Thank God It's Tuesday

chicago-streetviewWelcome back!  How was your weekend?  Today's education news includes more concerns about student safety (at Clemente HS, among other places), a few more UNO tidbits and school closing information.  Oh, yay, Lincoln Elementary is getting some overcrowding relief.  What else?  Let us know.  For stories from over the long weekend, check the previous post.


Change Oriented Leaders Change Locations Substance: No sooner had Chicago learned that Jennifer Cheatham was moving to Madison, Wisconsin, where she will become superintendent there, than the news began trickling out that other CPS administrators were also on the run — or at least looking for jobs in other climates.

How Charter Schools Get the Students they Want Reuters: Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.”


Roberto Clemente Students on Third Student Slain: 'I Don't Feel Safe' DNAI: Frances Colon, killed Friday, is the third Roberto Clemente High School student killed in three months.

Chicago Student Arrested For Trying To Bring Gun Into High School: Police CBS2:  No students were in jeopardy at any time during the incident, Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said.

Which comes first? Closed schools or blighted neighborhoods? WBEZ: Analysis of census data suggests that the areas most affected by the potential closures have experienced dramatic drops in population over the past few decades.


UNO hires ex-judge to review charter-school spending Sun Times: United Neighborhood Organization officials said Thursday they have hired former U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen to conduct a review of how their charter-school network selected companies to build new schools with state grant money.

A Change of Heart on Charters for Alderman Moreno? Kenzo Shibata:  Now that UNO is under heavy scrutiny for its successful lobbying of $98 million in taxpayer money which was doled out to relatives of UNO executives, UNO's second in command has resigned and its founder has shamed the group in the press.

UNO contract comedy: One man out, one man on, leaders baffled Reader: I'd like to personally thank the charter school empire known as UNO for providing one glimmer of humor in an otherwise grim week of murder, guns, and school closings.


Q&A on Chicago Public Schools closing plans Zorn: Former education blogger Seth Lavin posed 10 questions to  Chicago Public Schools officials about the school closing plan. CPS has responded and Lavin has shared the answers (below) with me and several other bloggers.

Parents Celebrate Gale Elementary Being Taken Off Closure List, But Remain ... Progress Illinois: Based on recommendations from the Commission on School Utilization, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett released a list, Wednesday, of 129 schools that may be on the chopping block for the next wave of school closures.

Officials taking note of school-closing feedback Tribune: Chicago Public Schools officials gathering input on school closings started taking notes when the director of a local Boys and Girls Club of Chicago spoke up on behalf of West Pullman Elementary School at a hearing on the Far South Side late last week.

On CPS School Closings, Barbara Byrd-Bennett Asks Public to Remain Engaged DNAI: As Chicago Public Schools officials zero in on the final list of schools to close this year, schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says public engagement is essential at upcoming meetings around the city. “I need as much feedback as possible to ...

Vacant schools in Philadelphia a cautionary tale for Chicago WBEZ: According to a report released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 12 urban school districts across the country have a total of 327 unused schools on their books. Chicago has eight of those. The eight buildings are up for sale, but the bidding process has not yet ended, so it’s unclear what, if any, interest there is from developers.


Chicago Math and Science Academy Union Regroups After Ruling DNAI: Awash in public funding, a chicago charter was ruled a private entity, dissolving a teachers' union.

Lincoln Elementary Gets Temporary Overcrowding Fix DNAinfo: Some Lincoln parents said the new CPS administration lead by CEOBarbara Byrd-Bennett is already an improvement over previous administrations, as Byrd-Bennett's office has already sat down with Lincoln's principal and spoken with the alderman about ...


Educare preschool boosts academics, parent involvement Catalyst: A follow-up study of students who attended the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s Educare early childhood center show promising results—for parents as well as students.

Kindergarten, Not Second Grade, Could Be Starting Point For IL Schools WTTW: State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, wants to lower the mandatory school age in Illinois from 7 to 5.

Illinois, once ahead in preschool spending, now falling behind Sun Times: When early childhood education champions in Chicago heard the president lay out a universal preschool proposal this week during the State of the Union address, they thought it rang familiar.


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  • "Q10: How many CPS staff members are currently working on transition plans for 5,792 students with IEPs that may be impacted by closings?

    "A10: We do not yet know how many children with IEPs will be included in this process. But we do have a cross-functional transition planning team of 40 subject matter experts who are guiding the development of all transition plans. This team will then be part of the transition implementation team where each school will have a dedicated team of as many as six individuals, with experience and knowledge in their community and their school, that will be working on the transition implementation process for each student and their family."

    From Zorn blog.

    Huh? I don't think I understand this CPS response. Anyone want to interpret if for me?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Right now because the CPS has not revealed to administrative staff the exact number of schools and which schools will be closed they can't begin to look at individual issues of students with IEPs. The team of 40 subject matter experts are looking at school based transition issues for the whole of closed schools, not so much the individual issues of students from what I know.

    The dedicated team of six individuals are not new staff but probably are existing staff normally called SSAs. SSAs are special education administrators operating out of the networks offices.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I do not have much faith in the SSAs-not very competent, lacking teaching experience in SPED and do not assist in any way in the schools. Most of them are looking at a school not to assist with sped issues but to find out if there will be any administrative openings for them. We had one who did not know what grade equivalent meant, another who had no clue what AYP meant and another who like to say in response to overloaded self-contained rooms, Parf til ya Barf, my pretties! One asked a parent at an IEP meeting if the parent was happy the child was now "cured" of his disability? (not speech, either)
    I have been told that these are patronage jobs and it shows in the lack of professionalism exhibited by the majority of SSAs I have met or heard about from other teachers.

    What is the criteria(if any) to become an SSA?

    Why, when principals and case managers complain about an SSA, is there no accountability and the SSA is just moved to another region?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Our school is on its 4th SSA this year. We had a guy named Charles, but he just left. I wonder why?

  • Should sped parents and guardians of schools that might be closed and schools that might be receiving schools contact their SSAs to address concerns about transitions and resources for their children with disabilities. There are just so many questions on how to manage this. How will ESY be addressed? Etc.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Since the SSAs at this point do not know if a school will actually be closed and which school or schools would become a receiver school I doubt they could do anything at this point in time. I hope that if a school ends up actually closed that its case manager does not just throw up their hands and say well I am out of it now.

    If closing schools' case managers do this it will become a real mess. I understand how upset some of these case managers might be especially those that have been dealing with large special education populations in cluster sites. But if it comes down to the reality that your school is closed then it is important that before positions are closed they do the best they can for these disabled students. This is not going to be easy folks. Let's hope CPS goes small on closures.

    Rod Estvan

  • On a totally different issue. The Stephanie Simon Reuters article on charter admissions restrictions was really amazing. For the most part charters in Chicago look like saints in comparison. I agree with the thrust of this passage and quote: "Even when charter schools use simple applications, the fact that parents must submit them months before the start of school means that "these students are in some ways more advantaged, come from more motivated families" than kids in nearby district schools, education analyst Michael Petrilli said." Petrilli, is executive vice president at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and longtime supporter of charter schools.

    I also thought the statement from Fred Hess another supporter of charter schools was equally interesting. That was a really tough article, but up to now some of the very worst practices depicted in the article aren't happening in Chicago. The push out issue is however a reality for some charter schools here and there is nothing in the Charter School Act that would clearly prohibit it from what I can see. The special education admissions issue is real at some charters, and less so at others. It also depends of the level of the student's disability. Formally the families are never just told to go away but the message is sent at some charters none the less.

    Rod Estvan

  • I think what the general public believes regarding sped and charter schools is that a charter school would "reject" an incoming SWD only - and I mean ONLY - if a regular school would, similarly, have to place the student elsewhere because of the nature of the disability.

    However, from what I hear from the disability community, some charters are pushing out SWD that a general neighborhood would keep and not place out.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Place the student "elsewhere?" Where is that? We aren't having much luck placing students that need additional services into "elsewhere." The charters just keep sending them to us and we do what we can.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    That's the "best-practice" of CPS, right? Just ignore students that need additional services, or report that they don't "need" additional services. So, charters can dump the students into the neighborhood school and the neighborhood school/downtown can decline to address the students needs.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    BTW, I know that not everyone in the neighborhood school is trying to block services to a SWD. That work can be done by the principal or some other player on the "team." Too bad about the bad apples on staff.

  • Just like last year, we are waiting to see how many charter school students get transferred to us right before and during ISAT. We had 6 last year in that one week. Smart move on the charters behalf.

  • Charters are already dumping the children they can't handle on us. Perspectives and Urban Prep are two of the worst offenders.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Should all schools be required to accept all students? I have a SPED child who doesn't belong at Noble, Urban Prep, and other schools designed with certain specific goals.
    I don't know about Perspectives, but both Noble and Urban Prep have a substantial number of students with IEP's who graduate. In fact, if you judging who gets high growth with certain IEP cohorts these two schools are probably the best.
    But I do agree that school choice has the potential to make the challenging CPS SPED situation worse. Both what's (realistically) best for less capable students, as well as how to fairly evaluate adults, needs to be carefully considered.
    I do love CTU terminology! Charters "dump", CTU schools "place out"

  • In reply to Donn:

    It all depends on the intent, Donn.

    When a school team moves a SWD it CANNOT service to a new institution based on the child's needs and the new institution's likely ability to meet those needs, I'd call it placing-out.

    But, when a school team moves a SWD it CAN service to a new institution without attention to the appropriateness of the move, I'd call it dumping.

    There's enough sped-related criminality from both the charter and the general school sides to go around.

  • Yes Donn, as schools receiving public funding, charter schools DO have to admit all students. At least that is the law, but as is common knowledge, very few do so with fidelity to the law - or once a student is accepted with no screening criteria, such as through a lottery, but it is then identified as special needs, they are quickly and quietly exited out the back. Finally people are beginning to pay attention to this, and thus debunking the myths of breakaway charter success rates. I teach at a neighborhood high school, and if we could cut the bottom 15-20% performing of our student enrollment, (which is conservative compared to the 4 year retention rate at many charters), we'd have the same scores and growth rate as the nearby Noble campus. I know from talking to our counselors that we receive dozens of transfers in from Noble each year, especially now - mid-year, and that at a school closer to Humboldt Park/Wicker Park - the transfer numbers are typically over 100 per year from the nearby Noble campuses. I have a very basic offer - for every student we take in from Noble, we transfer over one of our own. We'll use the same criteria - poor discipline, can't 'reach our high standards' - sounds fair enough, right?

  • In reply to eyeoncps:

    "I teach at a neighborhood high school, and if we could cut the bottom 15-20% performing of our student enrollment, .................. we'd have the same scores and growth rate as the nearby Noble campus."

    What's the EPAS growth of the top 80% of the students at your school?

  • "What's the EPAS growth of the top 80% of the students at your school?"

    This is a very good example of how hard it is to make useful comparisons between charters and TPSs.

    Don't you mean, "What is the the EPAS growth of the top 80% of the students at your school when the bottom 20% are gone?"

    Because it makes quite a difference not to have to deal with struggling students at all, if EPAS growth is what you want to achieve.

  • In reply to Ira Abrams:

    I don't know eyeoncps' school, but I can take a look at her "just as good" hypothesis with the best case scenario.
    Lincoln Park was the highest growth neighborhood school with 4.4. If their bottom 20% had a growth of zero, then the top 80% had a growth of 5.5.
    So lets call their 80% growth 5 ish.
    The lowest growth for a single school last year for Noble was 5.2. That's also 5 ish.

    Every other neighborhood HS will compare less favorably to the lowest scoring Noble based on the latest numbers. If the LPHS student body was typical in Chicago there would be no need for Noble or Urban Prep.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Lincoln Park is about as atypical a neighborhood high schools as you could select.

    Try: Roosevelt, Clemente, Farragut, Gage Park, Julian as better examples of neighborhood high schools with some nearby charters

  • In reply to eyeoncps:

    Yes LPHS is atypical. That was the point.
    The schools you mention won't come anywhere near the lowest scoring Noble based on the criteria you proposed.
    But I don't doubt that there are charters whose somewhat superior measurable performance is based solely on selectivity.

  • fb_avatar

    Well, selective enrollment are very similar in this respect, and I would question both.

    I don't think separate but equal schooling ever works.

    But the biggest sin that we should all agree is unacceptable is the practice of saying, "They should be able to teach who they want" and then comparing numbers as you do repeatedly above.

    You can't have both and maintain any credibility on data.

  • In reply to Xian Barrett:

    Teach who they want? If I sent my profoundly disabled son to your classroom you wouldn't believe he belonged in that student group.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn: How has CPS provided FAPE to your profoundly disabled son? Has it worked out well? You probably understand more about how CPS works if you have been seeking FAPE for a profoundly disabled child. What have you learned?

  • Over at

    @ 87. jp | February 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    On Jones:

    1. No demographic study was done by CPS or the Alderman in setting the neighborhood preference boundary for the [new-for-fall 2013] CTE [pre-engineering and pre-law CAC] program. CPS would not share their data nor would they reveal how many applicants there were from inside those boundaries of the reported more than 1000 applications they had.

    2. On publicity of the Jones CTE option CPS did a late rollout of the plan. Their own deadline for community reveal was March. They didn’t have the guidelines or boundary establish in time to include it in the high school book or fair. Jones advocated anyone applying to their SE program to also apply to the CTE so it is very likely the majority of the applications this year came from students looking for a second shot at getting in.

    3. In order to apply the student had to meet the same standards for magnet application to HS. The same ranking is used as selective except no selective exam. In the announced policy CPS stated that all “qualifying” applicants in the preference boundary would be get slots first based on the same system they use for the academic centers, i.e. list them in order of points. The only catch is that in their roll out they said Jones had the right to select a minimum cut off score. So does Jones set the minimum cut off score at a level where you need straight A’s and ISATs in the 90th percentile for example so say 250 applicants in boundary are reduced to 25 qualifying? With over 1000 applicants and a worry at Jones that CTE students might drag down their numbers it seems Jones has every incentive to place their minimum cut off as high as possible, negating the value of the neighborhood preference. Certainly next year with the program established and properly publicized as an option I think they will easily have 3,000 or more applications as there is no downside. It will be very interesting to see how many in the boundary applied.

  • Donn do you really have a son with a severe profound disability in CPS? I found that statement interesting because I have never seen any of your extensive comments discussing special education services in CPS.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    He's at Easter Seals Therapeutic school , but not a CPS placement (which places most of the students).
    Fortunately we never had to rely on the CPS placement lotto.

  • In reply to Donn:

    That's a unique position. Congrats!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Actually there are a lot of CPS students in private placements, but far fewer than there used to be. I have gotten placements at Easter Seals for families too usually under threat of due process. Chicago's private placements are nothing compared to what we see with urban districts like Washington DC and New York, they have a lot more.

    Donn you should be aware that the special ed rule changes I mentioned in another post, these could eventually impact even your child in the private sector. Be vigilant as to what is happening in relation to the attack on special education costs that is developing it has no limits and all of us that educate, advocate for, or have disabled children are in for battles in the days to come.

    Rod Estvan

  • Donn- II thoughtt yourr childrenn weree alll olderr.. Didn'tt youu sayy beforee thatt yourr daughterss weree teacherss?? Maybee thatt wass "jackk""

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Such a riddle! How could both of these apparently contradictory facts possibly be true??

  • In reply to Donn:

    Whilee nott impossiblee itt iss sortt of strangee thatt theree iss such aa rangee inn agess off yourr childrenn.

    Whatt iss strangee iss thatt aa prolificc posterr suchh ass yourr selff hass neverr mentionedd itt beforee. Evenn strangerr iss thatt alll off yourr childrenn aree soo positionedd ass too makee youu aa "superr"" stakeholderr inn everyy issuee thatt iss discussedd.

    II won'tt bee surprisedd iff youu soonn reveall thatt youu havee aa sonn whoo wass aa shootingg victimm, aa daughterr whoo iss ESLL, andd anotherr whoo iss aa Tierr 11 Selectivee Enrollmentt anomalyy.

    Yess, I'mm sayingg yourr personaa iss fakee. Yourr phonyy profilee iss DUMBB. Pickk aa neww namee andd reworkk itt.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I don't doubt Donn's claims of a diverse set of relatives involved in education and sped. It would explain why he/she is a reader of Dist299, I believe. I appreciate his/her point of view although it massively differs from my own.

  • Oh, dear, I've missed that:
    " should be aware that the special ed rule changes I mentioned in another post, these could eventually impact even your child in the private sector. Be vigilant as to what is happening in relation to the attack on special education costs that is developing it has no limits and all of us that educate, advocate for, or have disabled children are in for battles in the days to come."
    Could you post a link to it? I have a child who's tuitioned out!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Is this the post?
    "Rodestvan said 4 hours, 22 minutes ago

    "Two things. First for all special ed teachers and regular ed teachers. Yesterday I went to Springfield in a real big hurry to try to stop something very bad from starting to happen. ISBE yesterday approved for what is called initial review a rule change that could make teaching much more difficult for many teachers including both general education and special education teachers..."

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