Notebook

illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Footnote

Timeline | Elsewhere

| In Short

Ask Catalyst | Math Class


TIMELINE

Sept. 4: IMPACT falters

CPS’ new $60 million computer information system, Instructional Management Program and Academic Communication Tool, causes chaos on the first day of school. Students miss classes and disappear from rosters. M. Hill Hammock, the district’s chief administrative officer, says the system simply is overwhelmed, a problem that may recur on a few “peak demand” days each year, such as the last day of school. Despite the system crash, CPS later claims a 93 percent first-day attendance, up slightly from last year.

Sept. 8: Home visits

CEO Arne Duncan, School Board President Rufus Williams, other district officials and community volunteers go door-to-door in the Englewood community encouraging students who did not show up during the first week of class to enroll in school. Students who did not show up at Clemente, Crane, Farragut, Harper, Hubbard, Kelly, Phillips, Schurz and Senn high schools also get visits. Each of those schools reported high numbers of dropouts and poor attendance in the 2006-07 school year.

Sept. 11: Payroll glitch

PeopleSoft, CPS’ new $17 million payroll system, wreaks havoc on checks for employees and retirees. Some retirees are being underpaid by $800 a month while more than 1,600 recent retirees are receiving estimated pension payments and may not get actual pension payments until November. No retirees have been paid for their unused sick days, and about 1,200 June retirees are owed a total of more than $35 million. CPS acknowledges the snafu and blames it on technical issues related to the start-up of a new system.

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ELSEWHERE

Texas: Recovering dropouts

A new law will give school districts an incentive to re-enroll young adult dropouts by helping to defray the costs of educating them, according to the Sept. 14 Houston Chronicle. Districts will receive $30 per day for every student between the ages of 21 and 26 who re-enrolls in school. The state now provides that same level of funding for students under 21. Texas now has the highest upper age limit in the country for public schools students. In Chicago, the limit is 21.

Utah: Online testing

The state may scrap the use of standardized tests, including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, in favor of online, so-called “adaptive” tests that would be designed to better gauge students’ progress and learning needs, according to the Sept. 8 Salt Lake Tribune. Students in grades 2 through 12 would take the tests at least three times a year, and teachers would get test results more rapidly through the online system. Students would also have to take the ACT and college and career readiness tests. The plan was developed by the state schools superintendent and a group of state educators.

New Orleans: Battling truancy

The Recovery School District has hired 10 truancy officers and opened a truancy center to help get children back into school and keep their attendance up, according to the Sept. 8 Times-Picayune. Police will sweep neighborhoods to pick up children who skip school and take them to the new center, which is staffed with a social worker, counselor and youth advocates from the juvenile court system. Children who are not registered at any school will be automatically added to the enrollment rolls. Just 60 percent of students attended the first day of classes; since then, attendance has increased to about 70 percent.

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IN SHORT

“I know you are working hard, but what you are doing is not working.”

David Gilligan, chief officer for high schools, to high school principals at an Aug. 24 meeting at Kenwood. On the same day, newspapers reported high school test scores had declined from last year.

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ASK CATALYST

Why are there such differences between the libraries in schools and why do some not have librarians?

Anonymous parent, North Side Parents Network

There is no dedicated funding in the CPS budget for libraries. CPS uses a staffing formula to allocate staff positions that can be split between a part-time physical education teacher and part-time librarian, says CPS Library Director Paul Whitsitt. It is up to the principal to decide how much discretionary money to commit to the library and how much time a staff member will spend running it. Many principals rely on parent organizations to raise money for the library, while others expect librarians to apply for outside grants. The district offers a matching grant of up to $5,000 for schools that spend some discretionary money or raise funds, but requests for grants far outstrip the money available, Whitsitt says. Last year, about 200 schools split $850,000 in grant funds, and Whitsitt expects funding will be about the same this year. The district is about to invest in a centrally automated library system, he adds, to let officials know which libraries need more books and eventually allow libraries to share their resources.

E-mail your question to askcat@catalyst-chicago.org

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

IL 60604.

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MATH CLASS

The United States ranks last in preschool enrollment among all other G-8 countries, according to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics that used data from 2004. Nearly 100% of 3- and 4-year olds were enrolled in preschool in France and Italy, and 75% or more in Germany, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., the percentage of youngsters enrolled in preschool was only 53%. (NCES did not obtain early childhood data for the Russian Federation, another G-8 member.) Not until children reached the age of 6 in the U.S. were more than 90% enrolled in formal education.

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