Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – Week of November 18, 2019

The Latest Elevate Chicago & Partner Blogs

Why would the Chicago Teachers Union negotiate a moratorium on charter public schools in their new contract?

By Elevate Chicago

“You might have missed this in the fine print, but for the second consecutive contract, the Chicago Teachers Union negotiated what’s called a “side-letter” (an addendum to their contract) that puts a moratorium on charter school growth.  According to Chalkbeat Chicago: “The charter moratorium in the tentative agreement says charter student enrollment by the end of the contract will not exceed 101% of charters’ enrollment capacity as of last school year. Furthermore, there will be ‘net zero increase’ in the number of charter schools.”  The CTU’s advocacy against charter public schools is curious, to say the least, especially given charters’ proven track record of delivering great results for Chicago families, and the fact that CTU represents hundreds of Chicago’s charter school teachers and staff at the bargaining table.”


Founding Story: Catalyst Charter Schools

By Elevate Chicago

“The story of Catalyst Schools began in 2001 when Gary Comer – founder of Lands’ End – brought then CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan to visit the San Miguel Middle School on Chicago’s West Side. The students at this small faith-based school were thriving. The school partnered with community organizations and provided its graduates the support needed to get into and through high school. Parents and members of the neighborhood served on the team as teachers, leaders, mentors and volunteers. Many of the teachers lived as a community in a nearby house. The school was modeled after the first San Miguel School in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that was opened in the dining room of a convent in 1995 by the same lifelong educators – Ed Siderewicz and Gordon Hannon. It was a unique and successful model, and Arne Duncan wanted it in the CPS portfolio. He asked Ed, Gordon, and their new colleagues Sharon Morgan, Kathy Donohue and others to go to work on a new school for CPS.”


Catalyst Charter Schools: Supporting Dreamers

By Elevate Chicago

“October 1st. Every senior at Catalyst Maria knows the importance of October 1st. The free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) opens to students across the United States. Catalyst’s OneGoal students attend retreats, with their tax forms and FSA IDs in tow, in order to be some of the first students to complete the form that will give them access to federal and state grants to support the funding of their college education. Parents fill the college and career center in our building in order to get support with the FAFSA – they know this is a key lever in making their son’s and daughter’s dream a reality. There’s a lot of excitement around October 1st. While it is often stressful on counselors (and students!), there is an undeniable sense of accomplishment as students press submit on their applications.”


Noble CEO Constance Jones Named to Prestigious List of 40 Under 40 by Crain’s Chicago Business

By the Noble Network of Charter Schools

“Crain’s Chicago Business released their highly anticipated annual class of 40 under 40 including Constance Jones, the chief executive officer of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. “I’m honored by this recognition not for my own sake but because it shines a light on the incredible work our students, their families and our staff do each day at Noble,” said Jones, “We lead with love and high expectations and it is a privilege to do this work.” Jones is the first African American and the first female CEO of the largest and most successful charter school network in Illinois. She oversees the strategy and operations of an organization of 12,000 students and 1,300 staff across 18 campuses, with a total budget in excess of $180 million. Under Jones’ leadership, Noble has continued to set the high-water mark for college preparation across Chicago Public Schools (CPS).”


Open Books and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Bring Books to Englewood and Beyond

By Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“Last Saturday, Open Books and Imagination Library partnered with Teamwork Englewood for a celebratory kick-off of their efforts to inspire a love of reading in young Chicagoans. Already Open Books has enrolled over 2,000 children in the Austin, Garfield Park, Little Village, North Lawndale and Pilsen communities in the Imagination Library program. Recently, executive director Eric Johnson’s plans to reach every young child in Chicago were featured in Crain’s Chicago Business’ Public Schools Ideas Forum. Singer Dolly Parton created Imagination Library in honor of her father. In a letter on the program’s website, she says, “He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all his dreams.” Through local partnerships like the new one with Open Books, Imagination Library now sends a brand-new book a month to thousands of children from birth through age 5 all over the world.”


Charter Chatter

What the latest rankings should tell us about charter schools

By Andrew Broy for Crain’s Chicago Business

“This year, the highest performing public school in all of Chicago is not in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, or Hyde Park. It is on Chicago’s West Side in the West Humboldt Park community. KIPP One charter school is an elementary school educating 870 young scholars. KIPP One earned 4.9 out of 5 possible points, the highest rating among all 642 schools in the city. This school’s exceptional performance turns on its head the notion that “good” schools are found mainly on the North Side. The simple fact is that great schools are distributed across our city, and the latest CPS ratings confirm this. These results make it even more frustrating that the Chicago Teachers Union once again attempted to cap charter school enrollment and growth in their latest labor negotiations. Why in the world would we want to put a limit on excellence? It’s time to move beyond squabbling about type of school or governance model and make access to high-quality schools for all Chicago students our shared focus and priority.”


Whitmire: With DACA in Danger at the Supreme Court, The Against-All-Odds Success of These Undocumented College Grads Deserves Its Own Hearing

By Richard Whitmire for The 74

“Last week’s Supreme Court hearing on the fate of the Dreamers didn’t appear to go well for the roughly 700,000 young people brought to this country illegally when they were children and who now seem likely to lose their legal protections. But in 2020, when the Supreme Court decision is revealed, the political equation changes. It won’t be lawyers arguing with lawyers inside the Supreme Court; it will be Dreamers and their personal stories pitted against immigration conservatives championed by President Donald Trump, who is counting on anti-immigration fervor to win him a second term. That could be a tough political sell for the president. What voters will learn is that the Dreamers, young people such as Berenice Sanchez and Manual Cardoza, are accomplishing something remarkable — earning bachelor’s degrees at rates that match students from America’s top-earning families. That’s a story that needs a hearing…Sanchez and Cardoza are both graduates of Noble Network charter schools in Chicago, where the network’s Pritzker Access Scholarships are available to many DACA graduates. These scholarships are designed to make up for the fact that DACA students cannot receive federal aid, such as Pell Grants, and are often denied in-state tuition for nearby state universities. The scholarships give students $12,000 a year (each student has to come up with an additional $2,000 each year on their own). One stipulation: The funding is good for only four years, a huge incentive to finish the degree on time. Of the 57 Noble students who were part of the 2015 founding Pritzker Access grants, 60 percent earned bachelor’s degrees within four years. By May 2020, a total of 72 percent are projected to complete their degrees. For the class of 2016, the completion rate is expected to rise to 75 percent. By comparison, only about 11 percent of low-income, first-generation students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. And the national figures for undocumented students are even lower, said Aidé Acosta of Noble, who oversees the program — somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. Why the high college success rate? “We’re so motivated,” said Sanchez, 23. “Our parents brought us here for a better opportunity, so we worked double and triple to make our parents proud.”


Apple partners with 100cameras to teach Chicago students photography with iPhone

By The Apple Newsroom

“Chicago, Illinois is a city with many stories. The Great Fire of 1871. The Pullman Strike of 1894, led by railroad workers that ultimately resulted in the establishment of Labor Day. The 1905 development of the 42-acre Sears, Roebuck and Company campus in North Lawndale on the west side of Chicago, bringing thousands of jobs and new residents to the area. History seeps from the photogenic skyline to the original Sears Tower, reincarnated today as a community center and hub for North Lawndale residents. In the company’s former Power House just across the street, a group of students at DRW College Prep are learning how photography can be used to tell their own stories about growing up in Chicago at a time when its history is being erased by things like gun violence and gentrification. This fall, 100cameras, a nonprofit organization that teaches adolescents the tools of photography and the power of self expression through visual storytelling, partnered with Apple to equip DRW students with the new iPhone 11 with its advanced camera capabilities, designed for everyone to be a visual storyteller. After each program, prints of the students’ photos are sold through 100cameras and 100 percent of proceeds go back to the local community partner organizations they visit.”


The Impact of the CTU Strike

Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly ratifies contract, officially ending strike

By Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun-Times

“Two weeks after the Chicago Teachers Union suspended its 11-day strike and sent 300,000 kids back to school, the union’s 25,000 members approved their new contract and officially ended their strike. With 80% of schools reporting Friday night, the union’s agreement with Chicago Public Schools was approved by 81% of teachers voting, easily surpassing the required simple majority, union officials announced. “This contract is a powerful advance for our city and our movement for real equity and educational justice for our school communities and the children we serve,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson said they were “pleased” that teachers ratified the deal, which they lauded as a “historic, fiscally-responsible agreement … that will build on the incredible progress our schools have made and support our commitment to equity.” “We are proud of the significant benefits the agreement will provide to our staff, students and families, and we look forward to all that our school community will accomplish together over the next five years,” their statement read. The vote result is similar to the 79% that approved the deal after the seven-day 2012 strike and higher than the 72% in 2016.”


Budgets, school ratings, charter schools: Side agreements to Chicago teachers contract can have a big effect

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“It’s not just pay and more staffing: When Chicago’s Board of Education votes Wednesday on a contract for its 25,000 teachers, it will also agree to wrestle with some big policy questions, including the way the district funds schools.  The tentative agreement includes “side agreements” that cap the number of new charter schools, commit leaders to revisiting the school funding formula, and aim to inject equity into the ratings policy used to rank schools. It shows how the Chicago Teachers Union wields its contract negotiations to shape district policy, particularly in controversial areas like charter school growth. Union officials say that by attaching language to their contract, the union has effected a districtwide slowdown in the growth of the privately run, publicly funded charter schools.  Two of the side agreements in the new contract, on school funding and ratings, are included for the first time. The agreement on charter school mirrors a side letter included in the last contract. While some of these are broad, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign labor expert Bob Bruno said they aren’t simply symbolic. Side letters are agreements in union contracts that don’t directly address working conditions, but are areas that both sides consider important to come to agreement on in a contract. Unless stated otherwise, side letters are enforceable under the same grievance procedures that guide the rest of the contract.”


‘No ideal solution’ to make up days lost to Chicago teachers strike as Board of Ed approves new calendar, union contracts

By Hannah Leone for The Chicago Tribune 

“Chicago Public Schools and union leaders alike praised the new teachers contract as “transformative” and called public schools “the wisest possible investment” Wednesday before getting down to the business of paying and planning for the five-year deal. With its last meeting delayed because of the 11-day teachers strike, the Chicago Board of Education in a 6 ½-hour meeting Wednesday approved new labor contracts for teachers and support staff. The board also passed a budget amendment to pay for the union agreements and a new school calendar that includes five additional attendance days to make up for some of those canceled by the teacher walkout. Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said the five makeup days mean significant adjustments to the school calendar, and CPS had to choose from the relatively small number of unpaid days for teachers on the initial calendar and work around various restrictions. The district considered all of its options, as well as feedback from families and school leaders, she said.”


General Education News

Alarms Raised Over Possibility Of Capping Enrollment At Top Chicago Schools

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ

“Parents at three North Side Chicago schools are expressing alarm after Chicago Public Schools officials floated the idea of limiting enrollment at their high-achieving, mostly white and affluent neighborhood schools, which are on the verge of being overcrowded. District officials are talking about using something called controlled enrollment, which caps enrollment at a school’s capacity and then sends other students from the attendance boundary who don’t get a seat to other schools. Chicago has used controlled enrollment in the past and other cities, such as New York and Boston, still use it. A decision to stop guaranteeing students a seat in their neighborhood school would be controversial. The schools where it’s under consideration are highly-sought after. Parents buy houses within the attendance boundary to guarantee seats for their children.”


Illinois to Take Emergency Action to Halt Isolated Timeouts in Schools

By Jennifer Smith Richards, Jodi S. Cohen, Lakeidra Chavis and Dan Petrella for ProPublica Illinois

“The Illinois State Board of Education announced Wednesday that it will take emergency action to end the seclusion of children alone behind locked doors at schools, saying the practice has been “misused and overused to a shocking extent.” Responding to a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation published a day earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the isolation of children in the state “appalling” and said he directed the education agency to make emergency rules for schools. He will then work with legislators to make the rules into law, he said. The rules would not totally ban the use of timeout rooms but would end isolation. The state board said children would be put in timeout only if a “trained adult” is in the room and the door is unlocked. Timeouts also must be used only for therapeutic reasons or to protect the safety of students and staff, the board said.”