Current Issue

Teacher turnover

CPS has never had a strong, districtwide program of teacher induction and mentoring to stem an attrition rate that is higher than the national average. Instead, efforts to retain teachers depend on smaller-scale programs and individual principals who make it a goal to empower—and keep—their teachers.

Cover Stories

August 03, 2005

"I'm here. I'll be right there," yells Gretta Steadman, a 3rd-grade teacher at Kohn Elementary, as she breezes past Room 608 and into her own classroom next door to put away her belongings.

It's 8 a.m., and she has promised to meet with Kohn's new 3rd-grade teacher, Kyle Miller, before school starts at 8:45.

Sabrina Anderson, the school's reading specialist, will also sit in.

August 03, 2005

"Have a seat, have a seat," says Jennifer Kelly to students shuffling in the door of her mid-morning English class at Aiken Service Learning High School, in a working-class section of Cincinnati.

"He just hit me," a sullen girl gripes to Kelly of the boy just behind her.

"No," says the boy, "she hit me." The young man uses two fingers to widen his supposedly wounded left eye and presents it to Kelly.

August 03, 2005

Selecting a principal is a local school council's most significant—and most daunting—responsibility. Many council members put in long evening and weekend hours sifting through resumes, organizing community forums and interviewing candidates. Sometimes their hard work pays off; sometimes it does not. Parents on four local school councils shared with Catalyst the strategies that helped them pick a winner and the mistakes they hope other councils will avoid.

DeFrance Eiland

Parent member, vice chair

Wendell Smith Elementary, Pullman

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.

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