Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – February 8th – February 14th, 2020

Let’s Help Our Young People Unlearn What White Supremacy Taught Them

By Tanesha Peeples for Chicago Unheard

“…The notion that we’re “less than” has been reinforced by White privilege, mainstream media that loves to perpetuate colorism, oppressive institutions and prejudiced ideological constructs dating back to the day we stepped foot on this land as enslaved Africans. So after that moment of clarity, I took a break from recording to address the comment. The young lady seemed embarrassed and apologized profusely, believing she’d said something wrong. I assured her that there was nothing to be sorry for, affirmed her identity and presence as an intelligent, strong, worthy, young Black woman and topped it off with, “It’s okay—we all have some unlearning to do. But now you know.” While Black History Month is the perfect time to begin some of this unlearning, I don’t expect any of us to go hard for 29 days (we’re in a leap year) and emerge on March 1st as brand new Black people. Realistically, the illusion of inferiority has been a curse in our communities for generations, so to gradually shift from that brainwashing to self-actualization will take time. But the journey has to begin somewhere and I think the best place to start is with chipping away at the faith we have in our public school system.”


At Redwood Day, “Old-School” Phonics Helps Kids Love Reading

By Sara Urben for Chicago Unheard

“While I was beginning the process of Wilson Language Dyslexia Practitioner Certification this year, I stumbled upon Redwood Literacy and was impressed by their results, innovative model, and unwavering belief that all students can learn to read and write at high levels of proficiency.  In 2018, Redwood Literacy began by offering after-school tutoring and intensive summer remediation programs, and has recently expanded to include Redwood Day. Here, students identified as dyslexic or significantly behind their grade-level peers are taught to read using the Wilson Language System, an Orton Gilligham-inspired, multisensory, and systematic approach to learning to read and write. Within the education world, the “reading wars” –the debate over how best to teach beginning reading–rage on. Recent reporting from radio journalist Emily Hanford has reignited the long-running debate about the role teaching phonics should play in helping kids learn to read. I recently took the opportunity to visit this tiny school that I had heard so much about and learn from its co-founder and teacher, Kait Feriante. When I arrived on a snowy Monday morning in Chicago, all 16 students at Redwood Day School were participating in Morning Meeting.  Similar to a morning meeting that you might see in any traditional classroom, they shared their feelings, hopes for the day, and stories from the weekend. What made this Morning Meeting unique was that it ended with a whole-group discussion about what it meant to be dyslexic. Students talked about what might be more challenging for them, the importance of self-advocacy, and also what unique gifts also set them apart. From their mature responses, it was clear that students had had these conversations many times before, and that social-emotional learning was a huge part of Redwood’s unique school model. I learned about this and much more from my conversation with Kait Feriante.”


Chicago Children’s Choir’s Black History free concert series to focus on African Americans, the vote and giving voice to the legacy of struggle

By Darcell Rocket for the Chicago Tribune

“A former multimedia room at Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy on the city’s South Side was rocking with the voices of 16 4th and 5th graders on Tuesday. The rehearsal, led by their conductor Lonnie Norwood Jr., was one of the last before the group participates in the Chicago Children’s Choir (CCC) annual Black History Month concert at Symphony Center. Kids swayed on cue, practiced jumping in unison without counting out loud, and learned what syncopation sounded like. The kids worked up a sweat within the hour time frame, much like the 4th and 5th graders at the charter school Catalyst Maria on Thursday. The youth sang the songs “Freedom” from “Django Unchained” and “My Power” from Beyonce’s “Lion King” effort and shared their feelings about feeling sad when singing some of the lyrics from “Freedom.”


North Chicago Teacher Selected As Golden Apple Award Finalist

By Rebecca Bream for Patch

“A teacher in North Chicago is one of 30 finalists for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. according to a news release sent to Patch, Tesha Castillo, a teacher at LEARN 6 Charter School, was selected as a finalist from a field of 732 nominations received from 64 counties in Illinois. In addition to raising the bar academically, Ms. Castillo empowers her students by creating a culture of giving back, even from the lower income students, the release said, adding that she does this through the WE DAY club at LEARN 6, a community service club she spearheads that unites both student and parents to give back once a month at a variety of charities, such as Feed My Starving Children and Bernie’s Book Bank.”


NBA All-Star weekend: Lakers’ Anthony Davis returns home to Chicago in unfamiliar role

By Mark Medina for USA Today

“Anthony Davis shook his head and shivered. The Lakers’ forward got chills when asked how he would handle the frigid climate in Chicago for NBA All-Star weekend. He also wondered how he would manage an extended homecoming trip. “I’m pretty sure it’s going to be crazy going back home. I’ll have a lot going on,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be cold. And it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to come back home to see fans, friends and family.” Not to mention the jam-packed itinerary, which starts Thursday and doesn’t stop until after the buzzer of Sunday’s All-Star Game at the United Center, where Davis’ idol Michael Jordan helped bring six NBA titles to the Windy City. There are no Chicago Bulls players participating in Sunday’s game. Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose, a Chicago native, dropped out of Saturday’s skills competition after reporting an abductor strain. So that leaves Davis as the unofficial host in his seventh appearance in the NBA’s biggest weekend. The reasons? Davis grew up in Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side, where he avoided the area’s rampant drug use and gang violence. Davis attended Perspectives Charter School from sixth to 12th grade, where he won all-conference honors for three consecutive years despite the school lacking a basketball court. Davis had his No. 23 jersey, which he wore to honor Jordan, retired in 2013. Davis considers this city the mecca of basketball because of the other NBA stars who grew up here, including Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas, and Tim Hardaway.”


CTA’s Red And Purple Line Contractor Kicks In $250K For Scholarship Fund For Low-Income CPS Students

By John Owens for Block Club Chicago

“In what is being described as a first-of-its-kind initiative for the CTA, the transit agency and Chicago Public Schools are launching a new scholarship and mentoring program targeting low-income high school seniors interested in construction and engineering-related jobs. The program, called the CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund, will offer $250,000 in scholarship money to ten CPS high schoolers over the next four years. The scholarship will be offered to CPS high school seniors in STEM programs who want to pursue construction and engineering-related fields after college. Students need a GPA of at least 3.0 and come from families with a median income of $40,000 or less to apply for the program.”

New Bill Could Give Illinois Students Time Off to Address Mental Health Issues

By Matt Masterson for WTTW

“Suicides in Illinois are on the rise. Legislation introduced by Chicago Democratic state Sen. Rob Martwick would grant public school students up to five excused absences from class in order to allow them to “take care of their mental health, just like they would be with a broken bone or the flu.” The bill would take effect for K-12 students statewide and also mandates that kids who miss class time due to a mental health day be given an opportunity to make up any school work missed during their absence. Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience, said the bill lacks a solid plan for implementation: How would a school respond to a student’s absence? Would a school nurse be notified? Would a referral system be in place for mental health services? And if so, who would provide those services?”


CPS offers millions in added support for special ed students illegally denied services

By Nader Issa for The Chicago Sun-Times

“More than 10,500 special education students are set to receive extra support from Chicago Public Schools in an effort to make up for cuts to services that were found to be in violation of federal and state law. The remedies, which will likely to cost CPS millions, are an unprecedented move to help correct a system so broken that a state monitor was put in place to oversee it. “This is a great start in identifying how to move forward,” said Stephanie Jones, who runs the CPS special education department. “We’re making many changes in our special education program as a whole. This opportunity is in addition to the changes we’re making to make sure we’re supporting all of our students.” The Illinois State Board of Education placed a monitor at CPS in May 2018 after it found that the state’s largest school system illegally “delayed and denied” services to students, violating state and federal laws.”


Here’s what to watch in Chicago’s school budget revamp

By Yana Kunichoff  for Chalkbeat

“Special education teachers want more aides. Parents want more music teachers and librarians, while alumni are asking for a more diverse teacher workforce.  And if a specific request can’t be funded, they want the district to tell them why. At Chicago’s first-ever round of public feedback meetings in recent memory on the school budgeting system, parents and educators turned out in droves to explain and demand what the school district should fund.  Now, a working group of educators and administrators, brought together by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, will consider the suggestions and recommend how Chicago should change its complicated school budgeting system, and what schools should offer. They face a challenging mandate: how to meet needs and desires and fix school funding without getting more money for an underfunded system?”


Editorial: Amid the turmoil at Lincoln Park HS, CPS should find its voice

By the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board 

“Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School is a top-ranked institution with a diverse student body, an international baccalaureate program and accomplished performing arts companies. But lately, it has been getting the sort of attention no school wants. A rolling scandal has led to the removal of top administrators and coaches, as well as the suspension of the boys basketball season. What started the turmoil was the basketball squad’s overnight December trip to Detroit, which was later ruled “unauthorized.” Chicago Public Schools got a report of misconduct on the trip, and the head coach lost his job. Other allegations of sexual misconduct related to the athletic program — including one purportedly involving an employee and a student — led to more probes. CPS says the accusations include inappropriate student discipline, allowing suspended employees to work, sport recruiting violations and more. Among the casualties: A girls basketball coach was fired; interim Principal John Thuet and Assistant Principal Michelle Brumfield got their walking papers; and Dean John Johnson and another coach were removed. But instead of drawing admiration for prompt action, CPS came under heavy criticism from students and parents who praise the performance of the administrators who were removed. Students sat in hallways to protest, and fights broke out.”