Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Still Boring

Last week, I attended the August Board of Education meeting, mercifully without my children, who would not have sat through another two-hour filibuster masquerading as the CEO's Report. Public participation began at nearly 1 p.m. and as speaker #58, I was one of the last people called to the podium.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Board members were more willing to interact with me. Except David Vitale--he still looked bored (or, as The Boy said in June, like he had to pee). Or maybe it was my promise to come back every two months until the Board responds to my request. Andrea Zopp complied, although she questioned my premise. 

My public comment was about a little-known issue that has become increasingly important as the Board has codified its enrollment and admissions policies, and discontinued long-held admissions practices:

Illinois general superintendent of schools Ted Kimbrough wrote, "The most important instructional resource is staff, particularly teachers." This is as true in 2013 as when he wrote it in 1992 in an analysis of the first 7 years of state report card data. 

I believe that the Board of Education recognizes on some level the instructional importance of CPS teachers. But teacher salaries are only one part of the resources our teachers and our schools need. 

That is why I am here today, again, to urge the Board to reconsider its magnet and selective enrollment admissions policy #602.2. As you may recall, I was here in June to address the Board on the same topic. And I will return every two months to speak to this issue until the Board takes it for the serious matter that it is. 

The current policy as it is written is exclusive by omission. There is no policy concerning teachers' children within the system, and there is a perception among parents and the general public that teachers have some kind of clout list to get preferential treatment, like children of returning Rhodes scholars. That's just not accurate. 

Chicago is often a pioneer in its policies and practices. Sometimes that has produced positive results and sometimes that has produced negative results. From my research, I can't tell if magnet schools around the country grant admission to their teachers. But I can tell you that if Chicago embraces a policy for teachers' children, it will be a mark on the positive side of pioneering programs.

So I stand here today to ask you to what I need to do, what you will do, to ensure that great teachers are retained in the schools where they teach. I know it is not the Board's practice to respond to public participants, but I'm speaking to with respect and an expectation of accountability, and I expect that you will do the same. 

Please make this process more transparent for parents, teachers, students, LSCs, and other citizens of Chicago. 

For the record, as far as I can tell, there is no clout list for teachers and administrators within CPS. I can't say whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel maintains his own clout list (given the way politics in Illinois works, it wouldn't surprise me if he did), but I'm fairly confident that Barbara Byrd-Bennett does not. (If she did, perhaps Tim Cawley would be a Chicago resident.) I know Jean-Claude Brizard did not. These stories may be anecdotal, but I can name at least five CPS teachers and administrators who have played--and lost--the admissions lottery, like everyone else now fleeing the City for more educationally and financially sound pastures. 

Also, for the record, I'm not asking for automatic entry for teachers' kids. The only admissions that are guaranteed are those at one's own neighborhood District school. Charters, magnets, gifted, classical, and out-of-boundary neighborhood schools all require some type of admissions filter and I am not advocating for a change. 

What I'm ultimately asking for is the following: 

Amend the BoE policy 602.2, Board Report #11-0824-PO2 to include enrollment for elementary-aged children of teachers+* after siblings in both entry and non-entry@ years. Sample wording is provided below in bold: 

“Elementary Magnet School Lottery Selections – Entry Level: 
a. Siblings 
– All sibling applicants shall be offered seats to the extent space is available. Lotteries will be conducted as necessary if the number of sibling applicants is greater than the number of available seats, and a designated sibling wait list shall be established if there are more sibling applicants than available space. To be eligible, the enrolled sibling and the applicant sibling must reside in the same household and must be attending the same school at the same time for at least one school year. For the purposes of this policy, the term sibling means natural siblings, step siblings, foster siblings and adopted siblings, as evidenced by documentation required by the CEO or designee. A sibling of a student who will be graduated, or who is scheduled to transfer to another school, prior to the enrollment of the sibling who is applying for admission, shall not be eligible for this priority. 

b. Teachers Elementary-Aged Children
-- After placing siblings as described above, all teachers’ elementary-aged children shall be offered seats up to ___ % of the remaining seats. To be eligible, teachers must have worked at the magnet school for at least one year prior to application. The applicant and the teacher must reside in the same household and must attend school and work at the same school at the same time for at least one year

b. c. Proximity Lottery
– After placing siblings and teachers’ children as described above, 40% of the remaining seats will be allocated to the proximity lottery and the balance to the citywide SES lottery. Proximity determinations will be made by the CEO or designee through a geocoding-based proximity analysis conducted prior to the lottery. All applicants will be placed into the proximity or citywide lotteries based on the application address. If the number of proximity applicants is less than the number of seats allocated for the proximity application process, those applicants will be given offers and the remaining seats will be filled through the citywide SES lottery. 

Where there are more proximity applicants than available seats, computerized lotteries may be run for applicants residing within a 1.5 mile proximity radius of the elementary magnet school and a 2.5 mile proximity radius of the magnet high school. The proximity radius is determined by a straight line method that does not consider driving distances. A sufficient number of offers will be made in lottery order to fill the seats allocated to the proximity selection process. The remaining proximity applicants will be placed on a proximity wait list. In an effort to ensure ongoing diversity in these programs, if more than 50 percent of the entire student body, according to the current 20th day file, is comprised of students within the proximity and if more than 50 percent of the student body is any one racial or ethnic group, no proximity lottery will be held for that school. Where both conditions are met, all applicants, including those living in the proximity area, will be placed into the citywide SES lottery.”

+Q: How will this work for elementary-aged children of H.S. teachers, like those at Ogden, Alcott, etc.?
*Q: Should this include aides, administration, office staff, and/or custodial staff?  
@Q:  Should this include both entry and non-entry years? 

Early critics of this plan include part of the Chicago PTA (the P in PTA), who believe that teachers have a secret in. This perception persists despite system-wide changes to the admissions policy in 2011, 2010, and 2009. The District needs to confit its admissions policy for neighborhood schools as well as for magnet and SE schools. Policy by omission isn't transparent. 

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