In Absentia

Today's education news: The Tribune has a big package of stories about just how frequently and chronically CPS students are absent. There's a little more about school closings-- Soto says she doesn't know, Reuters writes up the Dyett debate, plus a planned prostest.  Plus some school food stories and a look back at Byrd-Bennett in Cleveland.


F in attendance for city schools Tribune: A Tribune investigation has found that nearly 32,000 Chicago students in public elementary schools — or roughly 1 in 8 — missed four weeks or more of class during the 2010-11 year, as the cash-strapped district does little to stem a devastating problem.

Report: Roughly 1 of 8 Chicago Public Schools students missed 4 weeks or ... The Republic: Nearly 32,000 elementary school students inChicago Public Schools — roughly 1 in 8 — missed four weeks or more of class in the 2010-11 school year, according to a published report Sunday.

Small town could offer anti-truancy model for Chicago Tribune: While the Chicago Public Schools lack a sustained and focused effort to combat elementary-level truancy, school districts across the state are finding ways to fight the problem and having success, one child at a time.

City Schools Graded "F" in Attendance, Report NBC Chicago: The report provides new insight into a school system plagued by turnovers and a strike, all in one year. Currently, the new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been working on a list of schools that will close.

An empty-desk epidemic Chicago Tribune: Starting as early as kindergarten, tens of thousands of children in Chicago public schools are missing so many days of class that their educations are in peril. But little is being done to get them back in school


Groups to protest CPS closings Monday Chicago Tribune: Chicago Public Schools officials announced this month that they will ask state legislators for an extension on when school closings will be announced, from Dec. 1 to March 31. CPS has said they need the extra time to engage the public.

State lawmakers, school leaders in talks about delay in school closings news WBEZ: The head of Chicago Public Schools wants more time to figure out which schools to close next year. But first she has to get state lawmakers to agree to the extra time. State Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) says she has not yet agreed to extend the December 1 deadline for announcing school closings.

Chicago School Closing Plan Ignites Backlash Over Dyett High Huffington Post: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks, accompanied by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green).


As Barbara Byrd-Bennett takes over the Chicago schools, a look back at her ... Plain Dealer
As the news breaks that onetime Cleveland school CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett would take over her third troubled big-city school district, Chicago's, here's a selection of stories from The Plain Dealer's files from her busy and sometimes controversial tenure.

Union-Backed Ballot Measures Mostly Fared Well Truth-Out: The Chicago Teachers Union, already facing a battle with the city over members' own underfunded pension, mobilized members to vote no, but early on, people involved were confident the amendment would fail. CTU Legislative Director Stacy Davis Gates ...

No Gatorade, whole milk at Chicago Public Schools? Sun-Times: Gatorade, vitamin drinks and even whole milk would be barred from sale in Chicago Public Schools during school hours under a new “Healthy Snack and Beverage” policy up for a school board vote this week. Selling chocolate bars for school fund-raisers ..



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  • At least the Trib doesn’t blame the teachers for this yet.
    But attendance is a lot bigger problem than the story
    Suggests .Attendance officers manipulate the absence
    rate all the time. One example is marking every student
    as present on days like the day before Christmas break
    when you only have about 40% in school.
    What the paper does not talk about is the pressure to
    Pass these wondering students .Where else but CPS would
    principals, counselors, parents, even ministers try and
    intimidate classroom teachers to pass little peter even
    when he has 20, 40, even 80 days out of class.
    Never mentioned is the fact the kid has learned nothing
    But the teacher is the mean, often called raciest, SOB
    standing in the way of the student.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    The principal at our school has been trying to pressure teachers to change attendance from as early as the first day of school. She cites numerous discrepancies from period to period essentially blaming teachers for attendance anomalies. She is unwilling to admit that students cut class out any and all doors of the school, frequently cut in the lunchroom, in classes with substitutes, or even in the halls. She refuses to formulate even the most basic policies and procedures for attendance, rather heaping the blame on her teachers. When teachers pointed out numerous issues with attendance that need to be fixed at the administrative level, she spun the argument so it appeared to be a matter of teachers simply refusing to take proper attendance.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Teachers do make a lot of attendance errors. I worked as an attendance coordinator, and you would be surprised. On the other hand, I got tired of the joke of letters that we had to send out and the adjudication process, which is basically a "judge" saying to a parent, "Get your kid to school or you'll come back so I can say it again".

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Right!-for some reason, teachers do make IMPACT student attendance mistakes-with the paper system, you caught mistakes by the end of month. Still not enough mistakes for the sorry state of CPS student attendance.
    FACE network emplyoees could help with this. Why not?
    (The adjudication process is gone.--waste--a family on it 3 times in 3 years, attended 1session, never showed again.-kid never came to school, stayed home, smoked with mom.)

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Do you really believe that clerks scrutinized every line of arcane symbols used on the old attendance rosters? I not disparaging the hard work of Attendance Clerks, I'm just saying there is no way those crazy old records were thoroughly checked.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Yes-they were--the clerks could NOT submit the final monthly attendance numbers unless they balanced from month to month. If they did not balance for each previous month, the clerk had to do it all over and only then would CPS accept the document. Othewise-not balanced, no attendance credit.
    Funny how with 21C tech--teachers make mistakes on IMPACT.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Ahh, the old blue books. Brings back memories. The principal may have a point, but the fact is we're talking about a drop in the bucket if we're talking about one school. We need truancy officers back.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Not only did the school attendance have to balance each division teacher had to fill out a monthly summary which had to balance with your blue the end of the year The teacher was the original scribe for attendance.
    Each division teacher kept their own record which served as the basis for each day. if on the day before Christmas vacation you had 18 kids absent that is what you recorded.
    impact changed the landscape Teachers still send in reports but they can be manipulated ,and often are
    to reflect a higher number of students present..

  • In reply to district299reader:

    FACE-family and community engagement-wating to know why CPS FACE employees do not go to student homes and find out why the parents are not coming to school. So simple for CPS to do--or are these positions political?

  • In reply to rbusch:

    I would argue that the attendance is far worse than the Tribune reports, based on what you describe. As long as the CPS performance policy assigns points for attendance, there is going to be a serious issue of attendance fraud!

  • In reply to teach4chicago:

    Why can't CPS network FACE employees do home visits of truant students? such a simple solution for money already beign spent. Why can't CPS- FACE do this?

  • Stop putting this on the schools--schools call, send out letters, visit homes and get nothing and no help from CPS--none! We even have police to go out--there is NOTHING, but making them go to court, that will get these neglectful parents get their kids to school--we call and 'parent' say, 'I too tired to get her there, she has to watch the baby, if my kid does not feel like coming to school then she can stay home.' DCFS is no help either. And let us be factual-though NOT PC--how many parents pull their kids out for weeks to go to Mexico=-weeks; then just bring them back to school like nothing happnend.

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    In reply to district299reader:

    I completely agree withy you. And these are the same set of parents who want to come in and complain that ther kid is failing when they don;t do homework and don;t try at all. In fact these parents demand "extra help" for the kid - HOW ABOUT TRYING TO BEGIN WITH! These paretns don't deserve extra help - if their free breakfeasts and lunches, free medicaid, free welfare were shut OFF if they were not responsible parents and at least TRIED to raise productive members of society - we might get some where. Instead our mayor PAYS them to show up to pick up their kids report cards with $25 gift cards - this jsut feeds the problem. This city sickens me sometimes.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "how many parents pull their kids out for weeks to go to Mexico'

    It's not just Mexico. Every year I have at least one student who has to go to Poland for part of the year. And lately, we've seen it of those from other East European countries, as well as the Palestinian Territories.

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    As school attendance goes down CPS takes it out on the principals and the principals takes it out on the teachers--this is stricktly parents' fault. Watch, as teacher take their sick days since they cannot bank more than 40, this will be the principals' fault too.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Most teachers will take their three Personal Business Days each year now that they do not convert into sick days. Even the "strictly by-the-book" types will take their 3 PBDs since everybody has "personal business" of some type- it isn't like you are taking a sick day to extend a weekend.

    Teachers can only accrue up to 40 sick days. Expect to see many more sick days off for teachers come 2014-2015 and beyond.

  • The trib and others write about lack of student attendance every other year--and it dose not change a thing. CPS has a FACE person in EVERY network--why do they not visit homes and get the kids to school? FACE people will go “not my job," yet they are paid well to just sit in the network offices to just take calls for thier chief. Again, why are not the FACE employees going out and visiting homes and getting these kids to school? The best time to get to the home or apartment is during the school day. Teachers are teaching during the day so do not make the teachers do this!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    CPS and the Board don't really care about actual attendance, rather they care about the appearance of attendance. Numbers that say "butts were in seats" equals dollars. Data is of utmost import, accuracy is not.

    It is a lot easier to heap responsibility on teachers and principals to make it appear that attendance has increased than it is to actually do the hard work of changing a culture that says absence and tardiness is ok.

  • All parents with school-aged children who get welfare and or food stamps should be required to work four hours a day in heir child's school to get this benefit.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    There already is a work requirement for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which replaced Aid to Framilies with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997. TANF sets forth the following basic work requirements in order to qualify for benefits:
    1. Recipients (with few exceptions) must work as soon as they are job ready or no later than two years after coming on assistance.
    2. Single parents are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities 35 or 55 hours a week, depending upon circumstances.
    3. Failure to participate in work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of benefits to the family.

    TANF is run in Illinois by the Department of Human Services. To see the rules for these parents in detail go to:

    Some recipients do their work requirements in community based settings, CPS has not offered DHS the option to place recipients to work in schools. So it is not an issue of requiring parent TANF recipients to work in schools, it is an issue of CPS wanting to administer such a program and it does not want to do so. Part of the reason for this reluctance on the part of CPS has to do with criminal background checks and the skill levels of TANF recipients as far as I can tell. In Illinois a young parent under age 20 who has not completed their high school education must participate in Teen Parent Services.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod-thanks for this info. Who monitors if the parents work? We have seen little if no monitoring of work requirments and even some cheating in this program. In 10 years, we have never seen a parent taken off these programs. If working to get these funds at CPS is stopped by CPS due to a background checks---these parents are allowed to raise children when they cannot pass this? As for skill-it does not take much skill to help get the students seated for lunch or in/out of the school at students entrance of dismissal.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Each TANF recipient is supposed to have a DHS assigned counslor. My understanding is that their case loads are totally out of control and there is limited supervision.

    The standard for raising a child is very different than passing a CPS criminal background check, you don't lose your child just because you got caught up in a drug deal - but if you plead out to drug dealing you won't even be able to volunteer for CPS.

    The other part of this problem is the fact that if CPS began to use TANF recipients as non-instructional aides what would happen to the existing unionized ones? But I do know that in Maryland TANF recipients are used in schools as part of that state's work requirements for recipients.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Right--too many cases for parents to be monitored. These parents would only be used for lunch duty or student exit or entrance. CPS schools can no longer afford to buy non-instructional aides. Almost all of the CPS aides now in schools are due to special ed issues. Getting TANF parents to work in CPS would be no conflict with unionized workers.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The Board used to employ truant officers to go after
    wondering or lost students.Most were retired CPD.
    they only had a phone and their feet at their disposal.
    But they also had street smarts which made then effective.
    They would always get you an answer .
    Now the board would rather commit fraud by just making up
    attendance numbers.Some schools will not mark a kid absent if they show up in class 48 minutes late,every day.
    Marking an entire school present on low attendance days is another scam.
    Only state monitors in the schools to confirm attendance might change this culture of cutting.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    If I recall correctly the truant officers were on the same salary scale as a teacher's aide. They did a lot more than get children to school. They often served as a social worker, father figure, or role model for dysfunctional families. Getting rid of the truant officers was a costly mistake and per usual CPS did not listen to the teachers.

    This is in response to Bob regarding subbing. I am a retired special education teacher who is back subbing at my former school until a leave position is filled by a TAT. Email Angela Simpson - and she will advise you how to sub. She was very efficient and the process was painless.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Perhaps my big mouth and using my real name did me in.i have not been able to contact that lady.Numerous phone calls and e-mails have gone un-answered. I even
    went down to Clarke st.last week and she was not in.
    Evert time I did get to communicate with a real person
    I was told I would hear something ,but nothing has come.
    Tomorrow i signed up to speak at the Board meeting.
    where i will ask the boss .If I am not needed-fine-
    but letting me hang for months is too childish if
    retribution for my blog's is the reason.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It would be a BAD idea to actually require parents to work at schools. Many parents are violent, addicts, and just plain crazy. It may sound politically incorrect, but it is true. Can you imagine actually laying out the welcome mat and inviting (some) parents who are gangbangers, junkies, and criminals into the school on a daily basis. School is a refuge from abusive families for many children. Keep the parent OUT unless they are cooperative, clean, and sober.

  • Olivia Neubauer, 100-Year-Old Chicago Teacher, Dies After 77-Year Career

  • BBB is here to close schools--whether Rahm makes the Illinois leg give him more time or not--Dec.1 vs March 31--so what? Good luck Rep. Soto. Give it time if you do not beleive--it will be about closing schools in CPS and opening more charters-Rahm will demonstrate that he holds a grudge.

  • The mayor brushes off questions some of his aides committed a felony by secretly recording phone conversations with reporters. One group is calling for an investigation.

  • from a reader named iris, via email, with permission:

    Well lets give that responsibility to the teachers as well. Perhaps after I work all day I can begin to make home visits to see why my students are not in school. I am in a CPS school up north where a great many of our students are refugees. Many of them leave back to their country at different times of the year and want a month of school work. They are instructed to transfer out and reregister upon returning. They are gone anywhere from one to one and half months but return just in time for state exams.

    How ready do you think they are for ISATS? No one is going to fix this system until parents parent and CPS STOPS pretending they're going to fix all the things wrong with our communities.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Absences are one side of the issue. Along with mobility rates. Maybe BBB can add mobility to the school report card... since we are in the age of transparency... how about 28.6% mobility... might one consider how this impacts student success?

  • In reply to urbanteach:

    The mobility rate is already part of every Illinois School report card.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I am sorry, I was referencing the school profile sent home, not the state report card accessible on line.

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