Chicago, Elgin, Rockford get scrutiny on teacher evaluation

Three Illinois school districts – Chicago, Elgin and Rockford – were among 12 studied for a new report that calls for an overhaul of teacher evaluation, a long-standing issue across the country that school districts have made little progress in changing. The report was sponsored by The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit that works to ensure high-needs students get outstanding teachers. In Illinois, researchers surveyed 7,482 teachers and 184 principals and examined 28,000 evaluation records.

Preschool enrollment lagging in minority neighborhoods

Surveys in several low-income Chicago neighborhoods have shown that some of the children who need preschool education the most aren’t getting it. Now a new report shows that the problem is widespread. 

The report, “Why Isn’t Johnny In Preschool?” is based on over 5,000 interviews in 19 low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods across the city. The research was conducted by  POWER-PAC, a parent offshoot of the group Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), and other nonprofit partners. Their surveys found that 40 percent to 64 percent of preschool-aged children were not in any early education program.

Illinois ranks near bottom in equal education for minorities

Minority students in Illinois are falling through the cracks because they are more likely to be enrolled in the worst-performing schools, according to a new national study that reinforces what education activists have been saying for years about the state’s inequitable school funding system.

The study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education placed Illinois 45th among the 50 states in providing high-quality schooling to low-income and minority students. That finding is no surprise, since Illinois ranks near rock-bottom in state funding for education and black and Latino youngsters are far more likely to live in poorly-funded, low-performing school districts.

The report also quantified the long-term economic impact of the disparities, estimating that lost tax revenue, increased crime and imprisonment, and other consequences of unequal education cost Illinois $3.7 billion a year.

Researchers ranked states according to an “opportunity to learn” score that is based on two variables: how easily disadvantaged students can access the best schools, and how well disadvantaged students meet proficiency standards on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Districts set to up the ante on research

The Consortium on Chicago School Research will host a forum next week for school districts that are interested in creating similar research institutions in their cities. Teams of district officials are expected from New York; Baltimore; Newark; the Kansas City metro area; Louisville; Providence; Boston; Dallas; California, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Fresno and Garden Grove; Detroit; Denver; Milwaukee; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia.

Comings & Goings: Golden Apples for CPS

Four CPS educators have won the Golden Apple Award for excellence in
teaching from the Golden Apple Foundation. The award is given to 10
teachers in the Chicago metro area. The teachers are Melissa Hooker, a music teacher at Mayer Elementary; Maria Hernandez, a bilingual 3rd-grade teacher at Ruiz Elementary; Gloria Moyer, a teacher of visually-impaired students in preschool through 3rd grade at Otis Elementary; and Jennifer Phares, a 1st-grade teacher at Bright Elementary.

Comings & Goings: CEO search for Perspectives

Perspectives Charter is nearing the end of its search for a new chief executive officer and hopes to have the position filled by mid-July in time for the coming school year, says Chief Operating Officer John Hayner. This past January, the search was expanded nationwide. Hayner says that a short list of final candidates will be confirmed by the end of this month, when intensive interviews will begin.

Chicago charters branching outside the city

Two Chicago charter operators are slated to open their first campuses outside the city, in Rockford, over the next two years.

In September, Galapagos Rockford Charter, a branch of the charter in West Humboldt Park, will open serving students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Chicago International Charter Schools-Rockford will open in fall 2010, serving kindergarten through 4th grade. Galapagos-Rockford will eventually expand up to 8th grade; CICS-Rockford plans to expand through high school.

Q&A with Gary Cuneen, Seven Generations Ahead

Children in Chicago, especially those living in poor neighborhoods, are more likely to be overweight than children elsewhere in Illinois and across the nation, according to research compiled by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a prevention program based at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Fresh from the Farm teaches children in CPS schools about the importance of good nutrition—an essential component in preventing obesity—as well as where and how fresh fruits and vegetables are grown. The program is an offshoot of the nonprofit organization Seven Generations Ahead, founded by Gary Cuneen in 2001 to help communities incorporate green, sustainable practices into their day-to-day lives. The organization spreads the word by speaking to teachers and principals about the program, and has begun training teachers in its curriculum. Cuneen spoke with writer Elizabeth Blass about the program’s successes and challenges.

Students band together against gun violence

This week, Chicago students are waging war against gun violence.

A series of events spearheaded by the youth council of Safety Net Works of Auburn Gresham starts Tuesday evening with a rally at the Thompson Center in the Loop. The council is a group of about 15 students from CPS and parochial schools.

Other programs this week include a protest on Wednesday at a suburban Riverdale gun shop and a student-led debate on gun laws, slated for Friday at St. Sabina’s Bethune Hall.

The program will end on Saturday at Perspectives Calumet High School with “The Take Back Part 2”, including workshops, an employment fair, a panel discussion and a concert. The event will also recruit members for “Do You Care?,” an ongoing student-led anti-violence campaign.

Ronnie Mosley, a senior at Simeon High and an organizer for the events, says the council has given him a way to deal with his personal discouragement over the violence he has witnessed. His classmate, Gregory Robinson, was among the CPS students killed this year.