Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: April 17th – 23rd, 2021

‘Adam should be alive today’: How Chicago teachers are talking about a 13-year-old’s killing

By Cassie Walker Burke, Mila Koumpilova, and Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“…In classrooms, teachers connected conversations to ongoing lessons about the Constitution or social justice. Others simply offered space for students to talk. Tanisha Hall, an English teacher at David Speer Academy, a West Side campus in the Noble charter school network, said working throughout the school year to make her virtual classroom a place where ninth graders are encouraged to speak out helped her tackle the discussion about Toledo. Still, she said, she carefully set the stage for the conversation: She gave students extra time to journal at the beginning of that class, a daily “cathartic” activity in her classroom. Then, they took time to breathe together in a “Calm Classroom” activity. Afterward, Hall let students drive the discussion about the killing, kicking it off with open-ended questions and giving students the option to respond in writing in the chat box or unmute and speak up. They explored articles and editorials about the shooting. “Their emotions ran the gamut, and they had time and space to navigate that,” she said. The school’s neighborhood, Belmont-Cragin, was also hit hard by the pandemic, and Hall said her students’ perseverance with learning amid interlocking crises has impressed her. The Noble network has spent the school year adopting an antiracist mission, which has meant confronting its own history of “no-excuses” discipline and other practices that disproportionately affected Black and Latino students and engaging students and families on the issue of racial equity. “Our Black and brown students need validation; they need to understand their agency and feel empowered,” Hall said. “They need their voices and voices of their families to be heard and amplified locally and nationally. They need to see and feel progress born out of that.”

Justice for George Floyd

By The Noble Network of Charter Schools

“Dear Noble family,  In 1955, Emmett Till was murdered by a mob of white men in the Deep South. His mother, Mamie Till, courageously chose to have an open casket for her son’s body. She wanted America to see how racism and white supremacy literally dismembered, dishonored, and killed her Black son. America is being pushed to see again – just how violent and murderous racism and white supremacy is. We saw the video. We heard George Floyd call out for his mother. And for the last three weeks – we lived it all over again in the Derek Chauvin trial. Here we are, living in the aftermath of a verdict that impacts our country. A verdict not only of the trial of Derek Chauvin, but the trial of our country’s spirit – our country’s soul. For many, we watched the trial daily. And for others, we couldn’t bear the retelling. In many ways, our values, our conviction, and our humanity have been on trial too.”

University of Chicago Charter School student accepted to 25 colleges earns $1M in scholarships

By Michelle Gallardo for ABC Chicago

“A Chicago high school student has a big decision to make. He’s earned a million dollars in scholarships and has been accepted to 25 colleges. Straight A student, student body president, athlete and business entrepreneur Julien Sims is an 18-year-old with a purpose. After seven years at the University of Chicago Charter School’s Woodlawn campus, the time has nearly come to make a very important choice. One made all that much harder after being accepted into all 25 colleges he applied to. “Georgetown University; the University of Southern California; Georgia Tech; the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; Howard University; Hampton; Moorhouse,” Sims raddled off. With over $1 million in scholarship money being offered to him by the various universities, it won’t be sticker shock that keeps Sims from his school of choice. A good business program is what he’s looking for, as well as someplace he’s able to continue working on a casual wear clothing brand of his own creation.”

Chicago will increase school budgets by $225 million as it pushes full-time fall schedule

By Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat

“Chicago will pour an additional $225 million into its school budgets for next school year as it moves to address the pandemic’s upheaval and resume full-time in-person learning on all campuses in the fall, the district announced Wednesday. Of that, the district said schools will receive $85 million to address recovery from the pandemic. Principals will have leeway to use most of the money to support students’ academic needs, with some dollars earmarked for out-of-school enrichment opportunities and some going to charter schools. Another $32 million will go to about 260 schools to offset the financial losses they would have experienced because of enrollment declines. Under the district’s student-based budgeting formula, a loss of students can significantly impact a campus budget, and Chicago reported its steepest enrollment loss in two decades this past fall.”

CPS plans for daily in-person classes, a remote learning option and bigger school budgets next fall

By Hannah Leone for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago Public Schools is planning for daily in-person classes this fall and is giving schools $225 million more than last year in an effort to address students’ academic, social and emotional needs after more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic. Individual budgets will increase for about 94% of the 513 district-run schools, CPS announced Wednesday. In combination with its not-yet-released operating budget, officials said they will be able to support plans to have schools open for daily in-person classes in the fall.”

Competitive high schools to see greatest numbers of students return Monday

By Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun-Times

“A little less than half of Chicago Public Schools students are anticipated to return to classrooms Monday for the start of the fourth academic quarter, when for the first time in 11 months all 515 non-charter schools — including high schools — will be open for in-person learning. With 36% of high schoolers and nearly half of elementary school students planning to return, CPS could have up to 44% of its 279,000 students at non-charter schools back in classrooms this week. Those 122,000 students would be by far the most since the start of the pandemic, although the 157,000 continuing remotely still represents a number larger than all but 15 districts in the nation. About 26,000 high school students opted to return to in-person learning, and the district said Friday they are all still expected back. Only three schools — all selective enrollment — will see a majority return, while half of the district’s 93 schools will welcome about one-third of students.”

CPS to promote all elementary students this year, nix standardized tests for competitive high school admissions

By Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun-Times

“All elementary students at Chicago Public Schools will advance to their next grade level regardless of any failing marks this year, and a standardized test long used as an evaluation tool for selective enrollment high school admissions will be dropped, officials announced Thursday. Both measures were significant attempts to curb the pandemic’s impact on students, both in the immediate and long-term future and will be welcomed by education advocates and educators. The school district’s failure policy matches its stance last year, when no elementary students were failed after schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A student’s reading or math grades again won’t matter for grade promotion this year, but children with low scores will be recommended to attend summer school, CPS said. The district said it planned to use federal funds from the past year’s relief bills to help schools provide support to students who need it. CPS has received nearly $2 billion from the federal government in three waves of funding to help the school system and students recover from the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on education, and ensure schools are safe for the resumption of in-person learning.”