The School Reform Board of Trustees has awarded a total of $2.05 million to nine universities and educational organizations to work with 30 especially low-scoring elementary and high schools.

Under the revised School Reform Act, the board has the power to intervene at chronically low-achieving schools. Last fall, 149 such schools were selected because they failed to meet state achievement expectations for three consecutive years. The number recently was lowered to 132, based on more recent test scores.

As part of the intervention program, the accountability office sent teams of administrators to assess these schools’ needs. At the same time, it issued a request for proposals to work with them.

In December, the School Board approved nine contracts and made the following pairings:

University of Chicago Center for School Improvement, $90,000 (Sharon Rollow): Donoghue Elementary.

DePaul University Center for Urban Education, $126,000 (Barbara Radner): Piccolo, Farren, Schiller, Hartigan, Terrell and Einstein elementary and Carver High.

Malcolm X College, Personalized Curriculum Institute, $38,000 (Joe Layng): Manley High.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, $360,000 (Lynn Stinnette): Attucks, Whittier, Coleman and Roque de Duprey elementary.

Small Schools Workshop, University of Illinois at Chicago (Michael Klonsky), $268,000: Raymond Elementary and Bowen and Harlan high.

Quality Schools Seminars Ltd., a new education organization headed by Ron Warwick from National-Louis University, $47,000: Ross Elementary.

College of Education, Northeastern Illinois University, $356,000 (Jerry Olson): Jefferson and Henderson elementary and King and Robeson high.

Loyola University was also accepted ($50,000), but at press time had not been paired with any schools.

In the fall, DePaul University’s School of Education, headed by Barbara Sizemore, received $480,000 to work with six schools that had been placed on remediation last school year: Brown, Curtis, Lewis, Tilton and West Pullman elementary and Austin High. More recently, she received a $240,000 contract to work with Fuller and Sherman elementary and Collins High.

The accountability office received 31 proposals to work with so-called watchlist schools. Those that were rejected may get a second chance if they are reworked, says Phillip Hansen, head of school intervention. “Many of the proposals we received were good, but they didn’t address all of the elements we are looking for,” he says.

The accountability office wants to provide schools with help in the five areas outlined in “Pathways to Achievement:” increasing student achievement, improving school leadership, establishing a student-centered learning climate, providing professional development activities and promoting parent community partnerships. (See Catalyst, November 1995.)

The board also signed a $75,000 contract with the Urban School Improvement Program at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to provide an initial evaluation in June and a follow-up report, including test data, in June 1997.

Both the universities and local schools had a say in the pairings.

“We met with groups of four to five people—principals, teachers, LSCs and parents,” says Hansen. “We wanted to make sure schools had input. We didn’t want to tell them, ‘You have to work with this university.’ “

This year, the board budgeted $5 million for intervention at low-achieving schools. The remaining $3 million will pay for support teams, including veteran principals, for another 70 schools. In addition, the state is working directly with 20 other schools through its Jump Start program. “We hope to get additional funding next year and have put in our request to the CEO’s office. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Hansen says.

If more money is not forthcoming, schools may have to dip into their own discretionary money, Hansen says. Indeed, the accountability office is asking schools to consider reimbursing it for this year’s spending.

“We don’t want to apply pressure and force schools to do this, but we would like to develop a ‘bank’ with seed money,” Hansen explains. “People would give back what they could, and we could use the money to help other schools. But again, we don’t want to pressure schools. We understand they need to use funds on work on their school improvement plans.”

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