitored testing. Was given a script — when a child asks a question, say something like “Read the question and answer it as best you can.” (I no longer have the script.) Since ISAT is the public measure, if there were cheating it would have to be on the ISAT, because that’s the score that gets all the publicity, and our ISAT scores are just average, (a point or two below the CPS average). We have decided that, for the long run (being prepared for college and life) scoring well on the ISAT is not terribly useful.

    The school is Amandla Charter School. You are all welcome to visit. Just let me know and I’ll set it up. It amazes me that virtually all charter critics have never seen the inside of a charter school.

    One of the big reasons people got behind charters was so that they can try out new things, and share their successes with regular public schools. But the fact that charters might not be unionized (although charter teachers may unionize, and some have) has created an atmosphere where it’s impossible for some union teachers to see that some of the charter methods are working, and there has been almost no sharing, anywhere. But where sharing happens, it has been a positive experience. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/opinion/nocera-the-central-falls-success.html?_r=0

  • 156. southie  |  February 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I’m sure the inside of many charter schools are delightful. However, what can’t be “seen” in a visit is the macro impact CPS charters have on the entire district, including special populations like students with serious disabilities. Maybe it’s just better to create a “separate but equal” district?

  • 157. anotherchicagoparent  |  February 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Noble is easy to get on the waiting list. http://www.noblenetwork.org/content/waitlist-interest-form You may also choose to be on multiple wait lists. I am not sure if they count individual(s) for wait list or the wait lists themselves for the total.
    Last CPS board meeting someone representing Noble mentioned Noble Charter high schools had 6000 applications for 3000 spots. Compared to say 18,000 CPS students who applied for 3000 SE high school spots.

  • 158. anonymouse teacher  |  February 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I’ve been inside 2 charters. Passages and Namaste.

    Mostly, I am skeptical about the results you indicated, FF, because I have learned there are no miracles without long term, intensive effort. I am not skeptical because it is a charter. Scores have come up all over Chicago the past 5 years. We now all know it is because they lowered the cut scores so many times and has nothing to do with achievement. Nettelhorst has scores that went up dramatically. Because they completely changed their student body and it likely had nothing to do with better instruction. Urban Prep keeps young men out of jail and gets them into college with ACTs of 15, but it is hardly a miracle. I’ve seen schools completely stop teaching Science and Social Studies and just taught math and reading the ENTIRE day to improve scores. And over and over.

    Now if Amandla consistently measures their incoming student body with NWEA the first year and then measures the same exact students in that original group 3-4 years later and does this every year with the same test for a ten year period of time, then I think it will be something to pay attention to. However, I do think I came across negative and I think that was a mistake. I apologize. I think ANY success of ANY kind, especially in Englewood where success is so elusive is important.

    I do wonder, why do you think Amandla put out such good preliminary results? Is there a ten hour day? Are families just incredibly invested? Are there tons of interventionists/specialists? Please don’t tell me it is just good teaching, because I’ve seen phenomenal teaching all over this city and it only goes so far.

  • 159. Cake for all!!  |  February 2, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Family Friend, How big are the class sizes at Amandla and other charter schools? Are they the 30+ like in my neighborhood school?

    And those kids kicked out of your school, where do they end up? Are they the students enrolling in my class in January and February? Now my school that is understaffed, no counseling team, just teachers, are scrambling to help these new students.

    Do you get multiple students who just moved from Detroit or have awful attendance? These kids enroll in my school days before we take NWEA and just a few weeks before ISAT, but Cps will look just at the numbers. Did our school go up or down? They don’t care that there were third graders reading AA books now at E books. Those kids made personal growth but are still behind.

    So yes. We unfortunately only teach reading and math, as we are told to do by administration, to keep our scores * up*. I would love for my students to have an urban garden or have 20 minutes of yoga mid day or have time teach conflict resolution or sex education. These are the kids that need it most.

  • 160. Rod Estvan  |  February 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

    If college educated parents believed in mass that charter schools were producing outstanding results and increasing the possibility that their children would gain admission to colleges like Northwestern or U of I Urbana we would see far higher percentage of non-low income students in this charters. These parents are not buying this and the low income percentage even at Noble Street reflects this reality.

    Rod Estvan

  • 161. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    @Ron: At this point I don’t think college-educated parents believe that any CPS school besides SEHSs, LPHS, and some IB programs will make that happen. My question as a college-educated parent is to what extent can my child gain a good ACT score and true college readiness if they’re in classes with kids who come into high school reading at a 5th grade level and half of whom might drop out before graduation. This applies to the neighborhood high schools as well as charters.

    I feel like charters (as well as a recent IB open house I attended) give the impression that they’re more tailored to kids whose parents are not college educated and are facing hurdles at getting into college. They’re not “selling themselves” to the college-educated parent set.

    I agree – there isn’t much embracing of charters among this group but I’m not sure it’s a rejection of charters per se. But I don’t know. I wish someone would do a citywide survey about it. Or pay ME to do one!

  • 162. Teacher4321  |  February 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    @ 160 Rod Estvan

    Thank you for all that you do on behalf of SWD in CPS. It is much appreciated.

    Is there anywhere where there is a comprehensive list of which laws in regards to students with disabilities that CPS has waivers for? (such as class size, workload, amount of teacher and/or teacher to student ratio, rules for workload for clinicians, etc.) Is this located somewhere on the ISBE website?

  • 163. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    What would us cpsobsessed do without Rod Estvan?! Here’s his tip as posted in comments at District299, cpso!

    Rodestvan said 4 hours, 52 minutes ago
    In reply to district299reader:

    CPS may have gotten the wait list data from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, in that case the data could not be FOIAed in mass because INCS is a private organization. However, because the Charter School Act requires each charter school to move to a lottery in the situation that there are more applicants than slots some type of records need to be kept at the charter schools themselves.

    So the FOIA would have to be done on the level of the charter school boards which are the actual legal entity under the Charter Act.

    Rod Estvan

  • 164. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I wonder if there’s some journalism school (calling you, Medill) that could do such a FOIA.

  • 165. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm


    The ins and outs of Chicago’s charter network expansion: What’s working, what’s not – and why
    by Bryan Lowry
    Jan 31, 2013

  • 166. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    @Local – wooo! good find! RLJulia has generously offered to school me int the ways of FOIA. So I’m thinking about that. I’ll see if my small brain can handle it. My small state school brain. 🙂

    As we’ve talked about the charter school waiting list and I think back to how many people are on the “waiting list” for say Hawthorne, I bet it IS possible that the charter network reports 10,000 kids. We know Hawthorne was have what – 1,000? 2,000? Maybe of those kids are too far to actually attend. Hell, half the city is probably on a magnet school wait list somewhere. Does that mean they’d take any magnet offer they got? No.

    I think the 10,00 is a number that may have some validity as a number (like 100,000 kids in the city population declining) but is probably a little squishy in terms of meaning that 10,000 people are dying to send their kids to any charter tomorrow. It’s data used in a loose way to make a point — is my best guess. Maybe it’s really 6,000 or 4,000. Does that change the point their making? 10,000 is 2.5% of the system. That’s not even that high.

  • 167. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Speaking of our college discussion, here’s a great line from the 30 Rock finale (about Liz Lemon’s husband:)

    “He has a degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan, so -– he’s a receptionist at a dentist’s office.”

  • 168. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Ooo. New CREDO research: http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/InviteCGARPressConferenceFINAL.pdf

  • 169. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Yes, I am a huge Rod Estvan fan. He is so smart. Here’s a comment on closings from Catalyst-Chicago:

    Rod Estvan wrote 1 hour 59 min ago
    The closing law should not have been changed

    Sarah Karp‘s article along with the twitter reports provides a reasonable picture of these closing meetings one of which I attended. The presumption of the closing meetings is of course that because of the district’s fiscal problems these closures have to occur and in addition the students in low enrollment schools get less educational benefits than those students being educated in schools operating closer to capacity.

    Neither of these foundational premises are being accepted by the majority of families potentially impacted by closures, by teachers in these schools, the CTU, and in fact some of the educational reporters that cover education in Chicago. This has created a situation where CPS is going forward with meetings in a context of a credibility crisis, a crisis that the CEO acknowledged when she took over the position. There also seems to have been a presumption on the part of the CEO that having an extended public discussion of closures would somehow create a mantel of democracy around the process and that has proven to be a major mistake.

    CPS would have been far better off following the original law and not seeking this pointless extended closure discussion. If an actual closure list had been presented back in December we would all be better off and the discussions would be reality based. The independent Commission could have examined not just process, but actual schools to be closed.

    I don’t totally blame CPS and even the Mayor for this; I blame the Illinois General Assembly for agreeing to the amendment to change the time frame for decision-making. In particular I blame Reprehensive Soto to a degree for not defending her own legislation and collapsing in the face of pressure brought on her by the House leadership. I was in Springfield when the change was run through the Executive Committee and not one legislator came forward to defend a law that they had passed. In fact if opponents of the law change who came from Chicago hadn’t staged an uprising there would have been no opposition speakers to the bill at all.

    But in Springfield when legislators perceive themselves to be in a minority there is an institutional tendency to seek compromise to avoid outright defeat. In this situation Rep Soto and a few others tagged on an additional amendment to the legislation extending the time frame that effectively sounded good but does little. So here we sit.

    Rod Estvan

  • 170. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Regarding careers, college, and college-choice…

    Acutally, I think it is very helpful for parents/guardians to guide, develop and give access to their children. I see way too many college students who enroll in college just because being college-bound has been hammered into their heads by American society, and they waste the college opportunity because they’re either under-prepared (academically, financially, socially, or emotionally), picked the wrong match in a major or institution, or really should be pursuing some other endeavor. (Big fan of “gap year,” interning, job shadowing, college summer programs for HS students, the Meyer-Briggs Type Inventory, and, basically, anything that can hone a teen’s resiliency, maturity and sense of career interest/direction before they land in college).

    Parents, imho, need to build independence into their kids throughout grade school and high school. Parents and teens need to deeply research the details about paying for college, career development and the college choice/admissions process, too. Parents need to avoid infantilizing their child or acting as helicopter parents, but they do need to be actively guiding and coaching their children or getting them access to mentors or opportunities for development.

    Personally, I’m so tired of high-achieving teens who think their only Nirvana is Harvard. Parents/Guardians can help them look more deeply into their future options. Even locally, you have a massive array of colleges that range from little Shimer (Great Books) to wild Columbia College Chicago (arts, media & hands-on) to solid Dominican (leafy) to Triton (community college starter) to sprawling UIC (kitchen sink).

    (mom2) This is a really good book for parents (even of middle schoolers) of all kinds of college-bound kids: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/book-report-acceptance-by-david-l-marcus/

  • 171. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Make that “Myers-Briggs”.

  • 172. HS Mom  |  February 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    @161 – Great observation about charters having the intent to serve the low income population and act as intervention. It should be noted too that some of the best charters do appeal to the “college educated” crowd. 127 junior has a logical and interesting point. Given the number of CPS students (400,000 regular and 50,000 charter) 10,000 certainly seems like a plausible number. We all know that there a multiple ways to look at data. It is well known that there are in fact wait lists for charters because some of us have been on them.

    @160 Mr. Estvan – I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that it requires a college education to determine the “right” choice for one’s child.

  • 173. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    FYI, Channel 21 CANTV is showing the CPS board meeting now 3-4pm. I’m watching Christopher Ball talking right now. Woo! People are talking about the calendar… so kind of a moot point right now, but still interesting to watch. I admire anyone who makes the effort to sign up and speak. I didn’t realize you walk up to a podium with a microphone.
    2 people so far have spoken about the vagueness of the survey.

  • 174. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    @ 172. HS Mom | February 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    It seems he’s talking about the marketing of charters.

  • 175. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I like this Andrea Zopp. She’s questioning how she can be asked to approve a charter when they don’t have a location yet, since the location is important. BBB is saying a charter needs to have a principal on board who has served that population before (again, how do you know what the population is if they don’t have a location.) Anyhow, Zopp keeps pushing back to nail down what the charter conditions are. Hm.. I sense a little snark within the board.

  • 176. cpsobsessed  |  February 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Haha, I decided to figure out who Andrea Zopp is and after reading her highly impressive background I got to this:

    Zopp received a bachelor’s degree in history and science and a juris doctor degree from Harvard University. She began her legal career as a law clerk to United States District Judge George N. Leighton in the Northern District of Illinois. She has taught as an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago School of Law.

    I can’t say I’d aspire to be a CPS board member, but looks like her high end education served her well….

  • 177. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    @ 162. Teacher4321 | February 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    You had asked Rod Estvan this: “Is there anywhere where there is a comprehensive list of which laws in regards to students with disabilities that CPS has waivers for? (such as class size, workload, amount of teacher and/or teacher to student ratio, rules for workload for clinicians, etc.) Is this located somewhere on the ISBE website?”

    Saw these replies at District299 blog:

    district299reader said 1 hour, 46 minutes ago

    There re no waivers-this is the BS that CPS spews forth when asked by savvy teachers in regards to gross violations. The case managers need to ask these questions. I was a CTU delegate and a special education teacher was told by the principal, case manager AND the downtown OSES representative that there was a waiver to allow for a five year age range in her classroom. She was sharp enough to ask for a copy of the waiver. While she was waiting for this non-existent paperwork to appear I called ISBE-the woman laughed at the question and asked if I was from CPS. The situation was rectified after I notified the field rep for the union. Of course, the principal and the case manager vilified both of us for daring to question this gross irregularity.


    Rodestvan said 4 minutes ago

    ISBE has given some districts special education waivers, especially in relation to the percentage of students given the IL Alternative Assessment. I do not know which if any waivers CPS has or has not requested. I am meeting with CPS next friday and I will try to ask in particular whether there have been waiver requests in relation to class sizes at particular schools.

    Rod Estvan

  • 178. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Who is Andrea Zopp? I’ve been playing this little game for the past three years: Take one name and do an “and” search in Google with “John Rogers” and see what pops up. Dang if you don’t get a connection with “Andrea Zopp” and “John Rogers.” “Who you know” and all that. 😉

  • 179. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    #176~CPSO~Andrea Zopp is a very educated woman sitting on CPS board of education. She lives near me and her kids attended the neighborhood elementary school and now I believe they are in private HS. I also agree w/your saying #161~”At this point I don’t think college-educated parents believe that any CPS school besides SEHSs, LPHS, and some IB programs will make that happen.”~ I believe our area our CPS neighborhood schools are so strong~just as strong as the the one SEES in our area, but if you can’t get into a SEHS, we feel we have to send our kids to private or parochial high schools.

  • 180. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Will Emanuel permit Zopp to think on her own?

  • 181. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    @ 179
    Or Ag?

  • 182. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    #181~local~I was told a daughter was in private. Since Ag has become 50% seats for our ward, it’s possible a daughter might be there.

  • 183. local  |  February 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    @ 182: I think I recall that one daughter was in Ag, a son in DeLaSalle, and not sure on the other child. Seem that’s definitely a tradition among many Beverly families, as you said. Perhaps neighborhood grade school but then onto someplace other than Morgan Park HS.

  • 184. SutherlandParent  |  February 2, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    @179 SSI4, I’ve heard Zopp served as a parental rep on the LSC while her kids were in elementary school. And the new boundaries for the Ag School don’t extend throughout the ward–I know, since we’re on the wrong side of those boundaries 🙂

    @180, “Will Emanuel permit Zopp to think on her own?” I’m sure some mayoral appointees are just sycophants, but I think the mayor looks to appoint people who are simpatico with his viewpoints. So while they may seem to just fall into line, it could be they genuinely believe in and support his vision for CPS (whatever that might be). Mind you, I don’t know any of the board members, so I’m not defending any of them in particular…

  • 185. anonymouse teacher  |  February 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Is there a vision for CPS? I wasn’t aware of one.

  • 186. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

    #184~SutherlandParent~You are correct. The Ag has abt 1,000 kids vying for 150 seats each year. This school yr (2012-13) required that 50% of enrollment reside within a 2.5 mile radius of the school.

  • 187. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Zopp often asks pointed questions at board meetings. This last meeting she forced the CPS presenter to make clear that under school closings, a better school option did not mean a school in walking distance. Bienen tends to note where CPS shoots itself in the foot — the lousy PowerPoint said nothing about cost-savings, but Bienen pointed out that the packet the board was given had a detailed analysis of cost-savings that showed real on-going savings. He suggested that they release it; they have not.


    Many parents have a choice of where to send their kids, and they’re voting with their feet by sending their kids to magnets, SE programs, charters, privates, or whatever else… So we have neighborhood public schools that are half empty.

    CPS has the data on where students live and what schools they attend. It could release data by census block-level of what number of students go to which schools. We could see where neighborhood schools are empty because of magnets, and where they are empty because of charters, or just empty because of no students. But this basic geo-spatial data is not compiled.

    I agree that zero school closing is unrealistic given that there are inefficiencies, but CPS does not nothing to assuage parents whose neighborhood schools would be closed that
    1) the school their child would got to would be significantly better than the school being closed;
    2) transportation would be provided if the school was not in the neighborhood, and not capped at 6 or 6.5 miles. Asking a south-side student to take trains and busses for 10+ miles to get to a north-side school because CPS closed his local school is unreasonable. I’d be pissed if it were my kid.

    CPS is not making commitments like these. In past closings, many students new school was one just as bad as the one that was closed if not worse.

  • 188. CPS Parent  |  February 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I would suggest that the concept of “neighborhood” school should be re-thought. All schools within the system including charters and selective enrollment (which already are) should be without attendance boundaries. To some degree this already exists since under-enrolled schools can accept out of boundary students. If parents prefer to choose schools by proximity let them do that but don’t force it on them.

  • 189. local  |  February 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Would free transportation be provided to children who “chose” schools outside their neighborhoods?

  • 190. local  |  February 3, 2013 at 11:55 am

    @ 187. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins) | February 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Does NCLB figure into any of this, in terms of students’ rights to access “better” schools?

  • 191. cpsobsessed  |  February 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Is CPS required/obligated to move kids only to better schools? I thought the consolidations were for budgeting purposes.
    It would be great if that could happen and would likely help the closed schools feel like they’re getting something out of the deal. But I didn’t understand that as a requirement.

    Christopher – do you attend all the board meetings?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 192. local  |  February 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Zopp comments on school closures here (board meeting coverage): http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=3945&section=Article

  • 193. local  |  February 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Here’s a cool way to do a sit-down with Zopp, plus the meeting speaker sign-up:

    from Substance board meeting report:

    “Board President Vitale then announced that office hours are available monthly to meet with Board Members. The number to call for an appointment is 773-553-1600. Also, the advanced registration system for all public participation which will be done only online is now complete. As a result, for the first time in history everyone signed up for public participation had registered on line, and the number had been limited to 60 people. Board Secretary Estella Beltran announced that online registration will begin one week prior to the Board Meeting and end whenever registration is ‘full’ (full being a total of 60 speakers no matter how many people might wish to bring items to the Board).”

  • 194. CPS Parent  |  February 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    189. local – Absolutley. Free and equal access for all.

  • 195. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    @190 @191 I don’t think NCLB comes into play in any special way here. If the school is Title I and fails to make AYP, CPS is supposed to offer them an option and transport (but the whole process is very confusing: see http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/schoolchoiceguid.pdf

    CPS does not have an obvious legal obligation to offer students whose schools are being closed transportation to a better one, but, if the aim is to assure parents that the best interests of their children are being taken into account, then making those two commitments would be the smart thing to do.

    What makes this process maddening is that CPS has not been clear about the cost savings. Let say you consolidated two schools into one: the funding formula remains the same, so there is rarely a faculty cost-savings. I guess there would be an engineer and custodial staff savings, and the elec. & gas. But at my school, Mayer, gas & elect. was $254,000, and custodial services were about $240,000, which together were shy of 1% of the school’s over $5 million budget in FY12. Certainly, future repairs that would not be made have some savings, but it is not clear that this process results in significant savings.

    Attend all the board meetings? Heavens, no. That was the first one I went to in person. I had seen video of some of the others. That’s how I knew how Zopp and Bienen act. I will grant the board members and CPS officials this: sitting or standing patiently through the two hours of public comment is a triumph of self-discipline. There’s one guy, a regular I believe, who seemed a bit touched and just railed at them for three minutes. I know why they have the metal detector screening for the meetings; people might commit suicide from boredom otherwise.

    It would help on time if they had a light (yellow at 30 seconds left; red at 2 minutes)

    @193 With the office hours, the main purpose of attending the board meeting is to send a costly signal on an issue — if you are willing to lug down to Clark St. and wait for that long, then you must really care about the issue.

  • 196. CPS Parent  |  February 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    195. Christopher Ball You forgot the cost of the principal at 150k per year incl. benefits if not more.

  • 197. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    So -Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, Chief of Instruction, Chicago Public Schools is on the move…literally… http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/MMSD-Names–189569241.html You she felt a HUGE snub by being passed over after Brizzard and B3 getting the job!

  • 198. anonymouse teacher  |  February 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I wouldn’t be sad to see her go.

  • 199. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    @196 Good point. I’m sure there are other economies of scale. I just wish CPS would list them.

  • 200. junior  |  February 4, 2013 at 12:08 am

    @195 Christopher Ball said:

    “But at my school, Mayer, gas & elect. was $254,000, and custodial services were about $240,000, which together were shy of 1% of the school’s over $5 million budget in FY12. ”


    First, the numbers you cite represent 10% savings, not 1%. Second, I think you probably miss some of the potential savings when you consolidate underutilized classrooms (e.g., you take 3 classrooms across two schools with 20 students each, and if you combine them into two classrooms at one school, there is a savings of one staff position. Obviously class sizes go up, but that’s an example of where a lot of additional savings could come). There may be other areas, like only running one cafeteria, one administrative office, one library, one computer lab, one principal and/or asst.. principal, etc.

    We’d all like to see more specifics from CPS but I’d doubt any are forthcoming. Regardless of what CPS publishes. not many parents and teachers would come out in favor of closings because the benefits/savings of such actions are diffused across the system and you can’t to point to places where specific schools/students will benefit. On the other hand, those schools/faculty targeted with closings and consolidations can point to specific negative impact and rally a specific affected population.

  • 201. Anonymours  |  February 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

    #188. I totally disagree once again. Neighborhood schools build strong neighborhoods in those areas in which people support CPS schools — Lincoln, Bell, Blaine, Nettlehorst, etc. You see how these schools are bursting at the seams. This is actually good news for the city. People want to go to school in their neighborhoods. They want their kids to know their neighbors. They don’t want to drive halfway across the city ever lousy day to go to school. If the city wants to remain strong, CPS should do even MORE to support neighborhood schools in my opinion. When you walk to school together with your neighbors you are far more committed to the success of the school (again, at least in those communities that support their local schools). It’s not just about numbers and where kids go. It’s about communities.

    How about getting rid of the magnets, instead? OR how about moving them to underutilized buildings? You’d solve a couple of neighborhood school overcrowding issues immediately. You’d also save money on busing — one of CPS’ biggest expenses.

    CPS is always saying they have a wonderful school “choice” system. I’m sorry. It’s not choice. It’s “chance.” And chance isn’t good enough for me. Making the entire city one boundary-free is making the whole system one big crapshoot.

  • 202. CPS Parent  |  February 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

    201. Anonymours – Attendance boundary restricted “neighborhood” schools add to the ghettoization of the city. It keeps people in their place.

  • 203. RL Julia  |  February 4, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Neighborhood schools can build strong neighborhoods but neighborhood schools are also reflections of the economic health and wealth the of neighborhood the school is located in and/or the student body. Since CPS doesn’t fund schools at a level that really allows for all the bells and whistles families might want (or feel are completely necessary), neighborhood schools in wealthier neighborhoods who are better able to fundraise end up being more desirable academically. It’s no fluke that the neighborhood schools you list are all quite affluent. It’s also no fluke that CPS allows families from outside these neighborhoods to compete for spots in these schools – there would probably be rioting if they didn’t – or a mass exodus from the city. It is the glimmer of the “chance”(choice) that keeps people here -thinking/hoping that they can make it work.

  • 204. junior  |  February 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Fundraising is not the key to those schools successes. Drawing students from a population that has the abundant socioeconomic resources to be able to raise funds makes them “successful” schools. Grasping that distinction — essentially the difference between cause and effect — is the key to understanding CPS and its problems.

  • 205. CPS Parent  |  February 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    204. junior Completely true Junior – agree 100%.

  • 206. Anonymous  |  February 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I totally agree that neighborhood schools in affluent neighborhoods are more successful. Of course they are. We all know that income and education level of the parents are tied to education success. However, selective school systems aren’t doing anything, either, in desegregating our neighborhoods. Boundaries aren’t keeping people “out.”

    I would bet that my neighborhood school in an affluent neighborhood is truly as diverse racially and socioeconomically than the magnet school nearest to my house. Check out the stats on a Hawthorne or LaSalle or Edison if you want to scream. They are hardly reflective of the city as a whole.

    What’s more, they also get more funding and restricted class sizes — unlike neighborhood schools.

    The whole system should probably be overhauled. I, personally, was just stating that I believe that overhaul should not involve getting rid of neighborhood schools as CPSParent seemed to be advocating for.

  • 207. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    @196 Yes, a principal. So 10% of the budget.
    @200 Thanks for the catch. Yes, 10%, not 1%. I proof-read it twice, too.

    The staff savings actually would not net out the way that you describe it. What you describe would make sense — allocate teachers per grade by the size of the grade — but CPS uses a formula that combines gr. 4-8 as one unit, divided by 31, then 1-3 divided by 28, and then kindergarten divided by 56., and allots additional staff (PE/librarian, clerks) as the school pop. rises. With the same denominator, the distributive property holds. The majority of faculty positions would remain, and many instructional staff ones too. You might save one teacher and one clerk if three small schools merge into one, but not the level of savings you might otherwise expect.

  • 208. Mmmmama  |  February 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Bravo, Junior. Best thing I’ve read on this blog, ever.

    “Fundraising is not the key to those schools successes. Drawing students from a population that has the abundant socioeconomic resources to be able to raise funds makes them “successful” schools. Grasping that distinction — essentially the difference between cause and effect — is the key to understanding CPS and its problems.”

  • 209. Peter  |  February 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    @ Junior and Mmmmama,
    absolutely correct

  • 210. junior  |  February 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm


    Thanks. I vaguely recall the school funding formula being more complex than just a straight per-pupil allocation, but I don’t have the time to sort through the dense CPS documentation on it. If anyone can shed light, kudos to you.

    The formula you describe seems to encourage the combining of different-grade classrooms when there is under-enrollment. From what I have seen, frequently schools use discretionary funds to buy the extra position instead of combining classrooms of different grades. So, combining underutilized schools could potentially free up those discretionary funds for other purposes.



    Thanks. Here’s another example of a similar dynamic (from the Freakonomics book). Studies find that:

    Reading to your child — does NOT correlate with academic success:
    Owning a lot of books — DOES correlate with academic success.

    Go figure. Wish I would have known that before I read “Froggie Goes to Bed” for the umpteenth time.

  • 211. Peter  |  February 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    junior said: “Thanks. Here’s another example of a similar dynamic (from the Freakonomics book). Studies find that:

    Reading to your child — does NOT correlate with academic success:
    Owning a lot of books — DOES correlate with academic success.

    Go figure. Wish I would have known that before I read “Froggie Goes to Bed” for the umpteenth time.”

    This is why I find it comical that so many people still believe the suburban schools are better thing.

  • 212. Southside Daddi-o  |  February 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    @204 Let’s take this one step further: If you’re from an affluent socioeconomic part of the city, you’re used to being around neighbors who are also successful, value education and have done a lot to further education of their children. If your neighborhood school has a high percentage of low-income students, statistics will show that the low-income kids (through no fault of their own) do not have access to the same opportunities and enrichment that non-low-income kids would have. Therefore, the low-income kids may not be at the same learning level as their counterparts AND THERE IS NOTHING THE SCHOOL CAN DO ABOUT THAT.

    A school like Kellogg, which is in a very well off area of Chicago, has to slow down in order to accommodate the low-income kids. This race to the middle HELPS the low-income kids but does so at the expense of the kids who are ready to learn at a higher level. This is one of the reasons why Kellogg is not considered as an option for many local residents (along with crowded classrooms in the primary grades).

  • 213. CPS Parent  |  February 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    212. Southside Daddi-o Proves my point made at #188 and #202. Abolish the attendance boundaries for all schools now!

  • 214. junior  |  February 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    @212 SSDO

    I don’t think that follows necessarily. If the lesson is that non-school factors have a much greater impact than in-school factors, then people should be perfectly willing to put their children into situations where they are on the higher-end of the achievement spectrum. If your kid is not gifted in the strict sense of the word, then I think they can learn and do well in most places. (Gifted kids can get bored in any grade-level classroom.)

  • 215. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    @210 13 elementary schools are on a pilot program that uses per-pupil allocation, but even then, the amount is scaled down as enrollment rises.

    Good point on discretionary dollars. This must have been the type of analysis that Bienen was referring to, but that CPS has not issued, which is odd because if you could make a better school by combining two under-used ones, it would seem like a good sell.

  • 216. lindyhop  |  February 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    @212, I have to disagree with you in your statement “and there is nothing the school can do about that”.
    If that was true, then there’d be no point in me going to work each day. Yes, sometimes, lower income students have enormous obstacles in their way. Yes, higher income and more advantaged students will often find it easier to reach for and achieve higher goals. But good teachers, hard working teachers, intelligent teachers can help bring even our most disadvantaged students up without holding our advantaged kids back. Its called differentiation. I teach kindergarten. I have 26 students and 6 reading groups. One level A, one level B, one C, one E, one G and one very low group that isn’t ready to read at all. In math I have kids who are still learning numbers, kids on grade level and then kids doing triple digit addition. In writing, there are kids who pretend write, kids who barely write a word or two and kids who write entire books.

    Don’t get me wrong, yes, disadvantaged children have a hard road ahead of them and the higher the grade level, the harder it becomes to keep up with their peers and for differentiation to happen. But do not insult me, my profession or my students by saying there’s nothing we can do about it. I think your intention was to relay the massive challenges of poverty without blaming teachers and for that I am grateful. There are, of course, limits to even the most skilled teaching ability. But my school has around 60% poverty levels and is mostly all ESL. And I’d be proud for my own children to attend my school where I teach if it weren’t for the too large class sizes in many of the grades and the lack of resources.

  • 217. anonymouse teacher  |  February 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    sorry, I typed in my password for one of my accounts instead of my username. I should have written anonymouse teacher. (see #216)

  • 218. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    #213~CPS Parent~I wouldn’t want any boundaries abolished. Neighborhood schools build strong communities. My son could have went to a SEES but we after touring all the schools and catholic schools, our neighborhood school gave the best education, esp in math. The ppl in my area and surrounding truly support neighborhood schools…now if Rahm would give them the money instead of UNO http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/17920483-452/for-insiders-community-group-unos-charter-schools-pay.html

  • 219. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    National education officials are investigating how Chicago Public Schools has handled closing schools in recent years.

    A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education confirmed Tuesday that CPS is one of six urban school districts being investigated by the department’s Office of Civil Rights.

  • 220. cpsobsessed  |  February 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Fyi, I was that michelle rhee is on the daily show tonight promoting her new book on….school reform!

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 221. CPS Parent  |  February 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Yes, 219. SoxSideIrish4 – If attendance boundaries for neighborhood schools were abolished who do you think would protest the most? the answer will prove my point. Abolish boundaries now!

  • 222. Southside Daddi-o  |  February 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    @216 Schools can only do the best they can with what they have to work with. Schools with a wide majority of kids of low-income have to deal with so many different scenarios than schools with kids from a middle- to upper-class backgrounds. Low-income kids may have unstable housing situations, food shortages, absentee parents/having to raise their sibling, gang and crime issues, infrequent access to medical care, etc. Schools can help address these problems and provide resources, but these problems often impact the classroom — I don’t know how a teacher can make a progressive lesson plan when many kids at the school cannot make it to class more than 50% of the time. What do you do as a teacher to make sure the students are at least learning SOMETHING while faced with so many issues?

    Compare that to a stable community school where food/housing instability and other problems facing low-income kids is much lower. Typically, parents provide enrichment outside the school and participate in making the school an effective place to learn. If you mix in several low-income kids from unstable environments, you have to either slow the pace down so that low-income kids can catch up and keep up which “dumbs down” the curricula for the non-low-income kids, or keep it at the regular pace and the low-income kids might get left behind, which doesn’t really help them out at all.

  • 223. anonymouse teacher  |  February 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    No, you don’t have to slow the pace down for the high kids or leave the low kids in the dust. You don’t. You differentiate. Differentiate and differentiate some more. And yeah, last year, when one of my high achieving, English dominant, middle income girls left for a Catholic school because her mom didn’t think our school was good enough for her kid, I was amused. Her daughter was high achieving, but not nearly as high as 4 of her ESL peers, 1 who was homeless. I laughed because I knew I had a half a dozen kindergarteners who could do end of 2nd grade math, about a dozen reading well past kindergarten level, one at a 4th grade level. Of couse, I could not disclose to her the levels of the other kids. I did try and persuade her to stay, showing her child’s great progress (went from a level A to a level H in one year–nearly 2 years progress), but she would have none of it. And now she’s paying 8K a year for an education at the private school down the street, relearning in 1st grade everything we covered in K in our dinky little neighborhood school. I know this because she came back to me to tell me. I didn’t tell her “I told you so”, but wow, I wanted to.

    So yeah, low income crime ridden problems do impact schools and kids. But seriously, the day I stop believing I can mitigate those things and provide my students as good of an education as I’d want for my own kids is the day I turn in my resignation. I do want to quit about 4 times a week due to CPS insanity and stupidity, but it has nothing to do with my students. My students are awesome. Today we talked all about the communative property, using graphs to figure out how many more, and adding to 100. We talked about chunking words into manageable sizes, reading past hard words and returning to them, and summarizing the text. I don’t know what kind of schools you are used to SSDio, but it isn’t mine.

  • 224. Southside Daddi-o  |  February 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    @224 I think that what you’re doing is really impressive. The differentiation between kids from stable environments/unstable environments (IMHO) appears to start around 3rd or 4th grade, and gets progressively more pronounced as kids get faced with more problems. The disparity for those learning at grade-level/not at grade-level appears to be more pronounced.

  • 225. cpsobsessed  |  February 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    So is differentiating like that taught in teaching school? Also, do many principals support it?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 226. anonymouse teacher  |  February 4, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Yes and no. It is introduced in teacher candidacy programs, but I think it takes years to really perfect (and I have miles to go yet). Carol A from this board taught me a lot about it this fall. I also went to some great PD (not through CPS, but a special program my principal brought in for us through an outside vendor) and I read a lot. And I watch what other teachers do. A lot of CPS teachers differentiate this way. We have a fabulous 6th grade teacher who could write books about it. Most principals insist on this kind of differentiation, but some get nutty about using the basals and some don’t understand it.

  • 227. cpsobsessed  |  February 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    It just seems like a somewhat difficult — yet important– skill to master.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 228. CarolA  |  February 4, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    It is difficult, but mostly it is very time consuming to differentiate. It is an ongoing process. We recently did the mid-year NWEA MAP test which means we have to re-group our groupings based on those results. We need to keep the children moving forward. We need resources and time to “get it all together”. Principals insist on it and it is a big part of our rating as teachers. It would be great if we could use those half-days or PD days to work on things like this, but instead we are stuck in meetings all day. Teachers can learn so much from watching each other, yet we are rarely given the time to do it. We can give up our own prep time (which we do often), but sometimes the time of the prep and the subject you want to observe don’t match. It is an endless battle, but provides significant gains for the children.

  • 229. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Everything I’ve read on differentiating~always says it’s good for small class rooms…not overcrowded CPS class rooms.

  • 230. anonymouse teacher  |  February 5, 2013 at 7:17 am

    SSI4, virtually all best practices in teaching work better in reasonable class sizes. But differentiation can work anywhere. Its just way more work for the teacher and more difficult to manage depending on the class size and behavior. In some schools, student behavior is such a problem that differentiation becomes virtually impossibile. (because the teacher can’t work with small groups without the larger group erupting into chaos) And, in a classroom of 26. like mine, it is easier to differentiate than in my school’s upper grades, that totally suffer with sizes up to 37.

  • 231. HS Mom  |  February 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

    @210 Junior – does the same theory pertain to how many books you have downloaded on you Nook? 🙂

  • 232. IBobsessed  |  February 5, 2013 at 9:57 am

    “And now she’s paying 8K a year for an education at the private school down the street, relearning in 1st grade everything we covered in K in our dinky little neighborhood school”
    Anonymouse teacher @223, Catholic and other private schools generally are based on a play based, creative thinking/ social-emotional development approach to K. The emphasis is not on hard academic skills for the 5 year olds. Test scores show they catch up with their public school counterparts by the end of primary school. So we are talking about a different phil. of education, not necessarily a better quality school. BTW, your differentiation sounds awesome.!

  • 233. RL Julia  |  February 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Differentiation made my son’s neighborhood school experience awesome. However, the one problem I see happening with it is that sometime around middle school, the rubber hits the road academically and if kids are going to make the leap into learning the sort of critical thinking/writing/analytic skills necessary to continue into high school and beyond they ALL need to have a certain level of academic attainment with basic concepts etc…

    While differentiation was a godsend for my kid because he was ahead, I see how some of his less academically inclined (although not necessarily less intelligent) peers were ultimately not prepared to work at the higher level necessary to make/keep them competitive for any type of job (aside from the most basic service industry work). Of course, this academic wake up call coincided with most of their most turbulent adolescent years when they were less interested in doubling their efforts academically anyway…

    I’d love to hear from the teachers on this board about how to manage differentiation in the upper grades and/or catch a middle school kid up in order to prepare them for the more academically challenging work that in many, many cases they are capable of (but might not be prepared for).

  • 234. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    #230~anonymouse teacher~I agree w/you. I like differentiation and I think that has helped in my son’s school. But I also know how difficult it can be when a teacher is in small group and kids not in the group are acting out. I think it can really help a child to strive to do better IF the larger chaotic group doesn’t take over!

  • 235. CarolA  |  February 5, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    RL Julia: I think no matter what grade level differentiation is going on, it really is up to the teacher to set the tone of the classroom and provide what’s necessary for students to reach their goals. I just had a meeting today with a consultant for the NWEA MAP test and how to use the data to move students to where they need to be and beyond. I was amazed at the information and ideas available for teachers no matter what the grade level. A great teacher would use that data and information to benefit each and every child. I know one middle school teacher who does whole group teaching only once a week. The other days she meets with small groups to provide that specialized instruction. The others have folders filled with materials at their instruction level to keep them busy so she can focus on her groups. I haven’t seen it in action, but her scores are fantastic on the MAP test.

  • 236. knowledge is power  |  February 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Please don’t be fooled by the “utilization” formula CPS has used to promote their agenda of why they must close “underutilized” schools. Drake has a high special needs student population at 24%. Last time I checked, you legally can’t pack 36 Special Ed students or have a classroom of 36 high needs autistic students in a “classroom” the size of a closet. Why the number 36? Well, that is the number that has been reported CPS uses in its “utilization” formula. Why a “classroom” the size of a closet? Well, CPS has been known to have schools house their instructional programs in these “classrooms” as well. What the WBEZ article also does not do justice to is the fact that Drake’s scores are on the rise. Why close a school where the data supports that students and teachers are doing something right and moving in the right direction?

    The general public should be concerned that they are basically being lied to by the mayor that they elected, who also has the power to appoint whomever he pleases to his Board of Education (read: wealthy and well-connected people who will back him in his political endeavors and reelection campaign). Every citizen of Chicago should also be concerned with the social justice issue at hand–a different Chicago for different people exists–one for white people, and one for people of color. This is becoming increasingly apparent with the “school utilization crisis” (as CPS terms it) because the targeted “underutilized” schools are in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Finally, every citizen should also be concerned with the track record of Barbara Bydr-Bennett, brought in by Emanuel. She decimated and destabilized Detroit Public Schools, which looks like she is shaping up to do here in Chicago. There are bigger political forces at play here and sadly, the students, teachers, and schools will suffer as they are just pawns in the game.

  • 237. CPS Parent  |  February 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    236. knowledge is power – and what is the “agenda”, what are these “bigger political forces” and what is the “game”? (I’m the one who wants to abandon neighborhood school attendance boundaries which is one aspect of the persistence of the ghettoization of this city, in my opinion, so i’m not insensitive to issues of discrimination)

  • 238. local  |  February 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    @ 237. CPS Parent | February 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I would guess that you might not agree with much there, but you might wish to background yourself in what Substancenews.net describes as the agenda, bigger political forces, and the game. The Reader also scratches at these, but the no-holds-barred version is found at Substancenews.net.

    You might want to pour a beer. It’ll be a long read.

  • 239. local  |  February 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Convientely, George Schmidt has provided a primer about his Substancenew.net site:

    HOW TO READ SUBSTANCENEWS.NET… New readers navigation guide

    George N. Schmidt – February 04, 2013

    Our readers are increasing, and we are hearing from more and more people as people interested in the resistance to corporate “school reform” around the USA and especially in Chicago increase. We have a few procedures and a few simple rules that our readers need to know to navigate substancenews.net.

    Our HOME PAGE is the first thing we need to share about.

    It’s like a Russian novel — very long, and it could go on forever and ever. We begin each Home Page on the first day of the month and update it daily. The Substance monthly Home Page increases “content” over the month, with the most recent day at the top, and the days streaming “backwards” to the first day of the month. At that point, we “flip the chapter” and a new Home Page, dated the new month, begins.

    To find any news or analysis from previous months, you need to go to BACK ISSUES and type in that month. For example, anyone who wants to read substancenews.net reports about the build up to the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 can go to any month from 2012 and find our stories. The Substance coverage of the May 23 Auditorium Theatre rally, and the following march, can still be found in May 2012. Our coverage of the pre-strike meetings can be found especially in August and early September 2012.

    And of course the strike coverage can be found massively in September 2012.

    The current Substance website went “live” in 2007 and has been updated every day since then. Prior to 2007, we were at another Web address, during the early years of our ability to be on the Web: http://www.substancenews.com. That address still exists, and readers can find our materials from February 2002 through late 2006 at that site.

    Substance has no Web presence prior to 2002. We were in print before that, but haven’t had the resources to put our stories and analyses on the Web. If someone provides the resources, we will put the entire content — all the way back to 1976 — at substancenews.net.

    COMMENTS. Substance has rules for Comments that are different from other Web activities. Most blogs allow comments to be anonymous. We don’t. People who want to comment to substancenews.net must provide us with their first and last names and with an accurate email address. Whenever we get an anonymous comment, we delete it. Whenever we get a comment we suspect may be a pseudonymous troll, we immediately send that person an email and ask for further verification. Usually, those individuals are lying, and their work is also deleted.

    The Russian Novel approach may be the best way to get to understand Substance. Tolstoy provided his readers with both “content” and analysis. The difference is that once Mrs. Tolstoy finished re-copying “War and Peace” for the printer, the story went into print.

    Substance will continue as long as our reporters report stories.

  • 240. junior  |  February 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    @239 local

    Could I make a request that you be more judicious in cutting and pasting to this site? We all know how to use the Internet (though perhaps ‘netiquette is a lost art) to find these other sources of information. If we all simply cut and pasted our favorite sites here, this site would immediately be unreadable. Many of us already check Catalyst/D299/Substance as we feel is appropriate, and personally I’d rather not have to sift through the same material multiple times. Not to mention scrolling through 200+ long posts on an iPhone is a tedious chore. Links to the information are much more polite. Thank you for your consideration.

  • 241. Frances  |  February 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you local (239) I found your post useful. I, unlike junior, dont have time to visit other site that much.

  • 242. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm


    We recently did the mid-year NWEA MAP test which means we have to re-group our groupings based on those results.

    I’m confused. Why would the MAP results determine which groups a child should be in; wouldn’t their performance within the group that they were in indicate that already?

  • 243. junior  |  February 6, 2013 at 1:09 am

    @241 Frances

    Welcome to the site, Frances. First post it seems. 🙂

  • 244. CarolA  |  February 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

    @242: Yes and No. As the year progresses, some children move further along than others. Groups can be adjusted as needed, but the MAP results really zero in on specific skills that are needed for each child. It really does a lot of the work for a teacher (which I found out yesterday) by grouping students needing specific skills and gives ideas for how to move them forward. It’s a lot of data, but very specific to the student needs. It’s much more in depth than I could figure out on my own. It just takes time to reorganize my day and figure out who needs to be with whom for which skill. In other words, Suzy might be with Johnny for synonym work, but she needs to be in Cathy’s group for fractions. Remember, we are working with both reading and math skills. Both of these subject areas are broken down into subgroups for specific skills. For example, reading includes Foundational Skills, Literature and Informational, Language and Writing, Vocabulary Use and Functions. Math is broken down into Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Number and Operations in Base Ten, Measurement and Data, Geometry. Additionally, new skills are expected as the school year moves along. So what was expected in September is not the same as what is expected now. Suzy may move in one category, but not another. We must also factor in the time in the school day and group accordingly. Does that make sense? Did I answer your question?

  • 245. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

    @244 Yes, thank you for the detailed explanation.

    Are groups created based on the sub-sets? For example, Suzy would be with Johnny for “Vocabulary Use” but Cathy for “Language and Writing”? And in math, Johnny would be with Suzy for Geometry but with Cathy for “Number and Operations in Base Ten”?

    I thought the results from MAP were just RIT scores for a few areas, not question by question analysis. So for reading in 6th grade it is three scores: one each for “Reading Strategies, Comprehending Literary Texts,” “Comprehending Informative Texts,” and “Word Relationships and Meaning.” If you also have NWEA’s “DesCartes” package, it gives skills within various ranges the students scored on in those areas, but it didn’t seem that the MAP itself identified specific skills for each student. So a student scoring 185 in reading on Word Relationships might have trouble inferring the meaning of an adjective based on context but not nouns; however, the MAP test the student took would not pin-point this. I thought teachers didn’t even have a record of the questions that the students got right or wrong.

  • 246. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

    #239~Local~yes, I’m always interested in CPS news, so keep posting, I only go to this site an a couple other CPS mssg bds. So I like to read what is out there.

    #244~CarolA~very nicely put abt MAP~although the mid-year was optional and I believe unneeded. If CPS didn’t waist so much money on testing, and giving $$ to Murdoch, CPS kids would be in better shape.

  • 247. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Abt testing ~ CPS students in kindergarten through second grade sit for up to five different tests, administered several times through the school year, for a total of 14 sessions, according to CPS’ testing calendar. Third- through seventh-graders may take up to four tests over a total of nine sessions, and eighth-graders take up to five over 10 sessions. High school students take up to four — three for seniors — over as many as 13 sessions.


  • 248. cpsobsessed  |  February 6, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Carol – you’re kinda selling me on MAP here. Do you feel the benefits outweigh the testing time needed? Do you think all teachers are using the data as well as you are (which to me could justify the test time.)

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 249. CPS Parent  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

    238. local – Substance News… haha, LOL as the kids say…. Reminds me of The Onion.

  • 250. local  |  February 6, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Re: pasting. Usually I quote a snippet unless it’s really important info that’s not commonly out there in mass media, such as Rod Estvan’s comments. The Schmidt piece above was his “instruction” on how to consume his site, so, it just seemed to make sense to post in whole, in case folks wanted to check substancenews.net. Personally, I believe I have to read almost everything (humanly possible) about ed to even start to get a picture of reality. I can’t rely on just mainstream media. Hope this helps.

  • 251. Hello  |  February 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

    @249 more like the Enquirer in my opinion. At least The Onion owns up to being a parody. Enquiring minds do want to know.

  • 252. CPS Parent  |  February 6, 2013 at 11:32 am

    250. local – haha… George Schmidt (that old communist) instructing us on how to be consumers…..

  • 253. CarolA  |  February 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    @245: Yes, you are right about the sub-groups. Teachers do not have the specific questions that each student was asked (they are different for each student depending on how they answered each question). But knowing the RIT score in EACH sub-category gives me the DesCartes to concentrate on. For example, my recent test shows that my students, although they performed well, showed the least progress in reading under the sub-category of Literature and Informational. So I will take the next few weeks to concentrate on that area. I must admit, reading the DesCartes, I don’t dwell much on this area as a teacher so I’m glad it was brought to my attention. On the low end I will work with a group of students on identifying the setting from a given book (such as the beach). On the high end, I will work with a group of students learning to identify a phrase as a metaphor. Quite a difference. Not only am I able to get the RIT score that is given to parents, I can get the RIT band the child fell into under each sub-category. So Suzy (a first grader) might have a total RIT score of 188 for reading, but fell into the RIT band of 201-219 for Foundational Skills. I can also get a print out listing basics like High, HiAvg, Avg, LoAvg, and Low instead of numbers. At a glance, I can group students in each sub-category quickly. Lots of info to juggle, but very useful to me as a classroom teacher.

    @246 SSI4: Although the mid-year was optional, it provides VERY needed information to me as a teacher. Think about it….if all I get is the beginning info and the end info….what am I going to do about it in June? Knowing what each students needs to succeed now, enables me to keep them moving forward by offering a variety of activities in their areas of weakness. In June, the next teacher needs to worry about it. It’s too late for me and sad for the student that I didn’t know about certain areas. Let’s face it. I can notice trends, but I can’t notice every detail.

    @248 CPSO: I think the NWEA MAP is very useful and worth the time for me. It only takes two days to test my class (one for reading, one for math) and the information I can gather from that is beyond belief. It’s all the other tests that I see no use for. I’m glad my school dropped the DIBLES. I don’t see any purpose for the student portion of REACH. They are already asking for teachers to develop next year’s student REACH. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That’s the one that is way over the student’s head in September.

  • 254. anonymouse teacher  |  February 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Its interesting, because while I have deep respect for Carol, I don’t think MAP is good for kindergarten. Here’s why:
    1) on the test, half my students did better than they did in the fall, half did worse. Given that the reading test they just took (TRC) showed strong improvements in decoding and comprehension, that their writing samples show strong improvements according to a detailed rubric, and that a teacher made test shows they can add, subtract, id numbers, etc., I feel for my grade level, the MAP results are unreliable.
    2) As soon as I mentioned they were going to the computer lab for testing, I had about 4 kids flip out. This was even though I told them how great they were all going to do and that the test would be fun and I was going to give them extra recess afterwards.
    3) Our computer lab has been unusable and the entire school has not been able to have computer class for 5 weeks (plus 6 this past fall) because our lab has been used constantly for testing. If you include the spring testing, we are talking 15+ weeks out of the year that the lab is unavailable.
    4) According to MAP, when I look at each student’s RIT band, and what they “might know, probably know and need to work on”, I see things like this: “probably knows letter c, probably knows letter z….” That is literally what it says. Um, I have a test that I give, letter names and sounds, where I know exactly which letters they know, which sounds they know and I have a chart that shows that same info for the entire class so I can focus things like that on the letters that give kids most of the kids trouble (though at this point in the year, we aren’t really doing letters anymore except with my lowest small group)
    5) When we tested this past week, our students sat for around 3 hours total over 2 days while our technology repeatedly failed, the internet connection was lost, individual computers were shutting down and around half the class lost their test information forcing them to take the test over. It was these kids that did the worst and partly because they were so frustrated they couldn’t do their best work.

    And I agree with Carol re: Reach. Given that kindergarteners are required to write a paragraph with correct spelling and punctuation, I think the person who wrote the test (supposedly a teacher) was high on something at the time of submission.

  • 255. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    #254~. anonymouse teacher~I don’t think ANY child should be tested until 3rd grade and then only very little. Under grade 3 MAP is useless and abusive.

  • 256. Christine Whitley  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    CarolA that parent who wrote her daughter’s name on the homework was me. After wrangling with her for 30 minutes to finish 3 pages of homework that should have taken 10, I just did that part for her. I admit it.

  • 257. CarolA  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    @256: I’d wonder why it is taking her so long to finish. What do think is the problem?

  • 258. CarolA  |  February 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    @254 anonymouse: I get what you are saying. Our system doesn’t handle a bunch of computers running at the same time and it can be frustrating. My situation is unique in that we don’t lose the computer lab for weeks at a time. But that’s an exception to what’s happening at most schools. For me, the NWEA MAP helps me to focus on skills that the students will need in order to be successful in second grade. I admit that I can’t use all the information it provides to it’s fullest, but it does help guide my daily lessons.

  • 259. cpsobsessed  |  February 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I’m a name writer too. Same reason. Way too long spent on homework and crying on the floor it feels like after wringing all that out of him I can just write his name so we can make it end. He knows how to do it. Writing it a few more times or not won’t change anything given he’ll write it 6 billion other times during the year.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 260. CarolA  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Interesting comment. It’s not for me to judge.

  • 261. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    @253 Thank you for taking the time to explain this. My worry is that relying on the MAP numbers puts a lot of faith in the accuracy of a one-shot test as opposed to the daily observations of the teacher. I can see it being helpful to confirm one’s judgments if one has a student in a group who seems to be lagging or one who seems to be excelling but one is on the fence about whether to switch them to a different group.

    But I’d be quite bothered if my daughter’s teacher switched her based primarily on one-day’s test numbers. I’ve got more on my blog about my distrust of the MAP and similar secure tests (talk about a lack of accountability). The US Dept. of Ed. had an independent report on the MAP-led v. normal differentiated instruction on reading in 32 elementary schools in Illinois (not Chicago). Classes were randomly assigned to treatment (MAP/DesCartes guided) and control (no use of MAP data). The upshot: no statistically significant difference between the two, either on ISAT reading measures or the MAP ones. Or put differently, the MAP had no value-added that educational deformers are so fond of. The study is here: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/midwest/pdf/REL_20134000.pdf

  • 262. Even One More CPS Mom  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I have to agree with @254 anonymouse teacher. My son is in kindergarten and when he first took the test last fall it really freaked him out (heck, maybe anonymouse teacher is his teacher). He hated taking the test on the computer, would often break down in tears sobbing and the teacher would have to sit down with him, reassure him and help him through it. He had used computers numerous times before for educational games and other entertainment related and creative uses so its not like he was not at all computer literate but taking the test that way truly upset him. Sometimes he would flat out refuse to answer questions. Every day he was asking me if he would have to work at the computer that day. This is a child who scored very well on both the Classical and RGC tests and whose preschool teachers said he was well prepared for kindergarten. You can’t tell me that with the freezing up, fear, crying and refusing to answer questions that his fall test results were at all accurate and very helpful to his teacher. Obviously his various test results (MAP vs. Classical and RGC – although yes, a whole can of worms topic in itself) are also inconsistent. It is ridiculous to test such young children in this manner. I was told he did much better on this last test. Well, I would hope so being he didn’t flip out this time. It is obvious to me and obvious to his teacher that he has learned a TON since the beginning of the year but there has to be a better way to measure and identify what and how much. Really, what a crappy way for a five year old to have to begin his formal educational experience.

  • 263. HS Mom  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    And there’s the continual trips to the bathroom, the breaking of the pencil and the sharpening, the need for a drink, the compulsion to make 3 sentences into 5 words (actually an art to that), the refusal to rewrite no matter what it looks like and so on. Before you know it an hour has gone by and the homework is still not done. I know those kids exist that can just sit down and knock out the homework but I can see where a parent is driven to just fill in the void and call it a night..

  • 264. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    @259 The trick is to get them to write their names first.

    Or do what I did: “Either you sign it with a pencil, or I sign it with the bloody end of your severed pinky finger. Either way it gets signed, but only one way leaves you with all your fingers.” (It helps if you are holding a 6-in. kitchen knife or meat cleaver, when you say this).

    It might be true that violence never solves anything, but the *threat* of violence works wonders.

  • 265. HSObsessed  |  February 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    The CTU and Raise Your Hand and others have formed a new group to fight over-testing in the schools, called “More Than a Score”. Not sure if this was already discussed in another thread and I missed it; if so, apologies. If not, you may want to check it out. It includes sample opt-out letters for parents to use.


  • 266. cpsobsessed  |  February 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    I believe the hot new topic regarding kids who stay “on task” during homework time versus those who don’t is related to Executive Functioning skills — skills related to organization, focus, conquering tasks, etc Apparently kids can now have occupational therapy for it, which a parent in my class told me that kids at latin and parker are doing.
    We’ve determine that about half my son’s fourth grade class can sit and crank out the homework right in class and the other half can’t quite get it together and end up taking a lonnnnnng time at night with big frustrations.

    But teachers seem to want to really push this now at age 9 so they’ll be ready for middle school work. So they’ll be ready for high school. So they’ll be ready for college. So they’ll be ready for work. I don’t remember having to be that organized at age 9 but I know times are different now.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 267. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 7, 2013 at 1:45 am

    #266~CPSO~I think a good way of staying on task is having kids start their homework as soon as they arrive home~they are still in school mode. Give them a juice and don’t allow them to do anything else before it’s complete. By the time they are in middle school, it’s second nature and also builds good time management skills which they will need middle/hs/university/life.

  • 268. cpsobsessed  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:23 am

    @SSI – I don’t get home until 6:30 and he often needs (or claims he needs) help with the homework so then I make and we eat dinner and it’s close to 8…. We’re working on it. The teacher’s moved his desk etc so he can get more done at school.

    I personally feel it’s too much homework after a 7 hour school day where they get minimal breaks. Also, I don’t like that we have no idea in advance what’s coming down the pike homeworkwise so it’s hard to plan anything on a weeknight. Not that we need to very often, but once in a while…

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  • 269. CarolA  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:40 am

    @262 Christopher: A teacher would be pretty crappy if all she did was use the MAP scores to teach. You are right on the mark when you say it’s just a snapshot. Perfect example: One girl in my room scored quite low in September. It surprised me based on my classroom observations. Long story short….she was placed in a much higher group. It’s a great guide, but not the last word. Also, it’s not just about teaching synonyms or fractions, but the way a teacher does it. Students who are engaged in activities and take ownership of the learning are much more likely to retain information than those listening to a lecture from the teacher and filling out a worksheet.

    CPSO and others: Time is a difficult juggling act for sure. I find that with children that have trouble staying on task, it’s best to have them do it in small sessions. Work 10 minutes, break 5 minutes, work 10 minutes, etc. Set a timer. Also, in your case, perhaps your son could complete all his homework that he feels he can do by himself BEFORE you get home and that would only leave a smaller amount for when you are home. If he says he can’t do any of it, that’s another concern. Just ideas. Sometimes we have to be creative. I have a boy in my classroom who just can’t sit still nor can he stop talking. Yesterday alone, he got up to blow his nose and walk to the garbage with it at least 20 times before noon. This goes on day after day. Finally, something occurred to me. I figured he really didn’t have to blow his nose. He just wanted to walk around. I took a brand new box of Kleenex and put it on his desk. I also gave him his own small paper bag to use as a garbage can. He was able to decorate it himself (ownership). Just as I expected, no Kleenex in it for the rest of the day. Problem solved. (Although I fully expect a new problem to pop up shortly. LOL )

  • 270. cpsobsessed  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Thanks, Carol. Certainly worth a try. But he’ll use 9 of the 10 to walk to the garbage can. 🙂
    This is why he wasn’t a great montessori kid. He functions best with a taskmaster. I feel he should be able to do much of it on his own…but it never happens. He’s gotten better about doing it at school and after-school, thanks to a his teacher who like you, helped figure out his distractions. Which are plenty in a big classroom.

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  • 271. EdgewaterMom  |  February 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

    @SoxSideIrish I think that every kid is different. My daughter needs a short break when she gets home from school to relax and unwind before tackling her homework. When she was younger it was much harder to keep her on task and we often had to set a timer and force her to focus and work for 15 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Now that she is in 5th grade, she is much more responsible and handles it well on her own.

    I do think that we give young kids too much homework. I especially disliked homework that really seemed like it was busy work.

  • 272. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

    We get a packet detailing the homework for the week on Monday, so we know what’s coming (and you only have to write your name once on the cover-sheet). I give my kid a 35 min. break when we get home, after-school activity or not, which is 6:15 or 6:35 some days. Then it’s homework or dinner, but no dessert until homework is completed and kitchen is closed for dessert at 8. Of course, her homework is usually read for 20 min. (which she has usually done already), write three to five sentences about what she read based on a prompt, and then usually some math workbook pages (the “Spectrum” series, it is called; seems like ISAT prep rather than serious work). She said the workbooks were dumb, so I read one. She was wrong; they are goddamn fraking stupid.

    I do get meltdown when the reading prompt is “Why did you think the author wrote the book?” (‘I don’t know’). I think this question is inappropriate for K-5 unless one is reading a fable and even then it’s the moral, not the author’s purpose, that is at issue. My kid’s making her way through “Oliver Twist” — her friend was in a production of “Oliver” so she was interested. I know why Dickens wrote the book; to make money. Most of the reading samples in the standardized tests and workbooks are written for the same reason; it’s hack work that authors do to pay the bills while they work on serious stuff. This is where the college and career ready mantra drives me batty. I try to goad my kid into asking, “Do you want an immanent or transcendental critique of the author’s intent?” Never mind the fact that no one assigns daily homework in college for the very fact that classes don’t meet daily. A weekly problem set is the most you will get. Most of the time, all you do is read and take notes unless it’s a lab class.

    @269 I thought @228 you meant that the principal (whether of on his or her own or via a network chief) was pushing the re-group on the basis of MoY MAP, rather than this being the teachers’ initiative. I’v seen similar scenarios countless times:
    1) metric is introduced; some are skeptical, but assured that it is just one metric among other judgments.
    2) people start using the metric, begin to justify decisions on it
    3) skeptics don’t use it for decisions
    4) higher-ups ask, why did you do x when the metric would indicate y?
    5) skeptics say it’s just one thing among many; higher up’s reply, No no, it’s a policy. We had this discusion at #1.
    6) Some skeptics comply; some quit; some pretend to comply (oh sure, I re-grouped, no need to mention that I re-re-grouped the next day).

  • 273. JenFG  |  February 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

    #272–I agree your author’s purpose complaint. Each of my three kids has struggled with that question for years! Technically, shouldn’t the student be able to insert any nonsense as an answer as long as he/she can back it up? (Perhaps not until college? LOL) But you know the Storytown teacher guide has a hard-and-fast “answer.”

  • 274. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 7, 2013 at 9:34 am

    #268~CPSO~I agree, after a 7 hr day there is really no reason for hw. I would suggest to him that all of his hw be finished by the time you pick him up from school~his teacher is there for any questions he might have and that you won’t be helping him any more. That would free up a lot of time for your family and it would be more enjoyable. He may be in the habit of thinking he needs your help. You might want to try it for a week and see how it goes. I know it’s difficult to get home at 6:30, start dinner and then hw.

  • 275. cpsobsessed  |  February 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Yeah, it sounds so simple but he seems reluctant to ever initiate connect with the teacher outside of the normal procedures. So at 8pm he claims to have no idea how they’re supposed to do something and it’s never occurred to him to clarify during the day or he says “we aren’t allowed to talk” etc. He’s almost too much of a rule follow in that he won’t make sure he gets what he needs at school.

    I imagine he’s daydreaming etc during class when some of this gets explained and he doesn’t pick up on it. It was fine when it was a math worksheet (although even those are sometimes vague or the written response questions are annoying “how did you know the answer to that?”). But with the older kid homework the assignments are sometimes more ambiguous.

    Anyhow, it’s wearing me down and making the evenings unpleasant. We’re working on it though and
    Making some progress. It just depresses me to think it’ll be like this through HS, and likely even more intense in HS.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 276. OutsideLookingIn  |  February 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Cpso – I employ my own version of occupational therapy, mostly by hollering “Focus!!!”

  • 277. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

    #276~OutsideLookingIn~that was my way 2! And of course saying any activity would be cancelled (basketball, baseball, etd). I would tell them I wasn’t helping and they could leave the hw and ask the teacher 2moro~then they’d freakout and do it~this was 2nd grade. As they got older, they got into the routine ~ grab a water and start your hw.

  • 278. OutsideLookingIn  |  February 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

    SSI – yes, the threat of taking away a cherished activity or plans with a friend usually does the trick.

  • 279. southie  |  February 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Lordy! Could it be? Morgan Park HS has two principal candidates.


  • 280. Mayor Cermak  |  February 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    How can you have no attendance boundaries for schools? You’d end up shutting out kids from the neighborhood where the schools are good.

  • 281. southie  |  February 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    EVENT: Hyde Park Community Forum on Public School Options
    10 to 11:30 a.m. – Sat., Feb. 16th
    Kozminski Academy Auditorium

    Kenwood HS

  • 282. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    @280 That’s part of CPS Parent’s point: the boundaries enable good schools to lock-out new entrants and bad schools to lock-in local residents.

    My problem with the “abolish boundaries” solution is that I don’t see how it could work. How would you allocate students to schools? If it was tabla rasa in a truly random lottery for every CPS student for next year, then students from any one location should end up all over the city; a student living in the south side would be just as likely to end up going to a school in the north-most point of the city as he would one next door. Most kids would be commuting from any one area. The bussing routes would be bizarre, if they could even work. If you allowed students to rank-order their choices rather than randomly assign them, proximity will still come into play. Students will select the best school that is closest to them, so neighborhood-like patterns will form again.

    There might be a way to create a system that would generate strong pressure for “leave no school behind” but no one in charge has an incentive to impose such a system on themselves.

  • 283. Anonymous  |  February 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    #282. Agreed. As a neighborhood school parent, I’m biased. However, I don’t see how it could work to abolish boundaries. It’s no surprise that even magnet schools in good neighborhoods are more popular. It’s all about proximity. People fought for proximity and they increased the magnet proximity allocation (which I personally think was a mistake). And, again, since busing is one of CPS’ biggest expenses, it’s one reason why charters are appealing to CPS. They do not offer busing.

    But that’s not my argument for boundaries. I just want my kids to go to school with our neighbors. It’s wonderful to walk to school together. It’s great to ask a neighbor to pick up your child. It’s wonderful to see so many faces you know in the neighborhood. That would not happen if my child went to a magnet or private school.

    When they threaten to demagnetize or move a school (as has happened in several instances north AND south), who are the most vocal against it? It’s the parents of kids who live within walking distance! They, too, made their magnet choices based on proximity and are most attached to the schools as they likely volunteer more often. It’s always about proximity. Abolish boundaries and you create more chaos and costs than already exists in CPS … if that is possible.

  • 284. CPS Parent  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    What Mayor Cermak @280 says proves my point – he asks:

    “How can you have no attendance boundaries for schools? You’d end up shutting out kids from the neighborhood where the schools are good.”

    Without boundaries you force CPS (and the stingy taxpayers) to make ALL schools good because if they aren’t – OMG my kids are going to have to go to school with “those” kids, OMG., OMG!

    This is a cart-before-the-horse solution of course and I know i’m being provocative here. I should mention that Los Angeles school district hast tried to get their board to do this – Google it. LA is very similar to Chicago when it comes to school issues.

  • 285. cpsobsessed  |  February 7, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    How does that work though? We’d have to start off with a giant lottery since everyone would apply to the same schools! Or is it first come first serve? Now THAT would be interesting!

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  • 286. CPS Parent  |  February 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    285. cpsobsessed Well, there are several existing models within CPS to borrow from. No need to invent from scratch. We have the model for magnets, gifted centers, SEHS, and charter. They all seem to work to some degree. It’s a combination of luck, favoritism by proximity, by income level, by ability. Sometimes within the same building there are more than one method in play. I’m sure a methodology could be wrung out. Obviously, for good schools many (but not all) students and parents are willing to travel. In general for great schools, minority CPS parents are willing to travel but non-minority parents are not. Since currently the majority of better schools are in non-minority areas a boundary free system will cause non-minority parents to push CPS to improve ALL schools so that parents/students will choose schools in their own neighborhoods avoiding the OMG, OMG scenarios mentioned above.

    I do realise that there is a benevolent Machiavellian aspect to my thinking here…

  • 287. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

    We have the model for magnets, gifted centers, SEHS, and charter.

    Gifted and SEHS are based on entrance exams. Even with tier adjustments, proximity still influences attendance, and the income-performance differences between northern and southern schools in terms of PSAE scores still exist for SEHS.

    We have magnets, and they have not produced the changes that people sought for the most part. Some improvements for individuals fortunate enough to attend, but not on a macro-scale.

    The only way you could create an incentive for all schools to be equally good would be if all students are randomly assigned to schools *every* year. This year you are at Marconi, next year at Lincoln, next year at South Loop. No siblings paired; no proximity.

  • 288. Anonymous  |  February 8, 2013 at 10:54 am

    You know, the “OMG” is insulting. Parents may be economically Tier 4 but live in a Tier 2 neighborhood and send their kids to a magnet in a Tier 4 neighborhood.

    Does that mean THEY don’t think their own neighbors are good enough to go to school with them?

    Who are “those kind” of kids, by the way?

    Even in the best neighborhoods, neighborhood schools did not become great without parental involvement. You’re not going to have that in a randomized system where you may have to drive halfway across the city for a PTA meeting.

    Which is more insulting? The parent who doesn’t think her own neighbors are good enough to go to school with or the parent who does not take away a magnet spot from another child, and instead, sends my child to her neighborhood school? (Oh. And my son’s class is 48 minority in our Tier 4 neighborhood school.)

    I know you admitted you’re trying to be provocative, but I’m not sure why you think getting rid of neighborhood schools can change Chicago’s sorry state of segregated neighborhoods. The kids that go to the THREE magnet schools in my neighborhood are not part of our neighborhood. They drive or bus in. They drive or bus out.

    It doesn’t change the neighborhood. Thirty-two Canadian ex-pats could somehow have randomly been assigned to the magnet closest to my home. Will that make me start to say, “Eh” a lot and love hockey?

    Oh. And the people driving to that magnet school near me tend to be pretty homogeneous lately — all driving Lexuses or Mercedes. LOL.

    I do, however, think that EVERY child should be entered into the magnet system — if they want to continue that system. And there should be NO proximity lottery for those schools. Then they can choose to attend their neighborhood school or not. The magnet system skims off the more involved parents. But it is the kids with LESS involved parents who need the most help. If those children are not given the same opportunities as those with involved parents, who are we really helping with this crazy, costly system? And if they have to rely on their parents to fill out the forms (they’re only 5 years old, after all), are we really helping the ones who need the help most?

    I won’t post anymore on this subject. I’m not really trying to convince anyone on this board of the value of neighborhood schools. This board originated in stress over the selective process. So it has an understandable (and totally appropriate) SE bias. I only post because I think CPS people read these boards. So, do not take anything personally. I am simply addressing the CPS people who may read this, actually.

    Eh? : )

  • 289. Food For Thought  |  February 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Maybe the shitty schools are shitty because the parents do not value education. The exceptions who desire a better life for their children apply to magnets, selective enrollment, charters. The rest are left behind in under-performing, under-utilized, under-resourced holding pens until child bearing age and the process perpetuates. Babies having babies. Graduation – and marraige – not on the agenda. No education, no jobs, no hope. Deal a little crack and wind up in jail. Three hots and a cot. Baby momma on the dole. Doing the best she can with the limited education she has received. Repeat.

    Maybe the great schools are great because the parents place a high priority on education, just as their parents had. Reading to their children. Getting involved. Doing homework at the kitchen table. Attending parent-teachers conferences. Picking up report cards in person. Making sure your kid has boots and mittens. Getting up early to make breakfast. Caring about grades. Setting goals. Success breeds success.

    Now it has become the job of the public school system to fix society? Maybe its time for the parents to step up and fix society.

  • 290. Standing9  |  February 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

    289. Thanks for the (politically incorrect) reality check. We’ve heard it all, no jobs, no education, drugs, gangs, crime etc. How about birth control and an education for a start?

  • 291. RL Julia  |  February 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Wasn’t it always the goal of a public education system to “fix” society…. through education?

  • 292. Peter  |  February 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

    My understanding is that SF public schools are lottery for everyone. The result is the lowest child population of a major city in the US. Not a good idea at all.

  • 293. Peter  |  February 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

    At a certain point, schools can only do so much. They cannot be asked to change the world.

  • 294. Housing?  |  February 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    “The result is that…”

    Hard to determine causality in matters such as these, but wouldn’t it make more sense that astronomical housing costs are a far bigger factor in SF’s low school-age population?

  • 295. liza  |  February 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    @291 RLJulia I think it was, and probably still is one of the goals of providing a free public education to produce adults who are not only literate, but able to contribute something to society, their community, etc. in a perfect world. I think the breakdown occurs when there is no “buy in” to that idea on the part of parents and students. I guess I think about the fact that my grandparents left school after 8th grade, but absolutely pushed their children to go to college because they saw it as the way to achieve a better life. My parents, in turn, pushed us as I pushed my own children. I grew up in a neighborhood where that was pretty much the norm. As a teacher, it was one of my biggest challenges to get my students to see that they could have a different kind of life, especially if there was little or no support from home. Too many of my students just accepted that their way of life was as good as it would ever get for them. Their expectation was basically, born in the hood, die in the hood. It would drive me crazy as well as break my heart! I just didn’t know how to fix that.

  • 296. mom2  |  February 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    For those people that think we need to open up all neighborhood schools to everyone so that everyone can have a chance to go to the “good” schools, how long will those schools be “good”? @289 may not have been kind in the wording, but he/she is correct that main the reason schools are “good” is due to the focus on education and all that that means. For example, if 80% of Hawthorne (magnet) or Nettlehorst (neighborhood) families left the school (or were forced to go somewhere else) and they were replaced with CPS students picked out of a hat (no need to apply or have parents that care at all), how long with those be the “good” schools? The teachers and administration may be great, but that alone isn’t enough.

    I am all for going to school with people that live near you. It builds bonds and a sense of community and gets more people involved and caring. It is something we miss terribly with SEHS and we don’t have with our younger child either. The needs are different with the various populations in CPS, too. Just like the breakfast in the classroom, that is much needed one place and a cause of great distress in other neighborhoods. Stop trying to one-size fits all everything. Instead, put the energy and funds into giving each community what they need – even if that means spending more money in one place with greater needs vs. another that could be more self-sustaining.

  • 297. RL Julia  |  February 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    @296 Mom2 – while I agree with your idea of stop trying to one-size fits all everything, I really can’t see people agreeing to it – because it is unfair and somewhere along the line, people decided fair was more important than sane or getting the job done….I am sure you could imagine the comments of people going to the school that didn’t need breakfast (complaining about that they don’t get anything for not needing breakfast) or even the people whose school did get breakfast (complaining that the breakfast would be better if rich people had to eat it). Maybe it’s just been a long week…

  • 298. CPS Parent  |  February 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Well there are definitly interesting responses regarding the no attendance boundary topic. Most who are against think “good” parents support schools and help make them “good” and this subset of parents wants to be in schools with similar parents.

    I don’t doubt this premise but here’s the problem. CPS has no control over how “good” parents are and can’t give up trying to create “good” schools without “good” parents. It is also true that even in “bad” neighborhoods there are “good” parents and these parents are the subset who are choosing charter schools (if charter schools didn’t exist their kids would be, mostly, forced to attend “neighborhood” schools). What is left over in “bad” neighborhood schools are the kids who have no choice but to attend there. My suggestion is to open up the neighborhood schools to all kids without proximity constraints to serve this subset.

    Eventually, CPS will probably be at least 50% – 75% charter schools. CPS will probably keep opening them until parent demand dries up which I think will be at the 50% – 75% mark. Which “neighborhood” schools will be left? my guess the absolutle worst performing and the very highest performing. At that point lifting any boundaries will make the most sense – all schools will be competing for all students and all parents are free to consider all schools. The objective of “school choice” for all will be achieved.

  • 299. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    And then there’s the parents pulling their kids out of charter (after realizing they aren’t the ‘special sauce’) and returning them to n’hood schools. Such as this 8th grade parent pulled her child out of UNO and put the child back at Armour (which happens all the time) http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130207/bridgeport/teacher-meeting-at-armour-school-turns-into-community-forum#ixzz2KJt8n0zb

  • 300. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 8, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Wasn’t sure where to put this…Chicago Public Skl Palmer Boy With Gun, 12, Robs 11-Year-Old On School Grounds in North Mayfair http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/02/08/chicago-boy-with-gun-12-robs-11-year-old/ This is out of hand…kids bringing guns to skl!

  • 301. local  |  February 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    This makes me wonder: How’s Harlem Children’s Zone working out now (including funding)?

  • 302. local  |  February 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    If all schools were a free-for-all and students all were placed in a lottery, Chicago would die (see Detroit). Ditto if the residency rule were lifted for city worker types.

  • 303. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 8, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    @289 The sad fact is that education actually has little intrinsic monetary value. Ask an English Phd. It used to be that students who left HS at 16 could get industrial jobs, where the company provided further vocational training, and then go on to live genuinely middle class lives (median wages). Those days are long gone because those industries are long gone, at least here in Chicago.

    From @300’s link:

    “Chicago Public Schools does not tolerate the presence of any weapon of any kind on school property for the safety and security of our schools, students, staff and visitors,” CPS officials said in a written statement.

    So the police had to leave their sidearms in their patrol cars? Do the children all write with chalk? I can make a pencil into a really nasty weapon. A non-functioning replica handgun that has no operating barrel and no firing pin is not, by definition, a weapon. It is a good policy to ban such items from school, but the CPS statement is irrelevant to the case at hand: an inoperative replica cannot harm anyone. I think what they meant to say is that robbing a fellow student is intolerable.

  • 304. Chicago Mama  |  February 9, 2013 at 1:10 am

    @288 – proximity lottery does NOT = neighborhood. My neighborhood school’s boundaries are approximately 1/2 mile radius. Magnet proximity is 1.5 mile radius.

    @294 – I think SF’s population problem is that it’s inhabited by a bunch of hedonists, and it’s not really a big city in the first place. A friend’s kid is in a magnet HS there, but went to private and suburban schools previously.

    System wide lottery will do nothing but create mass exodus from Chicago. Might solve budget issues?

  • 305. Family Friend  |  February 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Sorry Long Rant

    @158 anonymouse teacher: I am glad to hear you have visited charters. Isn’t Namaste, which has been around a long time, wonderful? I agree that there are no miracles without long term, intensive effort, and that is what Amandla is committed to. Four years of positive results is only a start, but it’s a good start. The classes vary by cohort – and this year’s eighth grade cohort is the best we have had so far, so we have high hopes for their performance. Of course, since we have fixed the seventh-grade science problem, we expect to lose more of them to elite high schools. I disagree that our scores have come up because they lowered the cut scores. There has been no change in the ISAT cut since Amandla was founded, and none in the NWEA. (I know that since the NWEA grade level is the median for students in that grade it rises and falls according to the population taking the test – but it is such a good measure of what students are actually learning, we are willing to live with its limitations.) We don’t spend our whole day teaching to improve scores – if we did our ISAT scores would be better.

    We do measure the students by cohort. Our statistics pull out the students that entered after fifth grade, but that’s for internal consumption. We don’t make excuses for our average. The scores we report are scores for every kid in the class, no matter when he/she started.

    Why do we get such good preliminary results? It’s a combination of things. Start with high expectations, of our students and our staff. We really don’t believe that a child “can’t” learn because of his home environment. Our regular day is about eight hours, with early dismissal (same time as neighborhood schools) on Friday and enrichment – sports, clubs – after school. The extra time allows for double periods of math and language arts, plus science and social studies, plus time for small group and individual instruction. We simply can’t afford a lot of interventionists and specialists although we have one RTI specialist and, in addition to the special ed teachers CPS says we need, we have a coordinator and one additional teacher. It IS good teaching, but that’s not the only thing. One phenomenal teacher is not enough; everyone must be performing at a high level. That means a culture that supports collaboration, where teachers help one another. Each teacher is observed on a regular basis by administrators who are not responsible for rating. They are responsible for coaching for improvement. Teachers make videos of themselves and share it with subject and grade teams at weekly PD (Friday afternoon) sessions. They read and discuss the same materials. Pressure to be at your best is relentless. We look for teachers who are so motivated to be their best that they welcome the pressure. We have observed that teachers who leave us to return to regular district schools (mostly for the money, and we wish we could afford to pay them that well) continue to put that kind of pressure on themselves.

    We use data-driven instruction. Our regular classroom tests, which we design ourselves to test the materials in the curriculum, don’t just show us a score for each student, they show a score for each question. If all but a few students show that they understand a concept by getting a particular question or series of questions right, we use small-group instruction to re-teach the concept to the students who missed the question. If most get it wrong, we re-teach to the entire class. We don’t say it’s OK if most of the students get most of the concepts. We want every student to get every concept, and we track how well we are doing it. We catch most of the problems before the end of unit test, but that’s our backstop.

    At the end of every day, we have a “Focus” period, kind of a study hall. Kids who are doing well get to start on their homework. Kids who are having a problem will meet with their subject matter teachers individually or in small groups to go over the issues that have been identified. Every child has been in small group at one time or another, so there is no stigma. We also have Saturday tutoring with volunteers every other week for about half the school year. This is so popular with the kids that some who haven’t been “invited” to tutoring show up anyway, and some bring their siblings, cousins, etc. But it show us how fragile these kids can be. One boy was getting his math answers right but his handwriting was so bad I couldn’t read them. I worked with him to slow down and take care with his numbers, and I began to very gently tease him. Big mistake! He started crying. I felt absolutely horrible, and it occurred to me that he probably was criticized all the time, and just couldn’t take it from a stranger. I will NEVER do anything like that again!

    It’s also culture. I am sure all of the teachers reading this would agree that it’s nearly impossible to move a class along as you should when a few kids are creating constant chaos. We simply don’t tolerate it. We are, right now, in the middle of a huge change in how we enforce the culture we need – we are moving from top down where the administration will come in and take a kid off your hands and make him sit in the dean’s office and write an essay about what happened and what he can do to avoid it happening again – to a collaborative process that seeks to create an environment where teachers head off problems before they occur. Broadly, it’s PBIS, and we are providing extra training to teachers who are very good at it so they can be peer coaches. We expect it to take several years to get where we need to be, but we also expect it to work better with older students than our old method. We found our original system worked great for 5th and 6th graders, but not so well once they reached the rebellious age, and we are adjusting.

    That’s one of the good things about charters – we can adjust without waiting for Central Office to come in and do a study and roll out a pilot program. When we have a disciplinary issue, our teachers can be sure they will be backed by the administration. I know that teachers in regular district schools are trying to work in a system that does not always allow them to be their best. So much is dependent on the principal. If I were a teacher (and I know I am going out on a limb here) I would want the following: all of the teachers in my school should be held to a high standard. It doesn’t matter how good you are if the teachers of the two grades ahead of you are terrible. You are going to be playing catch-up your entire life. I would want the disciplinary code to be enforced. Kids are pretty good at learning what they can get away with. Right now I think they get away with a lot. I would want the kind of atmosphere where my colleagues and I pull together, where every mistake I make does not go on my “permanent record” – in other words, where I can continue to learn as long as I am teaching, and where mentoring does not end after a couple of years. I want to be both a mentor and a protégé, as my skills and talents direct.

    I am guessing you would like that kind of atmosphere. We have it. That’s why it’s frustrating to me to see charters and regular district schools set up as adversaries. Competing is not good for the children. What’s good is being honest about what works and making it available to all teachers, all students.

    Charter schools have a lot to offer. Namaste does an amazing job of mainstreaming every special ed student. Polaris makes project-based expeditionary learning really work. LEARN does differentiated learning right. Passages takes children who speak no English at all, some of whom arrive shortly after unspeakable experiences (one boy’s father was shot dead right in front of him in the DRC), and has them learning, in English, in an incredibly short time.

    Instead of saying “I don’t believe it,” or “these schools benefit corporations,” or “these are simply union busters,” why don’t we ask how the successes at charter schools can be replicated to benefit all our children?

  • 306. Family Friend  |  February 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Catching up because my daughter got married last week and I’ve been busy!

    @156 Southie: Special populations like the seriously disabled are not necessarily in neighborhood schools, either. Any child who can be served in a neighborhood school can be, and usually is, served in a charter. For the 2011-12 school year, our special ed population was 18%, about five points above the district-wide average, which counts students in special purpose schools. The scores of these students are counted toward our ISAT and NWEA averages.

    @157 anotherchicagoparent: I agree that charter waiting lists are most likely inflated. It’s impossible to come up with an accurate count. I believe that Noble Street does not double-count students on more than one Noble waiting list, but it’s impossible for Noble Street to know whether a student is also on the waiting list at CICS, for example, or whether the student actually got into CICS and neglected to tell Noble to take his/her name off the Noble Street list. I am such a stickler for precision, it always makes me uncomfortable when I hear a number purporting to be the total number of Chicago students on charter school waiting lists.

    @159 Cake For All

    Class sizes at Amandla are 30. As I noted earlier our student population moves a lot, so we lose some over the course of the year. We almost never start with more than 30, so we don’t have 30+. High 20s, for the most part.

    Kids expelled from our school go where other expelled students go, with the exception of those who are expelled for things that are allowed in regular CPS schools. For example, a middle school girl who brought a box cutter with a four inch blade to a regular neighborhood school would not be expelled. She would actually have to cut someone with it to be up for expulsion. So our kid can take her box cutter to the neighborhood school. I make no apologies for our commitment to protecting our students from that kind of mayhem or for sending a clear message to other students that it’s not acceptable. I wish every school in the city would do that. There would be many fewer weapons in school, teachers would have an easier time teaching, and parents could be more relaxed about letting their kids out of their sight.

    We have no counselor either. We can’t afford it. Your elementary school has a position for a counselor – it’s in the union contract – but your counselor, like my daughter, is probably serving as a special ed case manager because CPS understaffs special ed.

    We do get kids who have awful attendance, but we send their teachers to their homes. We do get some from Detroit, but I can’t say how many. It’s wrong for CPS not to care about growth – I think the switch to NWEA, which is heavy on growth, should help here.

    We teach a LOT of math and reading – double periods of both every day – but our longer day lets us do that, as well as small group or individual intervention. I believe sex education is part of science (need to check on that), and conflict resolution is part of our culture. We are not great at it yet, but we are working on it every day. No yoga, although I wish we could – it really helps the kids at Namaste focus, and it’s in the morning, for a short time.

  • 307. Family Friend  |  February 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    On doing away with neighborhood boundaries . . .

    Our charter school accepts children from anywhere in the city. Since it’s in Englewood, we haven’t attracted anyone from, say, Lincoln Park. But some of our kids come from outside our immediate neighborhood. We track all kinds of data about who leaves our school. The only positive correlation we have found is distance from school: the farther away a student lives from our campus, the more likely he/she is to leave. I don’t think this is as much of a problem for high school students — they are old enough, and willing, to travel much longer distances on public transit. But doing away with attendance boundaries for neighborhood schools probably would not have the desired effect of opening high-performing elementary schools to low-income students.

  • 308. CarolA  |  February 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Family Friend: It sounds like a lot of good things are going on at your school. Any undertaking in education is a lot of hard work and commitment. Sounds like you are moving in the right direction. Other schools will benefit by watching your success.

  • 309. Food For Thought  |  February 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

    @ 300. Palmer is the CPS neighborhood school 100 yards from my house. Palmer is considered a safe school and a haven for families east of Pulaski (out of attendance boundary) who are trying to escape gang influence at Volta & Haugan. In recent years the population at Palmer has gotten a little “tougher”. My kids attend a nearby magnet school, but I served on the LSC at Palmer.

  • 310. Thea  |  February 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Can anyone help me find or locate a Child Advocate who is possibly free? i checked on the OSES could not find one .Its for a special Ed student who the team at my cps school except for the. s ped teacher
    think he needs to be placed in an autism cluster school even though he made academic gains at his home school

  • 311. anonymouse teacher  |  February 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I love the work that RYH is doing in going from school to school that are supposedly underutilized, only to find out that some of those schools have state mandated caps on them of 12 kids per room because of their specific sped designations.
    I can believe there are a handful of schools that are so underutilized and the buildings are in such bad condition due to CPS neglect that they must be closed. I also believe some schools must be closed due to financial issues. But not nearly on the scale CPS suggests.
    @309, I spent time with a teacher at Palmer this summer who was desperately trying to get out of that school due to the principal. She was quietly asking around to see who had openings at their school. I wished we had an opening in her specialty area because I would have loved it if my students could have benefitted from her expertise. She was incredibly smart.

  • 312. Sped Mom  |  February 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    310. Thea – You could contact Access Living. They have an education sped advocate there named Rod Estvan. He could guide or help.

  • 313. local  |  February 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Not sure where the Longer Day post is here, but this was interesting:

    Good luck finding the documents that explain CPS’s longer school day / Conclusions to draw from a yearlong Freedom of Information Act battle between the Chicago Public Schools and Glenn Krell, an intrepid north-side parent. / By Ben Joravsky / Reader

    “…Unfortunately, there’s no way to examine the details of how and why Mayor Emanuel rammed home the longer day because the internal reports, studies, memos, and analyses governing the decision no longer exist. Or maybe they never did.

    “One thing is certain: the mayor and schools officials don’t want the public to see these records that may or may not exist.

    “That’s one of the conclusions to draw from a yearlong Freedom of Information Act battle between the Chicago Public Schools and Glenn Krell, an intrepid north-side parent…”

  • 314. local  |  February 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    For Friday listening:
    487: Harper High School, Part One / Feb 15, 2013

    “We spent five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot. 29. We went to get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances. We found so many incredible and surprising stories, this show is a two-parter; Part One airs this week, Part Two is next week.”


  • 315. Gobemouche  |  February 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Here’s an interesting report about closed schools. Though it focuses on Philadelphia, it uses other major cities for comparisons (including Chicago).

    A few numbers —

    Chicago currently has 24 school properties on the market.
    Charter enrollment has increased by 191%.

    The report talks about what happens to schools that close and are left vacant. The costs involved and the difficulties in selling them, etc.

    Shuttered Public Schools: The struggle to bring old buildings to new life


  • 316. Gobemouche  |  February 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Quote from the report above:

    “In the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools, the district’s goal is to liquidate its surplus real estate holdings by shifting from leasing and mothballing to sales. Most of the 24 sites currently on offer have been vacant at least 10 years. The district has hired brokers and aims to finalize transactions within 12 months.”

    Vacant for 10 years? I’d like to see internal documents outlining the costs involved with that.

  • 317. Family Friend  |  February 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    It will be hard to find internal documents about the costs of maintaining vacant buildings, because CPS’ cost accounting is pathetic. My school shares a building with a regular district school. We are supposed to pay our share of operating costs. Sometimes CPS charges a cost per student; sometimes they charge a proportionate share of total costs. One year we thought the bill for our share was too high, and asked to see documentation. It turned out that our building is part of a “pod” of four buildings that are all lumped together for accounting purposes. The identity of three of the four buildings was obvious to everyone, but no one, no one at all, could figure out what the fourth building was, or if it (still) existed. This is completely typical of how CPS keeps records. This is not the only example I know of.

  • 318. cpsobsessed  |  February 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I see some Aldermen are starting to question why charters are opening when we have (supposedly) 100,000 empty seats in the city.


    According to the Trib article, Rahm says:
    In his post-council news conference, Emanuel defended charters, saying they’re important because they give parents choices. Asked whether it’s contradictory to open new charters while closing under-utilized public schools, the mayor said “No, there’s a level of choice there.”

    I don’t know if I agree that during a time of budget crisis, giving people the luxury of choice should be a priority. Or I wish he’d give a more honest answer about it.

  • 319. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    list of 129 schools on cps hit list to close http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130213/chicago/cps-school-closing-list-129-schools-still-being-eyed-for-closure

  • 320. CPS Parent  |  February 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Rich people already have choice, without charters poor peolple do not. The budget crisis can be resolved by making the system more efficient (closing underutilized schools) and by renegotiating the pension obligation. School choice does not have to be compromised on the backs of poor people.

  • 321. Anonymous  |  February 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    If school were a “choice,” everyone would choose to go to the best school in the entire district. CPS is a system of chance, not choice. CPS’ lie about “choice” is just a marketing gimmick.

  • 322. Tchr  |  February 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    FF, I am curious how it is to share a building with a neighborhood school. Have you seen The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman?

  • 323. Peter  |  February 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Anyone seen this? Any thoughts?


    I thought there was a drop in students again….

    “This crisis was manufactured, and decisions are being made based on incorrect and incomplete financial, enrollment, and utilization data,” Leonard said, pointing to the newly disclosed budget surplus – and the revelation that CPS enrollment actually increased by 1,000 students this year.

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