Making connections

September 10, 2008

A national taskforce says that building better relationships between schools and communities is a must to raise achievement in the lowest-performing schools. Principal Kurt Jones of Libby Elementary knows it will take the best efforts of the community and the school staff to turn around the failing school. His mantra: “I cannot do it alone.”

Table of Contents

From outside to inside schools

Debra Williams

When it comes to forging solid relationships between communities and schools, Logan Square Neighborhood Association has it all figured out.

Its roster of programs includes classroom mentoring, in which parents assist teachers in the classroom; one-on-one tutoring by parents of struggling students in benchmark grades; a “literacy ambassadors” initiative that sends teams of parents and teachers on home visits to teach literacy skills; community centers that offer programs for children and adults; and a teacher preparation program, called Grow Your Own, that has helped 25 community...

community involvement

Focusing on the assets

Brandon Beech

Ray Thompson knows what it’s like to grow up in a poor, single-parent home, facing the same struggles that low-income people face today—including the struggle to get a good education.

What set him on the road to success, he recalls, was help and positive reinforcement from the community outside his school—a strategy he relies on now in his job as director of community relations for Perspectives Charter Schools.

As a student, tutoring helped Thompson raise his test scores enough to earn a scholarship to Culver Military Academy, a boarding school in northern Indiana. From...

charter schools, community involvement

Beyond the classroom

Phuong Ly

Middle-grade students at Reavis Elementary in Kenwood are learning Brazilian martial arts. Perspectives Charter Middle School at Calumet in Auburn Gresham wants to require students to learn to swim. Ames Middle School in Logan Square will have a garden and cooking classes.

Parents at Marquette Elementary in Chicago Lawn are teaming up with teachers to conduct home visits for new students and provide information for families who need extra help.  At Orozco Community Academy in Pilsen, parents will be offered English, nutrition and life skills classes.

And all five schools...

Medill Elementary: Doing what it takes

Debra Williams

One overcast Friday afternoon in July, a little girl waits to be picked up from Medill Elementary, where she goes every morning for a summer camp of sorts. But no one shows up.

“What happened?” asks Principal Denise Gamble, a note of concern in her voice as she talks to her staff.

A mix-up has left the 5-year-old girl without an escort. She was supposed to walk home with an older cousin, who is enrolled in Medill’s summer school, but the cousin is absent. When Gamble reaches the girl’s mother on her cell phone, she learns that the woman is still traveling by bus from the...

A bridge to progress

Sarah Karp

From the corner, Kurt Jones spots two boys sizing each other up nearby. Jones, principal of the low-performing Libby Elementary, is monitoring the dismissal of students from summer school, and since it’s a hot day, these two boys have already shed their T-shirts. The lean boys are wearing unbelted jean shorts, sagging below their underwear—white briefs and plaid boxers. Just beyond them, two men sit on the concrete stoop of an apartment building, seemingly oblivious to the mean, mugging youngsters in the middle of the street. Two women, maybe in their 20s or early 30s, walk by, briefly...

It boggles the mind that a solution—maybe the solution—to the intransigent problem of fixing the worst public schools could sound so simple: making connections. Yet these deceptively simple two words are monumentally difficult to achieve and sustain.

It boggles the mind that a solution—maybe the solution—to the intransigent problem of fixing the worst public schools could sound so simple: making connections. Yet these deceptively simple two words...
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Medill resources are invested in a number of tools that build trust among staff and bond educators’ relationships with students and parents.

Medill resources are invested in a number of tools that build trust among staff and bond educators’ relationships with students and parents. Staff coaching, team-building  As one of the district’s...
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Elementary / high school education: Burke Elementary, Vincennes Upper-Grade Center, Lindblom High

College: Bachelor’s in education, Chicago State University; master’s in administration and supervision, Roosevelt University; coursework toward doctorate, Loyola University. Trained in turnaround school leadership at the University of Virginia.

Elementary / high school education: Burke Elementary, Vincennes Upper-Grade Center, Lindblom High College: Bachelor’s in education, Chicago State University; master’s in administration and...
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It takes a village to fix a failing school. In his job at Perspectives Charter Schools, Ray Thompson draws on an approach that links neighborhoods and schools, called Asset-Based Community Development.

What is it? The strategy turns the traditional approach to creating change in poor neighborhoods on its head: Instead of focusing on what poor communities need and what the problems are, this approach focuses on using the existing strengths of a community as the basis for revitalization.

It takes a village to fix a failing school. In his job at Perspectives Charter Schools, Ray Thompson draws on an approach that links neighborhoods and schools, called Asset-Based Community...
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