Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: May 1 – May 7, 2021

High school proms are back, sort of. Some will have no dancing, no eating, no heels — and entrance might require a negative COVID-19 test.

By Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune 

“…While those proms will include standard pre-pandemic fare like dancing and refreshments, students will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test and wait 15 minutes for the results before being admitted to the festivities, school President Brad Bonham said. Seniors who get a negative test result will also be eligible to participate in graduation, being held on the high school’s football field the following day, he said. “We think this is going to be a wonderful experience for our students, who will be wearing masks and being as safe as possible,” Bonham said. “This past year has been so difficult for our senior class, and I’m so proud of how strong and resilient they’ve been. Juan Carlos Rodriguez II, a senior at Mansueto High School in Chicago, said when the Noble Network of Charter Schools shut down last year, he was “really upset, because we were planning a Brighton Park multicultural fest, and the entire community was really looking forward to it.” This year, over two days in May, more than a dozen Noble high schools, including Mansueto, will host a series of mini-proms at Soldier Field, each expected to last 45 to 75 minutes, and giving scores of masked and socially distanced teens a chance to “promenade on the field” and snap photos against the Chicago skyline, according to the Noble network website.”

DRW Computer Science Program Ramps Up with Listening Tours

By The Noble Network of Charter Schools

“This past fall, the philanthropy committee from DRW Trading Foundation awarded DRW College Prep a multi-year grant to build out a Computer Science program. In an effort to encourage more DRW students to pursue STEM vocations, the campus has been developing a robust program that will be a part of their student experience in the 2021-2022 school year and beyond. This program will give students access to daily instruction that can enhance their knowledge base and expose them to skill sets that are needed for college and a variety of STEM careers. DRW’s new Computer Science Program Director, Irnessa Campbell, has embarked on a listening tour of North Lawndale in efforts to create a Computer Science Curriculum. “The goal of listening to all stakeholders involved with computer science”, Irnessa states, “is making sure I am building a program that encompasses all of the needs of the students, community, and school. I am building a program for North Lawndale and the needs that this community is faced with so that we can prosper in the field of technology.”

Full-time in-person school will be default in the fall, departing CPS chief Janice Jackson says: ‘The mayor and I … pushed hard to get our kids back sooner’

By Hannah Leone for The Chicago Tribune

“The departing leader of Chicago Public Schools anticipates that full-time in-person school will be the norm in the fall except for individual students with “extenuating circumstances.” While announcing Monday that she’ll step down in June, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said she wished she’d succeeded in reopening schools sooner after the coronavirus shutdown that began in March 2020 CPS high schools, the last to reopen, resumed in-person classes just over two weeks ago, and many students are only in school twice a week.”

CPS CEO Janice Jackson announces departure; Chicago schools face leadership turnover with 2 other top officials also leaving

By Gregory Pratt, Hannah Leone & Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, who rose from a CPS Head Start student to lead the district through a teachers strike and the COVID-19 shutdown, will leave her post and the school system this summer, announcing her departure Monday as the district continues to cope with the pandemic’s incalculable impact. She confirmed her departure in a message to the CPS staff, saying it’s “time to pass the torch to new leadership for the next chapter.” “CPS has been an integral part of my life first as a student, most importantly as a parent, and most humbly as the CEO. It is with that adoration that I have led this great school district as CEO for the past four years,” she wrote. Jackson said there is “still more work to be done in CPS” but that “after careful deliberation, I have made the tough decision not to renew my contract as CEO, which expires on June 30, 2021.” At an afternoon news conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Jackson said her next move won’t be running a school district but that she will remain committed to public education. She stressed she has no plans to run for public office — except maybe for an elected school board, she said with a laugh — and no new job lined up.”

INCS Thanks Dr. Janice Jackson for Her Service to Chicago’s Students

By The Illinois Network of Charter Schools

“The Illinois Network of Charter Schools congratulates Dr. Janice Jackson on her tenure leading Chicago Public Schools as its Chief Executive Officer during one of the most challenging times for public education in our city. Over the past four years, Dr. Jackson led with integrity, honesty, and a strong commitment to putting Chicago’s families and students first. She never shied away from the tough decisions and challenges facing our district and remained focused on providing high-quality public schools for students in every neighborhood. Dr. Jackson leaves CPS having experienced every part of the district from a student, teacher, parent, district leader, and CEO. Her focus, dedication, and commitment to Chicago families was always clear and her impact on Chicago’s children will endure for generations. Dr. Jackson leaves a positive mark on our city’s public education system, and the charter community was proud to partner with her in this effort. INCS thanks her for her deep commitment to equity, dedication to families, and for advancing public education for every student in Chicago.”

Door Cracks Open For A Vote On A Chicago Elected School Board In Illinois Senate

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ

“In what could major breakthrough for supporters of an elected school board for Chicago, the head of the Illinois State Senate wants to call a bill this spring that would eventually create a fully elected board for Chicago. But he envisions a gradual process, starting with a hybrid board in which the mayor would continue to appoint some members. Previous elected school board bills have passed the Illinois House but have been blocked in the Senate. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, told WBEZ that he asked supporters of a fully elected school board to work on a compromise with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She strongly opposes a large fully elected board and instead supports a bill in which only a few members would be elected and the mayor’s office would retain the balance of power. This could signal a major turning point in the push for an elected board for Chicago. Elected school board bills have been approved by the House four times, but died in the Senate. It is especially significant because Gov. JB Pritzker is a supporter of a fully elected school board.”

Citing higher revenue projections and in the face of bipartisan pushback, Gov. J.B. Pritzker agrees to school funding increase

By Dan Petrella for The Chicago Tribune 

“Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker backtracked Thursday on one of the most controversial components of his budget proposal, saying improved revenue projections will allow the state to meet the goal in its education funding formula and increase school funding by $350 million over the current year. Pritzker has faced a pushback from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle when he introduced in February a $41.6 billion state spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1 that would hold funding for elementary and secondary schools flat for the second straight year.”

CPS selective enrollment high schools will nearly double the number of diverse learners next year

By Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune 

“Chicago Public Schools plans to nearly double the number of students with disabilities or functional needs attending the city’s selective enrollment high schools. In addition, 89% of all high school applicants were matched with one of their top three choices of selective enrollment schools, an increase of around 9 percentage points from 2020, and 95% of those who applied received an offer, according to CPS. Roughly doubling the number of selective enrollment spots offered to students who have a disability or an individualized education plan — an increase 262 special education students in 2020 to 489 this year — is part of the district’s “comprehensive road map” that specifies goals, commitments and opportunities for its high school students. While these students, whom the district identifies as “diverse learners,” represent nearly 15% of the CPS enrollment, only 6% of students with Individualized Education Plans, IEPs, are currently enrolled at selective enrollment high schools, officials said.”