Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – January 25th – January 21st, 2020

Chicago, It’s on All of Us to Close the Gaps for Black and Brown Children

By Tanesha Peeples for Chalkbeat 

“Enough is enough. I’m kicking off 2020 with less talk and more action.  I need all concerned Chicagoans on deck at the Our Kids Can’t Wait: Education Town Hall on February 25. Our Black and Brown students are in crisis, and the only way we’ll make real progress is if the whole community unifies and puts pressure on our leaders and elected officials to get it together. Let me tell you where my head is at. This urgent action comes on the heels of reading the new report, “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunities for All,” where brightbeam (the umbrella org for Chicago Unheard and Education Post and a bunch of other platforms) spills all the tea about “achievement” gaps.  As an early disclaimer, the report—and America in general—uses the term “achievement gap” to describe education proficiency lapses between different groups. Starting here and now, we’re going to get into the habit of saying “opportunity gap” because all of our students are entirely capable of succeeding—it’s the failure to provide them the opportunities to do so that causes the gaps.”

Fired Up About School Performance Ratings? Take This CPS Survey

By  Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“This week Chicago Unheard has focused in on equity and opportunity in Chicago Public Schools. Today is your chance to take some action and urge the district to move in the direction of opportunity and equity when it comes to school performance ratings. One way the district tries to help parents get a feel for the quality of schools and the opportunities they offer is through school performance ratings. Back in June, the board of education approved changes to the policy that determines how schools are rated, and also made it clear that the rating system needs a more thorough overhaul. The current ratings system heavily weights both growth on tests (NWEA) and absolute achievement, or attainment. While I support knowing how our kids are doing as measured by standardized assessments, I also agree with NWEA’s own 2013 statement: “While student performance is part of the measure of classroom success, it should not be the determining or predominant factor.” There are many more factors that also offer important information about whether a classroom or a school is a place I want my kid. Right now, many of those factors are not included in the school performance ratings policy…But the question for you, dear readers, is: what do you think? What’s working and not working in the school performance ratings system? To let CPS know your thoughts, take this survey and let them know what you think should be kept or changed in how the district rates its schools. If you really want to get involved, join me at Englewood STEM High School Monday night at 5:30 for the Board of Education’s Whole Child Committee meeting, which will focus on SQRP. You can register to attend.”

Schools get only brief spotlight in Illinois governor’s State of the State speech

By Cassie Walker Burke, Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“In a State of the State speech Wednesday focused on rooting out corruption and rebuilding a tattered state government, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker underscored his promise to make Illinois “the best state in the nation to raise a young family” but offered few hints about how much he would invest to help do that.  “Putting our state back on the side of working families is important,” said the first-term governor, who touted what he accomplished in his first year but not what he planned to do going forward. He called out the expansion of a child care assistance program for working families and investments in college scholarships and other efforts to boost enrollment in state universities.”

New Illinois law excuses students from class so they can go vote

By Nader Issa for the Chicago Sun-Times

“Illinois students don’t have to play hookie or worry about rushing to the polls after school anymore thanks to a new law that allows students to be excused from class to cast their ballots. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation this week giving Illinois students two hours away from school to vote in a primary, general, special or any other public election. “With this new law, our voting-eligible young people will have the freedom to fit voting into their school day without fear of repercussion for engaging in the very civic education we should all be proud to encourage,” Pritzker said in a statement. “The young people who advocated for this legislation recognized how important it is not only to vote, but to make the act of voting as accessible for all who can vote.”

Chicago mulls how to reslice the school budget pie — but what about a bigger pie?

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“While few communities would say their public school is adequately funded, in Chicago a gap yawns between have and have-not campuses, separating schools where parents can raise funds to supplement staff and supplies, and those where teachers struggle to meet students’ complicated needs. Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to revamp how the district doles out funds. On Wednesday, the first public meeting called by a committee overseeing the overhaul attracted about 140 people brimming with ideas and questions on how to redo school budgeting. But even as participants agreed on the need for change, few had ideas on how to address the elephant in the room — how to fix school funding without more money?”

CPS to hold public meetings on school funding

By AustinTalks

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will be holding a series of community meetings to discuss funding strategies that will help ensure schools have the resources they need to meet the changing demographics and needs of their students. As part of their commitment to promoting greater funding equity, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson recently announced the district would begin a community process to identify potential opportunities to increase school funding. The first of these six sessions will be held this week, with one scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 30th at Michele Clark High School. The meetings will help CPS’ School Funding Working Group evaluate potential adjustments to school funding and present formal recommendations to CPS leadership.”

Chicago Public Schools’ new sustainability director making up for lost time

By Alex Ruppenthal for the Energy News Network

“Seventeen-year-old David Pavletic had two questions for Chicago Board of Education members last spring: Could the Board provide a copy of the Chicago Public Schools’ utility bill for Whitney Young High School, where he and several classmates hoped to launch a solar energy project? And, “Who exactly at CPS is in charge of sustainability strategy?” The district finally hired Sandrine Schultz to fill that position in May. Now halfway through her first year in the role, Schultz is working to identify gaps in CPS’ energy strategy that may have cost the cash-strapped district hundreds of thousands of dollars or more during the nearly four years the position was vacant. Schultz, who previously managed energy projects for the U.S. Navy and Department of Energy, is tasked with reducing energy usage across CPS’ roughly 700 facilities. She’ll also oversee the district’s nutrition and food procurement policies and manage its food waste, recycling and composting programs.”

‘Transformational’ new CPS positions will help students who are homeless

By Nader Issa for the Sun-Times

“Months of debate over one of the Chicago Teachers Union’s key contract demands, affordable housing, led to a breakthrough in teacher negotiations last fall: Chicago Public Schools has agreed to hire new staff members to help kids deal with homelessness and other temporary living situations. Though news of the positions was widely shared when the deal was reached as part of the agreement to end the teachers strike, all involved have spent the time since then discussing the finer details and mechanics of what many view as a significant benefit to a district that last year had more than 16,000 kids without a permanent home. Half of the students are concentrated in 10 South and West side wards. Though 36 percent of the district’s students are African American, 81 percent of homeless students are black, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The CTU is hosting an informational session at 5 p.m. Tuesday at its headquarters, 1901 W. Carroll, to help families and teachers understand homeless students’ rights.”

CPS English Learners Exceeding Native English- Speaking Peers

By Chris Hush for NBC News

“New research from the University of Chicago shows students who are still learning English outperform their native English-speaking peers. NBC 5’s Chris Hush has the details. New research from the University of Chicago shows students who are still learning English outperform their native English-speaking peers.  The study is breaking down misperceptions on bilingual students.  More than 350,000 students are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools and 20% are known as English Learners (ELs). The University of Chicago study found 77% of English learners are proficient in English by 5th grade. English Learners in 9th grade had a freshman on-track rate of over 90%.  Attendance was also higher compared to non-EL students.”

Editorial: How a $90 million investment in Chicago Catholic schools will boost students — and neighborhoods


“School choice has always made sense to us — because every child deserves an excellent, appropriate education, but not every public school meets every child’s needs. In Chicago, some public schools are superb, some are failing. Many are overcrowded. Charter, private and parochial schools provide alternatives to Chicago Public Schools and yes, they also provide competition. The competition argument, strongly opposed by public teachers unions, goes double for the kids of Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods. The more options, the better — to support students, experiment with new approaches to learning and push CPS to up its game. This is why there’s reason to cheer a significant investment in Chicago Catholic schools via a partnership between the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Big Shoulders Fund, a local not-for-profit that supports Catholic schools. Together they will put more than $90 million into 30 Catholic schools located predominantly on the city’s South and West sides. That’s a huge bet on the future of Catholic education in Chicago.”