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Drugs in schools

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 16, 2005

Gads Hill is the very picture of a modern early childhood facility. Located in North Lawndale, the center has six preschool classrooms, each with special reading lofts and an abundance of materials.

Teachers wear bright blue polo shirts emblazoned with the Gads Hill name. Activities, meals and other services start at 6 a.m. and run till 6 p.m., five days a week, 12 months a year.

In the last 18 months, site Director Burma Weekley has overseen a surge in enrollment, with the number of pre-schoolers soaring from around 50 to 110.

August 16, 2005

In 1988, the General Assemby stepped over Chicago's ineffective school bureaucracy by giving unprecedented power to thousands of ordinary citizens. Each school would elect a council of parents, teachers and community members with the power, among other things, to select its own principal. That shift to locally controlled schools made Chicago unique in the country.

August 16, 2005

Ralph Martire, an enthusiastic numbers cruncher, had just finished explaining the details of his school finance reform plan at a town meeting in Grayslake when state Sen. Wendell Jones weighed in.

Martire's plan, which would lower property taxes and raise the state sales and income taxes, may make economic sense, said Jones, a Republican from northwest suburban Palatine. But it would fail politically, he continued. "Here's why," Jones explained, turning to the audience of 75 to 100 people. "Who's willing to pay higher sales and income taxes?"

August 16, 2005
By: Ed Finkel

Ten years ago, a new contract between the Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union called for a joint committee to look for ways to improve teacher evaluation and to investigate such innovations as peer review and a student achievement component.

A committee was duly formed in October 1994 but went nowhere amid changes in union leadershi and control of the school system. Five years later, the committee was taken out of the contract.

August 16, 2005

Sojourner Truth Elementary School in Cabrini-Green is on its seventh principal in three years. The local school council blames central office for the turnover. Teachers blame them both. "We've been left out to dry," says one. "That's the general consensus." Without skilled leadership at the school, tensions between factions escalated, slowing school progress.

In the view of Charles Payne, a Duke University professor who has studied Chicago schools, urban schools are cauldrons that need expert tending.

August 16, 2005

Soon after the School Board adopted promotion standards in 1996, it faced a dilemma. With thousands of children now forced to repeat a grade, many were reaching the age of 15 without an 8th-grade diploma. That would leave them too old for elementary school but unprepared for high school.

August 16, 2005

Beethoven Elementary is a well-run school that is unusually resourceful in attracting extra supports.

Even so, some of its students fail to make it through the School Board's promotion gate.

Repeating a grade gives some kids enough time to catch up while others continue to struggle. In the following examples, the children's names have been changed to protect their privacy.

"Joseph," age 10, had behavior problems

August 16, 2005

Fewer than half of the teachers hired in Chicago Public Schools through the national program Teach for America stay on the job for three years, the commitment required of teachers in other alternative certification programs.

Data from Teach for America show that 43 percent of its teachers who started in CPS in 2001 stayed on the job in 2004. Of those who started in 2000, 39 percent stayed for a third year.

August 15, 2005

This fall, a shrinking districtwide budget put the squeeze yet again on tiny Wing Luke Elementary, a low-income school in a racially diverse neighborhood. But a flexible budgeting system that Seattle Public Schools adopted seven years ago made it possible for Principal Ellen Punyon to hire an extra classroom teacher and keep her after-school program intact.