Friday AM News: Mentoring, Black History, Funding, Stereotypes

Mandatory mentoring leaves much to be desired for some novice teachers Defender
A recent University of Chicago study found that nearly 20 percent of Chicago Public Schools teachers are not participating in mandatory mentoring aimed at retaining teachers beyond their first and second year in the district.

South African Singers Perform At CPS Event
Three South Africans who were tortured and spent years imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and others performed at Kenwood Academy High School on the South Side this morning as the Chicago Public Schools kicked off its commemoration of Black History Month.

In return for more money Tribune
Educators and advocates for more school funding complain that Illinois taxpayers don't supply enough money to adequately educate elementary and high school students in this state.

Visiting Muslim teens shatter stereotypes Tribune
Youssef Ben Smail knows not to flip on a light switch after the sun goes down on a Friday. He uses one set of dishes for meat and another for dairy. And during Hanukkah the Muslim boy from Tunisia played with a dreidel and ate potato pancakes.

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  • The Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) report Keeping New Teachers (Jan 2007) that the Defender

    article discusses is an interesting report. However, it does not provide the reader with any information as to whether or not the retention rate for novice teachers in CPS is better or worse for special education teachers.

    The novice teachers are examined in multiple ways including whether or not they were former CPS graduates, their race, their educational attainment, school and classroom characteristics including percent of special education students (9% on average for novice CPS teachers which seemed low to me), and whether they were involved in new teacher induction programs. But not mentioned is whether the novice teacher held a special education teaching certificate. As readers of are aware this question has been repeatedly raised by teachers who read this blog. Most teachers who have commented on this issue have assumed that special education teachers have left the system because of the job stress at higher rates than do regular education teachers.

    The last real work done on special education teacher retention in CPS was done by Dr. Shirley A. Baugher who was an administrator for CPS Special Education staff training and development many years ago. She found that new special education teachers left the CPS at a higher rate than new regular education teachers (as I recall it was twice the rate) and that self-contained special education elementary school teachers had the highest turnover rate of all teachers. Dr. Baugher who has now been retired for years made numerous suggestions to improve special education teacher retention that were supported by Access Living, most of which were never implemented, even though the suggestions were supported by OSS administration at the time. The reason for a lack of implmentation was that OSS was effectively powerless to implement these suggestions because they involved principals administrative authority relating to hiring and classroom assignment of new special education teachers and district wide policies defining special education teaching positions that intersect with state rules to some degree.

    Since CPS data on unfilled positions has consistently shown dramatic shortages for special education and one would of thought that the Consortium would have examined this issue it the report. In December 2005 ISBE reported that CPS had 258 unfilled special education positions. In October 2006 Access Living was provided data from CPS OSS that there were then 291 unfilled positions and CPS Board report 06-1025-RS2 declares that CPSs greatest area of teaching shortages is in special education.

    The Keeping New Teachers report does, however, provide its readers with much important information that in my opinion shows why Special Education teachers leave CPS. The first issue that the report notes is that a major factor causing novice teachers to leave schools and teaching in general is having students with behavioral problems. The number one recipient of students with extreme behavioral problems are self-contained special education teachers.

    Another part of the report shows that novice teachers are more likely to leave CPS or schools if they hold advanced degrees and hence are more marketable. Special education teachers who do not even have Masters Degrees are highly marketable because of the statewide special education teacher shortage.

    I was very disappointed that the Consortium on Chicago School Research did not disaggregate data for special education teachers.

    Rodney Estvan

    Access Living of Metro Chicago

  • Dear Looking for advice,

    Having been both a teacher and a parent of a CPS student who had a disability just by what you have written I would have wanted you to teach my child. Having said that I would also have to say as a teacher we all have to save ourselves sometimes.

    Being a special education boat rocker in CPS is not considered always a bad thing outside of Chicago. In fact I know of special education teachers that for example testified against CPS at due process hearings that eventually left the system and were welcomed in the suburbs. But bad situations also happen out there and you can find yourself in conflict with these districts just like CPS.

    While there are major special eduation funding problems across our state, CPS's FY07 special education budget cuts were off the scale compared to what took place elsewhere in the state. On one level maybe CPS as a school district does not deserve you and other honest special education teachers, on another level CPS students with disabilities do need you and many more teachers like you who are willing to defend the legal rights of students. That is the best advise I can give you. I would never criticize a CPS special education teacher who left for better conditions elsewhere, because I do understand we all have to survive this professional obsession we have with teaching kids school systems have declared failures.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living

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