The costs & savings of closing CPS schools (guest post with Seth Lavin)

February 15, 2013 at 7:53 am 185 comments

Wrecking Ball

I had an interesting email discussion with Seth Lavin this week (you may remember him from the popular Chicago School Wonks newsletter last year.  He’s also the dad of a young son.)  He’s always good for some intellectual debate about CPS and he emailed me about some comments I made about the need for school closings and whether the cost is going of closing schools is the going to provide enough of a payoff to make the effort/disrupt a lot of lives.


Hope you’re well. Just read the post on the WBEZ story and want to push you on one of your assumptions. You write:

“it’s hard to justify keeping up buildings with so much empty space (and aggravating given how squished many other schools are.)”

That’s certainly the narrative CPS is pushing. My question is..why?

Physical space, utilities and repairs in these schools cost very little, relatively speaking. Overwhelmingly the cost driver in schools is teachers, which is pegged to # of students. You don’t get teacher-cost savings by closing a building, since you just have to rehire teachers wherever the kids get moved. You do get utilities savings, and maybe a little bit of admin/overhead savings, but it adds up to almost nothing when compared to the deficit or the overall CPS budget.

Pew studied school closings in 6 cities and concluded savings from each closed school ended up being <$1M a year:

Sun-Times actualy has CPS estimating only ~$500K annual savings per closed school:

Compared to a billion dollar deficit, that’s nothing. So the justification in keep up these schools, to me, is that the disruption to a community caused by a closing is massive. The amount of bandwidth this whole closings mess is sucking up in CPS is massive. The academic payoff for closing underenrolled schools is nothing (see the Pew report for that, as well). And the payoff for closing underenrolled schools, financially, is tiny.



I guess my first response is that $500k per year isn’t chump change if they plan to close 100 schools (which may or may not happen.)  Almost anything other than salaries is going to look minimal compared to that.  I guess since we can’t put a value on disruption it’s hard to weigh the cost/benefit of that.

My second response is based on having owned a giant old house in the city for 14 years.  Old buildings are incredibly costly to maintain.  It’s not just utilities.  Big things have to be replaced and updated
year after year.  Maybe $500k per year is right.  Some years would probably be more when roof needs replacing, etc. but I really have to think that principal and AP salary, janitor staff, copier contract,
boiler servicing, snow removal… that alone would likely be a minimum of $500k per year even without the building costs.

It seems really inefficient given our financial situation.


I hear you, but $500k is a projection CPS made based in actual anticipated savings, not just a guess. So 100 schools is $50M a year savings. That’s 5% of the deficit. All this pain, all this distraction, all this lost trust that makes everything else harder, and 95% of the deficit is untouched. I just don’t see how that’s sensible priority-setting policy-wise.

Do you have ideas for other areas to cut that can garner the same savings while presenting minimals objection?
I think the only way to make a decent budget cut is to find multiple smaller cuts (perhaps such as this) and get them to add up.


Hopefully they’re looking at other cuts as well to really make a difference.  And does it make sense for kids to be in a tiny school with split classes and limited specials?  I have a hard time justifying (financially.)
At what point do schools shrink where it’s not worthwhile to keep them open? Would you keep a school open indefinitely so no school has to close?  I keep imagining a deserted detriot but people never want to close a school….  We can’t keep it up forever.


I used to be a Bain consultant. When doing cost savings strategy Bain sometimes made two-by-two charts of potential moves. X axis = impact of move (how much you can save). Y axis = ease of move (how easy it’ll be to get those savings). You start with moves in the best quadrant– easy to do and big impact. Then do ones that have a big impact but are harder to achieve. For school districts closings are in the worst possible place– low savings impact and really hard to do. So I haven’t done a line-by-line of the budget and don’t have other proposals ready, but I just can’t understand how a strategic look at the budget would conclude, from a cost- and impact-basis, that closings should be a priority.

I completely agree with you on this point “the only way to make a decent budget cut is to find multiple smaller cuts (perhaps such as this) and get them to add up,” but that’s just not what I feel like they’re doing. It seems like they’re fixated on closings and I fear they have their best people wasting precious time and political capital on it. In the end I worry we’re going to have a wasted year of CPS progress and almost nothing to show savings-wise.

I don’t oppose all school closings, by any means. I think there are situations where because of population and infrastructure shifts a density of kids is just never coming back. It might make sense to close a school in that situation. But that points to maybe 4-5 closings a year done really strategically and with really careful and honest community engagement and transition planning. That’s what I’ve always supported and it’s what I support now.

As for Detroit/Chicago, I just don’t see the comparison:
Detroit pubic schools went from 180,000 students in 2000 to 70,000 now. Decline of 60%.
Chicago public schools had 425,000 students in 2000 and about 370,000 now. Decline of 15%.

Questions Seth has for CPS regarding the closings:

1)  You’ve estimated $500K in savings per closed school. Does this mean closing 100 schools solves only 5% of the $1B CPS budget deficit?

2) What data exist that shows closing underperforming schools results in academic gains for students?
3) You say we have a “utilization crisis.” What data shows that a school’s being “underutilized” hurts student achievement?
4) Chicago Consortium on Schools Research says in 94% of cases kids from closed Chicago schools didn’t go to “academically strong” new schools. Will this be different?
5) Will you guarantee that no students from closed Level 3 schools will go to another Level 3 school?
6) You say CPS mishandled its last round of 10 closings. Will you share your analysis of what went wrong, and how this will be different?
7) Given that you included 5 of last year’s 10 turnaround schools on the new possible closings list, do you regret those turnarounds?
8) Will you present your plan for where kids from each closed school will go before deciding whether or not each school will close?
9) Have you hired management consultants to assist you in vetting schools for inclusion on the closings list? If so, who are they?
10) How many CPS staff members are currently working on transition plans for 5,792 students with IEPs that may be impacted by closings?

PS- from Pew, re: savings (SETH PROVIDED THIS)

“Savings vary from city to city and often have fallen short of expectations. Milwaukee anticipated reducing expenses by $10 million per year in closing 20 schools but so far has saved $6.6 million annually. After closing 23 schools, Washington officials said they have saved about $16.7 million a year, below the initial projections of $23 million. Pittsburgh reported operational savings of ap- proximately $14.7 million per year from closing 22 schools and laying off 279 staff members. Detroit reported that closing 59 buildings saved $35 million in annual operating costs.
In any event, the average annual savings, at least in the short run, were well under $1 million per school for the districts studied.  The savings from the closings would be larger except that there are new costs as well. These include the expenses associated with mothballing and maintaining sites; transitioning students; moving desks, computers and other district property; and making improvements to the remaining schools, particularly those receiving displaced students. For example, Milwaukee spends more than $1 million a year maintaining vacant buildings, Pittsburgh $2 million, and Kansas City close to $3 million. And generating revenue from closed buildings, either through sale or lease, is not easy.

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Schools still possible for closing – 129 schools (20% of CPS) 2013 High School Letters being mailed this week

185 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sped Mom  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for opening this conversation. Remember the sped-ies.

  • 2. Sped Mom  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Ignoring a deficit, I wonder what would happen if CPS made $500K of SMART, EVIDENCE-BASED and STRATEGIC investments into its system.

  • 3. EdgewaterMom  |  February 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I agree with CPSO – $500,000 is not chump change. I think that it is clear that some schools need to be closed. I think it is also clear that nobody has faith in CPS being able to handle this well. I don’t know what the right answers are, but, from what I have seen, I don’t think that CPS does either.

  • 4. HSObsessed  |  February 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

    These are huge numbers in savings. I think $500K estimate per school is on the conservative side. The salaries and benefits of a principal, asst principal, guard, office staff, lunch personnel added up could get close to that alone, and then you add on utilities for these big old schools as well as maintenance costs, and the costs of central office people processing payroll and administrative stuff on top of it. Even when you take $500K conservatively and multiply it by 50 schools, that’s $25 million in one year. When you consider that it’s something that probably could have/should have been over the last 10 years, that’s up to $250 million we could have saved in costs.

    Take an example like school like Duprey in Humboldt Park, which has 92 students enrolled, in a building that can hold up to 396 packed to the gills but is ideally at 330. They have a budget of $3,800,000 for one school year. I’ve done the math for you: That’s $41,000 per student we’re spending out there at Duprey.

  • 5. southsidedad  |  February 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    @4 I wonder if cost/student would be something that Seth would favor? It seems that he is saying that community involvement is key as well. Shoving closings down people’s throats has been a big point of contention.

    I just wonder if you would find any communities that would welcome a school closing? A formula (like HSObsessed calculated) along with a particular school administrators’ public input may be a way to go?

    School closings are not the only answer to the budget. I would love to hear more suggestions on cost saving tactics that would result in “$50M a year savings” like this.

  • 6. CPS Cynic  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Can we see a map of these schools? I am a northsider and there are 4 schools that I consider to be within walking distance (less than 1 mile) from my home.

    One of these schools is now a HS but it used to serve the Lathrop Homes Community – pretty much exclusively. While it was extremely under-enrolled, the community screamed long and loud, even though there were many nearby options.

    I am sensitive taking away the source of a communities security and stability, but if the community bears any resemblance to mine, there are options. There is also strength in numbers.

    Another point, my school’s principal was constantly engaged in a battle of enrollment. It is simply not possible that these schools did not know this was a possibility. I am not a fan of rewarding people who continually ignored an issue hoping it would never be mentioned.

  • 7. Family Friend  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    This is a wonderfully thoughtful post. I hope someone at CPS sees it and tries to answer Seth’s questions. I would add that utilities savings may not be as large as anticipated. Years of experience with abandoned buildings has taught me that once they are not heated, they decline very quickly. Unless CPS intends to demolish them (and, if so, why not do it immediately?) the heat should stay on.

  • 8. HSObsessed  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Sorry, going through other schools’ segment reports, I noticed now that I used Duprey’s current enrollment number of 92 but their 2010 budget (the most current one posted). Back then, they said they had 314 kids enrolled, so the cost per kid was $12,200, not forty grand! I don’t know why they had such a huge drop in enrollment from 314 to 92, but I’m sure their budget went down as well. I didn’t mean to report misinformation.

  • 9. HSObsessed  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    @6 – You can see maps and lots of info and analysis on Apples to Apples in Chicago Public Schools.

  • 10. Mayfair Dad  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    From my perspective, it is clear that CPS and the citizens of Chicago would be well served by closing underutilized schools. The problem is defining what underutilized looks like. This whole circus of hearings conducted by consultants paid for by charter school proponents, CTU’s position of zero school closings (translation: zero union teachers lose their jobs), the bogus formula cooked up by CPS that doesn’t accout for SPED classrooms, libraries, art rooms, music rooms – remember the “better” school day? – the mayor’s handpicked commission breaking ranks, parents who never once picked up a report card in person caterwauling for the TV cameras, the preponderence of proposed school closings in the the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods (duh) — for once I would like to see the city tackle an important problem in a straightforward, honest and transparent way. Once again, CPS has mucked up the process. Another taxpayer funded fustercluck.

  • 11. Cap_Bucs  |  February 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I agree that $500K per school should be a little on the conservative side, plus there should be a lot of additional savings from maintenance.

    But for the sake of argument lets say it is just the $500K and they close 100 schools. $50 million is not chump change. How are we every going to close a $1 billion deficit if we do not start taking out $50 million chucks of savings. Most of CPS has already been cut to the bone, so there no low hanging fruit left. Every dollar of cost saving will be a struggle, but the alternative is raising an additional $1 billion of revenue from the residents of this city. Imagine the suburban flight if that happens.

    Also the $50 million in savings will be annual. So that is $500 million over 10 years!

  • 12. EdgewaterMom  |  February 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    @MayfairDad I completely agree – well said!

  • 13. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    #10~Mayfair Dad~ITA w/you! “For once I would like to see the city tackle an important problem in a straightforward, honest and transparent way. Once again, CPS has mucked up the process. Another taxpayer funded fustercluck.” If Rahm & CPS were honest thing could be different but they have lied and been caught in their lies so many times. There is no trust.

    Also, what abt the rumors that someone wants to buy some CPS buildings for not a lot of money and rent them out to charters? That could happen…another lie by Rahm and CPS that said they would not become charters? Interesting if it’s true.

  • 14. another CPS mom  |  February 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    “parents who never once picked up a report card in person caterwauling for the TV cameras”

    How do you know this?

  • 15. luveurope  |  February 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    14 Seriously? Do you watch local tv, read local papers or know anyone who teaches at CPS? There are many, many parents who don’t show for anything.

  • 16. Jill  |  February 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    What is the total cost and future value of this scheme?

    Saving $1 or $50 million or $500 zillion dollars is meaningless unless you calculate the fiscal cost and education impact of the transition as well.

    Let’s say you save $x million but it costs you $x million in transition costs in the near term.

    Or it decreases academic achievement by y% which translates to $z millions in social costs such as incarceration and social services in the long term.

    I find CPS’ approach insulting, and frustrating since they are well aware that most Chicagoans will absorb the talking points that insert images of half empty schools in their heads without ever verifying the accuracy of such claims.

  • 17. HS Mom  |  February 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    @16 “Or it decreases academic achievement by y% which translates to $z millions in social costs such as incarceration and social services in the long term.”

    How would this be measured at a level 3 school that is already underperforming? On the flip side of this, what if CPS said that the move would increase academic achievement? Would you believe them?

    Yes, real transition costs would need to be considered. Crossing guards, extra security, additional burden of the receiving school. Do we know for a fact that CPS is not considering this?

    It’s difficult for me to understand why people are so upset about the possible loss of a school when CPS has not made it known what the alternatives will be. That may be because I do not live in a community centered around the school. In fact, most people in my neighborhood chose to attend schools outside our boundary. Now that the list has been narrowed, CPS needs to lay out the plan in order to get families on board.

  • 18. Falconergrad  |  February 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    CPS cannot successfully close that many schools in one year. That is enough information for me to be against closing so many schools in one year.

    Why are they putting so much energy into this? There must be something in it for someone.

    FYI, all of those empty buildings will sit empty and will need to be heated and will require maintenance and security. They still need to cut the grass.

  • 19. junior  |  February 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed Seth’s thoughtful, balanced analyses. Good to see him still engaged. I think he is part right and part wrong in suggesting that there would be no savings of teacher salaries, which consume the bulk of the budget. While it’s true that teacher assignments are based on per-pupil numbers, there is often supplementing of teacher positions from discretionary funds in situations of inefficient utilization. If schools have half-empty classrooms of 15 students and they combine with other schools of similar makeup, then I suspect that there would be not insignificant funds freed.

  • 20. WendyK  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    @HS Obsessed – Duprey shares a building with Von Humboldt and they use the whole building between the two schools. CPS fails to note this on their spreadsheet and labels them underutilized. Someone mentioned Trumbull above. I was at that school and many others recently. No empty rooms. I am not saying we don’t have some underutilized schools. I can say that I haven’t seen one building that is anywhere close to half-empty. And many of the “underutilized” schools in the 60-70pct range that will likely become “welcoming” schools have little to no extra space and am guessing are not going to be happy when they are asked to give up their rooms for art/music/library, etc. soon. I will add that Bell is getting an addition next year and they are marked 100% efficient by CPS. I believe Bell is overcrowded as many parents have told me. Says something about CPS’ formula…and their standards for facilities planning/management.

  • 21. anonymouse teacher  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I am curious how many schools have classrooms with 15 kids in them. Given that CPS only funds 1 teacher per every 28 K-3 students in the school as a whole and 1 per every 31 4-8th student, the idea of 15 in a room is, I believe, fiction. The only exception to this is certain sped situations and that’s a legal issue.
    I would really like to know the names and 20th day of school numbers that show which schools have 15 in a homeroom. Junior, I am assuming you got your data from somewhere, can you share it?

  • 22. EdgewaterMom  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    The fact that CPS’ formula does not include a room for music or art is really sad. Does it include a room for a library? They need a realistic formula!

  • 23. junior  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm


    We’re going to spend nearly $500 million per year on the 18% teacher raises defined in the latest contract — this in a budget where teacher compensation is the majority of all spending. Teacher compensation in CPS will soon surpass $3 Billion per year.

    What we’re lacking here is a sense of proportion and reality-based management. I agree that detailed analyses are needed, and it seems that a lot of complex analyses are being attempted. But, was everyone asking for these same analyses when the CTU contract was being negotiated? Can anyone tell me what the return on investment to the students is of a 18% raise versus a 16%, or a even a 9% raise? I asked that question months ago. Crickets.

    Let’s make it simple — Management 101: When you have a line item that accounts for 60% of your budget, and you raise it by 18%, the rest of the budget gets screwed — to the point of having to make irrational cuts — cuts that may not be justified by some analysis of 10-year ROI; cuts that hurt. But that’s bare-knuckled union politics, where the nationally best-paid teachers can strike for more money and convince gullible parents that their interests coincide.

    If teachers had received two percentage points less in raises than what is in the contract, then that’s enough money to surpass the savings from ALL these school closings.

    CTU, our perpetrator, now plays the victim in this budget scenario. I blame them and all their complicit sympathizers for the budget pain that will be inflicted on our city’s schoolchildren (and citizens) over the next few years. The hypocrisy of their now opposing any attempts at budget trimming is appalling. These closings follow logically from the CTU strike (which I recall was for the kids), and the strike supporters need to take responsibility for their actions. Ignorance and good intentions are not an excuse. And if schoolchildren die crossing gang lines, don’t worry — it’s easy to rationalize your actions and wash your hands of it.

    I’d bet most teachers out there would gladly give up a 2% raise to keep all these schools open. But all you teachers voted for the strike. Next time, please remember this when your corporate union leaders ask for your strike support. Remember this when you strike “for the kids” but somehow the kids get left out of the final bargain. And please don’t insult us with your all-too-superficial patina of concern for social-justice issues. If you cannot see the contradiction between forcibly extorting money out of a broke system with one hand and then complaining about the consequences of a resource-poor system, then you are beyond hope.The ‘pay me first’ attitude was evident in the final outcomes of the strike (if not the rhetoric), and once again, the kids got the shaft.

  • 24. anonymouse teacher  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Where will the Stockton kids go? That school is on Montrose, between Broadway and Clark. Ravenswood would have to give up ALL of their preschool rooms, their beloved art room and would have to seriously pack kids into homerooms to fit all the stockton kids.
    Where will Brenneman kids go? Would they stay open and all the Steward kids get sent there?
    Will all the Trumbull kids go to Peirce? That would mean the end of all their PreK programs too and probably their specials rooms.
    How will parents of the receiving schools feel when their kid has to have Speech services in the hallway (like at my school….the speech path sits on the floor of the hall on a mat!)? How will parents feel when instead of 4 third grade rooms of 30 each, due to space shortages, there is now 3 third grades of 40? This is realistic and I have seen it many times before in Chicago. For a long time, Goudy had 40+ kids in their kindergarten room. Not kidding. I subbed at one school where the school office, including the principal, sat out in the halls. For real.

  • 25. WendyK  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    @ 21 – We (Raise Your Hand) put out a chart this year of class size for every CPS elementary school. Not many with 15 students. Note: data is from last year’s enrollment numbers.

  • 26. CarolA  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Junior: I understand your anger. Feel free to blame lots of things on the teachers. We are used to it. But please retract your claim that the blood of the children crossing gang lines is on us! That is just out of line!

  • 27. SR  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Anonymouse, Stockton has been told that its building will remain open. CPS just spent millions on a multi-year renovation project, so it would be crazy to give up the building. But no one knows whether it will remain Stockton or whether Brennemann or Stewart or both will take over. I agree that the closings may have big repercussions for nearby schools. And I hope CPS at least takes into consideration gang lines in Uptown before consolidating one or more schools.

  • 28. SE Teacher  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Junior: I do not understand your anger. I find it hard to believe that you have a child. We are talking about children here….living beings. The BS at 125 Clark surpasses anything you can conjure up about Chicago Teachers.

    As corporate entities continue to make the decisions for Chicago, we will see neighborhood schools disappear and Charters take their place. I will guess, based on data available, these schools will perform NO better than the neighborhood schools they replace.

    Spend some time in a CPS school (non SES or magnet) to get an idea of what is going on day to day. Then come back and report your findings.

  • 29. junior  |  February 15, 2013 at 8:52 pm


    Retracted. I had actually deleted that in my draft but it was already on my clipboard. I cringed when i read my post. Apologies for that.

  • 30. anonymouse teacher  |  February 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    @27, I am glad to hear Stockton will remain open. Don’t they have something like 7 entire sped rooms too? I thought Stockton had a preK program offsite right next to Bronco Billy park on Magnolia. Would that be due to overcrowding at the school itself? Or some other reason?
    My guess, if I had to bet, is of the 120+ schools left on the list, less than half will actually close.
    I do agree some schools have to close, but the large numbers really concern me. I think all of this causes lots of really tense emotions in folks. I teach in a school that desperately needs an addition and we’ll never get one. I find it curious that CPS does not seem to employ urban planners that can kind of predict population trends.

  • 31. local  |  February 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    @ 30. anonymouse teacher | February 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    “I find it curious that CPS does not seem to employ urban planners that can kind of predict population trends.”

    This guy used to be the CPS demographer. Not sure if he still is, or is consulted:

  • 32. local  |  February 15, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Jim Dispensa used to be director of the CPS School Demographics and Planning Office. Who or what does that function now, no se.

  • 33. local  |  February 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Well, here’s a bit about Jim:

  • 34. SR  |  February 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Anonymouse: I think the Stockton preK building was built specifically for the preK. They currently have 6 classes with two full-day (if I remember right), a room for parent classes, and it’s right next to a playlot. So I think they keep the preK separate primarily because the space works really well. There are a lot of great things happening at Stockton, so I hope this upheaval doesn’t negatively effect it.

  • 35. WeeWillyWinky  |  February 16, 2013 at 7:49 am

    The comment that Charters don’t perform better than CPS neighborhood schools seem to be a point that CTU makes. So, the two schools are performing at basically the same baseline, why not go with the cheaper version? If I had two products in front of me, one was expensive, one was less expensive, both were producing the same results…..

  • 36. CarolA  |  February 16, 2013 at 7:54 am

    WWW: Good point, but that doesn’t seem to be what CPS IS proposing. In fact, nobody seems to know what CPS is proposing. As usual, it will be a last minute decision and many pieces of the puzzle will be missing. These pieces may or may not be filled in later. Typical CPS operations.

  • 37. Claire  |  February 16, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Finding the sweet spot for what is deemed a well utilized CPS school and what is actually a good place for kids to spend seven hours a day learning is almost impossible. If a school’s class sizes are below thirty, and it has a library or a designated art classroom, or computer room or a pre school program, it attracts parents who want to live in that school’s boundary and send their kids to that nice neighborhood public school. Then as word gets out that this public school is actually one of the good ones, the population grows, the classroom size starts growing too and the school is forced to lose the library and art room and all the designated spaces that made that school a great place for kids to spend nine years of their lives. While parents and staff are bemoaning the climbing teacher to student ratio and the loss of ancillary spaces, and wondering how they can maintain a great learning environment despite the population growth, that school is simultaneously being given a gold efficiency star and a “this is what we like to see” pat on the back from CPS precisely because the classes are packed and all available square footage has been converted to classrooms. Really? This is CPS’s ideal environment for a “world class” educational experience? Since CPS thinks a crowded school devoid of ancillary spaces is well utilized, then I have to question it’s definition of schools it has described as “inefficient” “empty” and “under enrolled”.

  • 38. EdgewaterMom  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

    @37 Claire I completely agree! CPS definition of well utilized does not equal a good educational environment. I did not even realize that they do not account for pre-school classrooms. What is the justification for that?

    Are kids supposed to study art and music in the hallway, or do they assume that the teacher travels to each homeroom (with all of their supplies)? If the homeroom teacher is supposed to be prepping during this time, where is it supposed to happen?

    If they can’t come up with a realistic formula to determine utilization there is no way that they can make good decisions about which schools to close.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:26 am

    So the utilization formula assumes every room is used for classroom space – and not for specials, library, etc? Do they allow at least a few rooms for this?

    Or you’re saying that once schools become popular they end up losing this space?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 40. Claire  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I don’t know what has gone on throughout all of the district. I just know in speaking to many parents who’s schools had a computer room, an art room, a library a pre school program, all had to convert those to classrooms once their population grew. I do think once CPS schools become popular they do lose much if not all of their ancillary space. That’s why that sweet spot, that Goldilocks “just right” state of being is so difficult to maintain. What I am saying here though, is that CPS defines these schools as “efficient” and “well utilized” and since that is their definition of efficient, I question their definition of “inefficient” and “under utilized”.

  • 41. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

    WWW, There are other differences between charter and neighborhood schools. Is everyone forgetting that neighborhood schools have neighborhood kids? It’s a community thing, if you don’t get that, I don’t know if I can explain it to you. The thing that my friends with kids in other schools are most jealous of is our nice walk to school. You see, it’s also about health, both of poeple and neighborhoods.

    And don’t delude yourself into thinking the charter schools will remain cheaper, if they even are. The teachers and parents are starting to agitate for more money. Equal funding I think they call it.
    Once there are no other types of schools to compare to, the sky is the limit! And I don’t delude myself into thinking that would equal fairly paid staff, nice facilities and happy well educated students.

    As for charters, I recently got an earful from a friend whose child is enrolled at a charter school that is touted as a success, including here. According to my friend, they have had three principals in three years, two management companies in the same time, and 60% teacher turnover.

  • 42. Jessica Marshall  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I miss Seth’s blog. Didn’t always agree but found it fun to read!

    For both Seth and CPS Obsessed – you honestly don’t find a connection between this move that is ill timed, untested, with minimal foreseeable impact and the plan to open new charter schools? Might be interested to check out some of the facilities being closed. CPS Obsessed – not all are clunky old buildings! In fact two that I know of personally in the skyway region, Powell and new Sheridan are brand new gorgeous buildings. Both in communities that charter schools have been chomping at the bit to get into.

    Another question – as we are talking about savings – how much did it cost to transition each new leadership team over the last three years? How much does each network suck up? What are they even doing that would merit the multi-million dollar cost per network? Isn’t there a lot of redundancy there that might be eliminated? How much is the consultant BBB is bringing in?

  • 43. CarolA  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

    You are right. Overhead at CPS is crazy. From my classroom perspective it ‘s a lot of wasted money. They have people coming in from district to observe teachers sitting right next to the principal who is observing the teacher as well. Then they compare notes to see if they are rating them the same. The principals were already trained. So you are telling me that they need people to watch the people who have already been trained? Why?

  • 44. local  |  February 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

    @ 35. WeeWillyWinky | February 16, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Folks don’t make starkly price-based decisions when it comes to services like education. It’s not soap. Jeeze, even soap is a complex decision.

  • 45. anotherchicagoparent  |  February 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

    @41 you bring up an interesting point, about charter schools remaining cheaper in the future. So I started googling and ran across this article about a bill to increase charter school funding.
    House Bill 980, if passed, would require districts to provide 97 to 100 percent per pupil funding.

  • 46. anonymouse teacher  |  February 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

    @38, regarding where do teachers prep during prep time if PE and Art and Music are in the classroom (as is the case in my school): I prep in the hallway and in my actual classroom. It is hard, it is noisy and I just have to deal. I dont’ do any lesson planning at school pretty much because its too distracting at that time.

  • 47. SutherlandParent  |  February 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    @39 CPSO–“Or you’re saying that once schools become popular they end up losing this space?”

    Yep. Or at least, that’s how it works at our neighborhood school.

    We do have a gym and a technology lab, but there’s no art room, no music room, no library. The art teacher, the music teacher and the librarian all bring their materials and supplies to the homerooms. We’re an IB school, so the French teacher for the lower levels travels around as well.

    The French teacher for the upper levels is certified as a homeroom teacher, so he has his own room, I believe.

    Because of the age of the building, we also don’t have a lunchroom–I complain about that a lot, don’t I 🙂

    When it’s too cold or rainy to go outside for recess, kids frequently spend their entire school day in one classroom, except for bathroom breaks. And some of our classes have 35 kids. But we are “efficiently utilized” by CPS standards.

  • 48. another CPS mom  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Sutherland’s library (a real library) used to be used as its lunchroom (back when kids still went home for lunch). Now that space seems to have been split into a sped teachers’ resource room and a classroom, even though an annex building was built. Things come and go.

  • 49. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Yes! People frequently buy more expensive products after a side by side comparison. Just look at Apple. I’m typing this on an iPad. Anyone else?

  • 50. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    #39~CPSO~we use to have a library and an art room~NOT any longer~those are classrooms now~that’s how CPS operates!

  • 51. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    From a space utilization report:

    Total Classrooms refers to the number of classroom spaces (located within a permanent non-leased building) designed to be used as classrooms regardless of current use, including science labs, art rooms, resource rooms, and special education rooms, but excluding spaces not designed as classrooms, such as offices, lunchrooms, libraries, gymnasia, and auditoria.

    It would seem that libraries should be among the last spaces to be converted to classsrooms. And ideally never of course. Is that how it has really happened in schools with no library? Just curious.

  • 52. junior  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm


    But if Chicago parents are choosing charters over neighborhood schools (and both cost the same to the parents) while charters cost the City less to run, then it becomes a no-brainer. Why should we spend more to get a product that people want less?

  • 53. another CPS mom  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Do all CPS elementary schools employ a librarian?

  • 54. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I am surprised that you have a librarian but no library. I loved my CPS school library growing up. A few years ago I went back hoping to walk in and be transported back in time. Unfortunately they had built an addition and the library usually gets moved to the new area when that happens. So the old library was converted into classrooms and was unrecognizable. I still remember it though!

    Our school has a very nice library and librarian, but my 2nd grader is not getting a library period this semester. As a librarian myself, I am really bummed about it, but we will make up for it. Even though Chicago public libraries hours are so crummy now and the school day is so long, it’s hard for anyone to get there with their kids. I worry about the other kids, it is grades 1-3 that are not getting library. I don’t believe classroom libraries can make up for that.

  • 55. junior  |  February 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    @28 SE Teacher

    Well, I can’t understand how anyone who cares about children would NOT be angered by the situation. To each their own. Feel free to address any of the substance I raised if you care to.

    As for corporate entities, you make my point precisely. I count CTU as one, as it fits Ambrose Bierce’s definition:

    “Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

  • 56. anonymouse teacher  |  February 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    @53, no.

  • 57. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Where did you get the idea that charters and neighborhood schools cost the same to the parents?  Even different neighborhood schools have different costs for parents.  

    I am a Chicago parent and chose a neighborhood school over a charter.  Never applied to a charter.  I paid $50 in school fees for my 2nd grader this year. They actually went down $10 from the previous year.  They requested a $30 donation for my PreK child. My friends sending kids to the charter school had much higher fees. Like three digits.  And I don’t  mean $101.  Can fees be waived?  I am sure they can at both schools but at the outset there is a very big difference between what is requested, at least between my neighborhood school and this charter school, which is not very far away.  

    So at least some Chicago parents are spending more to send their kids to charter school.  And I am not even talking about fundraising.  They are also hit up for donations in the triple digits.  And don’t get me started on the costs of transporting  the kids to  the charter school. Gas money, bus fare, time.  

    Parents do want neighborhood schools. They just don’t always want the one they have. Reminds me of a song, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with! Could be a neighborhood school revival theme song!

  • 58. helenkeller  |  February 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    52. Charters cost less to run because they do not have to employ certified teachers, do not service students with disabilities and do not have to have a disciplinarian, security guard or counselor. Any students who need services are asked to leave or not allowed to enroll. Simple math really….

  • 59. junior  |  February 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Hogwash. Been covered plenty of times on this board.

  • 60. Angie  |  February 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    @55. junior ” Feel free to address any of the substance I raised if you care to.”

    But they can’t. Doing so would require to admit that their own actions contributed to the financial crisis faced by CPS.

    BTW, I agree with every word of your post #23. Well said.

    @58. helenkeller: These lies have been debunked over and over on this very site, but the union reps just won’t stop regurgitating them.

    Do you work at the CPS school? If so, go to the case manager, and find out how many students have been registered as non-attending and sent away to the specialized programs because your school does not provide the services required by their disability. Then, explain why do you expect charters to accomodate all disabled students that come through their door, but have no problem with CPS schools routinely turning them away?

  • 61. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Medill article. Some of the quotes were very revealing. Here is just one:
    Ray Quintanilla, UNO spokesman, noted that D’Escoto was no longer with the organization and that independent consultants have been hired to review the procurement process. He also said that they had given the Sun-Times access to their facilities during its investigation.

    “That’s pretty damn transparent in my world,” Quintanilla said. He said potential increased funds would be spent on classroom materials.

    I guess they have enough money for independent consultants (yes that’s plural!) to review their crooked procurement process but not any to pay teachers more. I dont see how Dan Burke can say:

    “I’m not saying there doesn’t need to be oversight,” Burke said. “We have observed they are spending dollars properly. I have no qualms,” he said regarding the UNO network

  • 62. CarolA  |  February 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Angie: I am not familiar with CPS turning away any student from a neighborhood school other than one that is a super big threat to others and even then, they provide for that child. It’s not like they are “off the hook”. Can you tell me your experience which appears to be different? I honestly didn’t think CPS could turn any child “away” as private schools can. They always have to provide even if it means providing transportation costs to another school more suitable for that child.

  • 63. Angie  |  February 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    @62. CarolA “They always have to provide even if it means providing transportation costs to another school more suitable for that child.”

    Yes, CPS district as a whole has to provide the education for the disabled child. The individual schools, however, have no such obligation, and that is exactly my point. The neighborhood school will register the disabled child, have them go through the evaluation, and submit the results to CPS. Then, the child will be sent to a different school that can service their disability.

    Moving to a certain attendance area or winning the lottery does not make any difference. If the school cannot accomodate the child’s disability, they are not required to accept them.

    My child’s experience was exactly as I described – registered as a non-attending student at a neighborhood school, evaluated, then sent away to a different school. It worked out well, BTW, so I’m not complaining.

  • 64. CarolA  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks for explaining. You are right. Sometimes schools cannot accommodate a child for whatever reason. But it’s not like they can throw them out to fend for themselves. I can see where it would be disappointing for someone to move into an area because of a school only to find out that their child would not be staying there. Sorry that happened to you, but glad it is working out well.

  • 65. CarolA  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    BTW: My experience with CPS’s handling of special education students is horrible. The process is too long and people who don’t even know your child at all are making big decisions about their education. That needs to be changed. My experience with the special ed teachers has been great, but the process stinks! Parents need to enforce their rights because they certainly don’t listen to the classroom teacher.

  • 66. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 16, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    The trouble is that CPS has not released its financial details on school closings. There is detail that is not in the PP that CPS presented. Board member Henry Bienen suggested that they do so at the Jan. board meeting because the Pew study has dominated the discussion. The real issue is capital improvements going forward; some schools will require much more than others. CPS has an analysis but they haven’t released it for reasons that puzzle me.

  • 67. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    @ 6 CPS Cynic
    Tribune has a map here:

  • 68. Falconergrad  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks for linking to that map. I wonder if the “cost to update school” includes installing air conditioning throughout, something I doubt they would actually do if they did update the school, but may be including to pad the numbers?

  • 69. Family Friend  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    @58 helenkeller: It’s simply not true that charters do not have to employ certified teachers. By state law, 75% of charter school teachers must be certified. In fact, it is *extremely* rare to find a charter school teacher who is not certified. Charter school administrators know that certified teachers are trained to know what they are doing. The only actual exceptions I know of are teachers certified in other states who are missing a course or two to be certified in Illinois, and one bona-fide retired rocket scientist teaching high school science.

    We do serve students with disabilities — 18% at my school, which is significantly higher than the CPS-wide average of 13%. We have two disciplinarians, although that is not what they are called, because creating a positive school culture where students can learn is the most important thing we do. We do not ask students who “need services” to leave. We supplement the number of special ed teachers and aides CPS allows with money from our miserably tight budget. We don’t have a security guard, because we create that culture I was talking about.

    You have the equation backwards: charter schools don’t cost less because they don’t pay their teachers as much; they don’t pay their teachers as much because they don’t have as much money.

    If all the speculation I am reading about closing regular schools so they can be replaced with charters as a economic measure were true, it would be in the interest of those who want to keep the regular district schools open to support the equal funding bill, right? Then the supposed economic incentive to replace regular district schools with charters would evaporate.

  • 70. Family Friend  |  February 16, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    AN economic measure.

  • 71. Tchr  |  February 16, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Not every charter school is the same but…. The charter school I worked at had 2 fresh out of college non certified people teaching first grade and one certified high school science teacher who was teaching second grade.

    On another note… Does anyone know where do most TFA teachers get employed? And would anyone want summer trained 22 year olds teaching their children? New teachers keep costs down. But you probably get what you paid for. (I was awful my first year.)

  • 72. Tchr  |  February 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Also, the network of charter schools I worked for had their priorities messed up. We made less money than the public school teachers and we had to provide everything in our classroom (books, supplies, COPY PAPER), but the network paid for extravagant lunched when directors visited our school. Also there were annual conferences with charter schools from all over the country. My hotel, meals, and beverages were paid for at a very nice resort. Good use of money..

  • 73. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 8:04 am

    @67 Christopher: Thanks for that map. Check out DePriest. It is practically a brand new building. It is air-conditioned. I’m not sure how they justify needed over $1 in updating. Click on the link for that school from your link and you get directly to a pic of that school. Not such a great area, but beautiful building.

  • 74. Seth Lavin  |  February 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

    @66 I agree that savings in future capex could be real, but note that the Pew study includes opex and capex savings, at least for the time period studied. Future capex needs also aren’t contributing to the current deficit, so while they do represent potential costs down the road they do not represent a financial urgency to do 100 closings this year. I also don’t buy the “cost to update” numbers they released. They say our school, Brentano, needs $18M to update, but elsewhere their data says Brentano needs no urgent updates.

  • 75. sethlavin  |  February 17, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Also, @66 and everyone, the best view we have into CPS’ actual calculation for how much this all will save– capex and opex– is the document leaked to the Trib in December. Link here:

    “It states that depending on which schools are closed, if the district shuttered about 100 schools, the estimated savings would range from $140 million to $675 million over 10 years.

    The document assumes the district will dispose of 46 buildings deemed to be the most expensive to maintain.

    The savings, according to the document, would mostly come from avoiding capital costs for building upkeep and operational savings such as heating and daily engineering costs.

    But the document also reveals that the district would lose some of those savings because it would have to make an “up-front cash investment” of $155 million to $450 million. The document lists “transition costs” for closing schools that would include severance pay for displaced teachers, added transportation to get students to new schools and extra security to help control potential gang violence that may arise.”

    Note that $140M – $675M over 10 years is 1.4M to 67.5M per year, which is $140,000 to $675,000 per school according to their calculations.

  • 76. ASDadvocate  |  February 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

    SPED ????
    There are cluster classrooms for children with Autism/low incidence disabilities on the list of schools to close. Any suggestions of how a teacher could quietly ignite a flame with those kids’ parents, community members, administrators-even disability advocate groups-in regards to the closure of these schools?

  • 77. Family Friend  |  February 17, 2013 at 10:59 am

    @72 Tchr: I can tell you there are no lavish meals at our board meetings. Pizza or Potbelly’s if it’s at dinnertime; that’s it. Sending teachers to conventions may be the result of federal law: Title II money must be spent on PD. We have been able to bring in some very good programs for our teachers, and, yes, we sent our administrators to a conference on how to use NWEA. It was really helpful.

    As for TFA, some of our very best teachers have been from TFA. Other than TFA, I don’t think we have hired any first-year teachers. We don’t just take whoever is assigned; we interview and select like we do with anyone else. The fact that they are available at CPS’ entry salary means we have a little more money to hire experienced teachers, who then serve as mentors to the newbies. Our TFA teachers usually leave after two or three years, and we are always sad to see them go. They are often very creative — inventing a logic game for fifth graders, or turning statistics into a game show for eighth graders.

    We certainly provide all classroom supplies for our teachers. Are you saying you had to buy textbooks?

  • 78. Falconergrad  |  February 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Our principal is planning to relocate a sped classroom (PreK, I think, and supposedly not necessarily neighborhood kids) out of our building so we can go from 4 hr K to some full and some half. We are on the NW side where schools are crowded and not on the list. I wonder where they will find room. Do they have to stay in the network or can they go outside. Does anyone know?

    Two ideas for space and budget and right sizing things:

    Go back to half day K across the district.

    Offer full day K only at underutilized schools, and half day only at crowded

    Will some parents be pissed? Yes. Too bad.

  • 79. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

    I can only speak from my experience regarding quietly telling parents how to advocate for their child. I call them to a conference either before or after school. I talk in a very soft voice. I tell them how things operate. I tell them that there are laws that protect their rights as a parent and a timeline that must be followed. I tell them to be persistent by calling and checking in with the case manager once a week. If phone calls don’t get returned, ask for a face to face meeting. You don’t have to be nasty, just persistent. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. As soon as they know that you know the timeline, and mention you will take legal action, your voice will be heard. I’ve seen it over and over again. Then I tell them that if they say they heard it from me I will deny the conversation. Everyone wins. I would assume the fires can be ignited the same way with school closures. But, as teachers, we can only suggest. As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. If parents are afraid or don’t want to get involved, they can’t expect changes.

  • 80. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Family Friend: You ask if we have to buy our on textbooks? At my school, we don’t have any textbooks or materials for social studies or science. So yes, we have to supply whatever is needed to teach those subjects. Textbooks, no. Materials, yes. For example, I am currently teaching about rocks and soil. I wrote a grant to get over $800 worth of materials to teach it. I also buy teaching materials for workshop centers from TeachersPayTeachers to individualize learning. If it wasn’t for the grant, I would have been spending a lot more on TeachersPayTeachers and at Lakeshore Learning. Ironically, CPS is mandating us to create unit plans around social studies topics for our grade level. There are 4 different topics for the year at each grade level. This must be integrated with all other areas of the curriculum, yet no materials are provided. I find that odd, yet typical.

  • 81. TEACHER4321  |  February 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Firstly, please listen to this weeks NPR “This American Life” about Harper High School. CPSO- It would be great if you could post the link and make it a separate thread.

    So far I have this to add to the conversation. Take it or leave it.

    From the original message at the top from @CPSO and @SethLavin.

    Split classes: Sometimes when done right, there are benefits to split classes. I am do not have time to search research today, but from general knowledge, the Montessori schools have them. There could be a benefit to a teacher working with the same group of kids two years in a row. The older children can take on a leadership role. Matching the high children of one grade to the lower children of one grade (example high second graders, low third graders) could also be a benefit.

    As for buildings being underutilized and not having enough “specials”…. I think this needs to be looked at on a case by case basis. CPS certainly doesn’t appear to have knowledge about what is going on in each building judging by information discussed yesterday at the school closing hearing at Truman. I think Wendy Katten can attest to that. I know personally of a school that was closed due to “underutilization” that had 5 preps a week several years ago up until the year they were closed.

    @# 1 Sped Mom. I don’t think CPS is remembering the children who have disabilities. I believe every school that spoke yesterday has a few cluster programs in their building. I hope Wendy Katten speaks more to this issue as it appears she is planning a meeting for parents with students in special education impacted by these closings. One principal spoke yesterday (sorry I didn’t take notes) about how there was nobody on the side of CPS who spoke about the sped students when creating the utilization formula. Also in the past 10 years, CPS has continued to increase class sizes in these programs and make it harder for these students to get assistants when needed. I would love to see an outcome study on these children.

    @17 HS Mom. We have to be careful when looking at schools and calling them level 1, level 2, level 3. The formula CPS uses is a little funny. For example some schools have very high test scores, which makes it harder for them to stay a level 1 because they must show gains. Comparing test scores and other data used in the level 1, level 2, level 3 is not the same. Please don’t see this as me advocating for standardized tests. So in theory the children could be moved from a level 3 school that might be “underperforming” but it either the sending or receiving school might have had higher test scores, a higher special education population, more options in terms of music or activities. It is hard to compare apples to apples. Also every CPS school has a different culture. It takes time to assimilate students into a new culture and initially schools may see drops in test scores as this takes place, which could make more level 1 or level 2 schools go down. Additionally, the school with the higher rating could have had that due to smaller class sizes and more student attention per teacher. That is likely to be lost in this.

    @18 Agree about the large amount of school closings. The commission spoke about this too. I am already fearing September if this plan comes into fruition.

    @19 Junior about the class size of 15. I think I will need to do more research about the ideal class size. I do know that schools in Wisconsin have a grant to keep their class size at 18:1 or 30:2 for grades K/1 and they recommend it for grades 2/3. I do not think that 28:1 (plus depending on school) is an ideal class size for the primary grades.

    @23 Junior- thank you for later retracting your statement about the gang wars being on our hands. I have much more to argue, but I doubt we will see eye to eye on most of it, so I am keeping myself calm instead. Please take time to listen to the NPR story about Harper.

    @30 Stockton has a separate Pre-K because it once was a Child Parent Center. I think now it has been converted to a Head Start.

    Please read the research on the Child Parent Centers. The study is called the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Currently, they are trying to revive many of the CPCs. I am not sure how many of them will be impacted by the school closings. I know there is one at Manierre and Smyth. Sometimes they have different names. I believe Manierre’s CPC is called “Funston” and Smyth’s is called Joyner.

    @32 He sometimes responds to people on Twitter. I think his name is PezChicago on Twitter. Jim Dispensa is his name.

    @35 WWW Many of the parents at the meeting made the point that the charters do not have specific programs for children with disabilities such as cluster programs for Autism. I think that is an important point and also would impact the test scores in comparisons. All SWD like all children are unique. I would like to see a breakdown of the types of disabilities charters are serving compared to CPS.

    @42 Jessica Marshall- You can add Miles Davis to the list of brand new buildings.

    @43 I think there are some schools where principals and APs have not passed the test, at least that was an issue in September. Also I believe that having two people allows for some reliability so that a person can’t retaliate against a teacher or pick their favorites to do well, but I am not sure. I agree it is extra money that could be used elsewhere. The new system takes up far too much administration time when done accurately. Principals are really burdened.

    I have worked at a school and have talked to several colleagues who provide “art on a cart,” “music on a cart” etc. It is not an ideal situation for the teachers or the children. The children do not get the full experience. Teachers also then cannot use their prep time to the fullest.

    SPACE UTILIZATION REPORT: CPS did account for some rooms to be not designated as home rooms in their formula. However it was lumped together as all others- such as library, special education, art, preschool etc. all in the same category as a percentage. Not looked at on a school by school basis. Also shared spaces were not taken into account for example some schools house YMCA programs, some schools that must have recess outside daily (not to mention in cold weather). See the blocks together website, which I believe uses some of the apples to apples data.

    @53 Another CPS mom- I am not sure how to answer that question after the new contract. In the old contract, schools with under 500 could have 1/2 time gym and 1/2 time library or a full time of either. I know many schools use discretionary funding to fund both.

    @68 I was wondering if the cost to update included air conditioning as well seeing the handouts given out at the hearings.

    Happy Sunday!

  • 82. local  |  February 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    @ 81. TEACHER4321 | February 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you, TEACHER4321. I really appreciate hearing from the front-lines POV.

  • 83. local  |  February 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    SPED. Sigh.


    I find that most opinions, knowledge and understanding about sped in CPS is vastly incomplete. It might come from a teacher’s perspective, or a parent’s of a SWD, a charter board member and reader of the research, an education reporter, or a citizen’s without a child with disabilities. Almost all come up wanting.

    But to have a real overview of the experience and education of children with disabilities in CPS (charter, SE, magnet, test-in, sped, and neighborhood) – it seems that POV comes from sped lawyers and sped advocates.

    What’s left out of the non-expert POV is the unidentified students with disabilities, not to mention the incomplete evaluations and determination, the ineffectively written IEPs, the unimplemented IEPs, the untrained or ineffective teachers, the missing aides/social workers/counselors, the lying principals, the faked “inclusion” and delivered sped “minutes,” the missing transition plans and services – and that’s just for those students who get the benefits of a determination of need for sped. Sigh.

    This is not to knock the many-times Herculean efforts made by many parents/guardians and school employees on behalf of SWDs. But the education of children with disabilities in CPS is an iceberg. What we usually hear about – in the mainstream media, on blogs, etc. – is the tip-top. The larger reality of the massive failure of sped (in all schools under IDEA 2004, including charters) is deep underwater.

    Just sayin’.

  • 84. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    TEACHER4321: I agree with your statement about making sure everyone follows the forms the same way. However, in two cases that I have first-hand knowledge of, the two administrators explained that they were very far apart on their ratings and had to come to a common agreement with give and take on each side. Plus, keep in mind, this is a snapshot view of that particular lesson only, yet rates you on your teacher practices for the year. You are not going to be able to demonstrate every single teaching practice one knows in an hour’s time. You have to agree that any system where two people come up with very different views of the identical situation is flawed. There are many good things to the REACH eval in regards to teacher practice and reflection, but it is not where it needs to be yet.

  • 85. HS Mom  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    @81 – would I be correct in assuming that a level 3 school is an under-performing school that is either not making any gains or going backwards? I certainly don’t see any selective schools listed as level 3 yet their gains are probably little to none perhaps even negative.

  • 86. anonymouse teacher  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    @76, email Wendy Katten at Raise Your Hand. She’s convening a meeting on 2/25 for sped families and a lawyer on ways to deal with this.

  • 87. anonymouse teacher  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    @85, I have wondered the same thing. My school is a level 1, but another school in my network has slightly higher test scores and dropped to a 2. None of it really makes sense to me. If you get an answer to your question, I am interested in the answer.

  • 88. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Todd Pytel (I think it was him) had a good post about how schools fall into their ranking. I’ll try to find it.
    I think level 1 can be a school with very lower scores OR a school with not-great (but not the worst) scores that isn’t making annual gains.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 89. ASDadvocate  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    @86-thank you very much

  • 90. anonymouse teacher  |  February 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    @88, do you mean level 3? Level 1 is the highest ranking (according to CPS) not the lowest.

  • 91. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    We were a level 1 school for the longest time. You finally reach a point at which it is difficult to show the gains that they want. So, for a year, we slipped to a level 2 school even though we had over 85% of our students at or above achieving. We then were able to go back to a level one school the following year. So, yes, it has something to do with gains (or possibly losses) from test scores. It doesn’t seem to be related much to the percentage at or above, but rather the gains/losses. I could be wrong, but that was my understanding when we slipped down.

  • 92. anonymouse teacher  |  February 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Carol, do you happen to know why some schools then keep their level 1 status when they slip a percentage point or so? I am looking at schools like Edison or Hawthorne or Jackson or Decatur and wondering what happens when they lose a point, as they are bound to from year to year. Do schools in the upper 90’s keep their level 1 as long as they don’t drop below a certain percentage?

  • 93. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Here’s what Todd Pytel wrote if this helps:

    For high schools, at least, the total points are split 50/50 between achievement and trend. Also, the trend benchmarks are themselves given as absolute changes, not relative ones. Consequently, there are roughly two kinds of schools that can score highly…

    1) Highly selective schools. These schools should get nearly all of the achievement points on the basis of their student population, so they’re starting with 50%. If they can improve even a little bit on a few measures, they’ll hit Level 1. There are no trend points subtracted for losing ground.

    2) Middle and lower-middle tier schools with rapidly “improving” student bodies. These schools can score a ton of trend points by improving on previously poor performance and probably pick up enough achievement points to score well.

    Conversely, the system makes it extremely difficult for other kinds of schools to score well…

    3) Upper middle tier schools with stable student populations. These schools are unlikely to score all of the achievement points without the super-competitive students of the top tier schools. At the same time, they have relatively decent scores already and will likely not see huge improvements that will net them many trend points. This kind of school will probably not go to Level 3, but would struggle to ever hit Level 1.

    4) True neighborhood schools with highly disadvantaged students. These schools will struggle to score any achievement points at all. And without the benefit of special programs bringing in stronger students, even their trend points will be limited. Even with outstanding leadership, such a school could not improve its meets/exceeds number by 5% year after year, for example. This kind of school might hit Level 2 for a while with excellent leadership, but eventually will run out of realistic trend points to make and drop back to Level 3.

    All that being said, I think the Level system is a reasonably accurate measure for parents of “where you want your kid”. I don’t, however, think it’s a very accurate measure of the quality of leadership and staff within a building. A highly selective school can basically tread water and score Level 1 (though I’m not claiming they do). And a really well-run neighborhood school serving a tough population will nearly always be stigmatized with a Level 3.

    Also, I realized when I looked at that PPT that the level cutoffs for elementaries are different than those for high schools. Elementaries need 71% and 50% for Levels 1 and 2, respectively. High schools are 66% and 44%. Never knew that before…

  • 94. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    @92, I think as you speculate the schools with the very high scores can slip a point or 2 because their overall level of achievement makes them “good” and nobody is really expecting them to make huge gains each year.

  • 95. Seth Lavin  |  February 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    It’s important to remember that the levels– a temperamental measurement system to begin with– are mostly driven by fluctuations in % of kids crossing an ISAT threshold. The district already recognizes ISAT as weak data, and has been trying hard to move lately in the NWEA direction. Yet this whole closings push is giving huge weight to schools’ levels, which we’re all saying tell us very little about a school’s effectiveness. I see this as another reason a team of people trying to do 100 closings at once is a lot more likely to make poor decisions than a team trying to do this much more slowly. Argh.

  • 96. sethlavin  |  February 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    @CPSO I think this is really interesting, and my brain goes in a different direction with it: “I think the Level system is a reasonably accurate measure for parents of “where you want your kid.”

    To me as a parent, student growth for all types of students and school community satisfaction are the two biggest drivers of where I want my kid. In terms of growth, a school may look high-performing on the levels because its affluent school population does well on the ISAT, but that doesn’t mean the school’s adding value. A different school may look low-performing because its school population starts out with disadvantages on ISAT, but actually be driving a ton of growth among all kids. ISAT scores and student demographics are pretty correlated. Some parent friends have tried running the numbers to find places where scores outperform or underperform what you’d expect, given the test score/demographic correlation. A lot of the schools we think of as “good” underperform, and some level 3s overperform. For my money, that kind of analysis tells me more about where I want my kid than the levels do.

    As for satisfaction, I love the U of C’s 5 essential surveys, which you can search by school.

  • 97. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Very good point. And any of us who were looking at schools 5 or so years ago know that many of the schools that parents “took a chance on” had low test scores at the time but parents saw the potential there. To your point, the Level system may have scared people away by doling out that “bad” label. At the time it was just looking online (not easily) to see what the test scores were. My neighborhood school had extremely low scores – def would have been a Level 3, but is now Level 1 because affluent parents chose to embrace it.

    Agh, curse you for that link. I could spend all day looking up schools.

  • 98. sethlavin  |  February 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Look up Brentano and you’ll see that it’s green– “organized for imrovement,” which U of C says makes Brentano 10x more likely to improve than less well-organized schools!

    What you’re saying about 5 years ago, and your own experience, makes a ton of sense. One of the things I love about the fight for Brentano is that the group of parents trying to save the school is really diverse and representative of the neighborhood as a whole. And, since the school has room to grow and everyone is working together on enrollment, it can grow and grow in diversity while still having room for everyone. It also has ISAT scores better than the CPS average.

    Back to the U of C thing, a fun one is to search “charter” or “UNO” to see how much diversity there is in community satisfaction for the different charters. Certainly challenges the talking point that parents’ choosing a charter means they like it. U of C survey link here:

  • 99. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Yeah, I randomly entered Englewood and saw that Noble St Englewood is all green, while Urban Prep is green for academics but otherwise plenty of red which is surprising given how the school says they support the students. Maybe it’s a “tough love” thing?

    I find it shocking that some of these schools the STUDENTS say the teachers aren’t holding them to high academic standards. If your own students say this, step it up!!

  • 100. cpsobsessed  |  February 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I have to say that the measures on some schools I’ve looked at seem to match up with what I hear from people.

    And there is certainly a range of response. People don’t automatically fall into the “we love our school!” mentality. Well, they do at the school closing meetings. But not always in the survey. 🙂

  • 101. tchr  |  February 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    When / how was the survey given? Many of the schools I looked up do not have data.

  • 102. cps alum  |  February 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    There is an explanation on CPS website of how the points work. While gains in ISAT matter, if a school scores above 90% in ISATs the school will get full points regardless if there was a loss in ISAT scores.

  • 103. cps alum  |  February 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I found the policy…. If you look up any individual school and go the Scorecard tab on the CPS website, there is a performance policy report. That PDF has a breakdown of how many points each school receives in each category and an explanation of how the points are assigned. As long as a school is above 90% on ISATS subcategories, the school will get full points regardless of the trend. 30 points are available for the different ISAT categories, an additional 6 points are for Value added scores, and 3 points for attendance. Any school with 71% of points and above will be level one.

  • 104. CarolA  |  February 17, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    tchr: It is given around this time each year. I just checked the CPS website and it said students will fill out the survey at the end of this month. There are also parent and teacher surveys. Our school encourages all to participate, but I could see how poorly performing schools might not advertise it.

  • 105. Teacher4321  |  February 18, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Someone mentioned Breakfast in The Classroom on the 299 blog and I was wondering if the readers of this board know that the “healthy” breakfast looks nothing like last year. My children regularly have chocolate Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast. Whereas I never remember seeing those last year.

  • 106. CarolA  |  February 18, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I just checked my CPS email this morning and we have an email for the My School, My Voice survey we just talked about yesterday. HMMMMMM maybe CPS really does check this board! LOL

  • 107. Sped Mom  |  February 18, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I don’t know who wrote those My School, My Voice surveys, but they’re almost impossible to answer for a parent of a kid with disabilities (identified or not) in a way that reflects reality. It seems to be a survey written by a freshman survey methods student. But, maybe that’s on purpose.

  • 108. athens  |  February 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    @ JUNIOR-“the blood of the children crossing gang lines is on teachers.” DISGUSTING thing to claim

  • 109. junior  |  February 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    That was not my claim.

  • 110. Falconergrad  |  February 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Teachers of PreK – 3 please consider answering this survey.
    I couldn’t find anywhere better to post this so just linking here since it is the newest post and there are quite a few teachers posting:

    I got there from here:

    And I got there from here:

    Totally depressing.

  • 111. junior  |  February 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    @98 SethLavin said:
    “Back to the U of C thing, a fun one is to search “charter” or “UNO” to see how much diversity there is in community satisfaction for the different charters. Certainly challenges the talking point that parents’ choosing a charter means they like it. U of C survey link here:

    I don’t think so. If you want to draw some conclusion from those surveys, you’d have to compare your particular sample of charter schools to the sample of neighborhood schools of the kids attending the charters. That would be an apples-to-apples comparison. I’ve always said charters don’t have to be good to be successful, they just have to be better than the alternative.

    Furthermore, your example of UNO is really just cherry-picking the data, yes? You could do the same for “Noble” and get opposite results. But I wouldn’t generalize on charters from either of those data points. C’mon, Seth, I’ve seen a lot more rigor from you before! Keep it coming.

  • 112. Family Friend  |  February 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    @80 CarolA: I know teachers at regular district schools have to buy supplies; I was asking Tchr if she had to buy textbooks when she taught at a charter school. That would surprise me.

  • 113. CarolA  |  February 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Family Friend: Sorry, I misunderstood.

  • 114. CarolA  |  February 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    SpedMom: Regarding the surveys: I started mine today. I usually don’t even bother to fill them out because it’s exactly like you said….the questions are phrased in such a way that the reality of the situation cannot be expressed. In any case, this year it seems to be different. It’s actually quite long. The questions so far have been pretty good. I find it funny though that they say it is anonymous, but anyone can narrow the field of who is responding because they ask what grade I teach, how many years I’ve taught, what level of education I have, etc. In fact, the sign in for me happened to have my initials in it. Coincidence???

  • 115. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    @74 @75 I’m not vouching for the accuracy of CPS’s estimate. I happened to be at the BOE meeting when CPS explained the process, and Bienen noted that more detail on cost-savings was in the packet that board members received and that CPS ought to release it because the Pew numbers were being cited as authoritative. The Tribune story mentions an annual savings of $500k-800k per school closed.That jibes with my back-of-the-envelope calculations based on taking principals salaries, custodial salaries, and gas and electric costs out. So you don’t get considerable savings in operating costs unless you close 100 schools ($50-80 million per year). That would be around 1% to 1.5% of the operating budget ($5.1 billion), not much of a dent.

    The 10-year $140-675 million figure must be capital expenditures, but presumably those would be in the capital budget, so not relevant to the operating deficit debate. In any event, CPS issues bonds for those.

  • 116. CPS Parent  |  February 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    @115 – Maybe not much of a dent but pretty much equal to the CTU salary increase so at least those are covered. Or about $150,000 per school for discretionary funds. Or, much more likely, all used to makeup the CTU pension plan payments that are coming due next year – a huge problem which was created by the wonderful Mayor Daley and the others who were complicit in allowing that to happen.

  • 117. Different Subject  |  February 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Is anyone else going crazy on this long weekend waiting for their child’s high school letter?

  • 118. cpsobsessed  |  February 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Exiting news – CPS answered Seth’s questions he posed about the school closings. I don’t think i realized that all kids will be moved to a higher level school… didn’t think that was possible but that is the promise. Take a read…

    Q1: You’ve estimated $500K in savings per closed school. Does this mean closing 100 schools solves only 5% of the $1B CPS budget deficit?
    A1: The estimate is $500K-$800K depending on the school itself. We will not realize significant savings in years one and two. But we need to act now because CPS has taken no action to address the growing underutilization in our District that’s occurred over the past several years. Taking no action means we will continue to spread our limited resources much too thin — at a time when we are facing billion dollar deficits over the next three years. The sooner we act the sooner we can combine schools and resources so we can better invest in programs that will support more of our students’ needs. That means more children can access libraries, nurses and counselors, new technologies such as computers and iPads, playgrounds, art and music — whatever resources may be needed at a given school based on the needs of their students. Chicago has lost 145,000 school-age children since last decade. This population drop is located primarily on the south and west sides of Chicago, which is where the most chronic underutilization of our schools is located. These communities don’t have enough children to fill these schools and classrooms. Children are better positioned to be excel academically if they are in fully efficient schools with more resources.

    Q2: What data exist that shows closing underperforming schools results in academic gains for students?
    A2: We are not closing schools based on performance. We are looking strictly at utilization in this process.

    Q3: You say we have a “utilization crisis.” What data shows that a school’s being “underutilized” hurts student achievement?
    A3: Yes, we have a utilization crisis. 50% of our schools are underutilized and nearly 140 are half empty. This is stretching our resources much too thin. We can’t put off the difficult decisions that need to be made to address this crisis any longer as it will be our kids who suffer in the long run if we do. And, students in underutilized schools are usually hit the hardest because they do not get the same access to resources that properly utilized schools receive — they are more likely to be in split-grade classrooms, have limited access to enrichment opportunities like art and music, lack access to support staff like nurses and counselors, as well as safety and intervention services for those are struggling academically and emotionally.

    Q4: Chicago Consortium on Schools Research says in 94% of cases kids from closed Chicago schools didn’t go to “academically strong” new schools. Will this be different?
    A4: Absolutely. CEO Byrd-Bennett has stated unequivocally that every child will have the opportunity to attend a designated higher-performing welcoming school in the fall. She will not close a school if that guarantee cannot be met.

    Q5: Will you guarantee that no students from closed Level 3 schools will go to another Level 3 school?
    A5: Again, every dedicated welcoming school will be a higher-performing school.

    Q6: You say CPS mishandled its last round of 10 closings. Will you share your analysis of what went wrong, and how this will be different?
    A6: There were many lessons learned from both last year and years past, as well as from the experiences of other districts. Some include a lack of community input and transparency and not giving children the option to attend a higher-performing school, as well as not communicating proactively with parents about school options for their children and not having a dedicated, cross-functional transition planning and implementation team in place to do the work at the front end that in order to execute plans for each child that will ensure that they have a safe and smooth transition to their new school. How are we making sure these kinds of issues are being addressed? We are acting on them now — rigorous community engagement is giving parents and communities a true voice in the process. It is their feedback that is driving the criteria being developed as part of this work. Robust and open transparency around the work being done; having a transition leadership and planning team in place well in advance of any final decisions around actions so we have the necessary framework and research in place to implement all planning associated with transitioning children to new welcoming schools; and identifying a dedicated higher performing school for every child, among others. CPS has never done this level of planning, outreach, communication and listening before as part of this process. We know it will painful and that not everyone will agree with where we may finally land in this process, but we will have done this in a way that gives our communities the voice and respect they deserve.

    Q7: Given that you included 5 of last year’s 10 turnaround schools on the new possible closings list, do you regret those turnarounds?
    A7: Absolutely not. Looking strictly and objectively from the criteria, they simply did not qualify at this time to be removed from consideration. There is much work and listening that will continue to be done and this list is far from final.

    Q8: Will you present your plan for where kids from each closed school will go before deciding whether or not each school will close?
    A8: Yes. In fact, every family will receive a proposed plan when a list is recommended to the Board of Education by the end of March.

    Q9: Have you hired management consultants to assist you in vetting schools for inclusion on the closings list? If so, who are they?
    A9: No. We are doing this work internally with input from the community and principals.

    Q10: How many CPS staff members are currently working on transition plans for 5,792 students with IEPs that may be impacted by closings?
    A10: We do not yet know how many children with IEPs will be included in this process. But we do have a cross-functional transition planning team of 40 subject matter experts who are guiding the development of all transition plans. This team will then be part of the transition implementation team where each school will have a dedicated team of as many as six individuals, with experience and knowledge in their community and their school, that will be working on the transition implementation process for each student and their family.

  • 119. tchr  |  February 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    By books, I meant books to learn to read, not textbooks. Books like leveled readers, picture books, chapter books, etc to use for differentiated groups.

    In any classroom, kids are going to be below, at grade level, and above. A third grade reading textbook is obviously too hard for a third grader who does not know his alphabet. The textbook is too easy for readers above a third grade reading level. Teachers provided everything other than the textbooks.

    (This school was a newer school full of new teachers, many who just graduated college and others who were just new to the school. There was a huge turnover year to year. Administration was new as well. Not an ideal place to work or send your child to… )

  • 120. RDN  |  February 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Help me understand why redrawing district boundaries (carefully–to prevent incidents like Fenger HS) couldn’t help where you have an “underutilized school” next to an “overcrowded” school. Although the data suggests we re-evaluate what “underutilize” means–apples to apples is very helpful on this.

  • 121. CarolA  |  February 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Well, I think we’d all agree that SOMETHING needs to be done and like the answers provided above indicate, we need to start somewhere. I’m happy to see that the students in schools that are closing will go to a higher level school. I realize that may not necessarily mean better, but if a school is already a level 3, it can’t get much worse. Level 2 must be better in some respects. This huge problem won’t be solved in one school year, but making a dent in the problem is a good place to start. And as previous decisions have shown, if it doesn’t move us in the right direction, we try something else.

  • 122. HSObsessed  |  February 19, 2013 at 8:54 am

    @117 – Yes, I’m starting to get antsy waiting for the letter/s. Word is that private school letters have begun arriving. There was talk at my dd’s school about who was accepted or not to St. Ignatius last week. I’m assuming CPSO will start a new thread once there is a report of a CPS letter, according to tradition?

  • 123. cpsobsessed  |  February 19, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Yep, first sighting will launch the new thread. 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 124. Family Friend  |  February 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

    CPS’ answers to Seth’s questions are very thoughtful, but the proof is in the pudding. I don’t see how they can possibly move every displaced student to a higher performing school. As the mother of a first-year counselor at one of the schools on the list, I am heartened to see that access to counseling is emphasized, but, again, I am skeptical.

  • 126. cpsobsessed  |  February 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I’ve inquired about clarification on this point below. Does “opportunity” mean that the new neighborhood school will be higher level? Or that if you’re in a sea of level 3 schools that you’ll get an opportunity to choose a different, higher level schools somewhere else (but maybe you have to figure out how to get your kid there every day?)

    From CPS:
    Absolutely. CEO Byrd-Bennett has stated unequivocally that every child will have the opportunity to attend a designated higher-performing welcoming school in the fall
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 127. OIPA momma  |  February 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Note that even with the clarification at 126, she still does not does NOT say that every student from a Level 3 school will get to attend a Level 1 or 2 school. Just a “higher performing” school, which could be a higher-performing Level 3 school. And, given the different metrics used to measure schools, which one will be chosen to determine what “higher performing” means? Will it be a metric consistently used for all schools? Or will they pick and choose?

  • 128. mom  |  February 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    OK, our utilization review says we are at 94% and what they are counting against us it this: art room, drama room, dance room, music room, piano room, science lab, computer room, and an advanced math small room. We are a fine arts magnet school. If we loose those dedicated spaces where will we do those activities?

    Plus, most of our classes are 31+ students as it is. Their utilization system is inaccurate and doesn’t allow for common sense review. It’s pure numbers crunching with no human oversight or amending. Ridiculous. We are safe (I think) but I pity the other schools.


  • 129. cpsobsessed  |  February 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    @mom – at 94percent with all those rooms for specials — doesn’t that seems pretty accurate that you’re at capacity? Or indicate that it’s ok to have all those rooms in use for extra stuff and be close to 100 percent?
    Do you also have a lunchroom?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 130. Nervous nellie!  |  February 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Yes, I’m going crazy about the wait for the high school letters! I thought they would be mailed yesterday & I would have it tomorrow! I can’t believe that they are waiting until Friday!! I hope I get the letter on Saturday!!! I plan on stalking the mail man. I live in the middle of my block so I will walk to the end and ask for my mail! Now I know that’s crazy!!!!

  • 131. cpsobsessed  |  February 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    “The week of” in CPS lingo never means monday. 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 132. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    @116 It is not insignificant, and I believe that some schools should close, but CPS has made school closings a matter of budgetary urgency. My question is: shouldn’t the other $800 million in annual savings needed to cut a $1 billion deficit but even more urgent? Where is that coming from?

    @118 The 145k figure is irrelevant (and incorrect) to CPS utilization. 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 students. It is true that the school age pop. (age 5-19) in Chicago declined by 112,300 people between 2000 and 2010, but that’s not the same as the student pop. in CPS.

    @126 At the Jan. BOE meeting under questioning from Zopp, CPS was made quite clear that higher-performing alternative would *not* necessarily be in the neighborhood.

  • 133. local  |  February 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    “My question is: shouldn’t the other $800 million in annual savings needed to cut a $1 billion deficit but even more urgent? Where is that coming from?”

    Yea. What he said.

  • 134. CPS Parent  |  February 19, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    132. Christopher Ball, 133. local – My assumption is that most of that billion $ deficit is caused by the teachers’ pension plan payment coming due next year. CPS will have to make a significant contribution but not neccesarily the whole amount. A payment plan can be negotiated and therefore the urgency to make the system more efficient long term. The consolidations will free up money going forward and can be used to replenish the pension fund over X number of years to bring it into compliance. This is a real issue, it cannot be kicked down the road much further. Teachers are promised a pension (they do not get social security) and CPS must live up to its obligation.

  • 135. MayfairAM  |  February 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Got a call from Univ. of Chicago/Joyce foundation doing research for a tribune article about school closings and teacher evaluation. It was difficult to answer the questions….they were thoughtfully composed. Anybody else get this call? I wonder what angle they are going for.

  • 136. SR  |  February 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I did a Joyce Foundation cell phone survey last week, but didn’t realize it was for a Tribune article. It took a long time!

  • 137. Wilzz  |  February 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Awesome, the Union is trying to fire Karen Lewis. Why? She didn’t do enough damage to its credibility last September.

    How ironic.

  • 138. luveurope  |  February 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

    138 Can’t wait 2 see what the replacement will do to help the already bad awful Union image. It’s 4 the kids.

  • 139. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

    @134 The new pension payments account for a little more than a 1/3rd of the projected budget ($338 million out of $1 billion for FY14). The main part of the deficit is due to increasing expenditures and decreasing revenues (Illinois ranked last in state education funding to localities).


    Click to access fy13_budget_boardbrief.pdf

  • 140. HS Teacher  |  February 20, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Not sure where you are getting your information from but the CTU is actually a democratic organization. Unlike the Mayor’s appointed CEOs/Board we elect our leaders. We do have a union election coming up and it will be a decision that our members not the media, the mayor, or the so called “reformers.” The caucuses campaign, they lay out their plans for building the union, for pushing a legislative agenda that will help build better schools, and the plans for engaging the community in the fight for quality schools for all of Chicago’s kids.

    Finally, polling data doesn’t support your claim that Karen Lewis or the CORE caucus has ruined the unions image. In fact, the opposite is true.

  • 141. Gobemouche  |  February 21, 2013 at 1:21 am

    PURE has a list of the alder persons who support the moratorium on charters.

    It’s interesting to see that even 39th ward alderman Laurino signed on to this, after she was instrumental in the push for ASPIRA-Haugan. Maybe she has learned a lesson? Changed her mind?

  • 142. cpsobsessed  |  February 21, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I think you can be pro- certain charters, maybe in certain neighborhoods. But it seems like this push to open a lot while also crying about under-utilization has finally made people stop to think about the consequences upon the whole system of having a LOT more charters.

    Although it does seem a little hypocritical to push for one in your own neighborhood then once you get it say “no more.”

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 143. Leggy Mountbatten  |  February 21, 2013 at 11:20 am

    “Finally, polling data doesn’t support your claim that Karen Lewis or the CORE caucus has ruined the unions image. In fact, the opposite is true.”

    Let me guess, that’s from internal polling hired by the CTU?

  • 144. Leggy Mountbatten  |  February 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

    By the way, as soon as Lavin said he worked for Bain Capital, I decided that this snake-oil salesman wasn’t worth listening to. Mitt Romney Jr.?

  • 145. local  |  February 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Hmm. From what I’ve heard, there’s still a large majority support for Lewis within the bargaining unit. AFT and NEA are some of the largest “democratic” organizations left in the U.S., in that they elect their leaders and follow democratic processes.

  • 146. junior  |  February 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    How do you explain all the teachers walking around town with shirts that say:

    “I went on strike for the kids and all I got was an 18% raise.”

  • 147. CarolA  |  February 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Personally, I haven’t seen or heard about those shirts. I think it’s terrible if teachers #1 had them printed, #2 are wearing them.

  • 148. junior  |  February 22, 2013 at 7:09 pm


    Hmmm… Maybe I just dreamed it. 😉

  • 149. anonymouse teacher  |  February 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    141, Isn’t Aspira Haugan one of the few charters that are actually being forcibly shut down? I thought, and I could be wrong, that 3 were being closed and that a few more were closing because the charter itself decided to cash it in.

  • 150. Gobemouche  |  February 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    anonymouse teacher – No, I think its an ASPIRA high school that is closing – the Mirta(?) campus. I think that the Haugan campus is going to be under stricter observation…or something…
    It seems that, even though everyone knows that school is under-performing and they have been given more than their fair share of second chances, they got their charter renewed (but with reservations). I’m trying to find out out if it was renewed the full five years or for a shorter term.

  • 151. JP  |  February 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Two things seem very clear to me and I have negotiated with CPS on neighborhood schools for the last five administrations. One, CPS wants to move away from the neighborhood school model. Two, which is related, is that CPS wants to move higher percentages of students into Charter schools.
    CPS doesn’t have a valid answer as to why it would open more Charters at this point given the underutilization of neighborhood schools and the fact that Charters take students out of those same underutilized schools. So ergo, they design a strategy that speaks to right sizing their schools and results in closing 75 or so neighborhood schools, two charters as window dressing only, and then they can wait a year and then go back to opening new charters.
    This mass closing of neighborhood schools and CPS’s refusal to respond to legitimate requests to open new neighborhood schools where schools are overcrowded and absent for me points to this singular explanation.
    Cost savings is bunk when you see the true costs to the schools and communities. Why is underutilization suddenly the north star when CPS has been opening Charters and causing it? As Wendy Katten points out CPS has only lost 35 thousand students, uses what Charters have more than enrolled right now?
    I don’t know why anyone buys into the cost argument. It’s bull plain and simple.

  • 152. junior  |  February 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Only 35,000 students? That would mean that they lost the equivalent of 100 schools worth of students at 350 students per school.

  • 153. Nancy  |  February 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Got our SE response today, an acceptance into our first choice, Whitney Young!!! 876 out of 900, no selective enrollment test prep. We are so grateful. Good luck everyone!!!

  • 154. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 23, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    #151~JP ~ITA w/you. CPS is such bull crap saying they lost 140,000 kids ~Chicago may have, but CPS just lost around 32,000. Some schl are bursting they don’t have seams anylonger~and CPS expects parents to accept cheap blended learning? Ha! Our neighborhood schools aren’t going anywhere. Many, many parents are starting to realize the cost argument by CPS is pure bull and they’ve rallied together against it.

  • 155. TEACHER4321  |  February 24, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I am not sure if you all know about More Than A Score. It is a joint project with several organizations including CTU and Raise Your Hand. There is a petition you can sign on Change.Org as well as opt out resources if you are interested.

    So far 37 schools in CPS have parents working on petitions at the individual schools. The map on the site shows them scattered throughout the city.

    I wasn’t sure where to post this. Just as I wasn’t sure where to post about the Harper High School story. I will post the link to the second episode below.

  • 156. TEACHER4321  |  February 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Here is part 2 of the This American Life. I think it is very important to listen to the part 5. About the turnaround money. It is very important to realize that the $ schools get in the turnaround is not what they had before they were taken over. I linked directly to part 5. You will find the rest of the episode(s) on the website.

  • 157. EdgewaterMom  |  February 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I thought that the This American Life episodes on Harper were very powerful. The first episode made me realize that I really had no clue what it is like to live in a neighborhood controlled by gangs. I truly don’t know how schools can be expected to teach students in that environment. So much more is needed (from social services, police etc) before you can even begin to address education!

    I don’t know if both episodes are still available online, but if so, they are really worth listening to. I hope that they win awards for these stories – it was journalism at its best!

  • 158. TEACHER4321  |  February 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    EdgewaterMom. I’m glad you took the time to listen to the episode. I hope many more people do on this board.

    Both of the episodes are available online for free right now. Also on iTunes. I understand they will become $0.99 next week on iTunes.

  • 159. anon  |  February 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Want to read he playbook on school closings from the Broad Foundation?

    George Schmidt, Substance News, reviews the Broad Foundation guide for its superintendents entitled,

    2009 School Closure Guide:
    Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges?

    In 83-pages, Broad-trained superintendents like BBB are given details for managing communities opposed to school closings.

    We are witnessing it now.

    First, the superintendent proposes closing a very large number of schools. Then she holds community meetings to listen and consider community concerns. But her attendance at these meetings has been optional, leading many parents to question why these meetings are held.The guide directs the district to use community meetings to gain information to hone their tactics for the closings.

    Finally, the district takes a few schools off the list.

    This preserves the illusion the superintendent is listening to the community. And the community is relieved that the closings are not as bad as they could have been. But that is the number the district originally set to close.

  • 160. Gobemouche  |  February 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    If you have a smartphone, you can listen to the Harper High story (and many more) via the This American Life app. I think it costs 2.99, but it is money well spent because you can listen to all the old TAL podcasts as well. Great Stuff!!!

  • 161. anon  |  February 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Kenzo Shibata explains how disaster capitalism is fueling the privatization of Chicago public school districts. Another must read, if you want to understand what is going on now.

  • 162. local  |  February 24, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    159. Gobemouche | February 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    To hear about the loss of extra funds at Harper broke my heart. I think these “extras” are critical (social workers, APs, etc.) for high poverty schools to thrive. This seems to be what I keep hearing CPS teachers & principals requesting. I take the approach of “pay now or pay later” – with “later” being the costs of lost human capital (through unemployment, disabilities, imprisonment, criminality, etc.). I like the community school approach starting with pre-school – or before (think pre-natal).

  • 163. anonymously  |  March 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Seth,
    Thanks for a thoughtful piece. In it you say it is difficult to make money from closed schools, and it is costly to maintain them when empty. It is also costly to demolish them.

    Here is something you might read to see whether the sale to a private fund manager and leaseback to a charter might be a fine way to earn a very good return on that property.

    If you could look into how the New Market Tax Credit would apply, that might also be useful to readers here.


  • 164. anonymously  |  March 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    And, Seth, you might find this an interesting read on the way political leaders who push corporate “reform” of education view local community input.


  • 165. Falconergrad  |  March 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I wonder about the number of students lost in CPS and how many were PreK students who had no program to go to since some have been cut in the last few years. Can they count students as lost who were never enrolled because they had no room for them?

  • 166. Gobemouche  |  March 2, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Chicago Tonight report on school closing meeting:

    Wow! Powell academy…two years old and its on the closure list?

  • 167. Gobemouche  |  March 2, 2013 at 2:27 am

    The PBC stats on Powell’s building. Gorgeous and brand new.

    So…when CPS decided to build this school, they had no idea that there was a possibility that it could be underutilized? Umm, I think maybe we need to look at the costs involved with having an underutilized office of demographics.

  • 168. Gobemouche  |  March 2, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Powell Academy:

    537 students
    95% low incone
    ISAT composite 77% meets/exceeds for 2012

    Utilization report says ideal number is 810.

    I would be shocked if CPS actually closed this school, but its just absurd that they are even on the initial list.

  • 169. Gobemouche  |  March 2, 2013 at 2:35 am

    ^ low income, not incone.

  • 170. Gobemouche  |  March 2, 2013 at 2:56 am

    Can’t sleep, so I’m going down the CPS rabbit hole.

    Public presentation before the Powell build:

    Click to access 6025.pdf

    Note the demographics page. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

    “2008-09 Total Attending (TA): 548
    2008-09 Total Residing (TR): 861

    8-yr Avg TA: 554
    8-yr Avg TR: 861

    Why is TR more important than TA when building a new school?

    A neighborhood school facility needs to have a sufficient amount of space to accommodate approx. 90% of the public school residing within its attendance area. Even though TA is less important tha TR, typically a new school building will attract a greater percentage of TR than historic enrollment numbers indicate.

    Why is 8-yr Avg TR more important than current TR?

    Since school buildings are designed to last many years, CPS must anticipate continued fluctuations in TR. The 8-yr Avg is a stronger measure of the number of public school students likely to live in the area over many years.”

    I wonder if they did an “8-yr Avg” on all the schools that are underutilized (and overcrowded). So they knew perfectly well going into this that the school would most likely have about 600 students. They told the community it was a good idea to build more space. Now they are on the close list.

    FYI, cost of this school was about $26 million dollars.

  • 171. anonymous  |  March 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Gobemouche, you are right. I am puzzled over this one.

    There is more than meets the eye here. Could it be that the beautiful lake front location is valuable to an investor / developer and should not be for the children?

    What’s next? LaRabida?

  • 172. anonymous  |  March 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

    The Powell Academy high school cost much less than the UNO Soccer Academy, which was $47 mln.

    You would think that a high school would caost a bit more than an elementary school, wouldn’t you?

    Why should there be huge differences in the cost of a school building?

    Who is overseeing this?

  • 173. anonymously  |  March 5, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Sad but true.

  • 174. Gobemouche  |  March 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    The hits just keep on coming.
    Schools are on the closing list and currently being renovated.

    Lewis elementary in the midst of an $8.4 million dollar renovation AND it is on the list:,-advocates-say/

  • 175. Seth Lavin  |  March 16, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    @junior hey– may be too late to pick this discussion back up, but I just noticed your @ response to my comments on the U of C study earlier. I don’t totally get your criticism. As for the neighborhood comparisons, I agree that this is important analysis. I’ve spent some time looking at my zip code (60647) and think it paints a pretty accurate picture. As for the Noble/UNO comparison, I think it’s significant that the Noble picture looks the way it does on 5Essentails and that UNO picture looks the way it does. I’m not trashing charters, by any means. I’m trashing the thinking of folks like the Mayor or the Trib ed board who a) offer charters an essentially blanket endorsement or b) put UNO on a pedestal.

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