Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – Week of March 4th, 2019

Drama Class Required For All At North Lawndale College Prep 

By CBS 2
“Teacher Ariell Azadi Williams developed the class to help students deal with typical teenage issues and those they face growing up in one of Chicago’s most violent areas.”

Will Chicago Public Schools move to an elected school board?
By Sarah Schulte for ABC 7
“Will Chicago Public Schools move to an elected school board? Both candidates in the race for mayor say they support a board that is elected, rather than appointed, like it is now.  For almost 24 years, the nation’s 3rd largest school system has operated under a school board where every member is hand picked by the mayor.  “Right now, what happens is that people who are politically connected connected to the mayor with business backgrounds, bankers lawyers, etc wind up populating the school board and that is not right,” said Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teacher’s Union President.  The Chicago Teachers Union has been strongly pushing for an elected school board. Their rallying cry became even louder after Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board closed 50 schools. With the unions choice for mayor Toni Preckwinkle and her opponent Lori Lightfoot backing an elected school board, reality of one is a step closer. But, former CPS CEO Paul Vallas says not so fast.”

Rising graduate rates just beginning of major gains by Chicago Public Schools
By Janice K. Jackson for the Sun-Times
“If a lifetime in Chicago Public Schools — first as a student and now as CEO (and a CPS mom) — has shown me anything, it’s that kids buy in and reach new heights when grownups set big, bold goals and invest in their success. This isn’t an anecdotal assessment. It’s based on data and facts. Take the fact that our graduation rate is improving four times faster than the national rate. That’s based on a recent analysis that shows the district’s graduation rate has improved a remarkable 15.6 percentage points in the past four years compared to the 3.2 point increase calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics. More and more of our students are earning diplomas as we’ve raised our standards for graduation, and at this rate we will catch up to the national average. Chicago Public Schools are on the rise, and our district is becoming a beacon of what is achievable for large urban school districts across the country. Our rising graduation rate is just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in Chicago high schools.”

Bill Gates lauds academic gains at Chicago high school
By Mitchell Armentrout for the Sun-Times
“Academic improvements at a Hermosa neighborhood high school have caught the attention of Bill Gates. In a Tuesday blog post, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder recounted his September visit to North-Grand High School to learn more about their freshman intervention program designed to keep students on track for graduation. Gates described being impressed by Chicago Public Schools’ rapid improvement in high school graduation rates compared to national averages, and how schools like North-Grand were using data to bolster student success. “I heard many theories to explain Chicago’s progress, including teacher training, better accountability, a longer school day, and demographic changes,” Gates wrote. “What impressed me most is how the city’s schools have worked together to use evidence-based research to measure and improve their performance.” North-Grand is currently rated Level 1 by Chicago Public Schools, the second-highest on the district’s rating scale. The school held the district’s lowest rating of Level 3 in 2012, when administrators started working with the University of Chicago’s Network for College Success research group to identify incoming freshman students at risk of struggling with the adjustment to high school. The school then provides additional progress reports and counseling to support those students.”

5 things you should know about the ‘Zombie’ PARCC
By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat
“Illinois is rolling out a new state test for third- to eighth-grade students, but don’t expect much change. In fact the new state tests will have the same questions as the old tests — just fewer, and taking less time. The state last year decided to drop the PARCC, a standardized test developed by a consortium of states and used to gauge children’s achievement, amid complaints from school administrators and families about what the tests measured and how long — 4½ hours each for math and English— they took. But when the state board sought a firm to create a new test, its PARCC vendor contested the contract. As a result, Illinois has repackaged the PARCC for spring testing with a new name, a shorter testing time, and most of the same questions. The resurrection and administration of a test that many expected to be dead has earned it the moniker “Zombie PARCC.” Here’s what you need to know about the state’s new test.”