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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Cover Stories

August 18, 2005

Last fall, grassroots pressure helped bring a nationally recognized college-prep program for low-income and minority students to eight Chicago high schools. Next year, that number will more than double.

The program, called AVID, for Advancement Via Individual Determination, focuses on students who have average grades and test scores and need more skills and savvy to prepare for college.

August 18, 2005

As a freshman at Kennedy High in Garfield Ridge, Rocio Barba knew she was good at math and thought she might become a computer technician. Now she's valedictorian for the Class of 2004, heading to the University of Chicago next fall and planning to major in math. Her eventual goal is to become an engineer.

August 18, 2005

Five years ago, the Chicago Housing Authority began moving residents out of the infamous Robert Taylor Homes, a two-mile stretch of high-rise buildings saturated with crime and intense poverty.

The goal for this and other areas in the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation: To remove concentrated public housing structures and replace them with mixed-income communities.

August 18, 2005

In March, Chicago Public School officials predicted that a third of new teachers for the coming 2004-05 school year would be hired from alternative certification programs, a figure that CPS said would be more than double the number hired from such programs in 2003-04.

Most alternative programs are aimed at career-changers, and Schools CEO Arne Duncan called such programs "extremely valuable," touting the benefits of bringing experienced professionals into the classroom where they could have a positive impact on students' lives.

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.

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