Posts tagged ‘south loop rgc’

South Loop RGC Update – New RGC Opening?

Someone in the South Loop Elementary community passed this note on to me that seems to explain that a new RGC will open within 5 miles of South Loop.  It’s unclear what grades it will have initially or where it might be located, although it seems like it WILL be an option on the form this Fall.    It appears that current SL RGC kids will stay in the present building, but the program will be phased out there, but WILL fill empty seats each year.  FYI, Coonley has reached capacity this year and pending a decision about an expansion (funded by TIF money allocated by Alderman Pawar) is loosing some classroom space that is currently allotted to “extras” (ie computer lab, science lab) to make space for more classrooms.

Regarding the Phase Out of South Loop Elementary’s Regional Gifted Center

Dear Parent/Guardian:
In April, officials from Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Portfolio Office held a meeting to discuss plans to gradually phase out South Loop Elementary School’s Regional Gifted Center (RGC) to relieve the school’s overcrowding issue. This letter contains the substance of what was discussed at that meeting as well as responses to several other requests for information made by South Loop Elementary parents.
CPS is currently in the process of identifying a school within five miles of South Loop Elementary where the new RGC will be phased in beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. We remain committed to selecting the phase-in school by this fall to ensure that the new RGC will be featured on the Selective Enrollment Elementary School (SEES) application.

Current South Loop RGC students will be able to continue their elementary school education career at South Loop. New transfer students also will be allowed to backfill existing RGC seats at South Loop.
 At this time, we are still working with South Loop school leadership to determine if it is feasible to allow out-of-boundary siblings of RGC students to transfer in provided that there is room to accommodate them. We will promptly alert parents/guardians and the school community once a decision has been made regarding this issue.
Although we have made the difficult decision to phase out South Loop’s RGC, the District remains committed to providing the resources needed to support its students and the success of the program during this transition period. We also remain committed to working collaboratively with parents/guardians to ensure that your voices are heard as we continue to finalize details.

Oliver Sicat
Chief Portfolio Officer – Chicago Public Schools

July 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm 42 comments

South Loop RGC update

I have a report from a parent who attended a meeting with CPS about the South Loop Regional Gifted program that is being phases out at the school.

As some background, last year CPS announced that it would phase out the RGC in at South Loop elem due to general overcrowding in the school.  The downside of the success of adding a gifted program to a neighborhood school is that the halo affect of the program that seems to rub off on the neighborhood program tends to results in overcrowding (same at Bell and Coonley.)  Beaubien has somehow avoided this, but with the principal retiring it could be a whole new ballgame.  Pritzker all seems to have adequate enrollment without bursting.

South Loop was not included as an option on this year’s application and parents have been questioning how seats would be filled due to natural attrition.

At the time I thought the plan made sense.  A gifted program has been phased IN year by year at my son’s school and that has worked fine.  We really operate class by class so it doesn’t matter if there is one or nine grades.

However what I and what CPS didn’t anticipate is that the uncertainty of the program has resulted in families looking to leave asap rather than wait out their child’s tenure in the gifted program.  So suddenly you may have classes losing several kids a year, with no plan to re-populate them.

After some time trying, parents finally secured a meeting with CPS to get some answers as to the fate of the program.  One parent’s report is below.

Another key question is whether CPS has any plans to start a NEW gifted program to fill the already-sparse number of elementary seats.  If placing a program in a school seems to be an easy way to help a school grow enrollment, it seems like a win-win/no-brainer, right?


Questions for South Loop RGC Meeting with CPS

1.     Why was South Loop’s RGC removed from the OAE 2012-2013 Options for Knowledge guidebook entirely, and why does the guidebook imply that South Loop’s RGC has been altogether eliminated?

2.     Has there been a precedent RGC phase-out case in CPS before? If yes, what was the practice? Are there any lessons to be drawn from that? 

3.     In light of the decision not to phase-out LaSalle Language Academy due to overcrowding at Lincoln Elementary earlier this school year, help us understand the decision-making process that justifies the phase-out of the South Loop RGC under what would appear to be similar circumstances.

4.     Will CPS agree to fill all vacated seats in South Loop’s RGC classrooms with students from the selective enrollment applicant pool for the duration of the phase-out period?

5.     If CPS does not intend to fill seats in South Loop’s RGC classrooms that are vacated, why not?  How does CPS intend to maintain the vitality of the existing RGC program at South Loop when its classrooms may fall well under capacity?

6.     Will CPS commit to maintain RGC classrooms at South Loop consistent with the mission of the RGC program if those classrooms only have 10 students in them?  Five?  Three?

7.     How can CPS reassure parents of children in younger RGC classrooms that this program will remain strong and fully supported five to eight years down the road?

8.     If the RGC classrooms are small, won’t this result in larger neighborhood classrooms since teachers are allocated based on averages? How can the integrity of the RGC program be maintained in the face of such overcrowding?

9.     Will kids from the neighborhood classrooms be mixed in with the RGC for any subjects other than art, music, phys Ed or world language?  This includes the “Walking” program.  If so, then how is the RGC truly an RGC?  Is this allowed at other RGC or classical programs that share space with a neighborhood program?

10.  If this solution does not prove to help South Loop’s overcrowding, is there a chance our children could be asked to leave South Loop? If that happens, will they be sent to another RGC?

11.  Do any other SEES in the city lack language instruction as a part of the curriculum as is the case at South Loop? OAE’s website lists World Language as a vital part of the program that is offered at *all* SEES. 

12.  Some parents have younger children who will not have the chance to be at SLS, not only because the RGC is being phased out, but also because the open enrollment for siblings is gone.  As a result, the RGC will start immediately eroding as the younger siblings are admitted in other schools and parents try to keep their kids together.  Therefore, is there any possibility that the open enrollment at SLS for siblings of the RGC students is allowed as an attempt to keep the current students from leaving SLS?  If the answer to this question is “No”, and if the siblings of RGC students are admitted in another selective enrollment program, can you consider offering a spot at that new school to the SLS student without testing them again?

13.  Gifted and Talented students on the North Side have a tremendous variety of alternatives, from formal GTE programs at Bell, Edison, Beaubien, etc., to high-quality magnet programs at nearly a dozen other schools.  On the South Side, there are only a handful of schools of that caliber:  South Loop, Lenart, Keller, and possibly Murray and Ray.  What is CPS doing to replace the 240 seats lost to south-side families with gifted and talented students?

14.  What is the status of the gifted coordinator position at South Loop?  We have never been introduced to such a person during our child’s time at South Loop, and we understand that the coordinator position is essentially being used to cover perceived staffing shortfalls elsewhere at the school.  Without a program coordinator, how do we know that the objectives of the RGC program are being met?  Moreover, without a program coordinator, who is there to ensure that the program is not being compromised in the name of what is “best” or “necessary” for the school?

15.  What are the reasons for funding Bell’s $10M expansion and Coonley’s second multi-million dollar expansion, given that Bell and Coonley both have RGCs that crowd out the neighborhood programs?   Why are their programs worth saving while South Loop’s is not?

16.  What is the purpose of the RGC in neighborhood schools? To attract the middle class in Chicago? To give children in neighborhoods without a strong program a chance? If so, then Bell and Coonley’s programs should move just like South Loop’s to a mixed income school. 

17.  Why are test scores for RGCs not disaggregated from neighborhood schools? What are those scores for South Loop, Bell, and Coonley?  

18.  What are acceptance rates and average scores of each of the RGCs and over time?

The meeting was attended by Oliver Sicat, Erick Pruit, Mike McGehee, Katie
Ellis, and Jimm Dispensa (numbers guru).  We also had our principal and
assistant principal, as well as alderwoman Pat Dowell, representatives from
Alderman Fioretti’s office, and a State Senator in attendance. We had over 100
parents (so much for their insignificant minority).

Oliver Sicat started out by giving a 5 minute rundown that can be summed up by:
“I was new, I had only been there for a few weeks, something needed to be done
right away, so we talked to the principal and this is what we did. We apparently
did not gauge the community well.”  He freely admitted there was no plan for
moving forward and opened up the floor to questions.  (Parents laughed in his
face, and not in a good way, when he said this.)

After a few questions, they admitted they had seen the list we submitted, and
they thought they had addressed most of it. Again, more laughing, and not of the
good variety.  Parents stepped up and asked the questions from the list, saving
the person who compiled the list from having to read them all.  Really, the big
take away from this is they made a decision without thinking through the
consequences, and that “all options are still on the table.”

Some points of note:

-They don’t seem to see the decision to leave vacancies due to attrition open as
a permanent situation, but they also don’t believe there will be a mass exodus
from the school either. They do not want to reopen testing this year (like Lane
last year), but they didn’t rule it out completely either.  I don’t know that
they truly understood the amount of anxiety that decision has left parents
regarding the sustainability of the phase out.  (It is going to be a drop off,
not a phase out.)

-They seemed to waffle on the permanence of the decision to phase South Loop’s
RGC out – it is open for discussion, it is  a done deal, it is open. Oliver
Sicat flip flopped on that one, often, and was called out on it by several
including 2 members of our LSC.

-They do not see this situation as similar to Lincoln/Lasalle’s issue because
Lincoln has more neighborhood children than physical space at the school.  South
Loop allegedly has the capacity *if* you remove all non-neighborhood children,
therefore it is not eligible for additional space.  They had no real answer for
why removal of the RGC was not a solution at Bell, only that because they have
so many children, they get the $$$.

-They repeatedly affirmed that they were “committed to the RGC”, but then also
stated that the money/resources follow the children. They also said that OAE
only allocates 2.5 positions to SLS now (down from 4), and those positions are
all used to fund the fine arts teachers for the fine arts magnet cluster status
of the school. What will this mean when you’ve halved the RGC? They had
no answer.  They did mention split grades, numerous times,
which doesn’t sound like a great idea.

-CPS admitted this is a long term solution (assuming valid long term
projections) and that it will do nothing to help the short term problem of 35+
kids in lower grade classrooms.  That could get worse before it gets better.

-Apparently CPS finished some sort of study and found that the return on
investment for RGCs is very high, and that they are cost effective. (Duh? How
much more tangible resources are these kids actually getting? At South Loop,
very little.)  This study is why they were reluctant to address our situation
before now.  They claimed they needed to decide if they even wanted to continue
to support RGCs before they agreed to talk with us.  They say now the
conversation centers on what role they play in the system at large – is it to
keep families in the system? to offer something else to kids? to bring schools
up to a higher level?

-There was a LOT of discussion about the dearth of SEES and decent magnet
schools on the south side, especially since these seats have been lost.  It
seems now that their numbers people have deemed these cost effective, they want
to phase in a new program to replace lost seats.  NTA is their prime candidate,
and they say that they plan to start discussions soon at schools including South
Loop and a few others who are in a similar situation (or on their way to it).

-The possibility of picking up the entire RGC and moving it was mentioned, as
was the possibility of phasing one in at the younger grades while SLS phases
theirs out. With this later option, the possibility was also raised of allowing
families to choose which school to attend.

-The biggest points of agreement for the parents are that lost seats need to be
replaced somehow (CPS agreed), and that vacancies need to be filled during the
phase out. (CPS said it is on the table, but I don’t think they truly get it.)

The meeting went for 2 hours, and had to be cut off.  CPS promised continued
dialogue.  If this meeting did nothing else, CPS and our local
administration are now aware that they did not consider the needs of the
*entire* South Loop community as it stands now.  We are optimistic that
Mr. Sicat and Ms. Ellis both agreed to open the lines of communication.

March 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm 23 comments




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