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More questions: charters, partners, and planning

(This is the second of two posts – part one looks at questions for the Commission on School Utilization including enrollment numbers and savings from closing schools.)

 

Mayor Emanuel, CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett and utilization commission chair Frank Clark have taken the position that “right-sizing” the district has nothing to do with the district’s expansion of charter schools.

One has to do with declining enrollment and snowballing deficits, the other with choice and quality, according to this view.

The argument would work better if CPS’s enrollment and utilization numbers held up; if school closings actually saved significant amounts of money; and if charters consistently offered quality rather than undermining most parents’ first choice – a quality neighborhood school.

Even then, though, it’s hard to separate the proliferation of charters from enrollment declines at neighborhood schools.

[Based on revelations in Tuesday’s Tribune, the separation of school closings and charter expansions is purely strategic; when officials say they are unrelated, they are lying.]

 

A hundred new schools

In the past decade, as CPS lost 30,000 students, it’s opened more than 100 new schools with space for nearly 50,000 additional students, according to a new report from CTU.

While CPS closed scores of schools during that period, the number of schools in the district went from 580 to over 680.

“To the extent excess capacity exists, the main driver is the district’s aggressive charter proliferation campaign,” according to the report.  “The current ‘utilization crisis’ has been manufactured largely to justify the replacement of neighborhood schools by privatized charters.”

Throughout Renaissance 2010, “there was no facilities plan” and facilities decisions were “ad hoc and haphazard,” according to CTU’s report.  Adding to the confusion was the practice of approving charter schools without specifying their location, and some charters’ practice of repeatedly relocating their schools.

“CPS has opened charters haphazardly, without considering how they affect nearby schools,” according to a Sun Times editorial.

As Catalyst points out, new charter schools have been concentrated in the community areas with the largest number of schools listed as “underutilized” by CPS.  North Lawndale, with the most schools now rated as underutilized, has gotten more charter schools than any other community.

In general, those schools aren’t outperforming neighborhood schools, according to Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance.

 

A new round of failure

While school closings and new charter schools have been concentrated in low-income African American communities, these students are actually better served by neighborhood schools, according to CTU, citing reading score gains 10 percent higher in traditional schools than in charters in such areas.

Meanwhile students in closing schools have suffered mobility-related academic setbacks, faced transportation and security issues, and landed in worse-performing schools – while achievement rates in receiving schools have been adversely impacted.

It looks like the very students whom CPS has failed for a generation – whose schools have been systematically neglected and underresourced – are once again being failed.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Whittier, the Tribune is duped

The Chicago Tribune wants to hold Whittier parents to account for the costs of delaying a new library at the Pilsen elementary school.

There’s another way of looking at it.  You could also hold CPS leadership to account for commencing the project in a manner that seemed designed to foment a confrontation.

You might even ask about contracts being let before the Board of Education approved the project.

Read the rest of this entry »

Logan Square Schools Celebrate Success

An “Education Exposition” on May 16 will highlight the success of community and parent involvement in ten Logan Square schools.

A range of parent involvement, afterschool and community learning programs have helped double test scores over the last seven years in schools partnering with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. Last year LSNA won the Leadership for Changing the World award from the Ford Foundation for building community schools which are a “national model.”

On Tuesday, May 16, starting at 6 p.m., 500 Logan Square residents are expected to join elected officials and education experts at Monroe Elementary School, 2640 N. Monticello, for small-group tours and presentations of adult education and tutoring programs along with martial arts, music, dance and drama demonstrations by students.

Parent involvement programs — including Parent Mentors, Literacy Ambassadors, Parent Tutors and Grow Your Own teachers — will also be featured, along with the Kelvyn Park High School attendance team. The group of mothers who reach out to families of truant students helped Kelvyn Park win the city’s most improved attendance record last October.

Over 130 mothers and fathers work daily in Logan Square schools as parent mentors, and hundreds of families participate in literacy and health programs, adult education, school leadership training and community development programs in schools partnering with LSNA as community learning centers. Dozens of parents are studying to become bilingual education teachers.

Logan Square’s Nueva Generation teacher preparation program is the model for the Grow Your Own program, an effort to develop teachers of color in low-income communities throughout the state. The state’s recently-approved budget includes $3 million for Grow Your Own programs in a ten-year effort to add 1,000 teachers in low-income minority schools where teacher quality has lagged and turnover rates are high.



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