Commission Hearings

Is Wacker Elementary under-enrolled?  Well, then how about CVCA?  Not really 140 schools half-empty, as CPS says?  Well then how about 37 , which is ILRYH's new number? These are the things that they're arguing about online and at the Utilization Commission hearings, of which there are four more over the next couple of weeks.  At least we're talking about specific schools, now.  


School closing meeting sparsely attended Tribune: About 100 people came to a cavernous South Side church Monday for a meeting of a Chicago Public Schools commission charged with gathering community input on school closings.

Dad to school-closing panel: I trust you ‘No farther than I can throw you’ Sun Times: The commission’s chairman was unclear about whether the panel would actually come up with a list of schools it believes should go, or just hand CPS what he called “a broad a set of recommendations.”

Commission on School Utilization hears from community Catalyst: Also, on Monday, the parent advocacy organization Raise Your Hand issued a report challenging the way CPS calculates school utilization. [See report summary here.]

You can watch / listen to the video of the Nov 28 hearing here. Hearing locations and schedule for the next two weeks can be found here.


In Chicago, Public Schools and Teachers Work Towards a 'Common Core'
PBS NewsHour:  Some states, including Illinois, have recently adopted new public school curriculum guidelines called the Common Core State Standards. While some teachers feel relief at having clear guidelines, Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW reports from Chicago on a more ...

Girl, 13, assaulted in Austin neighborhood near schools Tribune: Chicago police were searching for a man who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in the Austin neighborhood near several schools this morning, police said.

Two CPS High Schools Achieve Blue Ribbon Status CPS:  Jones Prep and Lane Tech among the most elite schools in the nation

School's goal is to put more minorities on path to law careers Tribune: Legal Prep Charter Academy opened its doors in West Garfield Park three months ago, the only legal-themed high school in Illinois. The goal is to prepare its students — all of whom are black or Latino — for a career in law, a profession that ranks second only to veterinary medicine in its lack of diversity.




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  • How does special education factor into Utilization Formulas? State law mandates that a self contained classroom can't exceed 8 students with a teacher, 13 students with a Teacher and Teacher Assistant. I work at a school that is entirely special education...

  • In reply to effaridi:

    The utilization formula is not consistent with the IL administrative code as it relates to self contained classrooms. Access Living has objected repeatedly in relation to this issue. Below is our last formal objection to CPS.

    Rod Estvan

    Comments on CPS 2012-2013 Draft School Action Guidelines

    By Rodney D. Estvan M.Ed.
    Education Policy Analyst
    November 13, 2012

    We would begin our commentary on the proposed school action guidelines by stating we believe it was a positive development that CPS provided the public and organizations like Access Living that work in the public interest with a commentary period for these guidelines. As the Chicago Public Schools are aware Access Living's primary mission is to increase the ability of people with disabilities to be full participants in society and the education of children and young adults with disabilities plays a foundational role in our mission.

    Because the CPS draft school action guidelines are predicated on the Space Utilization Standards we are required to restate Access Living's objections to those standards prior to addressing issues relating directly to the guidelines themselves.

    Problems with the existing CPS Space Utilization Standards

    Access Living has long objected to what the utilization standards call "ancillary classrooms." In prior versions of CPS utilization standards these rooms were called "BA" rooms, meaning below average sized classrooms. While "A," sized classrooms, were defined by CPS as "measuring 600 square feet or more," the square footage of ancillary or BA classrooms were never defined by CPS. CPS has claimed for years that spaces not designed as classrooms, such as offices, lunchrooms, or storage rooms, and used as teaching stations were excluded from capacity calculations. But our experience has been that if a space has historically been used as a classroom for students with disabilities CPS has rarely done deep research to determine the design intent of such spaces. Access Living has found windowless rooms at schools designated as self contained classrooms for severely disabled students.

    It is Access Living's position that each CPS student disabled or not disabled should be provided with adequate space to learn in. Based on standards used in Washington DC, we believe CPS should define an adequate space to learn in as being about 150 square feet (sf) per student in grades k-5; 170 sf per student in grades 6-8; and 180 sf per student in high schools. Using this standard a CPS self-contained classroom for eight severely disabled students at the primary level would have to be at least the size of a standard sized classroom.

    The next major objection Access Living has with the CPS 2011 utilization standards is the concept of "maximum capacity." It is the same for every full sized classroom at the elementary school level and it is 30 students. But a classroom that is designated for special education students placed legally by the school district in separate settings can under no condition even have as many as 30 students and in some cases under State law can be required to have as few as 8 students. The effect of this concept is to make almost all non- ancillary classrooms used for students with disabilities placed in self-contained settings effectively underutilized classrooms.

    Access Living believes that this is profoundly wrong because it has the effect of causing schools to avoiding putting self-contained classes in full sized rooms to keep from having the classrooms designated as being underutilized. A standard sized classroom used for self-contained classes with a legally required lower teacher to student ratio needs to have a different utilization standard than the same room being used for a regular class with a much higher teacher to student ratio.

    The problems with the draft guidelines for school actions 2012-2013 school year

    Aside from the major fact that the major defining aspect of the draft guidelines themselves, the utilization standards are in our opinion at best problematic and at worst inconsistent with State administrative regulations, we find other problems with the draft guidelines themselves.

    In a subsection titled "Additional Information to Consider" we read:

    "In determining whether to propose a closure, consolidation, reassignment boundary change, or phase-out, the CEO may consider other information including, but not limited to: safety and security, school culture and climate, school leadership, quality of the school facility, school type and programming, family and community feedback received throughout the school year independent from the process described below, analysis of transition planning costs, neighborhood development plans, whether the school has recently been affected by any school actions, changes in academic focus or actions taken pursuant to 105 ILCS 5/34-8.3, or proximity, capacity and performance of other schools in the community."

    Access Living believes that far greater definition of these various considerations need to be made. For example, the idea of the quality of the school facility. A building could be considered to be in good condition and have had thousands of dollars of work done on it over the years and be completely non-accessible based on modern ADA standards. Conversely a building could have been made accessible by CPS at great cost but could be underutilized. What then? Does CPS close an underutilized school that is ADA compliant and transfer students to a large building with space that is in good condition, but is totally non-accessible? These are clear problems we want to see defined and addressed in a straight forward manner. It is Access Living's position that CPS should prohibit the closing of any school that has been made largely ADA compliant if that school's population, both students with and without disabilities, cannot be placed in an equally accessible facility. CPS has made great progress in making more schools accessible, but currently only about half of CPS schools are accessible, so those schools that are accessible need to be preserved.

    Another significant problem with this passage is its vague reference to "programming" of a school CPS is considering action for. Clearly, if a school designated as underutilized has five self contained classrooms for students with significant forms of autism, cognitive disabilities, or multiple disabilities, that should be additional information to be considered. Moreover, because most non-cross categorical self contained programs have students coming from different areas the geographical location of the program itself is a critical consideration in closing such a school and relocating self-contained special education programs. A failure in the analysis of these factors can result in CPS losing more money by closing a school than keeping it open.

    This issue needs to be fully discussed in the Action Guidelines.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Thanks, Rod. Many schools on the overcrowded southwest side simply closed all of their self-contained classrooms9 school administtators used Corey H. as an excuse) in order to free up space. Totally illegal, yet there have been no repercussions from either the state or federal government. CPS does what it wants and has learned nothing from the Corey H. case. The J-Car provisions ( workload provisions) which the rest of the state follows is totally ignored by CPS. I believe CTU has asked CPS to hammer this out but come on it has been five years. Teachers of students with disabilities in CPS have huge caseloads/workloads. Where is the oversight?


  • In reply to district299reader:

    In at least one case when I was a Corey H monitor I strongly advocated with CPS that it close down self contained classes at one elementary school because the students were being placed in excessively small rooms called "ancillary classrooms." But there have been other decisions made by CPS to relocate self contained programs and I do not know the basis for those decisions.

    As far as I can tell under existing law CPS can close or move programs based on its own analysis without concern of either federal or state intervention with one provision. That provision is that the students placed in new programs are not required to travel on average more than 1 hour in each direction to the school they are placed at. All other issues relation to placement of disabled students are driven by the individual IEPs of students.

    As Annie Sullivan may be aware Access Living and several other organizations opposed the change to the Illinois administrative code that created the workload provisions. The CTU, IEA, and IFT supported the change. The current problems with the workload provisions was predicted by myself and others.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Thanks again, Rod. I wish your knowledge base was common in central office. I do remember that Access Living opposed the J-Car ruling but I also remember that CPS also opposed it. Would you mind clarifying this as I am having a hard time remembering the specifics.

    You state that, " All other issues relation to placement of disabled students are driven by the individual IEPs of students." Yes, that is the law but when CPS closes all self-contained programs in a school and dumps all of the children into pseudo-inclusion programs it is done en masse. No busing is involved. IEPS are amended, parents are told lies and the individual needs of the children are not addressed. Central office approves of these illegal practices.

    When we have seventh graders who are reading at the second grade level in inclusion programs where all services (Usually about 50 minutes a day) are delivered in gen ed rooms of 34+ students it is no wonder we have such low graduation rates for students with disabilities. Some SSAs tell the special education teachers not to do any pull-out even though the children may desperately need small group instruction in a less distracting setting. I have questioned these practices in relation to student growth and making AYP and have basically been told that CPS does not care about AYP. Some special education teachers do not even conduct yearly diagnostic testing to determine growth or whether the child needs services reduced or increased. Inclusion caseloads are now over twenty.

    My school has a successful special education program in spite of central office.


  • In reply to district299reader:

    Annie CPS had statistically very bad outcomes for kids with disabilities both before and after inclusion. CPS unfortunately is placing some students with extremely low reading levels in gen ed classrooms full time and telling schools to provide a modified curriculum based on the common core without providing a real clue as how to do this.

    To a degree it can be done, for example some students with low reading levels like you depict can get access to a seventh grade level novel by using a graphic novel that covers the same material, these exist. But is a special ed teachers supposed to go out and buy these boks? Moreover, in topics like social studies some text books can be provided electronically with a voice readable option, but again CPS does not pay up for this stuff.

    As to remedial pull outs, SSAs can argue whatever they want to. The buck stops with the child's team and many teams do what they believe the district wants them to do. The classic problem with remedial special ed pull outs is the actual gains that students experience and how intense the reading or math remediation is with 13 students in the pull out covering three different grade levels. CPS has only rarely provided state of the art research based remedial instruction for LD students similar to what we read about in special ed journals.

    What I see with upper income LD kids in Chicago is that many go for private tutoring after school. In a few cases I have heard of CPS special ed teachers providing these services at cost, but in most cases their are outside providers doing this. In a few cases I have even seen bio-feedback used privately and things like visual based computerized systems used for these higher income kids. Just take a look at the reading levels of disabled students attending Lincoln Elementary School and you can see the difference these additional supports can bring. But the law doesn't provide for this level of support, it doesn't promise full remedial education only what is legally appropriate.

    Statistically in the last five years CPS appears to be educating about the same percentage of students outside the gen ed classrooms for 40% or more of the day as it has since Corey H took effect. This could change, but legally unless a class action case is brought each issue has to be addressed individually child by child through the due process system.

    I don't believe there will be a class action case over this issue and teachers legally do not have standing to bring it. Only the parents of these children can bring it and there is no advocacy organization willing to take on the cost of such massive litigation claiming academic failure on the part of CPS for disabled students.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    "things like visual based computerized systems"

    Rod: Would that be something like Reading Plus?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    An example would be some of the products from the Biofeedback Instrument Corp like Attention Software which is being used in Chicago privately. DISTAR (Direct Instructional System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) and Lindamood Bell are another two examples. DISTAR can be used individually or with groups of children in classrooms, but the Lindamood Bell program is designed primarily for use with individual children. Commercial versions based on the original DISTAR program are currently known as Reading Mastery and Open Court. There are some commercially available computer programs which address composition skills in young students with LD, such as Inspiration.

    We all need to be wary of remedial approaches that seem logical, at first glance, but fail to focus sufficiently on direct instruction in phonological or phonemic awareness for reading or on direct skill instruction in math or written expression. The Learning Disability Quarterly has looked at numerous approaches to reading remediation via computerized approaches. Reviewing their research is wise.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    "Only the parents of these children can bring it and there is no advocacy organization willing to take on the cost of such massive litigation claiming academic failure on the part of CPS for disabled students."

    Why not "reformers" like Gates paying for it?

  • New list from CPS shows 139 schools below 50 percent utilization, including 9 charters @chitribed

  • "The district says underuse will be the key factor in deciding what schools to close. According to the list released Tuesday, enrollment at 330 of the 681 total schools is below 80 percent of what the district has determined to be the ideal population. Of those, 139 schools are only half full or less. Nine of those are privately run, publicly funded charter schools" Tribune.

    Based on this, CPS can and will choose from among the 330. The potential closure number may not be the 139 lowest enrolled. Any school that is by definition underutilized is at risk. The communities should not just sit back and assume that they are safe due to having 50% or higher enrollment. The devil is always in the details. Has anyone received a commitment from CPS ensuring that they would only close schools that are under 50% utilized? If there is going to be community and CTU push back, it can't just be the 139 schools that is constantly being repeated. When CPS board member Zopp was asked last week, while in Springfield of the number of school closures, she stated "more than 5 and less than 200".

    When this point was made with Catalyst reporter SKarp, her reply was "About 310 schools are rated as underutilized and, based on the criteria any of them could be closed. However, CPS leaders have stressed that 140 schools are half underutilized. Because CPS leaders have emphasized the 50 percent benchmark, it leads reporters and others to believe that it is important".

    CPS leads many people to believe a lot of things that may not be the reality. I believe that CPS wants the public to feel a false sense of security in the 140 school list. Don't be fooled. More than 5 and less than 200 is a more accurate picture and based on the written policy, it doesn't have to be the 140 schools that are most underutilized. The policy is vague and leaves room for a tremendous amount of personal preference. Much of the criteria being used is not quantifiable. For example, CPS will look at school culture and climate, and community feedback regarding particular schools (prior to this year) in its decision process. Where is the rubric for this? How are they weighing community feedback and school culture and climate?

  • So, CPS will address the problem of underutilized schools. Will they address the problem of overcrowded schools?

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