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Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

Cover Stories

August 18, 2005

What sets low-income schools with high achievement in science apart from those that perform poorly? To answer that question, Senior Editor Elizabeth Duffrin examined 2003 7th-grade ISAT science test scores at schools with more than 90 percent low-income students, to identify the 10 highest-scoring and 10 lowest-scoring schools. Interviews with principals, teachers or other staff at all but one of the 20 schools showed that, in addition to good teachers, the following three factors stood out:

Good reading scores

August 18, 2005

The shabby state of science labs in many Chicago public high schools is evident at Senn High in Edgewater.

Ten of Senn's 11 labs show their age—about four decades—with out-of-order sinks, sealed-off gas lines, water-damaged ceilings and dingy walls with peeling paint. Only one lab is in good condition, rehabbed in 2000 under an initiative that has since been retooled.

August 18, 2005

After years of neglect while the district focused on reading and math improvement, science is getting attention from Chicago Public Schools.

That attention comes none too soon at high schools, where scores are in the basement. At 36 high schools, the percentage of 11th-graders who met or exceeded state science standards is in the single digits, according to preliminary results for the 2004 Prairie State Achievement Exam.

Citywide, only 27 percent of 11th-graders met or exceeded standards.

August 18, 2005
By: Ed Finkel

Expulsions soar as the district adopts 'zero tolerance' toward serious misconduct

In 1995, Chicago Public Schools unveiled a "zero tolerance" policy that dramatically lowered the threshold for student expulsions. Since then, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education, the number of expelled students has risen just as dramatically, more than quadrupling to 712 students in 2003, up from just 172 in 1997.

August 18, 2005

Elementary schools are cracking down on discipline problems by suspending a record number of students, most of them African American, a Catalyst analysis found. Schools say more resources and parental support are needed to handle unruly students.

Last year, the staff and local school council at McNair Elementary in Austin got fed up with student misbehavior—especially fighting, which McNair and other schools say is their biggest discipline problem.

August 18, 2005

Almost a third of the city's community areas—23 of 77—have school overcrowding problems. Fourteen of the 23 communities have been overcrowded for a decade, and a major capital improvement plan launched in 1996 has brought little relief. One CPS official admits the district is only "treading water" in solving overcrowding.

August 18, 2005

In a small, sunny library on the city's Northwest Side, eight faces beamed relief after a month of grueling budget meetings. A rookie local school council turned veteran after approving Monroe Elementary's tightest budget in years.

Faced with a $177,000 decrease in discretionary money—the state and federal poverty funds that councils control—new council members forced a compromise with the principal over spending priorities. When the dust cleared, three teaching positions and three school aides had been slashed from the $1.1 million discretionary budget.

August 17, 2005

Most learning-disabled students in Chicago Public Schools are diagnosed at a late age—typically, at 8 or 9, while in 3rd grade or later. Experts say children whose disabilities are diagnosed that late have very little chance of catching up to their classmates academically.

Through interviews and a review of school records, Catalyst tracked the stories of three learning-disabled 6th-graders at Casals Elementary in Humboldt Park, which has a higher-than-average special education referral rate and a higher-than-average percentage of learning-disabled students.

August 16, 2005

With 39 percent of teachers new to Chicago resigning within five years, top administrators under Schools CEO Arne Duncan know the district has a problem with teacher turnover. It has increased both the staff and money devoted to the mentoring of new teachers, but local and national experts say the program falls short of what's needed.

"I would commend Chicago for embracing mentoring, however, the training for mentors is not sufficient," says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

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