A year ago, the state Legislature gave the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) the staggering assignment of organizing training for all new local school council members.

Under the new law, LSC members must receive “three days of training” within six months of taking office or lose their positions.

Until now, training had been a sparse, hit-or-miss endeavor conducted independently by school reform groups and community organizations.

To help develop a curriculum and assist in organizing the new effort, College of Education Dean Larry Braskamp pulled together a coalition of individuals from local universities, the school administration, the Chicago Teachers Union and community-based and reform organizations.

The coalition’s first task was to train the 715 LSC members who had been appointed to fill vacancies that had arisen since the training requirement was enacted. As it turned out, only about 400 participated.

“We conducted interviews and surveys of those that did attend, and discovered that most … found it to be extremely useful,” reports Assistant Dean Don Anderson. “As we entered into the planning for Phase II, these interviews and surveys went a long way in helping us determine what needed to be improved.

“Right away,” says Anderson, “we knew that accessibility was our largest obstacle.”

The training for the appointees was conducted at six regional sites. The some 6,000 members elected in April will find training much closer to home. LSCs will be divided into clusters of 10; within each cluster, LSCs will be asked to form subgroups of two or more; then the subgroups will pick their own training sites.

“The use of clusters and the pairing of LSCs for the training will allow for a cross-pollenization of ideas and issues,” says Anderson.

The core curriculum includes six lessons covering LSC responsibilities, working together for effective results, school improvement planning, elements of a successful school, creating a school vision, budgeting and principal evaluation and selection. Each LSC subgroup will help design another six hours of training to meet local needs.

Each subgroup also will have only one trainer, who will present all the lessons. During the trial run last summer, trainers specialized and rotated among LSC groups.

The coalition has recruited 38 trainers from community and reform organizations and another 31 from the school system, all of whom will undergo 15 hours of training.

Principals and LSC chairs will act as site managers, coordinating the training and monitoring attendance. The training is scheduled to begin in late June or early July and run through October. Training also will be available for any members subsequently appointed to fill vacancies.

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