Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – February 22nd – 28th, 2020

High school students vote for the first time, casting early ballots for Illinois primary election

By Zach Ben-Amots for WLS

“Seniors from Pritzker College Prep, a public charter high school in the Hermosa neighborhood, voted in their first ever election today by casting early ballots for the Illinois primary. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve registered 251 students at our school, which was 89 percent of our eligible students,” said journalism teacher Katie Curtin. Around 50 of those students met at Harold Washington Library in the Loop to do some final research on each candidate’s platform. They then marched across downtown to the Loop Super Site polling place at the corner of Clark and Lake Streets. “I’m pretty nervous, but I’m actually excited because I feel I actually get to vote and make a difference in the upcoming election,” said senior Raquel Valentin.”

Pritzker College Prep Students Cast Their First-Ever Ballots In 2020 Election

By Rachel Pierson for WBBM Radio

“Forty-five seniors from Pritzker College Prep stepped out of the classroom and into the voting booth Wednesday at the new Loop Early Voting Super Site. With the help of faculty and staff, students registered to vote, did their research, and cast their first-ever ballot. “I feel like there’s not enough minority voices heard, and the youth has such a big say in what’s going on,” said Samantha Ortiz, a senior at Pritzker College Prep.”

Noble’s GCA Team Secures 200 State IDs for Students

By the Noble Network of Charter Schools

“At Noble, we understand that a state ID card could impact everything from an interaction at a bank, applying for jobs, or even registering to vote. In addition, for safety purposes, it is important, and commonplace for young people to have at least one form of identification on their person, in the case of an emergency. In an effort to ensure our scholars have access to proper identification such as state ID cards, Noble’s Government & Community Affairs Team partnered with the Illinois Secretary of State, to facilitate mobile state ID drives at multiple campus locations across the network. This provided a unique opportunity for scholars to apply for and receive their IDs during a school day, essentially eliminating a trip to the Secretary of State. After surveying just a few campuses, we identified over five hundred scholars that didn’t have state IDs. The implementation of this plan directly resulted in an increase of the number of Noble students registered to vote during our voter registration drive, as an ID number serves as a qualifier.  Our focus was on junior & senior scholars during the rollout of the initiative. The first campuses to participate in the drive were south side campuses: Gary Comer College Prep and Johnson College Prep. Hansberry College Prep, Rowe Clark Math & Science Academy and UIC College Prep were the next campuses to follow. Out of those six campuses, we successfully secured nearly 200 new state IDs for students in the span of two months!”

Why Are Black Families Leaving Chicago? Maybe Our Kids Can’t Wait for Better Schools.

By Tanesha Peeples for Chicago Unheard

“My hometown of Chicago has touted itself as a progressive city for many years. We’ve stood firm in our position as a sanctuary city and recently moved towards the legalization of marijuana—pushing a social equity initiative to ensure people in blighted areas have skin in the weed game. We even formed a progressive caucus within the city council in 2013. We also received national attention and praise for gains in academic performance for public school students. And with the city’s recent adoption of universal pre-k and a fairly new funding formula promising to allocate more money to CPS students, it looks like we’re on track for getting public education right. But as we all know, looks can sometimes be deceiving. In a recent report conducted by brightbeam called “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunities for All,” researchers compared average math and reading proficiency scores among 12 cities whose citizens largely identify as conservative and 12 cities whose citizens mostly identify as progressive. It was found that the conservative cities were actually faring better at closing the opportunity gap between Black, Latino and White students than progressive cities.  While the report doesn’t dive into the cause of these varying outcomes—and even though Chicago wasn’t amongst the most flagrant offenders—this report absolutely serves as another example of “somethin’ ain’t right.”

Dispensing Dignity: IL Law Promised Free Supplies In Schools

By Dusty Rhodes for NPR Illinois

“Imagine this: you’re in the 9th grade, and when the bell rings, you’ve got five minutes to get from Language Arts to algebra. That gives you just enough time to visit the ladies room. And surprise! Your menstrual period has arrived a few days early.  With no supplies in your purse, you panic. But wait. There, on the wall, you see a dispenser. Problem solved, right? At Lahne Romaker’s school, you’d be out of luck. “There is a dispenser,” she says, “but one side of it is broken, and the other side is empty.” Under the Learn With Dignity Act, which became law in January 2018, tampons and sanitary pads are supposed to be available for free in school bathrooms for grades six through 12. But are districts complying? Since there’s no handy way to do a scientific survey of school bathrooms state-wide, we recruited two journalism students to help collect anecdotal evidence about where and how this law is being implemented. Romaker, a junior at Springfield Southeast High School, checked with friends who attend school in surrounding communities.”

Chicago Schools to Observe Indigenous People’s Day Instead of Columbus Day

By NBC 5

“Thanks to a decision reached at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, students and faculty will now observe the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day rather than as Columbus Day. Until now, Chicago Public Schools had celebrated both holidays, but Wednesday’s decision means that only Indigenous People’s Day will be celebrated. “I think it’s great, changing the name of the holiday. That’s what (the celebration) is really all about,” Chicago charter school teacher Erin Walker said.”

Lawmakers announce bill mandating sex education for all Illinois K-12 students

By Rebecca Anzel for Pantagraph

“llinois public and charter schools would be mandated to teach students from kindergarten through 12th grade “inclusive, medically accurate, and culturally appropriate comprehensive sex education” if legislation announced Wednesday becomes law. The curriculum, not currently mandated, would include information children and youth need to prevent bullying, foster healthy relationships and prevent abuse or violence, a group of advocates and lawmakers said at a news conference. The bill’s Democratic sponsors, Sen. Ram Villivalam, of Chicago, and Rep. Kathleen Willis, of Addison, both said students want such materials, especially those from districts that do not include lessons on sexual education or diverse sexualities and genders.”

Chicago’s NWEA “Irregularites,” Explained

By Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“On Friday, Chicago Public Schools released a report from outgoing Inspector General Nick Schuler’s office describing irregularities in how NWEA MAP tests have been given. The investigation was launched in reponse to “numerous complaints to the OIG over the years about alleged NWEA cheating.”Since the 2012-13 school years, CPS has been using the NWEA’s MAP Growth test to chart student growth and attainment, and has attached a variety of high stakes to test performance, from promotion and high school admissions for students to teacher and principal evaluations to school quality ratings. That’s not how NWEA recommends its test be used. “We don’t intend for our assessment to be high stakes,” said Christine Pitts, policy advisor for the North West Educational Association, makers of NWEA MAP Growth. That said, she added, “We don’t control the ways superintendents use it.”  The new Inspector General report points out problems with how tests are given in CPS and suggests how to tighten test security. As a parent and long-time CPS-watcher, reading this report also tells me we need to lift the high stakes for students on the NWEA immediately and rethink our approach to accountability. I’d personally like to see CPS continue to use the NWEA MAP, but as a diagnostic tool, the way its makers intended.”

After several children shot in Chicago last weekend, CPS expands anti-violence programs for students most at risk

By Hannah Leone for the Chicago Tribune

“When Malik Hicks hit “rock bottom,” people around him helped him get back up. He graduated high school in 2018 — “a year late,” he said, “but it was better that I did it, anyway.” The people who helped Hicks were part of Choose to Change, a program for Chicago Public Schools students that includes free weekly mentoring, trauma-informed therapy, community service projects, field trips and other activities. Hicks said he entered the program, which he’d rather call “a family,” with a rebellious attitude and trust issues after growing up without his parents in his life. Though he lost them both “to the system,” and lacked guidance in his early years, he said his mentors helped him calm down and realize his potential. Hicks spoke at a news conference Friday morning where city and school leaders announced a multiyear expansion of Choose to Change, part of a renewed effort to reduce youth involvement in gun violence.”

Chicago releases 2020-21 school calendar, says first day of school will be Sept. 8

By Cassie Walker Burke for Chalkbeat

“As local news deserts become the norm, Chalkbeat remains 100% committed to the communities we cover. Get our Chicago education stories delivered to your inbox. Chicago Public School students will return to school next fall on Sept. 8, and the last day for students will be June 22, 2021, according to a proposed calendar for the next school year. Chicago’s Board of Education will consider the calendar Wednesday. Winter break would be Dec. 21 to Jan. 1,  and spring break would be from March 29 to April 2.”