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College and careers

An overhaul of the district’s career education programs seeks to make classes more challenging and put career-track students on the path to higher ed, but many schools have lost programs, and fewer students are participating overall.

Cover Stories

August 03, 2005

For the past few years, public policy lecturer Ronald Ferguson of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government has researched racial achievement gaps. In a 2002 report on racial disparities in high-achieving suburban high schools, Ferguson uses survey data from thousands of middle and high school students of all races and ethnic backgrounds to examine why students of color often underperform, and what schools can do about it. Ferguson also helped launch the Tripod Project, which helps schools strengthen curriculum, teaching and teacher-student relationships.

August 03, 2005

Earl Williams' parents were both teachers. But when he chose a profession, Williams decided not to follow in their footsteps and stayed clear of education. Instead, he earned a degree in engineering and accounting.

Years later, however, Williams took an opportunity to tutor at a junior college—and discovered that he really enjoyed the very task he had vowed to avoid. "I got the bug," Williams says with a laugh. "I got such a good feeling from tutoring."

August 03, 2005

Last month, Perspectives Charter School celebrated the grand opening of its new $7 million building, and declared it was ready to launch more schools.

"We feel a social responsibility to open more schools," declared co-founder Diana Shulla-Cose, who is setting her sights on creating eight more Perspectives-style charters over the next five years.

August 03, 2005

The mix of candidates who want to run charter and contract schools comes primarily from the ranks of universities, nonprofit institutions and leaders within Chicago Public Schools, according to letters of intent filed with the district and a list of attendees from summer training camps for applicants.

Conspicuously absent are for-profit education management companies and private corporations, though Mayor Richard M. Daley made a public pitch to businesses to sponsor schools when he announced the Renaissance 2010 initiative.

August 03, 2005

A couple of years ago, hardly anyone at Columbia Explorers Academy enjoyed science, not even the teachers.

"I was having them memorize facts. There were no experiments," says 8th-grade teacher Andrew Cosme, who like most of his colleagues, followed a standard science textbook. "The kids were bored out of their minds."

Fourth-grade teacher Maria Janik agrees, adding, "If the teacher is bored, the students aren't interested either."

August 03, 2005

Principal Kathleen Hagstrom attributes discipline problems at Disney Magnet in large part to the Uptown school's open classroom structure.

The school, built in the 1970s, is divided into pods, in which three classes share a large space with no walls or dividers to block sound. The setup exacerbates problems for children who have difficulty paying attention in class, Hagstrom explains.

And with nearly 70 percent of students bused in from other communities, before- or after-school detentions are impractical.

August 03, 2005

On a Wednesday morning in November, about two dozen children are working in groups scattered around Helen Boghosian's 4th-grade classroom at Pope Elementary. Boghosian sits at her desk talking with one young girl. The overall noise level, while not excessive, is loud enough to distract students who are trying to concentrate.

Many teachers, immersed in a one-on-one conversation with a student, might not have noticed the noise or let it slide. At most, they might quiet things down with a "Shhh!" or by yelling out to the class.

August 03, 2005

It takes only one committed person to get the ball rolling toward a student health plan, say those who have done it. To help individuals who want to try, Catalyst sought advice from staff at Chicago Communities in Schools, a non-profit that links schools to free services, and from people who work on Community Schools, a district initiative that pairs schools with non-profits that provide social and academic support to kids and families. Communities in Schools is working with 116 schools; Community Schools has set a goal of 100 by 2007.

August 02, 2005

Four years ago, instead of being excited about high school, Nicole Roberts was dreading it. After struggling with a learning disability in elementary school and barely finishing 8th grade, she envisioned more of the same at Hyde Park Academy.

And for a while, it was. As a freshman, Nicole earned mostly D's and F's. And her bad attitude and poor behavior made her abrasive and unapproachable with her classmates and teachers.

"I was really mean," 18-year-old Roberts admits.