"Chicagoland" Features Fenger HS

"Chicagoland" Features Fenger HS

Did you watch Chicagoland last night? What'd you think? Here's three minutes from the show, focusing on Fenger's Principal Dozier (including a staged call between her and MRE). Or read more about the show here.



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  • As is the case with any television show relating to urban education, CNN wants to create heroes. Fenger High School Principal Elizabeth Dozier gets to play that role. From a cinematic perspective she was a great choice because she is articulate, attractive, and moves around a lot or at least in the clip I saw. To say that Fenger has turned around based on the data CPS has on the school is really a little over the top, but to argue that it is more orderly may be based in some reality.

    But creating order in an urban high school sometimes means pushing those who are disorderly out of the doors in an effort to save those who we think can be saved. Really none of that is even touched on in the report, but it is obvious from easily available statistics on the school. Here is an amazing statistic regarding Fenger, in 2013 the number of suspensions per 100 students at the school was 123.2, whereas the district average in 2013 was 41.2. Other data indicates that the school was actually attempting not to excessively suspend students. So we see that the percent of misconducts resulting in a suspension was 20.7 in 2013 whereas the district wide average was 37.3.

    But the struggle to get order in the school appears to have had its casualties, on the 20th day of this school year (2013-14) there were only 421 students attending Fenger high school of whom just 75 were freshmen. If we go back to the 2010-2011 school year when Fenger was a more disorderly, the high school had 784 students of whom 94 were freshmen on the 20th day. That’s a decline of in total enrollment of 46.3% in just three school years. According to CPS Fenger’s current facility utilization rate is about 26%.

    Those are stunning statistics, but statistics are not really what the CNN series are about. I wonder if Mayor Emanuel was been presented with this data before he made his obviously prearranged comments to Principal Elizabeth Dozier about her bringing so much order to Fenger.

    But more importantly I wonder if CPS is contemplating closing Fenger in the near future? It reminds me of a famous quote from the Vietnam War attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by AP correspondent Peter Arnett writing about Bến Tre city on 7 February 1968: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” In the case of Fenger the quote might read – to bring order to the school it became necessary to depopulate it.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Whatever it takes to bring success to those who want an education and live a better life in their surrounding environment. She's marvelous!!!! I hope some day she takes over the political arena by running for a higher office, i.e., mayor, senator, congressman, or governor. Every school district has a method of getting rid or replacing the trouble makers. I know what I'm talking about...35 years in the Broward School System. Fifteen years in the social workers/school psychologists department. I currently live across the street from the facility that educates suspended students. It's a never ending struggle to turn around and educate young people from all walks of life who don't succeed in the regular classroom behaviorally or academically. Heros in the education field devote their lives trying to change all that has wrong in young people's lives preventing them from succeeding on all levels of human development. How about you? Join the mentoring program in your school district, that's a start for you. Become part of the working solution.

    J. Lane

  • Thanks for those facts.

  • I am not sure what you should expect to happen to a school community that was forced to watch one of its own beaten to death by depraved elements within its own larger community as he walked home from school. That Dozier has been able to create a positive culture in that school is a significant achievement that has nothing to do with her attractiveness, cinematic or otherwise. Her work deserves a lot more than the wet blanket that the predictably negative Rodestvan throws on it.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I'm not saying Dozier is a phony, but I've seen a number of principals act quite differently when there are "people in the building."

    Does she really chase students down the street while wearing heels every day? The looks on some of the kids faces while she was yelling at students in the hallway was telling. My experience with peace circles is that they don't work much of the time. Silence the Violence? Great, but 100s of anti-violence marches later and Chicago still has the biggest gang problem and most homicides in the country.

    Dozier seems alright (although pushing the security guard while going in another direction was weird), but she appears to be yet another branded CPS "superstar" sent to save the worst of the worst schools. Where will she be in 4 years? My guess is not at Fenger. If CPS closed high schools, Fenger's underutilization rate would have made it one of the first to go.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It may be a more positive culture, but it is not the same Fenger. Where are the missing students? Mostly they are probably in others schools, but perhaps more have dropped out too.

    Rod points out the uncomfortable irony that often accompanies change in extremely challenging circumstances.

    I enjoyed the cinematic quality of Chicagoland, especially as it made the city and its residents appealing. Dozier's on screen charisma is important because it makes Fenger a story worth telling in this format.

    I felt that this segment presented Lewis as the antagonist. I expect Rahm will play that role when the show shifts to focus on her. The "murder mayor" thing may be effective local politics, but it sure makes Chicago look ugly to the larger world.

  • I would ask this poster if a school that has lost this many students so quickly can survive. The reality is Principal Dozier did what has been done before and exactly what we tried to do at Calumet High School many years ago.

    We created at Calumet greater order and lost so many students we were closed. I wrote up students every day, we swept up dozens of kids from the hallways every week, and we suspended quickly for cutting. While structural order is a precondition for academic achievement, there is no guarantee the achievement will materialize.

    The killing at Fenger got serious media coverage only because of the video, at Calumet in the 1980s and 1990s the dead were reported mostly in the Chicago Defender, not on TV.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod, so you should have just let Calumet continue on its original course?

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn, youu knoww you'vee justt invitedd aa thoroughh, scathingg, andd mostt importantlyy truthfull rebukee fromm Rodd, rightt? Whyy doo youu sett yourselff upp too bee madee thee fooll.. Rodd iss almostt alwayss rightt andd backss itt upp. Youu onn thee otherhandd... welll

  • Donn has made a legitimate point. I think that the much maligned culture of calm approach in addition to the increased discipline efforts at Calumet would have helped. Funding for the culture of calm approach has been significantly reduced.

    As Donn and others are aware I have never exempted traditional schools from criticism when discussing suspensions and push outs. But we have to be concerned about disruptive students who are forced out of schools whether charters or traditional schools.

    As a former member of the CPD I think Mr Huberman who developed culture of calm understood the social dynamics of youth crime. It cost a lot of money too. Alternative schools as they exist are the end game for many students and we do not have an effective reintegration program for disruptive youths either in Chicago or in the south suburbs where I am currently seeing even more Black male students pushed out than in the city.

    We can't continue to try to save only the "good" poor kids, we are creating an under class that will reap havoc on our society and make the major cities and lower income suburbs look like the narco war zones in Mexico.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Saving the "good" poor kids is important. What about focusing on the bottom 10% of students the "bad" poor kids? Could society be so bold as to admit these kids are a huge problem, segment them out and provide the services needed? I think local communities would be up in arms being judged as bottom 10%. Until this changes these kids are bound to drop out and end up dead or in jail.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I don't understand why CPS can't actually save all the "good" kids while continuing to find the best path forward for more troubled youth.

    It seems to me that in the daily struggle of urban educators, the bigger question of how the community should best organize students never really gets asked. First there's the plan for the class and the school. Then there's the disappointing variance from the plan when the reality of poverty arrives at the school door. Then there's the inevitable debate over what should be done with the most disruptive students.

    In the end the energy goes to mitigating the worst school problems rather than taking care of the students who don't demand daily attention. I don't believe any community can rise with these priorities.

  • I am wondering about the "bottom" 10% and think that maybe the "bottom" may have been helped had they been referred for specialized services.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Well in some cases students may be identified. But there is one very large problem, under federal law students who are "maladjusted" due to social environmental factors can legally be excluded from special education services. Where the line is between maladjustment and mental illness is one of the unsolved problems.

    Then there is the big problem of the extent and quality of services to students who are identified. There is now also confusion about the difference between a student with a learning disability and a weak reader who very poor remediation. There are plenty of problems to chose from.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod Estvan, this is the perfect case/reason to build more charter schools. Charters end up screening out the most troubled either by their parents never applying or getting counseled/kicked out for behavior reasons. This way, there is not a need to have legislation determine the "category" and how to "legally" determine the "issue" with a particular child. It happens naturally by default with charters. Charters should not be compared to their closest neighborhood school. Instead, it should be recognized that charters are needed and serve an important purpose. To add to this, the neighborhood school should get additional counseling and social work and programs to deal with the increased concentration of "bad/troubled" students. Charters and neighborhood schools under this view can and should exist in the same neighborhood. Reformers and foes to reform should just look at the dynamic for what it is and stop fighting. When the fights stop is when the students can actually get what they need.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    We don't need charters to do this. Magnets, which are staffed by actual educators, where the focus is academics and not test prep, can and would far out perform charters with the same demographic.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Examples please.

  • Help! I've been told by S4(CO Specialized services) that there is no such thing in CPS as a one on one/dedicated aide that all aides are now shared. How can this be? The suburbs attach one to one paras for children who are security risks-children with severe disabilities may run out of the school, eat pencils etc or throw tantrums where they could get hurt or hurt other children. How will a para take one child to the washroom and leave the other child in the room?
    This has to be a mistake! Where can I find the laws/rules on assignment of paras?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    In theory dedicated individual aides are still possible and the CPS IEP format allows for such a position. It is very difficult to get one without litigation currently. I am currently involved with a family that has filed for due process over this very issue.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Thank you for response. I really do not understand how CPS can deny an individual aide when the child's safety is an issue. Isn't CPS afraid that a child could be seriously injured or even die? The teachers and paras are very stressed out over this issue. No one wants to see a child get hurt. Please make sue you have documented the need for an individual aide because CPS will blame you if something happens.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Unfortunately because I have a consumer of Access Living in due process in relation to this issue I can't really comment further on it at this time.

    Rod Estvan

  • Come on 299 you know better than to ask such a question.
    The law might be found on page six but the reality is in the schools.
    How many SPED aides run the computer room and coach basketball?
    Why do one on one aids sit in the case managers office filing papers?
    How can one teacher and two aids watch eight autistic kids ?

  • The room I subbed in had 14 severely autistic children and two aides.
    One would leave to take individual children to the washroom and all I could think about was what would happen if the fire alarm went off. It was not a good situation.

  • Enough said

  • It is much cheaper to wait for a family to go due process (only a few do) than it is for CPS to buy the aide(s). Quite cost effective for CPS.

  • So even though the suburban school districts (even the low income ones) do assign aides to children who are a danger to themselves or others CPS does not do the right thing-the lack of ethics in CPS is appalling. I will bet that the assignment of aides in CPS probably differs according to the socio-economic make-up of the school.

  • "I will bet that the assignment of aides in CPS probably differs according to the socio-economic make-up of the school."
    Do you think Catalyst, BGA or one of the big newspapers would investigate this?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I am hoping that someone in the media will at least investigate this and also investigate the approximately 250 special classrooms without certified special education teachers. I'd like to know how long there's been a shortage, is the shortage specific to certain schools, certain types of special education rooms, and what has CPS done to address the shortage. I'd also like to know why special education teachers are leaving CPS? I have heard that the lack of para support is a huge issue.

  • here's sun times columnist mark brown on fenger, dozier, and chicagoland -- is he being too admiring?

    Show of strength no act for Fenger principal: Brown - Chicago Sun-Times http://ht.ly/uCuC8

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