| In Short
April 15: Firings
About 1,100 non-tenured teachers—12 percent of non-tenured teachers in
CPS—have been fired under a new policy that allows principals to get rid
of them without lengthy hearings. The policy brings Chicago in line with other
Illinois school districts, where teachers can be fired for any reason during
their first three years, and gave principals flexibility to decide which teachers
to let go pending budget cuts that could eliminate up to 800 teaching jobs.
Most were fired for poor performance in the classroom.
April 19: $50 million school
The West Side will be home to two new schools housed in a single $50 million
building: a selective-admissions school with a college-prep curriculum, and
a school focused on vocational education. The new building will replace Westinghouse,
which is expected to be phased out over five years. CPS officials say combining
college prep and vocational schools assures residents that the new school will
accommodate neighborhood kids who would not be eligible to attend a selective-admissions,
magnet-style high school.
April 26: CTU schools
Leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union want to expand a partnership with the
district and take over an additional eight to 10 failing schools. In 2003, the
union took over 10 schools for two years; two of the 10 schools were later closed
due to low enrollment, despite academic gains. Most of the rest made some progress
by 2004. Union leaders want to continue the partnership at the original schools
for three more years, and are asking for five-year contracts for the new schools.
Schools CEO Arne Duncan supports the idea.
California: Teacher pay
Educators are shrugging off a plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to offer higher
pay to lure teachers to failing urban schools, according to the April 26 Los
Angeles Times. “It’s not about an extra $5,000. What we need
are safe, clean schools, lower class sizes and up-to-date textbooks,”
said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. The head
of the Los Angeles teachers union said principal quality, safety, adequate resources
and length of the commute to work are the most important factors in teachers’
decisions about where to work.
Boston: Pilot schools
The teachers union and the Boston Public Schools are wrangling over the union’s
move to force any newly created pilot schools to pay overtime to teachers, according
to the April 22 Boston Globe. Pilot schools are given freedom from
district and union mandates, including overtime pay. The union wants to create
20 new “discovery schools,” which would be virtually identical to
pilot schools but would have to pay overtime. The union has veto power over
creation of new pilot schools.
Virginia: Graduation gap
Graduation rates for African-American and Latino students dropped significantly
in 2004, the first year students had to take exams in six subjects to earn a
diploma, according to the April 18 Washington Post. Researchers found
that the graduation rate last year for whites was 77 percent, compared with
61 percent for blacks and 66 percent for Latinos. The statistics represent a
decline of 5 percentage points for blacks and 12 percentage points for Latinos.
“Gov. Blagojevich calls on education leaders to
help pass new money, new standards for schools.”
From a May 16 press release on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s
announcement of a new task force to promote his funding and reform package.
The release does not mention that the governor’s funding plan relies solely
on money from increased gambling and skimming from special funds.
In the March issue, Catalyst Chicago explained that state
law mandates daily physical education for all students. Students at Blaine only
get one gym class a week, as do kids at many other elementary schools. Why is
the law not enforced?
Pam Ridinger, Blaine LSC parent representative
The Division of Accountability at the Illinois State Board of
Education (ISBE) is responsible for ensuring that schools comply with state
law, including the daily physical education requirement. (Schools that cannot
offer daily PE can make up the time with a supervised recess.) But there is
no routine follow-up, and ISBE officials say they had no idea that CPS was ignoring
the state law until Catalyst contacted them regarding your question. The matter
is being investigated, says William Alexander of the accountability division.
A parent or school staff member can report that their school is
out of compliance by contacting the Division of Accountability at (217) 782-2948.
or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,
Compared to their peers elsewhere in Illinois, Chicago Public
Schools students with limited English proficiency spend longer in bilingual
and ESL programs, but generally perform better on state achievement tests once
they transition out. According to 2003 data from the Illinois
State Board of Education, 50% of bilingual and ESL students
in CPS spend at least 4 years in such programs, compared to
only 20% of students outside Chicago. In grades 5
and 8, transitioned students in CPS posted scores ranging from
3 to 37 percentage points higher on the reading
and math ISAT than students elsewhere; in grade 3, Downstate
students scored higher. CPS accounts for 49% of students enrolled
in bilingual/ESL programs in Illinois.