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Updated October 26, 2018
Chicago’s public school system is still shrinking, new data shows
After 15 years of consecutive drops, the number of students enrolled in Chicago’s public schools fell again this year.
September 26, 2018
Chicago SAT averages fall short of cutoff for main campuses of University of Illinois
Chicago Public School juniors scored an average of 951 on the SAT this past spring, lower than the minimum score needed to gain…
August 30, 2018
We’ve come a long way in addressing student stress and trauma. I could use help, too.
There’s an old adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” But as a paraprofessional in Chicago, my cup is almost drained.
How I Teach
July 2, 2018
Memphis math teacher remembers ‘sticking out.’ It inspired him to teach with compassion
Neven Holland was in third grade when his mother pulled him out of his Chicago elementary school and moved him to a school…
Updated September 11, 2018
Five Chicago student activists on why they will be in your face this summer
Trevon Bosley’s brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. Shot from the street while helping a friend with drums in 2006,…
March 13, 2018
When Chicago cut down on suspensions, students saw test scores and attendance rise, study finds
A modest drop in out-of-school suspensions for severe behavior actually led to small increases in test scores and attendance for all students in a school.
Classrooms without teachers
January 9, 2018
In many large school districts, hundreds of teaching positions were unfilled as school year began
In the country’s largest school districts, thousands of students started the school year without a permanent teacher, according to data from public records.
More than scores
November 26, 2017
New research takes an in-depth look at Chicago charter schools — and finds good news beyond test scores
Chicago's charter high schools seem to help students in the short- and long-run, but those schools also have higher student turnover.
November 16, 2017
How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.
Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. Others have clear rules for sharing. At least one city has carved out a compromise.
July 2, 2015
When schools add teaching time, planning and coordination can suffer
It can a challenge to keep critical preparation time from disappearing.
November 22, 2013
Rise & Shine: Pueblo students, parents expressed concern about teacher ‘sexting’
COLORADO Denver’s school board approved a boundary change for the Denver Green and Lowry schools last night. The new boundaries, which do not include a…
September 10, 2012
Why New York isn't on track to repeat Chicago's teacher strike
In a picture the UFT distributed on Twitter, President Michael Mulgrew and AFT President Randi Weingarten wear red today to show solidarity with teachers on strike in Chicago. When teachers in the country's third-largest school district go on strike, the question is only natural: Could the same thing happen in New York City? The answer is yes, in theory. But there are a host of reasons why New York City teachers probably won't follow their Chicago colleagues in trading the classroom for the picket line any time soon. Here are several issues to consider: Only some of the issues in dispute in Chicago are also under contention in New York City. Like Chicago's teachers, city teachers would like a pay hike. They've have gone without substantial raises for several years. And like Chicago's union, the UFT is very concerned about some elements of the reform agenda that the Obama administration has advanced, particularly about the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation systems. That issue has caused acute tensions between the UFT and the Bloomberg administration for more than a year, keeping the city so far from complying with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements. But New York City teachers don't have to grapple with many of the issues Chicago teachers face. The union contract already contains class size limits, even if the union says they are sometimes skirted. Recall rights for laid-off teachers have been in place for decades. And the school year has long been 180 days. And because the policy agenda that Mayor Rahm Emanuel brought to Chicago last year has been solidly in place in New York City for nearly a decade, city teachers and their union have had more time to adjust and reach compromises. While the Bloomberg administration and the UFT haven't agreed on the technical points of teacher evaluations, they have struck a broad agreement on the concept that student test scores can play some role in ratings. They have already agreed to extend the school day and given schools options to add even more time. And their 2005 contract created an Absent Teacher Reserve with no time limit on how long teachers can draw salaries without occupying permanent positions after losing their old ones — a policy that city officials now want to change but so far have not been able to. The UFT more resembles 2009's Chicago Teachers Union than today's. Like Chicago's union until recently, the United Federation of Teachers has long been dominated by a single caucus that has been willing to work with city officials to reach compromises on issues such as teacher placement, extending the school day, and even evaluations. The compromises have angered some union members, who have criticized the union and its leadership for not adequately defending teachers' rights. But unlike in Chicago, where the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, seized power in 2010, there hasn't yet been a serious threat to Unity's power. In the last union elections, the caucus's candidate for president, Michael Mulgrew, won with 91 percent of the vote.
September 10, 2012
Why Chicago teachers are on strike and what could come next
PHOTO: Grace TatterStriking Chicago teachers picket today outside Ray Elementary School, where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent his children when he was Chicago's schools chief. (Photo: Raiselle Resnick for GothamSchools) Chicago's long-threatened teacher strike, which began today, isn't just about Chicago teachers. It's also something of a referendum on the current moment in education policy. Of the many reasons for the strike, three stand out. We explain each one below — and then explain how the strike could evolve from here. In a second post, we'll explain why the Windy City's labor conflict matters here in the Big Apple. 1. A new mayor. Chicago teachers have been distressed for several years as budget cuts caused school closures and hundreds of layoffs. Tensions between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city mounted last year when former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor, bringing with him an aggressive approach to cost-cutting, the support of national education reform advocacy groups, and a superintendent who cut his teeth under Joel Klein in New York City. Jean-Claude Brizard quickly earned criticism as "anti-teacher" based on his record in Rochester, N.Y., where 95 percent of teachers gave him a "no-confidence" vote shortly before he departed. Emanuel immediately announced that he was canceling raises promised to Chicago teachers and requiring teachers to work longer days and years. The extended-day gambit backfired when a state labor board ruled that Emanuel could not unilaterally require that kind of change. But Emanuel pressed on, offering incentives to schools that would add teaching time. He and Brizard also introduced a new rating system for schools, engineered closures and multiple "turnaround" efforts that cost some teachers their jobs, and introduced a new teacher evaluation system without union consent. (WBEZ Chicago has a comprehensive timeline of Emanuel's education initiatives and how they were received.) 2. A new teachers union. Emanuel's moves would have angered any teachers union. But since 2010, Chicago's has one of the most aggressive in the country. That's when a minority party known as the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, took power from the reigning union leadership, which it criticized as complacent on issues of privatization and community engagement. After contract talks failed to satisfy the union this year, its members voted to authorize a strike in June, in a vote with a 91.5 percent turnout rate and a 90 percent approval rate. Since then, the city made several rounds of concessions and reached a deal with CTU about how to extend the school day. But several issues remained unresolved by the strike deadline on Sunday. CORE started out as a minority party in the union that was organizing with the goal of pushing the union's agenda to the left. As budget conditions worsened and city officials took an increasingly aggressive tone, the group gained traction with a platform that stood apart from most union leaders'.
July 16, 2012
Teachers union faction wants to shake up electoral status quo
Longtime teachers union members Norm Scott (left) and Michael Fiorillo give a brief history lesson to potential MORE members Thursday. Factions from various corners of the city's educational activism scene are coming together to challenge the Unity Caucus's political might. Calling themselves MORE, the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators, members of the fledgling group held their first public meeting in a Lower East Side Bar on Thursday evening. There, they discussed the history of the United Federation of Teachers and floated plans for a minority caucus they hope could wrest some power from the union's political majority. The meeting was led by Norm Scott, Michael Fiorillo, Gloria Brandman and Sam Coleman, retired and current teachers who have been active in union politics for years. Attendees also included a mix of union chapter leaders, Occupy the Department of Education organizers, some of the teachers union's younger members, and retirees. As they introduced themselves, many described their disillusionment with a teachers union almost entirely controlled by Unity. Unity has dominated union politics for decades and supported Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew in their bids for the union's presidency. Both won their elections by huge majorities.
November 11, 2011
In Chicago and New York, a look into the digital classroom
Designer John Murphy uses the SMALLab at ChicagoQuest school. What does a digital classroom look like? Some schools roll smartboards and carts of computers into each classroom. At others, students plug into iPads at every desk to play interactive learning games. The Institute of Play envisions a different picture: A dark, empty classroom with the window shades pulled shut, where a life-size computer game board is projected onto the linoleum floor, and students act as both the players and joysticks to accomplish problem-solving tasks. There are only a handful classroom "labs" like this in the country that serve as a testing ground for "embedded learning environment" games, and a New York City middle school houses one of them. The Institute of Play is a non-profit research group that studies the relationship between game-playing, learning and engagement. It is also one arm of the team behind the NYC Quest to Learn School, which opened in 2009 in Manhattan. I will be visiting the school later this month to see how these classroom innovations are changing the way students learn now that the school is well into its third year. But last week I stopped at the school's recently opened sister school, ChicagoQuest, while in Chicago for a Hechinger Institute conference about reporting on digital learning. At ChicagoQuest, which is as a charter school and receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, each of its 234 sixth- and seventh-graders have an iPad. They use it to take notes, search the internet, and play games themed around concepts such as fractions and geography. Though they are only a few weeks into the school year, students at the new school said they have very positive first impressions of the iPad-based lesson plans. One said she prefers taking notes on the iPad over traditional pen-and-paper methods because, "Even though it's not as fast, we can do a lot more with it," by changing up the formatting of the text and linking certain notes or phrases to each other. Though students can be more prone to distraction when the internet (and, in this case, the popular portrait-taking program PhotoBooth) are readily available, Patrick Hoover, the curriculum specialist, said teaches have a simple but district disciplinary policy has kept goofing-off at bay: use the iPad improperly once, and it is taken away for the rest of the class period.
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