Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – February 1st – February 7th, 2020

Where’s the SQRP That Measures ‘Academic Gusto?’

By Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“To many parents, teachers and principals in Chicago Public Schools, the letters “SQRP” spell a four-letter word. SQRP–which stands for “School Quality Rating Policy“–has been a simmering issue for years, and it boiled up last June when Mayor Lightfoot’s newly appointed Board of Education approved tweaks proposed under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel…In 2013, CPS made a change intended to at least partially address the problem of rating schools by test scores when they correlate so closely to income. CPS shifted the ratings’ emphasis from attainment–how high kids actually score on tests–to how much they grew in a year, no matter where they started. A WBEZ story this week noted that while this is fairer to schools where kids start farther behind, it also means that schools with the same high district rating could have kids scoring at very different levels on tests, which could confuse parents into thinking kids are scoring well on tests at a school when they are not. Could We Think More Boldly About What Makes a Good School? The new board is pushing district leaders to give SQRP a broader overhaul with broad input from stakeholders. Last Monday night, the parking lot was astonishingly full at Englewood STEM High School. The board’s Whole Child Committee met there and took public feedback on SQRP and how to improve it. In the cafeteria, groups gathered at tables for facilitated conversation about how improve the policy. They also talked about how the board can do a better job of reaching out to parents and community members. (That was a sore point with many in the room. CPS has a lot of work to do to build trust with people at the school and community level.) At the end of the night, there was time for public comment. So I went for it.”

As principal, I often brought my desk into the hallway. It fostered bonds that made my school safer. 

By Beulah McLoyd for Chalkbeat

“Every student has a story. As principal of Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts in Chicago, I came to understand the need to know each of my students’ stories.  For me, student support went beyond academics. It was also our job to support our students’ sense of safety and security. To do that, we tried to learn about our students’ family lives, support networks, homes, and neighborhoods. By getting to know more about each of my students, I was able to ensure our school provided them with the social and emotional support that they needed to succeed academically while also fostering a safe school climate. In an effort to interact with students as much as possible, I often took the unorthodox approach of dragging my desk into the hallway and turning the hallway into my office.”

If only 1 in 4 kids are ready for kindergarten, then Illinois is not ready at all

By the CST Editorial Board

“Most people are of the general view that children are ready for kindergarten when they have mastered the most basic of skills, such as tying their shoes, reciting the ABCs and identifying colors and shapes. As it happens, though, “school readiness” is a lot more involved than that. And kindergarten teachers in an increasing number of states, including Illinois, are required to measure that readiness in kids’ first days in school. Illinois is among at least 25 states that now require schools to assess school readiness, according to 2018 federal data. The early findings are not heartening. The first results of Illinois’ Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, or KIDS, flew largely under the radar when they were released in late 2019. The key finding, though, was eye-opening: Only one in four kindergartners are “school ready.”

ISBE Addressing Disproportionate Discipline For Minority Students in State

By Benjamin Cox for WLDS-WEA1

“The Illinois State Board of Education is addressing disproportionate discipline to minority students around the state. ISBE is requiring every school that ranks in the top 20% in disproportionate suspensions must file a report about why the students were suspended and take corrective action and implement a plan to fix the problem moving forward. Despite the heightened number of expulsions and suspensions disproportionately effecting minority students, ISBE says that the number of discipline incidents around the state are down significantly over the last four years. Schools districts are required by a 2014 law to publish discipline data, but ISBE has yet to fully implement the law’s enforcement around the state.”

Nearly half of Illinois’ teacher prep programs fall short on teaching reading, study says

By Marie Fazio for Chalkbeat

“Illinois lags behind other states in preparing aspiring elementary teachers how to teach reading — and it isn’t improving, according to a report this week from the National Council on Teacher Quality. The report awarded a D or F to 19 higher education programs — 43% of those the council evaluated in Illinois — on how well they prepare teachers in scientifically based reading instruction methods. The council gave 38% of the teaching programs an A or B, and 18% a C. Nationally, more than half of traditional teacher-training programs earned an A or a B grade, up from 35% in 2013. Across the country this year, 39% of programs received a D or F score, a lower percentage than in Illinois.”

Renowned chefs to spice up food at CPS cafeterias thanks to new Chef Council

By Maudlyne Ihejirika for the Sun-Times

“Josephine “Mother” Wade, owner of Josephine’s Southern Cooking in Chatham, prepares a simple nacho dish at her home kitchen, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Chicago. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

It’s not every day that Chicago Public Schools students find an entree made by a renowned chef in their cafeterias. But on Tuesday, Chef Josephine “Mother” Wade, of Chatham’s iconic Josephine’s Southern Cooking restaurant, will be serving her famous chicken stew at Deneen Elementary in Greater Grand Crossing with CPS CEO Janice Jackson at her side. Tuesday’s event marks the launch of CPS’ brand new Chicago Chef Council — a panel of celebrated chefs who will contribute their culinary passion and creativity toward developing the daily breakfasts, lunches and after-school meals served by CPS’ Nutrition Support Services. They will also promote the CPS Farm to School program and engaging students and staff through demonstrations, in-café sampling and take-home recipes.”

To address a shortage of bilingual teachers, Illinois legislators propose scholarship bills

By Marie Fazio for Chalkbeat

“Schools across the state of Illinois struggle to recruit bilingual educators, but new legislation could help. State Representative Aaron Ortiz and Illinois Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García, both Democrats from Chicago, are backing bills that would expand financial aid for bilingual high school students who intend to go into teaching. Ortiz’s bill would establish a scholarship program in Illinois, while Garcia’s bill would expand funding for federal scholarships. “In order to address the teacher shortage facing Illinois, we must invest in our young people, particularly our youth of color, to remove any barriers that may prevent them from pursuing a career in education,” Ortiz said in a news release. “This legislation is ultimately about ensuring that our local schools are able to hire educators that can connect with their students and the neighborhoods they are in.”

CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler quits, says ‘proud of the work we have accomplished’


“Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler has resigned his post as the school district’s chief watchdog. “Mayor Lightfoot has accepted the resignation of Chicago Board of Education Inspector General, Nicholas Schuler, effective February 29,” according to a statement provided by the mayor’s office. “The Mayor thanks Mr. Schuler for his years of dedicated service to Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools Inspector General performs the critical role of ensuring the integrity of important functions within Chicago Public Schools, particularly regarding allegations of sexual assault or abuse.” Schuler took over the job in 2014 after serving as deputy inspector general and was reappointed in 2018 to a second four-year term.”

Chaos at Lincoln Park High School as students protest again and new misconduct claim emerges, while assistant principal says she was fired with no explanation


“Thursday was marked by more disruption, anger and student activism at Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School, where teens staged a sit-in after yet another administrator departed and officials launched a fifth misconduct investigation. Following a tumultuous few days that saw the principal and assistant principal removed and the varsity basketball team’s season suspended, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Wednesday that one of the administrators brought in last week to take charge of the school has herself left “after determining she was not a good fit for LPHS,” according to a letter sent to parents.”