| In Short
Sept. 7: First day
Although enrollment has declined by about 5,000 students since last year, attendance on the first day of school reaches 92 percent, one percentage point higher than a year ago. Businesses announce prizes that schools, students and families can earn–including groceries, rent or mortgage payments and movie tickets–for high attendance. CEO Arne Duncan admits he may face criticism for offering incentives, but says “not everyone has the mentality” that school is important.
Sept. 12: Dropouts
The district announces that its current one-year dropout rate of 10.4 percent is the lowest in a decade, and credits a new Department of Dropout Prevention. But it’s unclear how accurate the figure is, since the district calculates it by simply dividing the number of students who left school by total enrollment and excludes alternative high schools. The Consortium on Chicago School Research tracked individual freshmen and found a four-year dropout rate of 30 percent in 2004.
Sept. 19 High schools
CEO Arne Duncan announces a 10-year, $50 million to $100 million plan to jumpstart academic achievement in neighborhood high schools. The district and a management consulting firm spent six months analyzing data and gathering advice for improvement from teachers, students, parents and dropouts. Among the elements of the plan are new three-year curriculum sequences in math, science and English; and creating schools to serve average and lower-performing students.
Arizona: Charter scrutiny
Nearly one in 10 charter schools could face sanctions starting next year, as the state board that oversees charters begins to develop guidelines for dealing with schools that consistently fail to make academic progress, according to the Sept. 13 Arizona Republic. Board members estimate that 46 charters–about 9 percent of some 500 charters statewide–could face closure under the tougher guidelines. Arizona has more charter schools per capita than any other state.
New York: Incentive pay
A longtime congressman and the head of the city’s most prestigious school of education have urged the city and the teachers union to create pay incentives for teachers to work in low-performing schools, according to the Sept. 7 New York Times. Rep. Charles Rangel and Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College at Columbia University, want to give a 25 percent bonus to teachers who agree to work an 11-month academic year in the worst-performing schools. Veteran educators designated as master teachers would get a 10 percent bonus, raising top pay to about $90,000 per year. Starting pay for new teachers would be $48,750, up from $39,000 now.
Dallas: Bilingual principals
Principals at schools where at least half the enrollment is limited-English-proficient will have to become bilingual, according to the Aug. 26 Dallas Morning News. The new policy sparked racial controversy when the board’s three black trustees, and one white trustee, voted against the plan. The district is 65 percent Latino. ProEnglish, a national group that advocates making English the official language of the U.S., is considering a legal challenge to the policy.
“The magnet program is one of the crown jewels in public education. But it’s not big enough or broad enough to get enough children into it. That’s the major shortcoming.”
U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras at a Sept. 22 court hearing on the progress of the district’s efforts to meet requirements of its federal desegregation consent decree.
What happened to administrators who were cited for violating district rules in a 2004 Inspector General’s report?
The report cited nine administrators, none of whom were identified by CPS. However, two names were leaked to the press, most notably Principal Pamela Dyson of Gwendolyn Brooks High, who created 34 fake classes to gain four extra teaching positions. Dyson was issued a warning resolution, which carries the threat of dismissal. Only one principal was fired. He had purchased more than $133,000 in educational materials from his curriculum coordinator’s company, but was dismissed for additional, unspecified “academic and financial” reasons. An assistant principal resigned and was designated ineligible for re-hire after he was found with pornographic images downloaded onto his computer. An assistant principal at Gallistel was suspended for 15 days. She had used a co-worker’s address to enroll her son at Gallistel and understated her income so he would qualify for a free lunch. Two principals received letters of reprimand. One had hired his wife to redecorate his school’s teacher’s lounge. The second, Principal Dushon Brown of Curtis Elementary, held a wake in the school gym without LSC approval. Two administrators left CPS before being disciplined for failing to notify the board of their secondary employment, one as an adjunct professor, another as a CTA bus driver. One assistant principal found guilty of battery was not sanctioned because the incident was not school-related.
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While the Prairie State Achievement Exam is intended to measure academic performance, researchers at the University of Chicago found that the majority of Chicago Public Schools students who performed poorly on the PSAE were still likely to graduate. According to a September 2005 report, 75% of the students who failed all five sections of the PSAE in 2001 graduated by fall 2002. By comparison, 92% of students who passed the entire test graduated that year.