Footnote Credit: illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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March 1: Curie ouster

Mayor Daley weighs in on the controversial ouster of Curie High Principal Jerryelyn Jones and says the School Board should have the power to overturn local school council decisions to hire or fire principals. Jones, who is black, was ousted by a majority-Latino LSC. She is appealing the decision to an independent arbitrator. Students rallied at the last board meeting in support of Jones, who CEO Arne Duncan called a “superstar principal.” Test scores and other achievement measures have improved at Curie under Jones.

March 7: $$ for schools

As part of his budget address, Gov. Rod Blagojevich outlines a plan to pump $1.5 billion into schools next year, raising state per-pupil funding by nearly $700. Chicago would gain $300 million under the plan, which wins swift endorsement from Senate President Emil Jones. Following Jones’ endorsement, a competing proposal that would raise income taxes and provide property tax relief is in limbo. Advocates of funding reform have long called for such a “tax swap,” to ease the burden on property-poor districts.

March 12: High schools

In contrast to the big jump in elementary test scores, scores at CPS high schools remain flat, with only 31.5 percent of students meeting state standards in 2006, compared to 31.7 percent in 2005. Scores declined slightly statewide as well. CEO Arne Duncan says the district’s latest high school reforms are just taking shape and will take time to show results. In elementary schools, changes to the test likely played a role in the increase in scores, but the city’s gains still outpaced those of the rest of the state.

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Colorado: Tracking teachers

In a move aimed at assessing teacher quality, teachers in Colorado may be assigned tracking numbers that link them to their students’ test scores, according to the March 10 Rocky Mountain News. Students already have individual tracking numbers that let officials measure their academic progress. The University of Colorado favors the plan and says it will help show whether the school is producing successful teachers and whether top graduates are teaching in the neediest schools. But the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, worries that the system may be used punitively against teachers. Legislation on the plan has bipartisan support.

Connecticut: School revamp

A coalition led by the University of Connecticut wants to overhaul some of the state’s lowest-achieving urban schools, according to the March 8 Hartford Courant. The university would open a new Center for Urban Education to provide teacher training, assistance to principals with teacher recruitment, and help with new approaches to discipline. The plan is modeled after Boston’s signature pilot schools program and could include complete revamps of school staff, curriculum and scheduling. The coalition, which includes teachers unions and district superintendents, is asking legislators for $5 million to launch the program this year and up to $10 million per year to support it.

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“I was a teacher. I belonged to a teachers union. I understand why they don’t support [charter schools]. But I don’t think we should be dismantling Chicago school reform one little piece at a time.”

State Rep. William Black (R-Danville) on why legislators should vote “no” on a union-backed plan to limit charter expansion in Chicago. The plan lost by a 77-32 vote on March 29 in the Illinois House.

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We are considering purchasing a home in Chicago based on the attendance boundaries of specific schools. How often does CPS redraw its attendance boundaries?

Anonymous parent

CPS redraws attendance boundaries to reduce overcrowding for an average of 25 schools a year, according to James Dispensa, CPS director of demographics and planning. These schools are usually on the Northwest and Southwest sides.

To avoid purchasing inside an overcrowded attendance area, call your school of choice to check that it is not on controlled enrollment or a multi-track, year-round schedule, both used to relieve overcrowding. The principal should have some idea whether enrollment is rising rapidly enough to cause overcrowding in the near future. Parents can also contact the demographics department at

CPS also reconfigures attendance boundaries when schools close or open. One school, LeMoyne Elementary in Lakeview, is slated to close at the end of the year but has not been enrolling new students for several years.

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When state Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago introduced legislation that would ban virtual schools across Illinois, she singled out Chicago Virtual Charter School and claimed it spends nearly $20,000 per pupil. However, that figure is wildly inflated. The school enrolls 242 students and has a budget of $1,586,652 this year, putting per-pupil spending at $6,556, according to CPS financial data for 2006-07. Including $1,153,401 in start-up funds, per-pupil spending would reach $11,323.

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