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Today's news?  Well there's not much of it, really.  Illinois got some leftover Early Learning funding from the Obama administration.  Catalyst's comings and goings doesn't include anyone you've ever heard of.  Linda Lutton seems to be off on some sort of deep dive project.  There's a New Schools Expo and a CTU event tomorrow. Deadlines?  Decisions?  Changes of heart?  Let us know in comments below or on Twitter (@district299).

Vocabulary skills: More poor kids at loss for words Sun Times: Most of Illinois’ fourth-graders know the meaning of the words “suggested” and “underestimated” when they read them in stories, but not “prestigious” and “barren.” Eighth-graders for the most part recognize the meaning of “motivate” and “specialty” but few understand “permeated.” And the vocabulary of Illinois’ young readers is right on par with the rest of the nation.

Parents unhappy that school tracks kids’ weight Sun Times: Parents of Naperville District 203 students are objecting to a phys ed program that tracks junior high school kids’ weight. Parents of Lincoln Junior High School students contacted administrators in September, objecting to the fitness unit program that asks students to weigh in and record their weight. District officials say the matter has been discussed with those who have raised concerns about it. “I said, ‘You are creating a generation of eating disorders. You should focus on wellness, not weight,’ ” said Karen Smith, mother of a sixth-grader. School officials assured Smith that her child could opt out of the …

Illinois awarded Early Learning Challenge funds Catalyst: The money is just half what the state originally hoped to win in the first round of the contest. The money will go to improving quality, coordinating efforts, and increasing access to programs – rather than expanding slots. Illinois was one of five runners-up selected to apply, and all were awarded funds.

Comings & Goings: Wyatt, Kohl Teacher Awards Catalyst: Shelby Wyatt, a counselor at Hyde Park’s Kenwood Academy, Felipa Mena, a Community Organizing and Family Issues parent leader, received national recognition for her work at the Wells High School Peace Center, The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is opening a field office at the Beasley Academic Center.

Activists Say Poor Neighborhoods Will Bear Brunt of School Closings DNAinfo:  CPS recently won a delay in the General Assembly to announce school closings for the fall by the end of March, and Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett has promised a five-year moratorium on additional closings — after next year.

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  • Take a look at the recent comments and data work on utilization shown over at cpsobsessed: http://cpsobsessed.com/2012/11/04/cps-committee-to-help-with-community-input-on-school-closings/#comment-45561

  • TO Rod Estvan: Is this comment from www.cpsobsessed.com correct?

    217. JMOChicago | December 7, 2012 at 8:58 am

    @215–

    I think that the reorganization of Special Education services needs to be addressed separate from the school closing issue. CPS is not closing schools to put that money into Special Education. They are closing schools because they have a budget shortfall for their current budget which already shortchanges special education.

    The only way to get more funding allocated to special education is to take it from somewhere in the current budget OR to increase revenue.

    In terms of increasing revenue, there are options, with some winners and losers depending upon the options that are taken up. The City could take away TIF and put that property tax revenue back in the service of schools. The City could reallocate other portions of the City budget to schools. The City could raise taxes on property owners, or some other group in the City (with various consequences). Legislation about school funding could be pursued with the State of Illinois (since it contributes so little compared to other states.) The pension funding that the City of Chicago contributes to other Illinois school districts could be transferred to the be the sole responsibility for those districts (and thus encourage them to not promise so much in pension increases in their own districts because they are accountable for 100% funding.)

    In terms of decreasing costs, I think the costs at the school level have already been cut into pretty deeply. When you can’t get copies made, that indicates pretty deep cuts. There are places to look in Central Office and in the District, including the funds paid to external consultants, to testing companies, etc. I’m also wondering whether have not taken advantage of all of the efficiencies possible in Central Office.

    But to reiterate, the closings of schools will not translate into MORE money being spent anywhere. Especially since CPS has drained its “savings account” (reserves) to cover the current budget projections.

    I would love to be wrong, as always.

  • TO Rod Estvan: Do you have information on these questions below?

    214. JMOChicago | December 7, 2012 at 6:49 am

    @203– Thank you for posting. So interesting.

    @212–Re: the percentage of special education students in CPS. This has been a really difficult population to get data on within CPS, especially students who are NOT in special education centers. Here are some questions that I have had when looking for this data:

    -How is the percentage of students who have IEP’s related to how difficult I have heard it is to GET an IEP for a student? (I’ve heard that parents have had to hire lawyers, etc. to get appropriate services?)

    -If the barrier to getting an IEP for a student that needs one is very high (“parent must fight for it”, “costs money and time to get CPS to pay attention”, “cost might include the cost of a lawyer”), how many students are NOT getting the IEPs that they may actually need if the CPS population is 80%+ low income?

    -If there were fewer barriers for students to get an IEP, would the percentage of students within CPS with an IEP increase?

    -Does CPS use “Special Education” and IEP completely interchangeably within their reports?

    -Where is the enrollment data for self-contained Special Education classrooms within CPS neighborhood schools kept? For example, if Nettlehorst has a self-contained special education classroom (or more than one?) how are those students and those rooms reflected on all of CPS’ reports (space utilization, ISAT comp, enrollment numbers, etc.)

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Here are some answers to these complex questions.
    Question: Where is the enrollment data for self-contained Special Education classrooms within CPS neighborhood schools kept? For example, if Nettlehorst has a self-contained special education classroom (or more than one?) how are those students and those rooms reflected on all of CPS’ reports (space utilization, ISAT comp, enrollment numbers, etc.)
    Answer: The CPS Office of Specialized Services has the raw student counts by both their LRE code and program. It knows how many self contained classroom there are in each school. I only have access to program information not student head and room counts. If you are going to FOIA be specific. I can help with a FOIA request if you need it email me at restvan@accessliving.org

    At Nettlelhorst for students in self-contained settings there are different students in different programs. This school has many programs. Nettlehorst has a self contained program P120206 Severe/Profound/Cognitive Impairments it has 2.8 positions and was projected to cost CPS $ 208,160. This is most likely a two room program. The school also has a small program P120402 which is for students with multiple disabilities it was assigned only .8 positions at a cost of $45,953 most likely only two students who are in the severe profound rooms. The school has a larger self contained program P122009 Cross Catagorical-LD/BD instructional that has 5 positions and was projected to cost $252,446. I would suspect this program uses between 2 and 3 classrooms. Program P122002 is a Cross Catagorical EMH/LD/BD program it has five positions and is projected to cost $206,454. My guess would be in covers no more than two rooms. The school has program P121302 which is for students with more significant autism, it was projected to be very small with only one assigned staff person at a cost of $45,120 and likely one or two students who are likely in one of the cross categorical classrooms. It also has program P122001 which is titled Cross Catagorical Autism/LD it has only one position projected to cost $48,280.

    Nettlelhorst has over $800,000 worth of program costs for students who are likely self-contained for a good part of the school day. It looks like it has about 5 self-contained rooms but it could be less depending on the ratio. If these are all located in full size classrooms each one of these is likely indicated to be under utilized by at least 50% if not more because some of the programs could have as few as 8 students in them. I would suggest that the reason CPS considers Nettlelhorst to be 8% below the ideal space utilization level is totally because of these self contained programs which are being looked at incorrectly by CPS. Looked at correctly the school would probably be above the ideal space utilization level.

    Question: How is the percentage of students who have IEP’s related to how difficult I have heard it is to GET an IEP for a student? (I’ve heard that parents have had to hire lawyers, etc. to get appropriate services?) CPS depends on whether you are an advocate like me or an administrator.
    Answer: If you are an administrator you would say it has a rigorous but legal standard for identification if you are an advocate like me you would say CPS denies identification to students with more subtle conditions rather easily. In most identification cases I am involved in CPS yields to pressure and identifies suspected students, the last case where one of my families had to litigate involved a high school student who had never been identified with LD but passed classes often just barely. The most under identified students in CPS in my opinion are emotionally disturbed students who do not externalize their disabling condition and moderately disabled LD students in lower performing schools.

    Question: -If the barrier to getting an IEP for a student that needs one is very high (“parent must fight for it”, “costs money and time to get CPS to pay attention”, “cost might include the cost of a lawyer”), how many students are NOT getting the IEPs that they may actually need if the CPS population is 80%+ low income?
    Answer: I would guess CPS may be under indentifying by about 3%. But that is only a guess and I am using a conservative standard for identification in my thinking.
    Question: -If there were fewer barriers for students to get an IEP, would the percentage of students within CPS with an IEP increase?
    Answer: It is currently around 13.2% and it would rise to about 16.2%. Right now CPS is at about the same level as Champaign CUSD 4 which has only a 55% poverty rate. The state average is now about 13.6%, but CPS has a much higher percentage of students with mental health problems and should be somewhat higher in my opinion.
    Question: -Does CPS use “Special Education” and IEP completely interchangeably within their reports?
    Answer: CPS uses students with IEPs and students with 504 plans separately in most reports. ISBE's data is for students with IEPs and does not include 504 students on the state report card. They keep that data separately.
    I hope I have been able to answer your questions.

    Rod Estvan

  • This is a serious question , not related to the Tea party in any way.

    Are students with an IEP entitled to receive government benefits
    based on that alone?

  • In reply to rbusch:

    No, SSI requires a seperate identification process which is done out of Springfield. The Illinois Department of Human Services has a disability determination division. CPS in some cases does help families with the forms and information. The child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments which result in marked and severe functional limitations.

    The child will need a medical determination in addtion to CPS identification as disabled. Medical standards for disability can be different in some cases than an educational standard.

    Rod Estvan

  • I have 24 students with learning and behavioral disorders and none receive SSI. I believe a child will qualify for those benefits if he/she is severely disabled, unable to be left alone and comes from a low income home. The SSI is supposed to cover specialized babysitting, ( may allow the primary caregiver to go to the store)"extra therapy" or additional equipment the child may need in order to attend school.
    I have had parents bring in the 30 page application form from SS but none of my students ever qualified-not severe enough.

    anniesullivan

  • Thank you both

  • Rebecca Clark, who is with SPED for that region (kelvyn park hs), came to the school and met with the administrator and SPED department. She told them that she was thankful that the staff brought their concerns up with the CPS Board. She did wish that they had gone through proper channels. (From Subsatnce.)
    We are sick of 'them' saying that we should go through proper channels. Ms. Clark--you and OSS did not know the huge problem at kelvynpkhs?! Everyone knows you either have to go to a board meeting or tim cawley to get anything done by the special education , human resources, faclities, and other depts.

  • Good for you Ms Byrd-Bennett- I will bet most schools are short positions. SSAs laugh and say "Parf til ya Barf " when unmanageable caseloads are brought up. The SSAs are very well aware of which schools are short-it is easily verifiable on SSM. This is a good start but much work needs to be done.

    anniesullivan

  • I heard a HS Network Officer was relieved of his duties. Is it true that Sean Stallings is gone? If so, I'm told i'ts a good move to have one less dictator in charge.

    Is it also true that Annette Gurley will be the new CEO chief education officer? I hear people saying that is a good move and also great to see a promotion from within to a deserving individual.

    Lastly, Barbara Byrd Bennett if you're reading this please stop the trend of placing people over district-wide programs without having the expertise for that program. It creates an extra layer and delays services which impacts efficiency. Don't be afraid to promote the experts from within.

  • In reply to sammy:

    No point in lionizing Stalling. He was FIRED (albeit quietly, he is connect to Ma Hines you know) for orchestrating several quetionable and possibly illegal activities within his network. Inspector General has been investigating him for months. Good to see more corruption getting squeezed out of the Southside. Maybe Rahm is finally realizing he needs us Southsiders to get re-elected.

  • I teach in a school that Stallings supervised as Network Chief. I'm not necessarily in a position to know the inside experience of working under him--teachers have little contact with Network folks. However, my sense is that he was a competent person, and serious about doing something worthwhile. He left to head up a non-profit focused on the "lost children"--the 8,000 or so young people who disappear from CPS roles in the gap between elementary/middle school and high school. A couple of people I spoke with who may know him better than I do surmised that he wanted to feel like he was really doing meaningful work and his new position offers more of an opportunity for that. I don't mean to lionize him, but I have never heard anything, not even a rumor, that impeached Stallings' integrity--something that is quite unusual for CPS higher-ups.

  • In reply to Ira Abrams:

    I'm glad you have that opinion of him. I heard of the integrity being impeached on the other hand

  • Good for Mr. Stallings--but... does he still keep his salary for this non-prof position? In CPS, there are well paid FACE employees in EVERY network to find these children and to find the ones not coming to school now. With the many school closings, will the newtwork offices be consolidted and/or close as well? There is much savings there.

  • Stallings resigned a week ago "to pursue other career opportunities in which he's interested," says CPS

  • Stalling was "caught up" in his own mess and had to go. Rising from a short stint at Manley, one of our worst performing schools you have to think he didn't deserve his spot. It showed as he was very sloppy and corrupt in an arrogant manner. The system allowed him to save face and resign. Mahalia (if she supported him) must let her old incompetent friends go and support those who really deserve to be in top spots. There's enough talent within

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