Why Are So Many Kids Leaving Neighborhood Schools?

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Much was made of Catalyst and WBEZ's reporting the news last week that charter school transfer rates were high in Chicago, but what caught my eye was the news that transfer rates for regular district schools are pretty high, too.  Roughly a fifth of CPS kids transferred out of their regular school in 2009, according to an internal CPS memo the reporters dug up, in addition to over 500 kids who were formally expelled.  Are neighborhood schools doing some of the same things that charter schools are accused of doing -- counseling kids out, offering parents transfer papers as an alternative to expulsion, sending kids to alternative programs or other schools?  

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  • what games if any do CPS schools play with the transfer numbers -- do they hold off on entering kids into IMPACT to make sure they're going to fit, or counsel kids to transfer so they don't have to try and expel?

  • I have seen some neighborhood elementary schools that effectively force out disabled students with significant behavioral issues at very young ages by repeated disciplinary actions. I have also seen neighborhood elementary schools counsel families of Down's syndrome students and students with significant physical disabilities enrolled at accessiable schools at the kindergarten level that their children would be better off attending another school. Rather than bringing in the CPS regional level special education staff who would lkiely want the local school to educate the student as long as possible, the school advises the family to call the region and request placement at another school that could better service their child.

    The reason some neighborhood elementary schools sometimes do these things is because they lack confidence from past experience that CPS will provide the resources necessary to appropriately educate these students and the local school will have to drain its own discretionary dollars to educate the students. Parents of these children, especially middle class parents, can become enraged over such practices and hence I become involved along with lawyers sometimes.

    By the way I have also seen neighborhood elementary schools that fight with CPS for services to keep these same types of students. One such school was Jamieson Elementary School which was led for many years by a principal who would really battle with CPS for services for his students. There are other such schools in CPS. By the way I also know of a charter school run by CICS that fought with CPS for services for one student and testified at a due process hearing against CPS opposing the transfer out of the student. Not all charter schools push out children, but many do unfortunately.

    Rod Estvan

  • The district does not need strict military schools (they don't work for students with behavior problems) nor should schools have to sacrifice a good education for the majority of students who want to learn (we all know that handful of kids in every class who destroy education for all the others). Chicago is so far behind other school districts in setting up alternative schools, and I am not sure whether it is because of some kind of denial of facts or lack of knowledge. Most districts across America know that traditional education is not good for all kids and openly and proudly make alternative schools a vital part of their district organization. Alternative schools specialize in helping students who do not "fit" in the traditional environment primarily by utilizing smaller classes, offering more individualized instruction, initiating personalized behavior management plans with tons of reinforcement and follow-through, hiring teachers that actually enjoy the challenge these students offer, providing wrap-around services, and creating a curriculum that is more geared to student interests and abilities, often with career or vocational training as the goal. These schools are good for everyone. C'mon Chicago -- get with the program. Alternative school kids love their schools and thrive in them!

  • "Cream"? raises an important issue when she/he writes:"Charter schools attract many hopeful and supportive parents. However, contrary to the accusation that IEPs are not being implemented in public schools, a number of parents enroll their children in charter schools in order to run away from evaluations and subsequent recommendations for services to address diagnoses that parents are unwilling or unable to accept."

    I have seen two families get their children admitted to charter schools as a way to avoid special education referrals in tradtional CPS schools. Legally under federal law parents have an absolute non-appealable right to reject special education placement. In one case the family did not believe that the school was effectively educating their child who attended Attucks Elem School, which has a 26% mobility rate, prior to enrolling at a charter school. I do think the family was unwilling to accept that their child had a learning disability because the school the child was attending was academically problematic.

    In the case of this child the charter school maybe waited too long before again moving to refer the student for a case study evalaution. But I think the family accepted the legitimacy of the referral at the charter because they believed the school was functional, and had tried to provide some remedial reading support for the student. Statistically the charter school was only somewhat better than Attucks, but the parent seemed to trust the charter school staff and accept the referral.

    On the other hand I have had one case where a charter school did not want to identify a student who was falling apart and had to be forced under threat of litigation to begin the evaluation process.

    Both traditional CPS schools and charter schools are significantly under funded, and I expect it will get worse. Given the overall funding situation some of the weaker charter schools with out strong fund raising could be wiped out. Traditional public schools in low income communities will be faced with the funding situation and become more and more problems. Largely middle class traditional schools, and magnet schools on the north side will be forced to lean heavily on parents to fund the schools in order to offset cuts.

    The worst is not yet behind us. For the past few years, CPS has benefited from federal stimulus funds and been somewhat shielded from state budget cuts. But stimulus funds will be running out by 2011, and Illinois could be slashing K-12 funding, and again delaying payments to CPS. Real estate values remain low, and costs continue to rise, especially the cost of medical and retirement benefits which CPS has delayed paying with the support of the Illinois General Assembly. Education funding for CPS and its charters cannot be expected to return to pre-recession levels until later in this decade, yet traditional schools and charters are being asked not only to sustain student achievement but to increase it. I don't think it will happen. CPS needs to stop creating new programs and schools that cost money. CPS needs to prepare for the worst and charter schools need to prepare to consolidate operations and increase class sizes in order to survive what may be coming.

    Rod Estvan

  • Sadly, the Chicago Now software doesn't have a Preview function.

    Errors aren't proof that one cannot write; more often, they're just keyboarding errors.

    All Illinois teachers are writing teachers, regardless of their subject area.

  • dude i go to that one

  • do any of u guys kno how to transfer uno school i go to torres but want to go to zizumbo

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