Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – March 28th – April 3rd, 2020

School Closures & Funding: 

The federal coronavirus relief package could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for Illinois schools

By Hannah Leone for the Chicago Tribune

“Illinois schools could be getting nearly $570 million through the federal coronavirus stimulus package, according to preliminary allocation estimates from the Illinois State Board of Education. A large portion of that — about $205 million — could go to Chicago Public Schools, ISBE estimates. That’s more than two and a half times the $75 million COVID-19 budget measure the Chicago Board of Education passed last week. The money is part of the massive, $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that President Donald Trump signed into law last week. Once states get their dues from the CARES Act school emergency relief fund, they must funnel at least 90% of the money to eligible local education agencies such as school districts and charter schools. Schools are eligible if they received funding this fiscal year through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the percentage of Title I funding they received will determine how much of the CARES Act funds they could get, according to ISBE. Second to CPS is Rockford School District 205, which ISBE estimates can expect more than $11.6 million. Elgin-based District U-46 can expect around $7.8 million and East Aurora District 131 about $6 million, according to the ISBE estimates.”


CPS to receive $205M in federal coronavirus relief funding, state estimates

By Nader Issa for the Chicago Sun-Times

“Chicago Public Schools is set to receive $205 million in federal emergency coronavirus relief, accounting for more than 40% of the total funding Illinois will get for education, according to preliminary estimates from state officials. The funds will come from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last week by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, which includes $13.5 billion that was set aside for K-12 education. As part of the education package, Illinois will receive an estimated $565.5 million, 90% of which officials are required to distribute among the state’s 860 public school districts. Allocations to each state are based on how much they currently get through federal Title I funding, which prioritizes giving money to states with more low-income students. States then distribute those funds to districts in the same way.”


Illinois schools are now shut until May because of coronavirus. Here’s what that means for students, parents and teachers.

By Hannah Leone for the Chicago Tribune

“Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker just extended the stay-at-home order — and also the statewide school closure — through the end of April. And that means schools are formally making the transition to remote learning days while their doors remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a look at how that’s going to work. How will these official “remote learning days” be different from what my school is already doing? In effect, the Illinois State Board of Education is asking school districts to formalize their remote learning plans, two weeks after the abrupt halting of classroom instruction. ISBE is giving districts a lot of leeway in how they provide remote instruction and how they account for student work. The state education authority says its broad goals are that all students have opportunities for learning that are tied to “critical standards,” that the loss of instruction is minimized and that “students and families are given routines and structures to ensure they stay connected to schools and learning.” In Chicago Public Schools, the remote learning plan is more detailed than the previously provided enrichment packets, establishing daily lessons and teacher virtual office hours. The district staff will release two weeks of activities at a time, and schools can still use or add their own, which may include streaming live lessons, discussions or activities, according to CPS guidance. Teachers are to give students weekly feedback and be available, online and by phone, for academic support at least four hours each school day. Schools are finalizing their plans this week, and have until April 6 to communicate the plan to students and parents.”


Here’s a first look at Chicago’s new remote learning plan, which will include 100,000 devices for students

By Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat

“Streaming live mini-lessons for students. Virtual office hours when educators can field student questions. A push to distribute 100,000 digital devices to students. Pass-fail grading recommendations. Those are just some of the elements of Chicago Public Schools’ new roadmap for remote learning, now that schools will be closed past mid-April and possibly longer. In releasing some of its expectations for its campuses on Monday, the district, which remains hamstrung by uneven student access to technology and the internet, stressed this is not a full-blown e-learning plan Schools will continue to offer both digital and paper assignments, with the overarching goal of preventing students from losing ground rather than forging ahead with new material.  Individual schools will get considerable flexibility to design their own remote learning plans, due by next Monday, April 6, with a formal start to remote learning in the district slated for Monday, April 13. The district said many more specifics about its plan are expected later this week.”


How One School Network’s Focus On Student Agency Has Prepared Students For At-Home Learning Amid COVID-19

By Phyllis Lockett for Forbes

“While none of us could have prepared for the sea of change that COVID-19 has brought, Distinctive Schools—a network of eight charter schools in Chicago and Detroit—has been boldly weathering the storm, seizing the disruption as an opportunity to build students’ muscle for outside-the-classroom learning. Across the country, many districts have been, understandably, overwhelmed by the transition at hand. Our school systems have become reliant on a rigid, one-size-fits-all classroom structure that requires all students be seated together, in neat rows, to learn. For most educators, creating an environment that flexibly treats a student’s unique abilities or preferences, fosters a student’s agency and ownership or tailors content to fuel a student’s curiosity is just a pipe dream in today’s system. But that isn’t the case at Distinctive Schools. Long before COVID-19 spread across the U.S., Distinctive Schools was working to create student-directed learning pathways. When I founded LEAP Innovations in 2014, Distinctive was one of the first schools I partnered with to help us reimagine what school could be. Together, we collaborated with the network’s educators to reframe pedagogy to engage students individually, with empathy—and rigorously challenge every student, every day, to meet and exceed expectations. Its schools have become models for serving Black and Latinx students to create fully engaged, student-centered learning environments. Whenever I visit their campuses here in Chicago—like Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden, Irving Park, Prairie or Bucktown—I meet students who are excited and joyful about their learning, and educators who are constantly adapting their practice to be more student-driven.”


Meal Distribution: 

Where to Get School Meals During CPS Spring Break

By Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“Only 52 schools will be serving grab-and-go meals over spring break. Here are the sites.”

Family & Teacher Experiences: 

Two brothers to care for. Little classwork. SAT worries. For this 16-year-old, days now feel like weeks

By Kalyn Belsha for Chalkbeat

“Like many high school juniors, Sarah Alli-Brown has had a lot of thoughts swimming through her head these last two weeks. Are we going to go back to school? What about the SAT? Would it be illegal to have SAT prep at school? Because I really, really, really need help. Normally, Sarah would review SAT problems every day after school with her English teacher. But the practice sessions stopped two weeks ago when her Chicago school, like schools across the country, closed due to the coronavirus. Now, the 16-year-old is trying to figure it out on her own. But the distractions feel endless. Sarah’s twin 9-year-old brothers need constant attention — especially her little brother with autism — and food, too.  “I was overwhelmed before,” Sarah said, “but now I’m overwhelmed even more.”


CPS teachers on parade: 30-car caravan brightens day for kids missing school (yes, some are)

By Nader Issa for the Sun-Times

“With Chicago schools closed because of the coronavirus, teachers are trying their best to bring their lessons home to students — and educators at a Southwest Side school took that a step further this week. A few dozen teachers at Dore Elementary drove through the Clearing neighborhood Thursday afternoon in a 30-car caravan, led by a Chicago police escort, honking their horns and waving to kids as they passed by families’ homes. With music blaring from teachers’ cars that were painted with messages for their students, more than a dozen families on a single block waved back at their educators.  Maureen O’Hara, a fourth grade teacher who helped organize the effort, said parents and students were thrilled when they heard their teachers were coming by to say hello. She said it was important for students who were missing their school and feeling isolated to still have that connection to their teachers. “We want the kids to know that everything’s going to be OK and that we’re all in this together and give them some sort of hope that, even though we’re not in the classroom with them, we’re still here for them,” O’Hara said. “They’re just so sad. They miss their friends, they miss all of us and the routine.” Tai Basurto, the principal at Dore, said the parade was a “safe way for us to demonstrate our love for our students.”


Coronavirus upends college decision process for Chicago high school students

By Matthew Hendrickson for the Sun-Times

“Picking a college has always been a nerve-wracking experience — especially as May 1 approaches, the date by which most four-year colleges require new students to enroll for a spot in the fall. But with campuses closed, college fairs canceled and students cut off from their teachers and counselors during an unprecedented shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, students have found their decision process increasingly difficult, especially as the economy falters. Meanwhile, the organizations and institutions supporting them are having to find new ways of helping seniors stay on track. Aryam Jaimes, an 18-year-old senior at Solorio Academy High School in Gage Park, was looking forward to visiting two colleges in California this month but shelved the trip when the University of San Diego announced it was shutting down. “I was really disappointed,” Jaimes said. “I was planning to use [the visits] to help make my choice.” Colleges and universities around the state are trying to improve online tours and communication with prospective students, said Patrick Walsh, a past president of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling. “We’re trying to find ways, meeting via Zoom, doing outreach, providing presentations,” he said. “I think it’s really across the board.” The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, recently announced a revamped virtual tour experience, which includes student testimonials and vlog posts, and a link to speak with an admissions counselor. It came after the school earlier this month suspended indefinitely all of its admitted student receptions, honors dinners and campus visits. But Jaimes said the digital outreach from the California schools was a mixed bag. A virtual tour of one of the schools was “mostly just a tour of the buildings, but what I wanted out of the trip was what it would feel like to go there,” she said. Talking to a student athlete at another school, using a video messaging app, “was really great. She was able to answer my questions,” Jaimes said. College fairs — traditionally where juniors as well as younger students get information about a variety of schools — have also been disrupted. Noble Network of Charter Schools had to cancel its largest college fair that was scheduled for this month, said Aidé Acosta, who oversees college planning for Noble. ”As we move forward, we recognize that our traditional approach is not the direction we’re going to follow right now because we’re not under normal circumstances,” Acosta said.”