The Year Of Closings

Athletics for disabled students. Black History lessons (or the lack thereof).  Jones High School. Closings and consolidations (it never ends).  That's pretty much all the news I can find from over the weekend.  Anything else going on? Let us know. Right now it seems like the closings and consolidations are all that matter (at least to parents and teachers who might be affected).  I like to think that there are other things going on in and around CPS, too.

DISABILITY SPORTS

Area schools ahead of curve in opportunities for disabled athletes Chicago Sun-Times: “Given that the ruling was just issued, CPS will be reviewing it and determining how it impacts Chicago Public Schools and its students,” CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan said in a statement. Other states that already offer programs for disabled athletes ...

BLACK HISTORY

CPS Promises to Address Lack of Black History Lessons in SchoolsDNAinfo: He said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is interested in working with parents to ensure schools are in compliance of a state law that went into effect in 1991 mandating black history, including slavery, is taught in every public elementary and high school.

Mayor Rahm and Jones High School got a thing going on Chicago Reader (blog): In case you're wondering, the "B" in question is Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Originally, the mayor nicknamed her B-3. As you can see, he's reduced it to "B."

CLOSINGS/ CONSOLIDATIONS

Chicago activists speak out against school closings at D.C. WBEZ: People from some of the cities, including Chicago, have filed civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, charging that closing schools disproportionately impacts minority students.

Where are all the children? Tribune:  Parts of the Chicago area as different as Pilsen and Naperville have experienced significant drops in their populations of children under 10 years old in recent years, a trend that carries wide-ranging implications for school districts, city planners...

Much Controversy, Suspicion, Confusion on School Consolidation Plans Youth Today: Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, in her formal response to the guidelines for school closures recommended by the Commission on School Utilization, made the statement last week, ahead of a loud and emotional meeting.
Public Park Proposed for Rooftop of New School at Roosevelt Collection DNAI: Developers get creative to squeeze a two-story school where the land's previous owners promised a park.
MISC
Who's in charge here? Tribune (editorial): The glory of a win or disappointment of a loss is fleeting. Character is not. Thanks for the reminder, Ms. Byrd-Bennett.
'Shoot jumpers. Not guns' Chicago Tribune: Among the attendees for the game televised on ESPNU were Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Illinois coach John Groce.
Emanuel's fall calendar shows planning meetings, fundraising hints Chicago Tribune: On Oct. 16, the schedule shows Emanuel was to make a "stop by" at the office of new Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, whom Emanuel had recently selected to replace the ousted Jean-Claude Brizard.
Chicago students reach new heights in mentoring program Tribune:  The first time Ronaldo Gonzalez met Matthew Bambrick, there was a slight communication glitch. Ronaldo, a third-grader at the Lozano Bilingual & International Center, didn't catch a first name for Bambrick, a security specialist at Exelon Corp.
Alternatives to standardized tests CMW: As opposition to overuse of standardized tests grows here and across the county, a public forum Thursday on Alternatives to Standardized Tests is being sponsored by a new local coalition.It takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, at Hartzell Methodist Church, 3330 S. King Drive.

District 150 expanding International Baccalaureate program in grade schools Peoria Journal Star:It still has a reputation for being an elite, private program,” said Anna Rosefsky Saavedra, a policy researcher for the Rand Corp. who has studied the program's impact on high school graduation rates in Chicago public schools.

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  • Michael Lansu's Sun Times article on the US Dept of Education's guidelines now require schools to give disabled students the opportunity to compete on traditional sports teams or an equal alternative option was amazingly confused. He notes that CPS has Special Olympics Illinois programs apparently thinking this somehow would constitute an equal alternative option. With a few exceptions Special Olympics programs in CPS are not comparable to traditional sports in CPS. The most obvious difference is that CPS does not pay for coaches for Special Olympics programs whereas it does for traditional sports.

    Eventually CPS may find itself in litigation over this issue. By the way my own disabled daughter participated in Special Olympics programs and enjoyed them. But they really did not train her in any sport, it was all about the experience. In general special education teachers volunteered to run the programs at schools with higher concentrations of students with disabilities. There is no way these programs could be considered an alternative option as they currently exist.

    Rod Estvan

  • I thought Special Olympics was limited to young people with DD.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    No there are students who have a wide variety of disabilities involved in Special Olympics. My own daughter who was involved at both Hansen Park and Mather High had a physical disability and emotional disturbance but tested with so called normal intelligence.

    Rod Estvan

  • Rod: Is this true?

    "*Supposedly CPS is counting special education students as only 1/3 of a student in their data to determine utilization. One special ed teacher said if she wasn’t mistaken, she thought that method had gone out with the abolition of slavery. I have a child with an IEP so I should be totally offended that CPS considers my son a third of a person but at this point I’m so jaded by how school districts treat special ed. students, I don’t even know what to say anymore."

    From wrap up of last night's meeting.
    source: CPSObsessed

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I don’t think CPS is counting SpEd kids as 1/3 of a student. What may be happening is that CPS isn’t making any distinction between SpEd classrooms and “mainstream” classrooms when doing their utilization calcs. Obviously you’re not going to have 30 autistic kids in a single classroom – 8 or 9 is probably the limit. So CPS is effectively overestimating SpEd classroom capacity by a factor of 3 or so. Maybe that’s where this 1/3 business comes in.

  • I have seen very few classroom for special education students that are the same size as a general education classroom. Usually, the special education classrooms are in rooms no one else wants-you know, the former offices, closets or the room next to the boiler in the basement. Years ago one of the TV stations did get a reporter into a special education classroom being held in a washroom-the teacher was reprimanded because she called the media. The worst one I saw was the 8 by 20 closet without a window which housed three adults and seven children, one of the children was in a wheelchair and one who had emotional issues (he didn't like anyone in his space-so throw him in a closet/sardine can). We do not treat children with special needs fairly in CPS.

  • What is CPS doing about the 120+ special education vacancies? Children are being subjected to different subs everyday. The subs are not versed in sped strategies. These vacancies have been documented for at least twenty years. Why do so many young sped teachers leave CPS?

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    In reply to district299reader:

    As a former CPS SPED teacher, I believe that many teachers leave CPS for other districts basically is for two huge reasons. The first being the total lack of regard for special needs students. Many students do not receive the services they should be getting under federal law. Caseloads for resource teachers is often well over 20 students across three or more grade levels. Self contained is often well over 12 without a full time teacher aid. Secondly, there is very little support from CPS. "Parf till you barf" comes to mind. Good, caring SPED teachers become quickly overwhelmed and frustrated. While some stay to fight the good fight, I have seen excellent teachers leave and go to suburban districts where things are usually a little, and sometimes, a lot better. It is very often, just demoralizing to work in SPED in Chicago. A good SPED program takes a lot of work with everyone working together toward the same goals. This doesn't happen very often in most schools. It is often hard to find a gen ed teacher who doesn't resent having SPED kids in their homeroom that will bring down test scores which have an effect on their evaluation, and who can blame them? SPED is something of a joke in CPS unless you are a very involved and savvy parent, and it is still a herculean task to get CPS to provide the appropriate amount and type of needed services.

  • In reply to 1togoplease:

    I would point out one thing in 1togoplease's post. The Illinois Administrative Code was revised several years ago so there in no longer a total caseload for resource teachers in the code of 20 students. This is a relatively complex issue, but CPS and CTU were supposed to work out a workload plan for resource teachers several years ago. As of today I don't think it has been done.

    I know the CTU has a special education committee and I would recommend checking with them on the status of the development of a workload plan for resource teachers. All the rules relating to self-contained settings remain in place pursuant to the IL Admin Code.

    Rod Estvan

  • I am not sure where to start. There are many schools where self contained classes are placed in what CPS considers to be standard sized rooms. Off the top of my head I can easily name two such schools Penn and Otis that have self contained classes in full sized rooms. There are many more.

    Are there situations where self contained classes have been placed in smaller classrooms. In one really upsetting situation I saw an 8 student self contained classroom for so called TMH students in a converted storage room with one window. But to be honest most principals that have integrity will not allow such things unless they are so overcrowded that regular education students are also experiencing that level of depravation.

    The CPS classroom utilization system does not measure students with disabilities differently than regular education students. But if students with disabilities are being educated in a self-contained setting in a standard sized room in a general education school (not seperate special education day school like Beard for example) and their classroom based of the Illinois Administrative Code requires no more than 15 students with appropriate aide support that class will be judged to be 50% underutilized.

    I think this is where the idea that some students with disabilities were being measured as 1/3 of a student may be coming from. Access Living has repeatedly objected to this and our letter to the Commission on utilization is on the Substance website.

    In relation to unfilled special education positions. CPS as of August 6, 2012 was still attempting to fill about 100 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the traditional track system, about 95 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the year round track system, about 95 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the traditional track system, and about 20 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the year round track system, for a total of about 310 positions back in August. This huge number was driven by a massive number of retirements in June 2012.

    As of today Jan 30, 2013 there are 42 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the traditional track system unfilled, 38 special education teacher positions at the elementary school level on the year round track system unfilled, about 20 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the traditional track system, and 11 special education teacher positions at the high school level on the year round track system, for a total of 111 unfilled special education teaching positions.

    As can be seen this is a dramatic improvement since August. The reality is there may be some schools that did not get three certified special education teacher applicants from the CTU laid off pool and a principal might not agree to hire the one teacher who might have applied which is allowed under the CTU contract. Newly certified special education teachers are far and few between right now which is why under CPS rules special ed teachers are considered exempt from the residency rule under Board rules.

    I do know CPS is planning on visiting schools of Education that have special education majors in an attempt to hire addtional teachers. I do think CPS should force principals to hire any qualified special education teacher who has applied for a position if the position has remained empty this long. But CPS is not doing this and I do not have data on how many if any positions are remaining unfilled based on principal choice.

    I hope I have answer all the questions.

    Rod Estvan

  • God knows the SPED classrooms and teachers have their hands full but the SPED teams have been fighting for proper working spaces for decades. How many School Nurses have their desks("office") in the main office, I have seen School Psychologists testing in kitchens, halls and lunchrooms. Speech Therapy is often anywhere they can put up a desk in a hall or a closet in a basement. The ST at Budlong spent years in a closet full of band instruments, I kid you not! Social Workers, these men and women along with Nurses seem to have the worst luck with space. One region one school parked their entire team in an unheated store room for several years. The principal even restricted their movements within the school. I think anyone involved in SPED can take a turn at the soap box, we just have to remember we need decent facilities to take care of kids and do our jobs well.

  • Thanks for your clarifications, Rod. The bottom line is that we ahve been under the Corey H. ruling for 15(?) years. We have Corey H monitors who spend a week in each school doing an audit. ISBE does audits, the CFD runs drills and inspects schools and we are graced with the presence of the wonderfully inept SSAs. Are these people blind? Do they not see the caseloads/workloads in the 20s, shared aides for non-ambulatory children and windowless rooms/firetraps being used for classrooms? AREA 11/REGION 5 is rife with special education issues. A shortage of classroom space coupled with not enough low incidence programs has created some really unsafe situations.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Having been a Corey H monitor for the courts I can say this much. The settlement agreement did not allow the monitors to address some of the staffing issues you are raising, but in some cases I know I raised these issues in reports and CPS objected. I also will note that I found situations where schools had special education aides working in general education at the direction of principals. I also found certified special education teachers working in administrative positions with fake case loads. The world is not simple.

    At any rate the Corey H case is over, there is only one final report due to be completed. The Court has no more authority over CPS in relation to this case.

    Rod Estvan

  • Rod,
    At least you noted these issues-maybe things changed at those particular schools. You obviously are ethical. The SSAs, Corey H. monitors, ISBE auditors etc. who say nothing about systemic abuse in specialized services in CPS really are unethical. They should not be around children because they do not care about the children.

  • "Fiasco: CPS School Closing Hearings 2013 (January 28, 2013 at Truman College)" http://www.laborbeat.org or http://youtu.be/jOSWKkJT3j8

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