Footnote Credit: illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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Oct. 9: New schools
CEO Arne Duncan unveils plans for 15 new Renaissance schools in the fall of 2008 and four more in the fall of 2009, including six high schools, three combined middle-high schools, one middle school and nine elementary schools. The elementary schools will include two franchise schools. Disney Magnet II will offer intensive art projects, Chinese classes, monthly teacher training and Disney animation technology. Burroughs II will offer cooking, English classes for parents, drama, sports and longer school days.

Oct. 14: Julian protest
Students rally against the dismissal of 10 teachers at Julian High following a drop in student enrollment of more than 200 students. Some students blamed the decline on negative publicity following violence that touched the school last year, when three students and one teacher were killed in incidents that occurred blocks from the school. Several programs at the school were axed and student schedules had to be reworked because of the cuts. The school’s projected enrollment was about 1,900, but just 1,688 students showed up.

Oct. 15: Recruiting?
CPS dedicates its Marine Military Academy on the Near West Side a few days after officials announce plans to open an Air Force Academy high school in 2009. The news causes critics to charge that the district, which has five military academies serving 11,000 students, is becoming a recruiting center targeting poor and minority teenagers. Although Chicago has the largest Junior ROTC program in the country, Mayor Daley says, “This is not a [military] recruitment effort.” Students are not required to enlist after graduation.

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Minnesota: Teacher mentoring
A public policy think tank wants school districts to beef up their efforts to provide mentoring for new teachers, according to the Oct. 15 Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota 2020 says districts must find a way to hold on to newcomers because of teacher shortages in rural areas and in subjects such as chemistry, physics and special education. State education officials say they are addressing the problem with a performance pay program and a new initiative to help mid-career professionals become teachers. They also want legislators to renew funding for a new teacher induction program and are considering a program that would provide tuition-free education courses to college students studying math and science who might want to become teachers.

New York: Teacher housing
The city is helping finance two apartment buildings in the Bronx that will provide lower-cost housing for public school teachers and other educators, according to the Oct. 5 New York Times. The project is being funded with $28 million in bonds sold by the teachers pension fund and $20 million in loans from the city. The apartments will be made available through a lottery, but many teachers may earn too much to be eligible: Applicants can’t earn more than 110 percent of the area’s median income of $76,000 for a family of four, and starting salaries for teachers are now $42,512. The apartments will also be available to teacher aides, as well as teachers in private and parochial schools.

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“The reason why black youth feel they receive a poorer education is because they do.”

Stephanie Posey, a student at Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville, at an Oct. 9 panel hosted by the Chicago Urban League, explaining why most black teens surveyed by The Black Youth Project said blacks receive an inferior education compared to whites. Posey says her textbooks are old, while those at premier schools such as Northside are new.

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This year, 1st -, 2nd- and 3rd-graders at Bell will get a report card with letter grades instead of symbols to show whether they meet, exceed or are still developing toward meeting standards. Why?

Ross Hyman, parent, Bell Elementary

Principal Robert A. Guercio says the school made the change because of IMPACT, the district’s new student information software, which requires schools to assign letter grades that follow students throughout their school years. The school’s former report card was used because teachers and administrators believed it better reflected the fact that young children learn at different rates, Guercio says. Bell’s old card also gave teachers plenty of space for comments, while IMPACT requires teachers to choose one of 20 standard comments. Teachers do not have to use the IMPACT report card, says Antonio Acevado, senior assistant to the chief of elementary education. But schools that stick with symbols must figure out how to translate those into letter grades that can be entered into IMPACT at the end of the year.

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Some bright spots appeared in the 2007 National Assessment of Education Progress report, including shrinking achievement gaps between black and white students. But the gender gap is proving stubborn. Girls outperform boys by large margins on reading tests, scoring an average 7 points higher in 4th grade and 10 points higher in 8th grade. The gaps have narrowed slightly since 1992: 1 point smaller in 4th grade and 3 points smaller in 8th grade. In Illinois, the gap is smaller. Here, girls scored 5 points higher than boys in 4th grade and 8 points higher in 8th grade.

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