Thursday, September 26, 2013

Education: a Muse

Last week, I met with BoE member Deborah Quazzo about my pet project during one of her board office hours slots. The meeting was not productive on my end, but as we were walking out, Ms. Quazzo paid me what I consider to be a compliment when she asked me what subject I teach. 

I don't teach, and don't think I'd make a very good classroom teacher. As this TFA has-been writes, teaching is as much about classroom management as it is about teaching. Especially in many CPS classrooms. 

But I am a learner and consider myself an advocate for anyone else who follows a similar path. I am reminded of my days as a lycĂ©enne; in French, the word for "teach" and "learn" is the same: apprendre. This is a conflation Americans could stand to make. 

I guess you could say that Education is in my DNA. It's only now that my kids are in school in a debt-ridden, politically questionable system once deemed "the worst public school system in America," that I've realized how deeply and widely the theme of education--both as a journey and as a destination--ran through my childhood. 

In my family, we talk about education a lot. My parents were each the first in their families to go to college and as their parents' only children of the Baby Boomer generation, embraced the culture of the time that held that formal education was critical to financial success. They were part of the 6 percent in 1970 that has now become the 70 percent of degree-earning bottom/top quartiles in 2011

But they were also part of the minority who were able to gain advantages despite their relative economic, political, and socially disadvantaged backgrounds when they landed in the college-bound HS track in NYC in the 1960s. My father was the youngest child of an orphaned, first-generation Hungarian Jew and a first-generation Roman Catholic Italian who learned to speak English only after she started school in Union City, NJ as a child. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science. 

Bronx Science is considered by many to be one of the first specialized magnet schools in the country, let alone NYC. Interestingly, the NYC BoE counts nine SEHSs (or Specialized High Schools) in its "portfolio." Compare that to Chicago's 10 SEHSs, despite a significantly smaller student population (400,000 ish to NYC's 1.1 million), and the popular demand for more SEHS seats becomes murky. Why create more tracking for the top XX percent (or as Sue Serra in this Reader article states, the top 10 percent)? Where is the equity in creating echelons of HS within the public system? 

But creating echelons in the public system is exactly what we're doing when the Chicago Board of Education allows Ald. Michele Smith to cede her public comment time to two Lincoln parents who happen to agree with her development plans without enforcing its own rules about such tactics. And it's exactly what it's doing when Estella Bertran rushes the anti-development side off the microphone in later public comment. It's exactly what we're doing when Todd Babbitz makes system-wide decisionsbehind closed doorsabout whether adding air conditioning or resolving overcrowding within CPS buildings are a better use of its $200M capital budget. It's exactly what we're doing when application-required charter schools claim they're "open enrollment" on the public record. It's exactly what we're doing when mostly Northside schools use parent fundraising to pad the CPS budget gap, leaving SpEd teachers like Jacqueline Casimir out of work.

And that's just (some of) the inequalities in CPS. State-wide, even nation-wide, the contrast between the haves and have-nots educationally is more striking. In Illinois, our property tax structure rewards rich districts and penalizes poor ones, and ISBE per-pupil foundational spending recommendations don't even come close to covering the extrinsic costs of educating Illinois's children. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

CPS's EFMP: A critique

In early September, CPS embarked on a series of community engagement meetings ostensibly to gain feedback on its 10-year Educational Facilities Master Plan, a draft of which the District published in May. Critics of the 458-page document maintain that it offers little substance about what, exactly, its “long range plan and current recommendations” are. 

They're right. I've read it.

There's very little of substance in the document, which I had somehow imagined would read more like this June Board of Education Report. Most of the EFMP reads like a group project paper, with the unifying theme taking the form of an oft-repeated refrain of its "educational goals" of who, what, where, and when the District teaches its students. 

In 78 pages of summary text, the District makes exactly nine statements of what it will do, although it offers little--if any--plans as to how it actually will accomplish these goals. 

p. 49: "We will be constructing and replacing playgrounds for those schools that have the capacity for them." 

Except that CPS fails to mention which schools have the capacity for playgrounds, which schools need them replaced versus new ones, when these playgrounds will be constructed, and what and how the budget will be. 

p. 49: "We are expanding certain facilities to provide universal Full Day Kindergarten. In our FY13 Supplemental Capital Plan, we have allocated approximately $13.4 million in classroom build-out to prepare all schools for Full Day Kindergarten. Another $2.0 million has been set aside for kindergarten appropriate furniture across the district."

I wonder how K students in 1/2 day K managed without furniture all this time? I looked up the FY13 Supplemental Capital Plan and there are only 13 schools listed in the plan as receiving funds. One of them is Smyser, which lists its ideal enrollment as 860 and its actual AY2012-13 as over 1,000. How on Earth 
can CPS carve space out of an overcrowded 81-year-old 

p. 50: "We will expand Gifted/Selective Enrollment opportunities." 

Because there will be more seats? Or is this an allusion to the work scheduled to be done at Walter Payton? 

p. 56: "We will expand our International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes."

p. 56: "We will expand STEM Elementary Schools and Programs, and Early College STEM" 

p. 62: "We will expand Career and Technical Education....During SY13-14, CTE academies or CTE programs will be added to 6 high schools (Roosevelt, Southside Occupational, Prosser, Gage Park, and South Shore). Of these, Roosevelt and Southside Occupational will require facility modifications to support the expanded program offerings. In SY14-15, CTE academies or CTE programs will be added to 5 high schools (Bowen, Farragut, Kelly, Ray Graham, and Foreman). Of these, Bowen and Ray Graham will require facility modifications to support the expanded program offerings."

Finally: some substance! But still: lots of questions remain about what sorts of facility modifications will be required to support expanded CTE options. Also, while computer science and drafting are included in CTE, it's unclear if those will be among the offerings at these 11 high schools. 

p. 67: "We will expand our Service Leadership opportunities....For SY2013, two proposals were submitted into the Call for Quality Schools authorization process to expand Rickover Naval Academy and Marine Math and Science Academy to include 7th and 8th grades. While the Board of Education has approved these grade level expansions, the schools will require new, larger facilities to support the increased demand for both its existing grades as well as the additional 7th and 8th grades. Furthermore, both Rickover Naval Academy and Marine Math and Science are co-located schools that will more easily achieve building efficiency standards once in their own building." 

p. 68: "We will be elevating Arts Education to a core subject." 

Great, but no funding or capital improvements set aside at this stage, which suggests that this is an afterthought, not an actual budgetary priority. 

p.69: "We will provide innovative, bold and effective instructional practices for students with diverse learning needs while being a credible, supportive partner for schools, parents, students and the community at large. All student s with disabilities have the right to access quality public education options designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for postsecondary education, employment and independent living" 

Again, no funding or monetary amounts mentioned in conjunction with this. Another afterthought. 

p. 15: "We have protected and increased investments in programs that boost student learning such as full school day, early childhood development and maintaining class size, while at the same time expanding high quality school options across the district to give parents more choices." 

Would to know how CPS can justify maintaining class sizes of 28-38 students/classroom--if we use AY2013-14 numbers--as a good thing.

"Expanding high quality school options to create nearly 6,600 new seats in high quality magnet, selective enrollment, Charter, International Baccalaureate, Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs"

How to discount "new" seats from seats converted from existing programs within an existing building? Indeed, p. 56 details new programs at existing schools: 

"In Fall of 2013 CPS will open 5 new IB high school programmes (Farragut, Kennedy, Juarez, and Bronzeville), expand 6 other high schools to become Wall to Wall IB high schools (Hyde Park, Senn, Taft, Lincoln Park, Clemente, and the new Back of the Yards High School), and if recommended school actions are approved, will implement new IB in the following elementary schools: De Diego, DePriest, Ellington, Fiske, Jenner, Mollison, and Wells."

p.17: "Similarly, we need a long term view into population trends in areas of overcrowding, particularly in areas where we may be contemplating capacity expansions. "There are approximately 65,000 fewer students enrolled in neighborhood elementary schools in areas that are underutilized today than enrolled 10 years ago."  

Does this reflect a real population shift or increased enrollments in charter schools in some areas? The "schools of choice" argument suggests that many children go to school outside their neighborhood schools. I wonder how in-depth CPS got into the demographics? Did they perform any impact studies? 

p. 39 "If a principal enrolls out of area students, year after year, as the school’s capacity is increasingly utilized, a school can become overcrowded. Because of this, for elementary and high schools with traditional geographic attendance area boundaries (e.g., neighborhood schools), CPS measures the school’s actual enrollment efficiency, based on total enrollment relative to capacity, as well as the school’s notional enrollment efficiency, based on the percentage of enrollment consisting of students residing within that school’s attendance area boundary. The notional enrollment efficiency rating assists the District in determining the extent to which a neighborhood school’s efficiency or inefficiency relates to a high or low number of out-of-area students enrolled relative to the facility’s capacity." 

Translation: if you are overcrowded because you over-enrolled non-neighborhood kids as a school of choice, too bad. This suggests that the District thinks that only magnet, SE, and charter schools should be "schools of choice" within the District. Choice is an illusion. Indeed, if you look at the "notional utilization" rate assigned by CPS to each "overcrowded" District school, the utilization rate drops down to a more reasonable level. Belding's 139% becomes 110%, for example. However, Gray, Palmer, Prussing, and Smyser hold steady at utilization rates at 126% and up. 

p. 42: "We believe that if these alternative methods of overcrowding relief were fully deployed, overcrowding could be solved with approximately $500-600 Million, but it is unrealistic to expect those other means could be successfully deployed to resolve each of these situations."

There are only 13 schools targeted to receive additions to relieve overcrowding, (p. 46) although the authors of the document fail to include status (and cost) of the projects within this report.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Price versus Value

As anyone reading this blog in the past, oh five years, knows, I am a card-carrying PTA member. But in the Internet age, it's difficult to be a member of a volunteer-based organization that also charges dues. A common thread in PTA membership recruitment is what units get from PTA. Why pay to join PTA when you can join advocacy groups like Raise Your Hand, Parents 4 Teachers, Common Sense Coalition, or More Than a Score for free? 

Indeed, if you don't value membership in the PTA, there is probably little I can say to change your mind about the importance of the nation's oldest dues-based advocacy organization. But if you're on the fence, here are some reasons why PTA is a good value:

PTA has longevity and staying power.
Unlike the other groups that have popped up in Chicago over the past five years, the PTA's history runs longer than a century. I am not questioning the validity and good created by these other organizations in calling attention to the problems of CPS. Nor am I saying that being older and better established means an organization is fail proof, as the recent collapses of Jane Addams Hull House and Catholic Charities have demonstrated. But, being old and well-established can have some advantages, like having a seat at the table in policy discussions, brainstorming sessions, and on advisory boards.

PTA makes decisions democratically, using due process.
Unlike newer organizations that lack structure for--or worse, deliberately exclude would-be stakeholders from--determining their organizational agendas, PTA follows a formal process to direct its agenda. Progress toward reform is made more by bottom-up movements than it is by top-down mandates.

PTA's strengths come from within.
We are (almost) all volunteers. Why pay $5 to volunteer? Because PTA gives you a structure in which you can channel your volunteer efforts. Since its inception as the National Congress of Mothers in 1897, PTA has sought to improve children's lives in the areas of education, arts, juvenile justice, bullying and conflict resolution, nutrition and wellness, child labor, and parent engagement.

PTA has influence.
Because of the reasons above, PTA has some influence among local, state, and federal decisionmakers. PTA's standards for parent involvement formed the basis for the NCLB standards for parent involvement, and it helped in the adoption and rollout of Common Core.  

PTA has a relationship with CPS.
Since 1996, the PTA Advisory Committee has enjoyed an insiders' view to CPS departments, programs, initiatives, and policies. Departments present and seek feedback at monthly meetings, and members of the advisory committee share their ideas for increasing family engagement at the school, network, and District levels.

PTA advocates for all children and youth.
This is what it all comes down to. Although it does charge nominal per-capita dues, the PTA is not an elitist organization. It works to advocate for all children and youth. I am making a difference in my children's lives, but I also want to make a difference in the lives of their peers and classmates at their school and through the District. 

As with paying it forward and exhibiting kindness and respect toward others, being a part of the PTA is the right thing to do. I fondly remember the Jaycee-sponsored carnivals of my youth. Rotary International sent me to Belgium and then to France on cultural exchanges when I was a high school student. Alternative Spring Break allowed my college self to support forestry service in Virginia. I subscribe to Malcolm Gladwell's hypothesis that successful individuals come from a cultural background that values hard work and seeks to lend a helping hand. The PTA mission seeks to improve the lives of children and youth; my mission in life is to improve the lives of all members of the society in which we live.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Back

CPS is back in session and with it, the PTA Advisory Council. 

I seriously don't understand why more parents don't attend this monthly meeting. Although like many open meetings in the city, it is held downtown during the workday, it is absolutely a wonderful pipeline to new initiatives and information coming out of CPS and a great way to network with other involved parents within the system. It is not limited to PTA members or member PTA representatives, although we encourage and support members of the group to join the PTA. Our CPS host is Carl Hurdlik, Community Coordinator within the FACE office, and our PTA moderator is Cassandra Eddings, a parent and volunteer who can be reached at ilptaadvisory at gmail dot com.

Our meeting today focused on a presentation from Andy Pickett and Jamie Tully with the LearnWell initiative. Part of the overall Healthy Schools campaign, CPS's LearnWell initiative centers on physical education within CPS, and is functionally organized under the Office of Health and Wellness. Is CPS really listening to parents and community members? I couldn't tell you, although the existence of this entirely grant-funded department/initiative suggests to me that they are.

Andy and Jamie shared with us an overview of a new CPS Physical Education policy that covers everything from suggested instructional minutes and methods to individual waivers to inclusion techniques. A central idea is that children should have 60 minutes of physical activity each day, or 150 minutes of P.E. time each week. For this fall, the LearnWell team has started a pilot program called 30/20/10 in 36 elementary and high schools. Under the pilot, children have 30 minutes of P.E., 20 minutes of recess, and 10 minutes of classroom exercise each day.

Sounds great, right? 

Right. Except that right now, there are little to no funds to support this policy, which will become a mandate when the BoE votes on it in October 2013. As a Blaine parent articulated and the LearnWell team confirmed, there are no budgetary concessions for this within the restrictive per-pupil allotments under which all District schools must now work. And I believe Andy and Jamie when they said that they understand the physical and budgetary constraints under which the vast majority of schools must work. But I'm not concerned about my kids having to go through gym class in a field, on a sidewalk, or within a hallway--all (good) suggestions made by the LearnWell team. I'm concerned because this kind of unfunded mandate stuff from CPS is maddening and ongoing.

The Boy has had daily recess and weekly P.E. classes since he started kindergarten six years ago, so I get the importance of free play and daily movement. Indeed, Andy pointed to research in the Kansas City schools that said behavior problems plummeted when children had daily physical activity. And his team's professional development meeting in August drew a crowd to its training and informational sessions. But even with the team's proposed three-year gradual policy rollout, the fact remains that school administrators must identify and budget for P.E. instruction within their schools. 

To encourage creativity and provide some financial support for schools that are willing to identify Wellness Champions, create Health and Wellness Committees, and really engage around student activity, the LearnWell team will release an RFP on October 1st under which schools can apply for small grants of up to $2500 to implement wellness initiatives in their communities.

In addition, the LearnWell team will work to educate parents, principals, and teachers about the role of P.E. in high schools. While elementary children in Illinois are only required to have gym once/week, the ISBE waiver permitting CPS to bypass gym requirements for its students in 9th and 10th grades will end at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Overcrowding on the NWside

Last night, I attended the North/NWside Collaborative's community meeting at Taft High School. This was to provide feedback on the CPS Educational Facilities Master Plan. Todd Babbitz conducted the presentation and took feedback. His employee, Portfolio Manager Ben Felton, co-moderated. Ben spoke to the PTA Advisory Council last year.

Irritatingly, the drafters of the CPS Education Facilities 10-Year Draft Plan have divided the city's schools in yet a new way, using some of the city's 17 community areas rather than the FACE designation of Networks or the Areas previously established by our federal Secretary of Education. 

This makes an apples to apples comparison difficult. Does CPS deliberately slice and dice the data a new way each time? In February 2013, we discussed overcrowding in the O'Hare Network, which contains 44 elementary schools, of which 21 were deemed above ideal utilization rates by CPS itself. In the Facilities draft, the O'Hare, Ravenswood-Ridge, and Fulton Networks were combined and then subdivided again into Albany-Irving, Sauganash, Ravenswood, and other community areas. 

My comments here--and my comments last night--concern the Albany-Irving area specifically, as these students and their families are my neighbors and/or friends. Under the draft plan, Albany-Irving has 31 schools, 10 of which are overcrowded by CPS's 30-to-a-homeroom averaging formula. Tim Meegan, whose point often gets lost in his "everything is wrong with CPS" perspective, pointed out in his comments that the only school in the Albany-Irving area that is under-utilized is Aspira-Haugan Middle School--and this despite overcrowded conditions in the three schools nearest to the building. And yet, although CPS owns the building (or at least paid for it), it appears to have no plans to phase it out. (Perhaps as part of the "several" charters that CPS has closed, per Barbara Byrd-Bennett?) 

Presenter Babbitz asked for directed feedback to the plan, asking participants their opinions on the "guiding principles" outlined in the draft plan, priorities, and suggested solutions. Of course, since the BoE and CPS provide most parents with only two minutes of speaking time, most people use public forums like these to vent all of their frustrations with CPS on the poor, but highly paid, Central Office soul sitting on the stage, while Network managers hover in a cluster nearby. Last night was no exception. 

Ald. Smith droned on for nearly 15 minutes about the overcrowding at Lincoln Elementary, causing one parent in the back row to stand up with a "point of preference" that Smith had outrun even the most lenient timekeeping of a two-minute speaking allotment. Ald. Arena kept it briefer, highlighting three 45th ward schools with the worst overcrowding conditions (Hitch, Belding, and Prussing) and noting that 85 percent of 45th ward residential real estate are single-family houses. (And to his point: this neighborhood has enjoyed a steady, owner-occupied, mid-price range residency since 1942; contrast that with Census figures for Halsted and Fullerton for the same era. The data is available in the government records section of Harold Washington Library.)

Two speakers--Decatur's principal and a parent of a 13-year-old--advocated for more SE considerations. Three speakers advocated for more space/additions/improvements for Taft H.S. One, a teacher and parent, William Angel, pointed out that the feeder schools for Taft have mostly received additions without thought to where these students will go for high school and where they can put them within Taft. Six speakers alternately challenged and agreed with Ald. Smith about Lincoln Elementary, suggesting that a neighborhood with $1.2 million SFHs didn't need an addition/expansion just because they were rich and demanded it. Others suggested instead that CPS de-magnetize Newberry and/or LaSalle (because the rich people demanded it? Oy vey.) Two speakers from Wildwood Magnet (is this a magnet or a magnet cluster? lists it as a magnet) spoke about severe overcrowding at their school. Jill Wohl from Raise Your Hand live-tweeted it from the forum if you'd like more information from the forum.

I hadn't gone in to the forum intending to speak, but did want to provide feedback on on parts of the draft plan that I read:

My name is Caroline Bilicki, and I have three children at Disney II Magnet School. I have three comments on the draft plan. One--really more of a question: How can CPS promote a 21st century learning environment without a science lab, like Scammon or Murphy, or without a tech lab, like Belding or Henry?

Two it's not so much that I'd like to see you offer more programs, but sustain what you have. As Ben knows, I sit on the PTA Advisory Council, and every year, we are introduced to new heads of new initiatives that disappear 12 months later. 

And three, another question: Why does CPS want to pursue choice as a strategy? Is this a method to reduce costs? Is this something that parents want? Because I'm pretty sure that most NWside parents don't want charters as a choice. Another comment on choice: with open enrollment, neighborhood CPS schools become "schools of choice" in ways that belie the Census projections used by CPS in the Albany-Irving areas and/or within the O'Hare Network. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Down to the Nitty GRITty

At each of the past three BoE meetings I've attended, the budget looked large. Everyone from Barbara Byrd-Bennett to Laurence Msall to Tim Cawley brought up pension reform in August. Tim Cawley also brought up the need for additional revenue from Springfield. Pension reform is a sticky wicket as well as a straw man in my opinion. I think that reforms to the state pension should be forward-going only. That is, the Illinois General Assembly can move to a defined contribution plan for current teachers and civil servants (ahem, elected officials), but it may not strip pensioners of their restful, albeit meager retirements after 40+ years in the trenches of CPS.

However, an increase in the state income taxation process is something I can get behind. And it's a common theme at the BoE. BBB brought it up. Karen Lewis brought it up. Even Henry Beinen brought it up.

At last: a common cause for education wonks in Chicago.

I hope it works. I've attended several presentations put on by the Illinois League of Women Voters,  the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, and most recently, A Better Illinois, about the subject of Illinois's tax mess. I have found the argument increasingly convincing each time. 

The more I learn about the campaign, the more I think it makes sense. Illinois was one of the first states in the union to promote many child-focused initiatives. It would collectively do well to reclaim some of that positivity (as opposed to notoriety) by funding its state programs fairly and more appropriately. If that means that I pay more tax, so be it if that is fair. However, I'm inclined to think it would be more fair for corporations to pay their fair share of tax, rather than doling out foundation dollars to the CEO/Board of Directors' pet causes. (If corporate foundations still want to do so, great, but the public good should not depend on private monies to survive/exist.) 

According to information provided by Advance Illinois, Illinois ranked 48th in state funding of education, as a percentage of total funding, in 2009-2010. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) allegedly funds schools at a rate of $11,634 per pupil per year, which puts Illinois in the middle of the pack. But given that my kids' school received just over $4,000 per pupil for the 2013-2014 academic year, I'm not sure what accounts for the nearly $7K per pupil difference. Pension payments? 

As this HuffPo analysis of the NEA stats says, Illinois is the most regressive in its education funding.  And this (downstate) reporter explains how the published numbers are not the same as what school districts actually get. 

So now that I've established how low the rate at which Illinois funds its schools actually is, back to my point: this is unacceptable. Now a base state ranking means that  one state has got to be last, but there is last by a neglible amount (Illinois versus Utah or Idaho) snd there's last by a ridiculous amount (Illinois versus New York or Massachusetts). This difference is revolting, it's disgusting, it's criminal, it's base. And I don't see how we can raise future productive citizens of the world if our students aren't getting the support they so desperately need. 

I want to move to Iowa like I want a hole in my head, but Iowans know how to breed--and educate--a thinking body politic. And they do this in part by funding their education system from a fair and equitable income tax structure. As do 33 other states that follow a graduated rate income tax (GRIT) structure. In fact, all of the other Midwestern states follow GRIT--except Indiana, which appears to be only steps ahead of Illinois in shady educational policymaking. 

Under GRIT, the plan is simple: increase revenues by changing the income tax in Illinois from a fixed rate flat tax (currently 5 percent, will sunset down to 3.75 percent in fiscal year 2016 and drops again to 3.25 percent in 2024) to a graduated rate. That means that those with a higher income will be taxed at a higher rate and those at a lower income will be taxed at a lower rate. There are several models floating around about what this might look like in Illinois. According to one of these models, those at the top income brackets would see only a 3 percent increase in income tax payable to Illinois. 

I daresay they (we?) can afford it. What do you think? 

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.