Off The ISAT Cliff

There's lots on the new CPS parent engagement booklet, and a little bit of followup on the Tribune truancy investigation, plus lots of meetings of various kinds.  The item that jumps out to me is the Pantagraph editorial warning everyone about the coming ISAT cliff -- the newly ratcheted up test that's going to produce much lower scores.Basically things are winding down for the Thanksgiving holiday... unless we get some personnel announcements from Central Office (departures, arrivals) or some smidgen of news about the possibility of the delayed closings schedule.

MEETINGS

Schooled by experts PURE: This morning I attended an excellent symposium on a variety of education issues presented by CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education), the nearly two-year-old group of 100 Chicago-area academic experts who have already created some excellent resources to help parents, community groups, students and others to better understand the truth about corporate school reform.

Bronzeville Parents Speak Out Against School Closings ChicagoTalks:  They were disappointed with the way the Bronzeville Community Action Council formatted the discussion. That’s what they told the council’s chair and host for the night, Pastor Chris Harris, who attempted to diplomatically calm them down. Almost one-hundred attendees showed up to the Charles Hayes Center, 4859 S. Wabash.Most of the frustration was directed at Chicago Board of Education member, Dr. Mahalia Hines.

Districts, advocates request funding in next year's Illinois education budget WBEZ: Every year Illinois state education officials hold several hearings to get ideas from the public about what schools need from the state budget. The state board will release its final budget proposal in January, and Koch said they will continue to advocate to maintain education funding.

CPS Parents Encouraged to Attend EXPO 6.0 COS:  Talk with Leaders From More Than 100 Elementary and High Schools

TRUANCY

CPS chief says 'we absolutely have to take a look' at truancy Chicago Tribune: And Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett separately said: “We absolutely have to take a look at this.” She said that she already had a team working on solutions. “I want to know the data so we can move forward, so we can have a conversation ..."

Quinn, state lawmakers react to K-8 truancy crisis in CPS Chicago Tribune: For Chicago Public Schools, the empty desks undermine efforts to boost achievement and cost the district millions in attendance-based funding, the Tribune found.

PARENT ENGAGEMENT

Mayor Emanuel, CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett, Microsoft and United Way Announce ... eNews Park Forest:  Mayor Emanuel today joined Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and representatives from Microsoft and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago (UWMC) to announce the opening of 12 new Parent Engagement Centers in CPS schools ...

CPS offers tips on boosting parent involvement Chicago Tribune: "This booklet shares effective strategies that principals right here in our city are using to see results, and we encourage all principals to take a look to see what might work for them in their schools," said the district's CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett ...

CPS Offers Another Incentive To Keep Parents Involved NBC Chicago (blog): After offering Walgreens gift cards to parents as an incentive to pick up their children's report cards last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced the opening of 12 parent engagement centers. In collaboration with ...

CPS Designs New Program, Hopes It Will Get Parents More Involved ABC: There's a new program in several Chicago Public Schools designed to get parents more involved in their children's education.

MISC

Education reform will be long, hard path in Illinois Pantagraph editorial: Educators have known for some time that the ISAT test is simply too easy. That’s going to change next spring and the results will shock some educators and many parents who have been misled into believing their students were doing well.

My View: Latino voting power can create better education reform  CNN: Ray Salazar is a National Board Certified English teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. He writes about education and Latino issues on the White Rhino Blog.

Tim Cavanaugh on Unions vs. Democratic Mayors Reason (blog): Sure, the walkout by Chicago Teachers Union members caused havoc for kids. "But I've been to public school," Cavanaugh continues, "and I can tell you they didn't miss much." The strike's lasting damage was to the party that since at least the early ...

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  • Ray Salazar's commentary titled "My View: Latino voting power can create better education reform" that Alexander linked to contained some interesting statements. Ray cites the National Center for Education Statistics for this statement: "the Latino dropout rate is almost double that of African-Americans and about three times higher than that of whites."

    Since Ray is a Chicago teacher he should be aware that while his data maybe true on a national scale it is not correct for Chicago. According to CPS the 2012 five year cohort dropout rate for Hispanics is 29.7%, for Black non-Hispanic students its 41.6%, and for white non-Hispanic students the dropout rate is 28.3% (to see this data go to http://www.cps.edu/Performance/Documents/Datafiles/cohort_citywide_1999through2012.xls)

    Ray makes a very interesting statement on allowing Hispanic students additional options for school choice. He states that all students including Hispanic students "should be able to attend any of the district’s schools." Then he states this: "Affluent diverse suburbs, like Evanston, where Northwestern University is located, combine low-income and high-income students in one building. All students receive a quality education. Of course, this suburban district’s funding is different from the city’s. Citywide options would force state leaders to redesign school funding for the benefit of all students."

    I was completely confused by this section of Ray's essay. Why would the Illinois General Assembly be forced in any way to change the existing school funding system if any CPS student could in theory attend any CPS school? Now if any student in the state could attend any school in any school district that might have some impact on the Illinois funding system, but even that would not necessarily require much change. I will below use the example of Wisconsin's open enrollment process to demonstrate why even inter- district enrollments will not necessarily drive changes to school funding.

    But first Ray's idea is very problematic just on the level of CPS, because if every student could get admission to a Payton or Northside College Prep we would be looking at massive schools probably much larger than Evanston Township High School, even much larger than Lane Tech is now. What would be the impact of the massive influx of students, clearly many of whom would not be high performing, on the existing high quality high schools for example? What would happen to the schools the students are bailing out of, would they all be closed in favor of mega schools? Ray's proposal seems totally unrealistic if implement only within the City of Chicago.

    What about inter district open admissions? A case in point is Wisconsin, Wis. Stats. 118.51 defines legally how it works, in theory any Wisconsin student in grades kindergarten to 12 may apply to attend school in any public school district in the state. A student may request assignment to a specific school in a nonresident school district. However, even if the student’s application is approved, assignment to the requested school is not guaranteed. Students apply to school districts, not to individual schools. Both the resident and nonresident school districts may deny an application for reasons specified in statute. The biggest basis for denial is that space is not available in the school, program, class or grade the student would attend.

    Parents are responsible for transportation to and from school in the nonresident school district, so this realistically limits how far a child can travel from their home.
    The resident school district also may deny the open enrollment if the cost of the student’s special education and related services in the nonresident school district “as proposed to be implemented by the nonresident school district would impose upon the child’s resident school district an undue financial burden….”

    In Wisconsin, for regular education, open enrollment is funded by a transfer of state aid from the student’s resident school district to the nonresident school district. For special education, the resident school district pays the nonresident school district directly. The open enrollment program is funded on an approximation of “marginal cost.” That is, when a school district admits a student for an otherwise vacant space in a classroom, the school district does not incur its full per pupil cost to educate the student. The district’s fixed costs, such as debt service, building maintenance, business administration, and school and district administration do not usually increase as students are added to available spaces in classrooms. The open enrollment transfer amount is made up of costs that are most likely to increase or decrease with the number of students educated. Each school district in Wisconsin can set its own grade and class size standards, so higher performing wealthy school districts in Wisconsin generally set those standards so as to prevent numerous poor students from getting in. If Illinois was to adopt an open cross district enrollment policy it would most likely look like Wisconsin's.

    Rod Estvan

  • Why are CPS-FACE employees not visiting homes, aprtmts to get these kids in school. Why not?

  • Alexander, thanks for including my CNN commentary.

    Rod, thanks for commenting. This piece was written for a national audience so the stats I cite about the dropout rate had to make sense at a national level. This does not mean we should simply bypass the poor educational opportunities Latinos receive in this city. As I said, for too long the ed reform movement has remained a black and white issue. And if someone argues to stop ed reform, that means they want to perpetuate the systemic problems that exist. Our educational system locally and nationally does not work.

    To your second point, there's no way that every student who applies to a school would be able to get in. But what if students did have the opportunity to attend and, therefore, apply to any school in the district? This is realistic. Students could then attend schools, if they're name is pulled in a lottery, near their parents' job or near a caretakers' home. Selective enrollment schools present a whole other situation, but that's for another commentary. I'm referring to neighborhood schools. Yes, students should be able to apply to any neighborhood school. They should not have to attend the school closest to them.

    This would force school funding decision makers to say, "Hey, we need to make the educational opportunities in our city more equal." Let's not just put selective enrollment high schools closer to affluent neighborhoods. Also, let's make sure that building maintenance is dealt with similarly. Again, my school had to fight to get electricity in a room for one whole year. Not fair. Other neighborhoods have newer buildings just because it's the politically correct thing to do, not necessarily because it's where they're needed.

    As for the Wisconsin example, that's exactly the policy that should not happen because it does not fit with the three points I outline in my commentary. It sounds like that needs to be changed, too.

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