Footnote Credit: illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Timeline | Elsewhere | In Short
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Nov. 10: Test troubles

A decline in scores on high school tests prompts Illinois State Board of Education officials to say they plan to hire an independent consultant to look into the results. CEO Arne Duncan suggests that too many juniors blew off the second day of the two-day Prairie State exam. Day two includes a test of workplace skills; day one includes the ACT, which is needed for college admission. Overall scores declined in CPS, from 31.2 percent to 29.7 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

Nov. 12: Certification

Just two months after passage of a new teachers contract that ensures a $1,750 annual salary boost to National Board certified teachers, the district announces that more than 660 teachers are on track to obtain certification. They would join 652 teachers who already are certified and another 400 who are waiting on their scores. The process can require as many as 400 hours of work over three years. Board certified teachers also get $3,000 from the Chicago Public Education Fund.

Nov. 14: Opt-outs

The School Board declines to vote on a proposal to limit military recruiting in schools. The previous week, parents of high school students were given military opt-out forms on report card pick-up day, allowing parents to refuse access to their child’s contact information. CPS says activists have complained about aggressive recruiting, and says 11,767 students have returned the forms, up from 8,018 earlier this year—but still just 17 percent of students in grades 10 through 12. (See Updates, April 2007.)

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Missouri: Merit pay

The Missouri State Teachers Association and Missouri National Education Association—the state’s two major teachers organizations—might consider linking salaries to performance evaluations, according to the Nov. 8 Columbia Tribune. But first, the state must boost the minimum starting salary for teachers, give teachers a key role in developing the evaluation used to determine performance and ensure teachers have the right to bargain collectively, the organizations say.

Ohio: Online shame

The Ohio Department of Education now posts online the names of more than 1,700 teachers, coaches, administrators and other licensed educators who have been reprimanded for misconduct since the Office of Professional Conduct was created in 1999, the Nov. 2 Columbus Dispatch reports. The Web listing follows a 10-month Dispatch investigation which found the state did not always notify school districts about reprimanded teachers, so some superintendents had unknowingly hired teachers with histories of misconduct.

Washington D.C.: Student input

Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee are asking students to help solve problems such as school violence, crumbling facilities and unqualified teachers, the Nov. 4 Washington Post reports. In response to student suggestions at a series of youth forums, Rhee promised safer and cleaner schools, better-qualified teachers, more extracurricular activities and tastier lunches. Rhee says she attends student events because “when you want to find out what’s happening in a school or classroom, you have to push the adults aside and ask the kids.”

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“It’s an easily game-able system.”

Thomas Cook, education and social policy professor at Northwestern University, on testing standards under No Child Left Behind. States can make tests easier, lower passing scores and do other things to make it easier for schools to improve under NCLB. Cook, a member of the Independent Review Panel for NCLB, spoke at a Nov. 7 breakfast sponsored by Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

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Why does Chicago Public Schools continue to push for better computers and software while virtually ignoring art, music, phys ed and extracurricular activities?

Jill Allison White, parent, Murray Language Academy

Others share your concern. In 2005, a Chicago Community Trust report called attention to uneven arts programming in CPS. In response, the Arts Education Initiative was created and CPS created a new Office of Fine and Performing Arts. Currently, the office is developing a Web site showcasing arts organizations that want to work with CPS schools. Emily Hooper Lansana, CPS theater and literary arts curriculum supervisor, says the office merely offers opportunities to schools—it doesn’t provide the art programs. In CPS, principals and local school councils decide whether their school has arts programs, a lab full of new computers, or both. The district provides some money for resources, which principals can use to purchase technology, and pays for staff to teach art, music and physical education. Principals typically use discretionary money to augment arts programs.

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The lack of a high school diploma has a lifelong negative effect on earnings, a report by economists at Northeastern University in Boston says. Working-age high school dropouts fare worse in the Illinois labor market than their credentialed peers: 55% of those without a diploma have jobs versus 69% of high school grads and 82% of college grads. Statewide, some 55% of 16– to 19-year-old dropouts are employed, but just 24% of their Chicago counterparts have found work. The average dropout will earn $355,000 less in his lifetime than a high school graduate in Illinois, and cost the government nearly 35% more for services.

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