A raft of past programs have failed to substantially improve the reading skills of middle grade and high school students. CPS is trying once again, as part of a federal project that aims to help teens learn how to analyze complex non-fiction.
Lynn Morton: Community activist, parent
Lynn Morton, co-chair of the community group POWER-PAC, says the transition to high school is traumatic for too many youngsters, and POWER-PAC is seeking solutions to the problem. "We're seeing a lot of turmoil in that freshman year, if the child ever makes it to the freshman year," Morton says. "One solution that we talked about is exactly what Vanessa said—[better] middle schools." Morton's son attends the Chicago Choir Academy, a charter school.
WORKING WITH CPS
CPS is a maze that you could easily get lost in. You may start out talking to one person, but then all of the sudden they've created a committee, or you're sent to another department and you have to make four or five phone calls to find out who to talk to. Or CPS may say, "Okay, we have your suggestions. We don't need to talk to you anymore." Then you have to maneuver to get back in on the conversation. CPS needs to be more open. They have this protective, closed-off attitude of, "Oh, we can't let them know this," or "We don't want to talk to them about this." They need to talk to the people who are receiving the services.
HOW COMMUNITIES CAN HELP
Go into the school and volunteer. Support the teachers and the children. Our volunteers are in the school from the time it opens till it closes. Once administrators know that parents and community people are really on their side, they'll embrace them.
[Community schools have been effective], especially when parents can take GED and English as a second language classes while children get extra tutoring or a place to play if safety is an issue in the neighborhood. It brings families together. CPS promised that a certain number of schools would become community schools. They should stick with that and get the community involved. They may have the resources to run the [program] down the block, but if you don't put it out there, no one ever knows.
Closing down Austin High has had a trickle-down effect. Now we need another middle school. Michele Clark and Frederick Douglass are now being turned into high schools. Neither one was built to be a high school. So not only did CPS take away the high school, they're cramming high-school kids into a teeny, tiny building.
THE FUTURE OF LSCs
I don't know if we'll have local school councils in 10 years. I see LSCs not functioning the way that they should. Often they're a rubber stamp for what the principal wants, rather than bringing the views of parents, community members and teachers to the table. I don't believe that was the initial concept, but in some cases that's what we have going on.
THE NEXT CEO
I would love to see an educator. I would also love to be able to vote on the School Board. Let them have to sell themselves to me as a person who has children in CPS. Let them have to work for it.