Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Timeline | Elsewhere

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Oct. 5: Naval academy

A noisy crowd of about 300, mostly students and anti-war demonstrators, forced

district officials to cut short a presentation of plans to open a naval academy

inside Senn High School in Edgewater next year. Following intense heckling,

officials stopped a promotional video for military schools and adjourned early.

Protestors decried the plan as military recruitment of poor, urban youth. CPS

says it wants to provide parents and students with more choice. Senn officials

say they fear the academy will take up too much space.

Oct. 6: Capital funding

Schools CEO Arne Duncan makes a plea for state legislators to approve $500 million

in school construction matching grants. If the program is not approved during

the November veto session, Chicago stands to lose about $110 million slated

for repairs, renovations and new construction for overcrowding relief. Suburban

and Downstate education leaders joined Duncan to make the plea. The School Board

last month approved a $369 million capital budget. CPS’ capital budget

for 2004-05 is $660 million.

Oct. 14: After-school

Thirty-four schools will share a $3.1 million 21st Century Community Centers

federal grant and $1.8 million in private funds to become community schools;

32 schools are already in the program and offer after-school academics and activities.

A new report from Mathematica Policy Research found that elementary students

in the 21st Century program, which is nationwide, improved their attendance,

reported feeling safer after school and had high expectations for finishing

college. There was little impact on test scores.

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Tennessee: Grading policy

About 75 percent of high schools would have to change their grading policy under

a state plan to require a standardized system, according to the Oct. 17 Memphis

Commercial Appeal. The proposed policy would primarily affect how schools

give out grades of A and B. Students would have to receive scores of 94-100

on assignments to receive an A and scores of 85-93 to receive a B. Currently,

only 25 percent of school districts set grading standards that high. Any score

of 69 or below would count as an F.

Detroit: Achievement gap

Test scores are lower in Detroit Public Schools now than when the state took

over the school system five years ago, according to the Oct. 16 Detroit

Free Press. Students now lag even further behind students in the rest of

the state in every subject (math, science and reading) and at every grade level

except for high school reading, according to the paper’s analysis.

Minnesota: Teacher quality

Minnesota is poised to become the first state to work with the non-partisan

Teaching Commission on a plan to improve teacher quality, according to the Oct.

14 Duluth News-Tribune. Among the proposals are higher pay for teachers

in fields such as math and science; giving teachers more say in how schools

are run; improving schools and colleges of education; and providing better professional

development. Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants lawmakers to agree to link a boost in education

spending to better teacher performance.

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“We need teachers, whether they are ‘qualified’

or not, who can teach in a creative way. My algebra teacher, he’s inventive.

Everyone shows up for his class on time.”

Richard Guss, Harlan High sophomore, at an Oct. 13 panel discussion

on teacher standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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If a student enrolls in a magnet high school but later wants to

return to his or her neighborhood school, can the neighborhood school refuse


CPS parent, name withheld on request

Yes. Once a student enrolls at a school, magnet or regular, that school becomes

his home school, and no transfer is automatic. While CPS policy cites several

reasons for accepting a transfer student—e.g. it promotes desegregation

or reduces a threat to the student’s well being—it offers none for

rejecting one. Ed Klunk of the CPS Office for High School Programs says that

even in situations where the student formally meets the transfer criteria, the

decision rests with the school. He recommends that students and parents who

are seeking a transfer meet with the neighborhood school to discuss the reasons,

or try to arrange for counseling or tutoring at the magnet school. He notes

that students who are denied transfers may appeal to the area instructional


E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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Only 22 percent of high school seniors nationwide

who took the ACT in the 2003-04 school year met benchmarks

for college readiness: an ACT science score of 24, a math score

of 22 and an English score of 18, according

to the recent ACT Inc. report “Crisis at the Core: Preparing All Students

for College and Work.” Those scores demonstrate readiness for college

courses in biology, algebra and English composition, respectively. In Chicago,

only 2 high schools posted school-wide scores at or above the

benchmarks in 2002-03 (the latest year available at press time).

Another 6 posted scores high enough to meet the English benchmark,

but fell short of the mark in science and math. 7 schools did

not have ACT scores available.

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