Dyett High School – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 Is CPS abusing probation? http://www.newstips.org/2012/02/is-cps-abusing-probation/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/02/is-cps-abusing-probation/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2012 00:26:50 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5656 The lawsuit filed last week against CPS closings and turnarounds highlights two central issues – the charge that the district is systematically neglecting neighborhood schools, and the longstanding contention that CPS uses probation to undermine local school councils.

According to the lawsuit, filed by nine LSC members with backing from the teachers union, CPS has failed to follow requirements in school code that LSCs at schools on probation be provided with plans that specify deficiencies to be corrected and with budgets targetting resources to carry out the plans. (This issue was first discussed here in November.)

According to the Tribune, CPS says they’ve “provided support to these low-performing schools over multiple years to boost student improvement.” Have they?

Tilden High, now slated for a”turnaround” by CPS, has been on probation for eight years. During that time there have been “drastic budget cuts,” amounting to a half-million dollars or more each year, according to LSC member Matthew Johnson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Drastic cuts

The school has lost English teachers, math teachers, a computer lab teacher, a librarian. It’s lost funding for its auto shop and its woodshop – leading some kids to drop out, he said.

Johnson is bitterly disappointed that CPS isn’t using a $5.4 million federal school improvement grant won by Tilden to bring in an outside partner for the school. Instead CPS is holding on to the money, in order to pay itself to replace the school’s entire staff.

Dyett High School, on probation for seven years and set to be phased out, was set up to fail from the start, as Matt Farmer has argued – established in 1999 to take struggling students cast off from King Prep, and seriously destablized with a new set of students when Englewood High was closed in 2005.

Even so, says LSC member Jitu Brown, the school worked with community partners to establish a restorative justice program that produced the largest reduction in violent incidents in any city school – and a college readiness program that produced one of the district’s largest increases in college admissions.

But when private grants supporting the program expired, CPS turned down the LSC’s request to take up the ball, said Brown, who’s also education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

The school has lost four teachers in the past two years, in addition to its assistant principal and a counselor; there’s now one counselor for 300 students. “When Dyett improves student culture, [CPS doesn’t] support the program; when Dyett’s scores start to go up, they take away teachers and counselors,” Brown said.

Probation: remediation or political control?

Probation was intended to be a program of remediation, but critics have long maintained that CPS used it as a political tool to centralize power. It’s pretty clear they haven’t used it to improve educational outcomes.

Parents United for Responsible Education made the case in a 2004 report, which showed that CPS went beyond the provisions of the Illinois School Code regarding probation, using it to take control over school improvement plans and school budgets away from LSCs.

The law limits the school board’s role to identifying deficiencies at the school which must be addressed in the school improvement plan and approving budgets with expenditures targeted to correct those deficiencies, according to the report.

“Few LSCs have ever seen the corrective action plan which is supposed to be guiding schools” to help them get off probation, PURE reported in 2004. That’s exactly what LSC members are saying today. (Ten years ago, CPS stopped attending advisory committee meetings where these concerns were being aired, PURE reported.)

Probation was one of two main methods of getting rid of democratic school governance, according to the report. The other was establishing new schools without LSCs under Renaissance 2010.

That strategy also violated the law, according to PURE. State law required LSCs to remain in place when schools were converted in buildings that had LSCs. PURE and LSC members sued CPS on that issue, but the case was dismissed for lack of standing, and its merits were never considered.

Research has consistently shown that most LSCs function well, that they provide accountability, contribute to academic improvement, raise money and building community partnerships. Significantly, most principals strongly support them. The low-income schools that have shown steady progress over sustained periods have LSCs.

Central office interventions have fallen far short of that record. Renaissance 2010 is recognized as a failure, and very expensive turnarounds have produced results that haven’t matched the hype. The rhetoric about “putting children first” is brilliant but unconvincing.

The old provisions of the school code dealing with probation, like the new provisions on facilities planning, are designed to foster communication and shared responsibility. If CPS has been ignoring its legal mandates – if the district has failed to provide help to struggling schools — it should be held accountable.

And since there’s precious little public accountability under mayoral control and top-down reform, maybe the courts – and the legislature, too — need to step in.

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School closings, the law, and alternatives http://www.newstips.org/2011/11/school-closings-the-law-and-alternatives/ Tue, 29 Nov 2011 21:08:50 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4981 School closings to be announced by CPS on Thursday—expected to be unprecedented in scope — are the first under a new state school facilities planning law, intended to bring transparency and accountability to decisions over school buildings.

But does the school district’s new guidelines for school actions, which must be finalized by November 30, abide by the spirit of the law?  Many of its proponents – and some of its legislative sponsors – say no.

Meanwhile community groups continue to call on CPS to work with communities to improve struggling schools, rather than imposing top-down strategies that have no record of success.

“I don’t see them as being really ready to adhere to SB 630,” said State Representative Esther Golar, a member of the legislative task force which developed the bill.   The legislation “was intended to require CPS to work as partner with parents, teachers, and the community.”

She adds: “That’s something they haven’t been doing….And they’re still saying we’re going to run the schools the way we want to, and you don’t have any say-so.”

“It’s the same failed policies,” said Dwayne Truss, co-chair of the Austin Community Action Council, established by CPS.  “They just want to open up buildings for more charter schools.”

‘Too vague’

The guidelines for actions are so broad that they leave nearly a quarter of CPS schools open to action, circumventing SB 630’s attempt to encourage transparency in school closing decisions and limit the administration’s ability to act in an arbitrary manner, supporters of the law say.

The guidelines are “too vague,” said Golar.

By using school performance and probationary status as the basic standard for school actions, CPS relies on statistically questionable measurements – and risks exposing its own failure to meet obligations to schools on probation, said Don Moore of Designs for Change.

The number of schools on probation, now amounting to 42 percent of CPS schools, mainly reflects “erratic changes in the CPS probation policy from year to year,” said Moore.  “A large number of Chicago’s probation schools are scoring very well and carrying out good practices,” he said.

Probation standards are currently set to include nearly all schools with significant low-income enrollment, he said.  Schools making steady progress can end up on probation if they slip a couple of points one year.  Due to complex (and controversial) “trend” score calculations, some schools on probation actually have higher scores than schools that aren’t.

Nor does the performance policy account for many challenges faced by neighborhood schools.  Truss points to two Austin schools:  Louis Armstrong Elementary and Plato contract school, located nearby.  Armstrong has 27 percent of its students getting special education, versus 11.4 percent at Plato; the mobility rates are 24.6 percent versus 8.5.  “And Armstrong takes in third graders that Plato doesn’t want,” he said — just in time for tests.

Charter schools, most of which have scores comparable to neighborhood schools, are exempt from the district’s performance policy.

Schools on probation neglected

Moore underscores a common complaint by critics of the guidelines:  “CPS has consistently failed to carry out its own obligations under the probation policy.”

“The schools on probation, what help have they received from CPS?” asked State Reprentative Cynthia Soto, who co-chairs the facilities task force, talking with the Tribune.

At a recent hearing on the school action guidelines held by CPS on the West Side, parents at Marconi Elementary argued CPS has never addressed the problems which led to probation for the school, Catalyst reported.

“The school’s air conditioning is broken, they don’t have a gym, there’s no computer lab, no science lab, ceilings are falling in – there are a lot of issues,” said West Side activist Carol Johnson, who works with Truss in the Progressive Action Coalition for Education.  “CPS officials did a walk-through, they have a list of everything that parents said they needed, but they haven’t done anything.”

“If you’re going to turn around a school and then put in resources, that doesn’t seem right,” she said.  “If you’re going to give resources, do it before you close the school.”

CPS has failed to follow the mandates of state law governing probation – a possible ground for opposing school closings based on probationary status, said Moore.

State law requires that schools placed on probation – under which control over school improvement plans, budgets, and principal hiring is taken from local school councils and given to the central administration – must get a plan from the school district outlining specific steps to be taken to correct identified shortcomings, with specific expenditures in the school budget targeting educational and operational deficiencies.

Supporters of schools facing closing could file freedom of information requests for documentation that these steps have been taken, Moore suggests.  CPS failure to comply would constitute grounds for independent hearing officers to determine that the district hasn’t met legal requirements to close the school.

What about charter performance?

The school action guidelines include a range of factors, and Golar said the legislative task force has written CPS raising a number of questions and concerns.

Some of these include: how do they measure student safety?  Are there any specific criteria for “co-locating” schools, or is that decision entirely up to the whim of CPS?  Will school actions result in smaller class sizes?  Why was the previous policy of exempting schools with new principals dropped?

And a big one for her:  why are charters and turnarounds not subject to the same performance requirements?

Golar has been pushing for accountability for charters since she was elected in 2006.  “Charter schools have the same issues traditional schools have, yet they don’t have the same performance measures,” she said.  “They have all these computer labs, longer school days, better books, all the things parents are asking for, and with all that, they’re still failing.”

It’s quite possible for students from closing schools to end up at charters that are performing no better, CTU has argued.

A neighborhood agenda

There’s an alternative.  Instead of disinvesting from and closing neighborhood schools, community organizations recently proposed an agenda to invest in and improve them.

It’s a comprehensive program – the proposal for college preparation and readiness begins with pre-school for all and full-day kindergarten in every school.  It’s based on the successes of community organizations that have worked in schools for years.

The agenda proposes that all neighborhood schools follow the community school model.  It includes programs like parent mentors in the classroom, smaller class sizes, arts education and recess, restorative justice and mental health services, local teacher development and improved bilingual education.  It stresses partnerships with community groups and community governance, including local school councils with decision-making power at every school, and support and training for LSCs.

In Bronzeville, community groups have worked for two years on a plan for Dyett High School and five elementary schools that feed into it.  Dyett would  become a Community High School of Green Technology and Leadership, and the elementary schools would focus variously on math, science, engineering, languages and global citizenship.

There would be curriculum alignment throughout the “village,” says Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, along with health centers, a social worker and nurse, social-emotional and leadership programming, restorative justice, safety patrols, and pre-K for all.

The groups have called for a moratorium on school closings in Bronzeville, which has been hard hit by closings over the past decade, and which has a large number of schools which meet the new criteria.

“We’ve had ten years of closings, consolidations, and turnarounds, and they have not helped our students,” said Andrea Lee of Grand Boulevard Federation.

Brown points out that Dyett was under-resourced when it was turned into a high school to serve students who couldn’t get into the new King College Prep;  a couple years later it was “completely destabilized” when Englewood High was closed and students were sent to Dyett.

Constant destabilization

“We have to defend ourselves against our own school district,” which is “setting up our schools to fail,” he said.

“We’re looking at schools being constantly destabilized with models that just don’t work – just moving children around – and no accountability when they don’t work,” he said.

There’s evidence that the alternative strategy works.  Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s community schools are nationally acclaimed, and in a high-poverty, high-crime area on the Southwest Side, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council has worked for eight years in schools and seen steady improvement in  achievement levels.

BPNC’s full-service community schools provide afterschool academic support for struggling kids and homework help for others, followed by two hours of enrichment activity – music, art, drama, sports, “everything you can think of,” said Patrick Brosnan.

There’s ESL, GED, citizenship, and computer classes for parents, aimed at assisting them in supporting their children in school. There’s parent and student leadership development.

Each school has a resource coordinator and a social worker.  Funding comes from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and other public and private sources.

“It’s building ownership over the school and trying to promote the school as a center of the community,” Brosnan said.  “We’ve seen tremendous results in schools that have a lot of challenges.”

Soto has announced the legislature’s Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force will hold a hearing on CPS school actions on Thursday, December 1 at 10 a.m. at the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle.

The Chicago Teachers Union is holding a teach-in on stopping  school closings for teachers, parents, and community groups on Saturday, December 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel.

Grassroots success at Dyett High http://www.newstips.org/2008/12/grassroots-success-at-dyett-high/ Tue, 02 Dec 2008 17:01:10 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=349 [UPDATED] As CPS struggles with low graduation rates, a program at Dyett High School guided by the Grand Boulevard Federation — and led by students — has succeeded in doubling the school’s graduation rate, and raising the college attendance rate by 41 percent.

GBF’s “Education To Success” program, aimed at increasing graduation rates for African-American males, will be featured at a Chicago Urban League forum (Tuesday, December 2, 6 p.m., 4510 S. Michigan) as part of the League’s campaign for high school equity.

It was student ownership of efforts to address discipline issues and promote college preparation that helped make the difference, said Andrea Lee of GBF.

A peer jury program based on principles of restorative justice — with the goal of preventing students from dropping out due to discipline problems — grew out of discussions led by students. And instead of having a few school staff members trained in the process, thirty Dyett students — including kids with histories of disciplinary problems — underwent three days of intensive training.

The students got to name their organization — Justice Youth Advisors, or J-YA — and they got a Peace Room which they decorated and furnished as a venue for peer juries and a place where kids can go if they need to cool down.

J-YA almost doubled in size as students who were referred to the peer jury asked to become involved, Lee said. And the numbers were dramatic — a 46 percent decrease in misconduct reports and an 82 percent decrease in in-school arrests.

“Dyett became the poster school for peer juries,” Lee said — and Dyett students were asked to conduct trainings at other Chicago high schools; the Milwaukee schools paid for a group of Dyett students to go there to train educators and students.

The opportunity to really develop public speaking and leadership skills was key to inspiring students to raise their aspirations, Lee believes. Efforts to develop those kinds of skills “are mostly missing in neighborhood schools,” she said.

Now GBF is helping to establish a student group to promote the importance of college — again, not aiming at the school’s top students. The group Men At Work (which has come to include young women too) meets in a new college and career lab and has attracted widespread involvement from other students.

While CPS has the goal of each high school student applying to five colleges, GBF found many points beyond submitting an application where the process breaks down. “We found out a lot of kids don’t know how to do the research to determine if a school is a good fit,” Lee said. “We found a number of students who were accepted but couldn’t afford to attend” and “didn’t know what to do to get financial aid.”

So the group goes step by step through the entire process — what is an appropriate college; what questions to ask on a college tour; role playing interviews; how to get a letter of recommendation — and what to do when you get an acceptance letter.

One issue that has emerged was the reluctance of many low-income parents to send financial information necessary for aid applications. So GBF and its Peer Parent Education Network are working with parents to allay concerns.

One result is that Tuskegee University is reserving a dozen seats for qualified graduates of Dyett — and is paying to fly a group of Dyett students to visit the school in January.

Students who need community college to get their grade point average up develop a plan to continue to a four-year school. Students who may find themselves for the first time among very few African-Americans are prepared for what to expect. Families where no one has been to college are prepped to support a child who calls home depressed or homesick. Plans include finding a mentor at college and having a college-educated mentor back home.

“The culture has shifted” at Dyett, said Lee, citing the strong support of principal Jacquelyn Lemon, along with the focus of program coordinator Cornelius Ellen on building trust and relationships with youth, and the help of CPS and several community partners.

Lemon and Ellen will join three Dyett students, including a special education student who is going on to college, at the Chicago Urban League forum, speaking about barriers to graduation and college for African American males — and how they can be overcome.

“There’s a horrific graduation problem in Chicago,” said Leslie Drish of the Chicago Urban League. “We wanted to look at one grassroots organization that’s had remarkable success with graduation rates in their school and talk about how to replicate their efforts.” Another forum on the subject is planned for January 13.

Strengthening LSCs http://www.newstips.org/2008/04/strengthening-lscs-2/ Wed, 09 Apr 2008 18:23:27 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=146 The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization is hosting a legislative hearing on strengthening LSCs this Saturday, April 12 starting at 11:15 a.m. at Kennicott Park, 4434 S. Lake Park.

KOCO and allies successfully pushed for passage of a resolution last year which declared that the Illinois House of Representatives “support[s] the empowerment of Local School Councils as local, publicly-elected decision-making bodies” and authorized subject matter hearings on the needs of LSCs.

LSC members from across the city will testify Saturday about why LSCs are needed, how they work in particular schools, and how they could be better supported.

LSCs bring “community wisdom” — a grassroots perspective that is often lacking from CPS decision-making, said Jitu Brown, KOCO’s education organizer and a member of the Dyett High School LSC.

Brown cites the disastrous transfer of students from Englewood High to other South Side schools, disregarding community concerns about security and gang issues. “Dyett exploded,” he recalls. “Hyde Park exploded. Who do you hold accountable for that?

“The school district doesn’t understand community dynamics,” Brown said.

He also points to the closing of successful neighborhood schools which “should serve as models” for a system with a huge dropout rate.

More fundamentally, “As people of color we have to be sure there’s public accountability because there’s a demonstrated record of our not receiving the resources or the quality of services that we’re supposed to get, because of our color,” Brown said. “CPS has a disastrous record in terms of equity in distribution of resources.”

Some schools have a laptop for each student, others one or two computers in each classroom, he said. “Why is it OK that Harper High has to use discretionary funds to hire teachers and security guards, and doesn’t have money for a band or debate team or school newspaper, and Walter Payton College Prep is a world-class facility? Why is that acceptable?”

When Brown joined the Dyett LSC is 2003, “there were seven books in its library,” he said. CPS had made a high school of a former middle school “without giving it the resources to be a high school.” The LSC there has worked to get resources and “make the school parent and community friendly,” he said. Brown contributes a life skills program for male students that is successful and growing; next week a group is visiting UIC.

The relationship between CPS and LSCs “has to be a partnership,” Brown said. “I can’t develop a mathematics curriculum, but I know what good teaching looks like, I know what high expectations look like.”

Instead, parents and community “are more tolerated than collaborated with,” he said. “CPS has a belief that parent and community involvement should take direction from the school district.”

There’s a culture exemplified by “the way [school board president] Rufus Williams talks with such arrogance and disdain about parental involvement or LSCs,” Brown said.

KOCO’s education committee, the Mid South Education Association, includes LSC and community members along with administrators and teachers, and sponsors back-to-school rallies, forums and roundtables, as well as teacher trainings on topics like black history and youth leadership development. MSEA also has a group of parents who train LSC members, going beyond the CPS program to cover the history of Chicago school reform from a community perspective, racism and education, and school funding issues.

A task force of school reform groups will compile testimony from Saturday’s hearing and shape legislative proposals out of it, Brown said.