Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: February 20th – February 26th, 2021

Providence Englewood, Champions of Black Excellence

By Shinwe Shelton, Deputy Director of Operations at PECS for The Illinois Network of Charter Schools

“At Providence Englewood Charter School (PECS), we celebrate and recognize black excellence every day. Black excellence means not being afraid of hard work.  I see the hard work our children put in every day, and I completely understand it.  I am a black woman from the Englewood neighborhood.  Throughout my K-12 years of school, I was educated in the CPS.  During this time, I overcame many barriers related to the negative impact that poverty inflicts on communities.  However, despite these barriers, my diligence allowed me to earn multiple advanced degrees.  I have learned and come to understand, more importantly, that black excellence is not about status, but it is being a servant and addressing the needs of the community where your roots are so deeply embedded. At PECS, we believe in the whole child and ensure that all possess a growth mindset, interpersonal skills, cultural competence, confidence, creativity, health/wellness, and self-knowledge.”

DePaul Scholarship Program Will Send At Least 2 North Lawndale Students To College For Free

By Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago

“DePaul University freshmen from North Lawndale can get a full ride thanks to a scholarship program launched to help students from the neighborhood. At least two students will win the scholarships in fall. The award will cover four years of study at DePaul, including tuition, room and board, books, fees, tech and all other expenses. The $5 million scholarship program is funded by Heather, Robin and Jennifer Steans, board members for the Steans Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on enhancing the social and economic fabric of North Lawndale. The John Horan Endowed Scholarship Program is named in honor of the founder and president emeritus of North Lawndale College Prep High School.”


With No End To Remote Learning In Sight, Teachers Offer Up Ideas On Making It Work

By Adriana Cardona-Maguigad for WBEZ

Every morning for the last several months, LeShawnda Morris, a seventh grade English teacher on Chicago’s West Side, greets her students with music, and a check-in question: ‘How are you feeling?’ Among the many techniques she uses to keep her students engaged during remote learning, she says none are more meaningful than the simple act of giving them a space to share their feelings each day. “To let them know that you care about them as people, and definitely keeping the relationships first, is the most important thing,” said Morris, who teaches at LEARN Middle, a charter school. School officials at LEARN Middle, one of seven campuses managed by the LEARN Charter School Network, haven’t announced a return to in-person school yet. In the meantime, Morris is constantly communicating with students even outside their virtual class. She said student attendance has been high all year. After nearly a year of remote learning, Morris and other teachers say focusing on the well-being of students is one of several practical solutions to get the most out of remote learning work. Other recommendations include making online learning interactive, getting creative with experiential learning and focusing more on providing quality instruction, according to WBEZ interviews with teachers, parents and advocates.”


Pritzker expands pandemic food aid for kids: ‘One step closer to ending hunger for those in need in Illinois’

By Rachel Hinton for The Chicago Sun-Times

“Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced the expansion of a monthly benefits program that will bring the total number of Illinois children provided the federally funded food to nearly one million. The additional food assistance will come through the state’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, support, which is a temporary assistance program operating during the pandemic. Pritzker said the expanded program moves the state “one step closer to ending hunger for those in need in Illinois.” “What this really does is gives more nutrition, more options, to many families — most families — who already are receiving free or reduced lunch, and to 200,000 more kids who otherwise wouldn’t,” Pritzker said.”


Amid reopening, Chicago moves ahead with school discipline overhaul

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“By this fall, 55 Chicago high schools with school police officers will have a new accountability mechanism: school-level safety teams charged with developing a plan for safety without police. The teams could put Chicago one step closer to ending its school police program. The issue has been controversial but overshadowed by the district’s efforts to reopen schools, a struggle that gained national attention. District officials said Wednesday they hope to reopen high schools, some of which have Chicago officers stationed inside the school, before the end of the school year. The effort to reform school discipline began amid a tumultuous summer when the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd shone a stark light on school policing programs. In Chicago, Floyd’s death ignited a simmering student protest movement intended to push Chicago Public Schools to end its school police program.”


CPS open to improving remote learning as F’s increase, attendance drops

By Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun-Times

“As students continue to ask for more leniency and support in remote learning, Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson reiterated her stance Wednesday that the school district would not reduce screen time — but she suggested officials would be willing to revisit how that time is spent. Those students’ pleas come as new data released Wednesday shows failing grades are up and attendance is down across Chicago Public Schools, largely along racial and socioeconomic lines. The district’s year-to-date attendance has dropped 1.9% this school year compared to last —92.5% to 90.6% — with the most serious decreases coming among Black students at 4.5%, Latino children at 1.4%, special education students at 3.6% and homeless students at 6.7%, district records show. White and Asian American kids are attending at higher rates than last year.”


As CPS aims to reopen high schools this spring, parents push for better remote learning: ‘CPS failed our students before the pandemic’

By Alice Yin for The Chicago Tribune

“Days before tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students are due to return to classrooms, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the district aims to expand in-person learning further before the end of the school year — including reopening high schools — despite another drop in the number of elementary students expected to go back to school next month. Jackson told the Board of Education Wednesday the district plans to meet with the Chicago Teachers Union this week to discuss a path forward, lauding the return to classrooms as a way to give “highest-needs” students a better education. ”We know that many high school students and families are eager to learn more about their return to in-person instruction, and it is our goal to provide them with a safe in-person option this school year,” Jackson said.”