Monday, June 13, 2011

Progress Reports

Today marks the last Monday of attendance* in the Chicago Public Schools' 2010-2011 academic year. The Boy and The Girl will receive their final progress report during their one-hour of attendance on Friday. The Tot Who Isn't will receive his on Wednesday. And, apparently, individual Chicago Public Schools will receive a progress report before September as well.

At least that's what Jean-Claude Brizard, Chicago Public Schools' newest chief, said this afternoon when a group of parents and I met with him.

Haven't we done this before? Will Mr. Brizard reveal new data that wasn't previously available on the CPS website? Sure, navigating the CPS website is/was difficult, as Mr. Brizard pointed out in his remarks to us today. But while reporting the data is important, it's significantly less important (at least to our audience) than improving the number of high-quality educational seats available across the board. After all, nearly everyone in the room could share a story--whether personal, familial or anecdotal--of parental frustration in navigating the application process or gaining admission to a school of their choice.

I feel fortunate (OK, I feel like I won the lottery) that The Girl, The Boy and The Tot Who Isn't attend a school that is a school of choice for much of the northwest side. The Boy is going into 3rd grade, so now I'm looking at high schools. I'm pleased to see the Northside High School Initiative and the increased interest in and support of Lakeview High, but that doesn't do much for kids out here in the boondocks of the northwest side. They deserve a great high school option as well, I told Mr. Brizard. Another parent echoed this sentiment, sharing that the handful of well-known great high schools (Northside Prep, Jones, Whitney Young, Walter Payton) don't provide enough seats to enroll all of the kids like ours, who will likely come out of their current school well-prepared and excited for a vigorous, challenging high school education. Mr. Brizard pointed out that there are other great high schools outside of this list, but they are less known because of the lack of data on them.

Such things are possible. But as a research-oriented parent, I am a bit skeptical.

Mr. Brizard pointed out that within CPS, there are essentially two school systems. Some people, he noted, have choices. Some do not. Call me what you will, but it's important enough to me to burn time with the CEO of the CPS to advocate for increased high school opportunities (or choices) for our elementary school's current population. While I'd argue that our group, as parents of children in a highly sought-after magnet school, was not really in the "non-choice" group, I can get behind an initiative that brings more information (and more transparency, and more accountability, per Mr. Brizard) to a wider swath of the city's population. Provided that the information itself has real meaning. (What does it mean that School A's academic performance was above/below the citywide average for last year? Is the number of teachers who choose to stay at a school more important than the number of teachers who are retained?).

It's not surprising that Mr. Brizard didn't yet have concrete plans for how he'd accomplish an increase in educational choices. I mean, he's only been in the job for less than a month. While he did tout his 25 years of experience as a school administrator and high school teacher, he does have a monster of a job in front of him: improving educational opportunities for all, on a shoestring budget, and in the face of parental non-involvement, poverty and other obstacles to success. I'm curious to see how he'll implement plans to introduce "new school operators," to CPS and how those operators, such as Expeditionary Learning, will improve educational outcomes.

Only time will tell. I'll be watching.

* For regular schedule track schools


Anonymous said...

This is not directed at you personally: but are we willing to pay for what we want? Are we willing to pay for top notch schools? Are we willing to pay for increased policing? And, are we willing to pay...or is it that we'll ask someone else to pay.

Caroline said...

Anon, I know your comment isn't directed at me, but I think that people are willing to pay for a high-quality education. I know that I am: in every interaction with my state rep, I asked to vote to raise my taxes. And I'd guess that the well-heeled folk who can afford to move to places like Winnetka and Lake Forest do so because the (higher) property taxes support a greater per-student funding formula.

Anonymous said...

Sorry not on topic but do you have any first hand knowledge of the Mt. Olive co-op? Looking for a pre-k and looking at that and sauganash for the young years.