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CPS pressed on discipline reform

A City Council resolution will call on CPS to implement school discipline reforms, and students, parents, and community and faith leaders will release a report showing that a restorative justice approach could make schools safer and save the school district money.

The High Hopes Campaign will hold a press conference in the main entrance hall of City Hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14.  Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) will discuss a resolution he will introduce Wednesday’s council meeting, and students and parents who are implementing restorative justice in Chicago schools will describe their experiences.

CPS added restorative justice to its student code of conduct in 2006 but has never implemented the approach system-wide. The approach uses peer juries and peace circles to improve school safety and culture by holding students accountable for their actions and supporting them to get on track.

The report presents findings that restorative justice is more effective at improving student behavior and achievement than punitive discipline methods, including suspensions, expulsions, and arrests.  It reviews best practices and makes recommendation on what’s needed in terms of funding and staffing, as well as monitoring and evaluation. [Read the report.]

CPS could save money now spent on having police officers and large numbers of security guards in schools – and on expulsions and arrests — by focusing on approaches that improve behavior, said Ana Mercado of Blocks Together.

The High Hopes Campaign (it stands for Healing Over the Punishment of Expulsions and Suspensions) includes Access Living, Community Renewal Society, Enlace Chicago, Organization of the North East, Blocks Together, Trinity UCC, Southwest Youth Collaborative, and POWER-PAC.

Last week the U.S. Department of Education released findings confirming that African-American students in CPS face harsher discipline than other students.  It’s time “to figure out what’s working and what’s not,” said Secretary Arne Duncan at the time.

Orr students have some questions for Bill Gates

Chicago students want to contact Bill Gates to make sure he knows how his money is being spent.

Gates’ foundation is giving $10.3 million to a plan to “turn around” two high schools and nearby elementary schools.

Orr students gathered outside the Board of Education meeting this morning pointed out that just two years ago Gates gave $21 million to fund curriculum improvements at 14 schools including Mose Vines Preparatory Academy on the Orr campus.

The “turnaround” is the third central office intervention at Orr, which has controlled the school for many years without much success.

> Read the rest of this entry »

School closings 3

It turns out CPS isn’t closing Andersen School — it’ s just changing boundaries.

In a January 24 press release, CPS listed Andersen among “under-enrolled” schools to be closed and phased out.  A January 23 report to the Board of Education (available at the Catalyst blog) listed Andersen utilization at 47 percent, just below the 50 percent mark it defined as under-enrolled.  That was the figure Arne Duncan cited in a letter to Andersen parents.

Andersen parents, teachers, and supporters argued that rate didn’t take into account legal limits on class size for the school’s several programs for special education.  They said that applying those limits put the school at 58 percent utilization.

At a February 15 hearing CPS sidestepped this issue — and its guidelines on school closing policy — by announcing it was phasing out the school as a boundary change.

That changes the standard that must be met, said Rod Estvan of Access Living.  Rather than showing underutilization, CPS can change boundaries simply to “maximize utilization” at one of two buildings.

Estvan testified Friday that adding in an autism program and pull-out rooms, “a rational approach to space utilization that takes into consideration State Law would give Andersen School a utilization rate somewhere around 65 to 68%.”  That’s right in the middle of the range CPS terms “efficient utilization.”

Estvan noted that students with disabilities at Andersen tested 15 percent higher than the CPS average in reading and nearly 20 percent higher in math.

“On the face of this data Access Living believes that Andersen School should in fact be given some type of achievement award for the effective reading and math instruction the school appears to be providing to students with disabilities, instead of being closed,” he said.

“It’s pretty slick,” Estvan commented today.  “If they can use this standard, they can write schools out of existence all over the place.”



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