Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

E-mail your question to

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

IL 60604.

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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.

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