Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: December 11 – December 17, 2021

Crain’s 2021 Notable Black Leaders and Executives

By Crain’s Chicago Business

“This cohort of 71 Notable Black Leaders worked for decades to reach prominent places in law, banking, media, and nonprofits and lift their communities. Following the murder of George Floyd and reckoning over systemic racism, they found themselves in new positions. For the first time, they say, they’ve had an opportunity to share their experiences with racism and how they overcame obstacles. They’ve been encouraged to share their views and open deeper conversations on race with colleagues. Many observe that their insights have a wider impact and are aiming to use that visibility to speak out on inequality in the workplace. Many have taken on new roles leading new or expanded diversity initiatives as companies vow to improve their practices in recruiting, hiring and retaining talent from diverse backgrounds. And these leaders have redoubled efforts to boost the next generation through nonprofits that help young people succeed in school and prepare for a career. These leaders are seizing the moment. Greg White- President and CEO- LEARN Charter School Network.”


CPS sees spike in COVID-19 cases, and 10,000 students are in quarantine

By Tracy Swartz, John Byrne, and Joe Mahr for The Chicago Tribune 

“Chicago Public Schools saw its highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases in students this week, according to district data. CPS reported about 600 student cases this week through Thursday. Ten thousand students were in quarantine or isolation as of Thursday evening, the most since late September, when the district started providing data this way. The district reported 493 student cases last week, up from 253 student cases the prior week, according to CPS data. The number of CPS adult cases has slowly risen since late November. About 170 cases were logged Sunday through Thursday. Nearly 175 adult cases were reported last week.”


Chicago Public Schools distributing 150K COVID testing kits for students to use over winter break

By ABC7 Chicago Digital Team

“Chicago Public Schools will distribute 150,000 take-home COVID-19 testing kits and is encouraging parents to have their students tested on December 28. Parents who receive their take-home tests can drop them off at a FedEx dropoff location the same day. CPS used the COVID Vulnerability Index to determine where the tests will be distributed. All schools that are designated as high risk or medium risk will provide students with the take-home tests. “Research shows us that most of the COVID cases we see in CPS are not because of in-school spread – they are due to social situations like playdates and family gatherings that have fewer protections in place than our schools,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “We know that families will be gathering for the holidays, so we are providing these tests to our students who may be at most risk so we can reduce the spread of COVID and protect our school communities. I want to thank our partner Thermo Fisher for working closely with us to get as many tests as possible to our schools and our families ahead of the break.”


CPS introduces ‘boys+’ and ‘girls+’ bathrooms to be gender inclusive; petition calls for end to policy

By Tracy Swartz for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago Public Schools has directed school leaders to post signs the district says “makes it clear that our restrooms are open for use to anyone who feels comfortable in that space.” There are three types of student bathrooms under the new district guidelines, which have drawn criticism from some parents. “Boys+” facilities have stalls and urinals, while “girls+” restrooms just have stalls. Anyone is allowed to use boys+ and girls+ bathrooms. Schools must also offer single-stall restrooms available to any student. Staff continue to have separate restrooms. CPS representatives say the signage aligns with guidance published in June by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights affirming the rights of transgender students. Because the federal guidance was announced after the district’s annual budget had been set, CPS said, the cost of permanent signage will be part of next year’s budget. School leaders are using their own budgets to cover the cost of printing temporary signs, CPS said. Signs were supposed to be up by Dec. 1. A petition demanding CPS “rescind this ridiculous and disgusting policy” has garnered more than 2,600 signatures. The petition was circulated by the Chicago Republican Party.”


In Chicago Public Schools, wealthier students get far more As and Bs than low-income students

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ Chicago

“For students at this school, like at many serving mostly low-income students, earning As and Bs isn’t a given, as it can be at schools serving wealthier students. There are many complicated reasons for this, including teachers who range in their grading philosophies and the reality that students from low-income families often lack the resources or privileges that allow more affluent students to thrive in school. The net effect in Chicago is a profound grading disparity, a WBEZ analysis has uncovered. Standardized tests have long been criticized for producing predictable results based on a student’s ZIP code. But lesser known is that grades follow a similar pattern. A new analysis from WBEZ shows that poor kids in Chicago Public Schools are given far more Ds and Fs than students from more advantaged backgrounds in both elementary and high schools. Conversely, wealthier students get significantly more As and Bs. When students start getting bad grades, it should signal that they need extra help and not be a way to punish them, said Elaine Allensworth, executive director of the UChicago Consortium for Chicago School Research. When searching for what’s driving grade differences between wealthier and high-poverty schools, some experts look to a shift in grading practices and in training for teachers. Joe Feldman, a former principal in Washington, D.C., who wrote the book Grading for Equity, said grading used to be done on a scale or a curve, with teachers comparing students in their class. But these days, teachers like the one in West Garfield Park are measuring students against set standards. As a result, there’s no expectation that a certain percentage of students will earn As or Bs.”


Low-income students may be further squeezed out of CPS’ elite schools because of weak pandemic grades

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ Chicago

“Top grades — As and Bs — are basically required to earn admission to one of the city’s top test-in schools and other selective programs. During the pandemic, her son Davionne, like most students in Chicago Public Schools, spent it entirely in remote school. Manuel had to work, making it that much harder to ensure he was engaged academically. “He’s of an age where it is hard for him to really focus with a computer, and with all this flexibility of being in a house and being able to get up and go places, it was a struggle,” she said. Students across Chicago struggled last school year during the pandemic, but new data analyzed by WBEZ suggests that students from schools with mostly low-income families, like the one Davionne attends, struggled more. This may make it even harder for them to get into the city’s elite schools than in the past. There was a steep drop off in As and Bs for seventh graders in CPS schools serving almost all low-income students last year. Top grades fell by 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. Black students were impacted the most. Meanwhile, in schools serving mostly middle-class students, the percentage of As and Bs dropped by only 4 points.”