| In Short
March 6: Tutors fired
One of the nation’s largest private tutoring companies is fired from seven elementary
schools following complaints at those schools about oversized classes, lack
of teachers and other problems. New York-based Platform Learning provides tutoring
for 14,000 children in 76 CPS schools under a $15 million contract. Similar
complaints about Platform surfaced in other large districts, but Chicago is
the first to remove the company from problem schools. Children from the seven
schools will be placed with other private tutors or the district’s own program.
March 10: Pershing
Parents at a local school council meeting protest a decision to “de-magnetize”
Pershing Magnet school and turn it into a K-3 school called Pershing East. Low-scoring
Douglas would become a 4th- through 8th-grade school called Pershing West. CEO
Arne Duncan says dozens of children are turned away from Pershing each year
and that his plan will make the school’s high-quality curriculum available to
more students. But one parent questioned why Pershing was “dragged into
this mess,” referring to efforts to transform failing schools.
March 23: Principals
Calling their 2 percent pay raise an insult, the head of the principals’ association
said the group wants to change state law and allow principals and assistant
principals to organize as a union. Principals traditionally have received the
same percentage raise as teachers and expected to receive a 4 percent increase.
“The principals simply feel disrespected and very oppressed. We are tired
of it,” said Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators
Association. The average principal salary is $115,000.
Rhode Island: Teacher contracts
A business-led coalition has recommended that the state take over negotiation
of teacher’s union contracts, according to a March 20 Associated Press story.
The Education Partnership maintains that teacher’s unions are barriers to better
schools and that the state could do a better negotiating job than individual
school districts. The group also recommended having statewide standards for
teacher evaluations; creating four categories of teachers and paying higher
salaries to those at the top; and giving principals the power to determine curriculum,
make budget decisions and hire and fire teachers.
Florida: Charter debt
Over one-fourth of the state’s charter schools are in debt and have been forced
to cut services or borrow money, according to the March 15 Orlando Sentinel.
Overall, 62 of 222 charters ended 2003 in the red, a state report found, and
most of the charters with deficits were run by private management companies.
The report found that inaccurate enrollment projections, high start-up costs
and a lack of financial experience led to the big deficits. An analysis by the
Sentinel found that some charters spent half as much on instruction as public
schools, but two to six times as much on administration.
Massachusetts: Worst schools
Business, civic and education leaders are urging legislators and the governor
to spend $90 million on the state’s worst schools over the next three years,
according to the March 11 Boston Globe. The group also wants the state Education
Department to form a collaborative of failing schools and work with superintendents
to find the best interventions; failing schools would be allowed to pick from
a variety of improvement strategies, such as longer school days.
“We do more for inmates in Joliet than we do for kids in
Chicago. Inmates get a daily exercise break.”
Retired principal and CPS administrator Margaret Harrigan,
a guest on the March 13 public affairs radio show “City Voices,” criticizing
the lack of recess in Chicago schools.
West Pullman Elementary has needed building renovations for years.
How does CPS determine which schools get money for that?
Joyce Johnson Parent, West Pullman
A technical team evaluates each school every three years, and
money for building renovations is directed towards the schools with the greatest
needs, according to Sean Murphy, CPS chief operations officer. Renovations fall
into one of four categories: Phase I is the highest priority and covers exterior
features. Phase II covers mechanical, electrical and plumbing needs; Phase III
covers interior spaces, and Phase IV, the school grounds. If a school has immediate
threats to health or safety, Murphy says that his office controls an emergency
fund and can address those problems immediately.
But CPS has yet to release data that would tell schools where
they rank in the needs assessment and why, counters Jacqueline Leavy, executive
director of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group. West Pullman, for instance,
has had only 24 percent of its Phase 1 needs covered, while other schools have
received money for Phase IV projects, according to CPS school assessments, which
can be found on-line at http://www.cps.k12.il.us/Operations/cip.html.
or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,
Enrollment is declining at Chicago City Colleges, and branches
that are predominantly African-American are the hardest hit, according to an
analysis of data from the Illinois Community College Board. Two campuses experienced
enrollment growth between 2000 and 2004: At
Daley, where the student body is 62% Hispanic, enrollment rose 10%;
and at Wright, which is 47% Latino and 37% white, enrollment rose by 1%.
At five other campuses, enrollment fell: 24% at Olive-Harvey
(80% black); 15% at Kennedy-King (85% black); 9%
at Malcolm X (58% black); 5% at Truman (54% Hispanic); and
5% at Harold Washington, whose student body is the most integrated—45%
black, 20% Hispanic, 22% white and 12% Asian.