ISBE Has Small Schools Fever

I still don't understand the sudden and belated ISBE interest in small schools -- but read below for the press release from ISBE about the meeting held earlier today.

From ISBE:

ISBE Board Chairman Jesse Ruiz joins Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, parents and educators to highlight advantages of Small Schools concept

Panel discussion will allow parents and educatorsto discuss benefits of Small Schools to students

CHICAGO Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz today joined Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, parents and educators for a panel discussion at the DuSable High School on Chicagos South Side, to highlight the Small Schools concept, part of Governor Blagojevichs recently unveiled plan to reform the states schools.

Small schools can provide a more focused and personalized education for students, especially those who can most benefit from such a learning environment. In small schools, parents of students who may be struggling can work more closely with teachers and administrators to design a plan to help that student, said ISBE Chairman Ruiz.

"The governors funding plan includes support for some very strong education initiatives, including small schools and identity schools. These are ideas that deserve a full and open discussion of how they benefit students, said CPS CEO Duncan.

Last May, Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled a bold new education plan aimed at reversing 25 years of chronic underfunding in the states public schools.

The Governors plan will build on four consecutive budgets that have invested record amounts in Illinois schools, by implementing initiatives including: full day kindergarten and universal preschool; funding new school construction; creating Small Schools and Identity Schools; helping school districts regularly replace outdated textbooks; extending the school year for underachieving schools; performance pay for teachers; increased takeovers of failing districts; funding after school tutoring for underachieving students; helping schools afford special education teachers; increasing parent involvement; increasing district consolidations; improving libraries; more and better mentoring for principals and superintendents; helping schools afford new technology; and reducing school district administrative costs.

In the past four budgets, the governor has boosted education funding to more than $3.8 billion, the largest increase by an administration in Illinois history; raised high school graduation standards, created universal preschool and cut red tape.

The reform plan unveiled by the Governor builds on that progress, focusing on five areas vital to improving schools and helping kids learn, including:

* A good place to learn;
* Strong teachers and administrators;
* Quality materials;
* Enough time to learns; and
* Schools with the financial resources to get the job done.

A key aspect of the Governor plan will be developing more Small Schools. Small schools have reported better attendance rates, stronger academic achievement, lower dropout rates, greater participation in activities, less vandalism and violence, and particularly strong academic results for low-income students and minority students.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that violent acts and drug abuse are far less common in small schools. Less than 8 percent of urban small schools report incidents of serious violent crime (physical attack or fight with a weapon) while 26.5 percent of urban schools with an enrollment of 1,000 students or more reported such crimes.

Research by the North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL) shows that the most effective small schools share common features such as clear goals and standards to help focus curriculum, learning, and instruction; a distinctive educational approach; strong outreach to and involvement with students' families; an orientation toward active learning in the classroom and in the community; extensive partnerships with community and business groups (which might include co-location); regular monitoring of student achievement using multiple measures to refine and improve schools; and involvement of students and educators by choice.

A national study by Bank Street College of Education, found that small schools in Chicago Public Schools have higher attendance, fewer dropouts, fewer course failures, fewer violent incidents of discipline, along with higher teacher, student, parent, and community member satisfaction than large schools.

Small Schools have proven to be another effective opportunity for students to learn. I applaud the Chicago Public Schools for continuing to seek strategies to ensure student and teacher success in schools, said ISBE member Vinni Hall.

Filed under: The World Outside CPS

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