2002 News Briefs
January 8: No Child Left Behind signed
President Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a sweeping reform bill with provisions that include school choice and teacher certification. The law also increases federal dollars to public schools, with Chicago receiving an additional $25 million.
January 22: Lake View school's roof buckles
Nettelhorst Elementary's 480 students are sent temporarily to other schools after the roof over the Lake View school's third-floor gym collapses overnight. Although the Board of Education has replaced roofs on 331 schools since 1996 through its Capital Improvement Plan, some groups complain that the Board has no plan in place for routine inspections to guarantee the safety of students.
February 27: CPS to cut jobs
Schools chief Arne Duncan announces plans to cut as many as 80 jobs, mostly administrators and clerks, at the Board of Education's central office. Duncan pegs the savings at $8 million. A week earlier, Duncan had estimated that CPS would lose $23.8 million under the state education budget proposed by Gov. George Ryan for the 2002-03 school year.
March 27: LSC disbanded
The school board declares an educational crisis and moves to disband the local school council at Wendell Smith Elementary, on the grounds that the council's infighting hurts the school's learning environment. The board has used its power to declare educational crisis three times previously, at Prosser High in 1995, Hale Elementary in 1996, and Zapata Elementary in 1999.
March 27: Charter to close
Citing poor academic performance, the Board of Education votes not to renew the charter at Nuestra America Charter School in West Humboldt Park, making it the second Chicago charter to be closed. In 1998, Chicago Preparatory High School shut itself down under pressure from CPS.
March 28: CTU launches graduate school
The Chicago Teachers Union unveils plans to create the nation's first union-run graduate program in teacher leadership. The new Jacqueline B. Vaughn Graduate School for Teachers will open in January 2003 and will offer teachers a two-year graduate degree on how to be leaders in their schools.
April 5: Gates Grant
CPS officials announce grants to help three poorly performing high schools—Bowen, Orr and South Shore— make plans to break up into small schools, with funding from the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative, an $18 million project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a consortium of local foundations. The $20,000 planning grants will be followed by implementation grants of up to $500,000 over three to five years.
April 8: Schools get cash
CPS officials announce a plan to distribute monetary rewards to low-performing schools where test scores improve. The funds-all donated by corporations and foundations-will be distributed in the fall. 60 schools will receive $10,000, which may be used for staff development, textbooks and supplies, but not for teacher bonuses.
April 10: School closings
CPS officials announce the closing of three chronically failing elementary schools—Terrell, Williams and Dodge—along with plans to re-open Williams and Dodge as revamped "Renaissance Schools" in fall 2003. Students will attend nearby schools that officials have identified as higher-performing. This is the first time that CPS has closed schools for poor performance, and it marks the first rift in CEO Arne Duncan's relationship with Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch. The Board of Education approves the plan on May 22.
May 6: CPS/CTU Partnership Schools
CEO Arne Duncan gives a thumbs-up to an idea floated by Chicago Teachers Union Deborah Lynch: allowing the union to help lead fixes in two struggling schools which might otherwise be considered for closing in 2003.
May 30: Test scores up
School officials announce increases in elementary school test scores in reading and math. The percentage of CPS students scoring at or above national averages was 43.2 in reading, 46.9 in math. This year's scores are based on a new form of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and mark the first use of new norms-the curve against which the test results are measured. At the high school level, 35.5 percent of students in grades 9-10 tested at or above the national average in reading, a gain of 3.7%.
June 26: New budget
After months of anxiety over increased costs and decreased state funding, the Board of Education approves a $4.6 billion budget for the next fiscal year. Despite the $22 million state budget cut, the new budget is 5.4% higher than last year's, thanks to a property tax increase and new federal funds.
June 26: High Court says yes to vouchers
The Supreme Court rules to uphold a school voucher program in Cleveland, allowing public money to underwrite tuition at religious schools, as long as parents have a choice among a range of religious and secular schools.
July 8: Unqualified teachers
The CPS Office of Accountability reports that one in every five teachers working in the system's worst schools are not fully qualified to teach. Among the 4,088 teachers working in 81 schools on probation, 911 lack full credentials. Half of those without full credentials do not meet licensing requirements to serve as full-time substitutes, who must have a college degree or pass state tests. In response, CEO Arne Duncan announces a policy that bans hiring teachers who do not have full credentials. Special education and bilingual teachers, who are in short supply, are exempt.
July 9: Vallas heads to Philly
Former schools chief Paul Vallas is named CEO of the School District of Philadelphia. To advise him during the transition, he taps several current and former CPS officials, including former Chief Education Officer Cozette Buckney, Philip Hansen, chief accountability officer, and Sue Gamm, chief specialized services officer.
July 25: New state boss
The Illinois State Board of Education appoints Robert Schiller, a former Michigan superintendent of public instruction, as superintendent of schools.
July 25: Tougher measures
Gov. George Ryan signs legislation placing stricter testing standards on aspiring teachers. The new law, which was effective June 30, 2002, prohibits potential teachers from enrolling in college education programs without first passing a test of basic skills. Many universities already have such restrictions in place. Another provision of the law, which requires education students to pass subject area tests to quality for a teaching degree, goes into effect in 2004.
July 29: Choice dwindles
Students at only 50 of the 179 CPS elementary schools that the state identified as failing will be allowed to move to a select few schools. Earlier this month, the Illinois State Board of Education identified 179 failing schools in Chicago-nearly half of the 390 schools reported as failing in March-with about 124,000 students that could exercise the school-choice option under the No Child Left Behind law. However, school officials say that only 7 percent of those eligible have requested school transfers.
August 25: Duncan's plan
CEO Arne Duncan releases "Every Child, Every School," his education plan that emphasizes teaching and learning. Based on research gathered by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the plan aims to boost test scores and provide teachers and principals with more instructional support and data to track student performance.
September 13: More students retained
The number of CPS students repeating a grade more than doubles to 13,000 compared to the previous year, according to the School Board. It is the largest total of retained students since the district policy to end social promotion began in 1996.
September 24: New Latino charter
The Board approves a charter for a computer science high school for Latino students. Aspira of Illinois, an organization that supports Latino youth, will operate the school, which is slated to open in the fall of 2003.
September 29: Shorter school day
An investigation by the Chicago Tribune finds that CPS elementary students have the shortest school day in the state. Students in the city's public schools attend class for five hours and 30 minutes daily. The Tribune analysis found schools enrolling primarily disadvantaged students often spent the least amount of time in school. CPS and teachers union officials respond to the report by announcing their plans to discuss increasing the length of the school day.
October 7: More reading specialists
One year after the Chicago Reading Initiative was launched, the board more than doubles the number of reading specialists-to 232-assigned to low-performing schools, which include 179 schools considered to be failing by the state. Schools CEO Arne Duncan launched the Initiative in August 2001 and initially dispatched reading specialists, who assist faculty with reading strategies, to 114 schools where at least two-thirds of students read below grade level.
October 22: Gates funds charters
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announces that it awarded a five-year, $4 million grant to the Chicago Charter School Foundation to open four small high schools serving up to 500 students each. Chicago Charter School Foundation is the non-profit group that oversees six Chicago International Charter schools. In 2001, the Gates Foundation gave the city $12 million to break up large, failing high schools and create smaller schools.
October 23: End of intervention
The School Board removes five high schools—Bowen, Collins, DuSable, Orr and South Shore—from intervention status and places them back on probation. According to the board, the schools remain chronic low-performers, but they have shown some academic improvement. All five rank among the city's worst high schools, with few students reading at grade level or graduating. The board also modifies its intervention policy for the second time this year
October 30: New accountability policy
The School Board revamps its school accountability policy, rewarding schools for overall achievement, gains on a number of tests and, at the high school level, other factors such as lower dropout rates. The old system measured schools solely on the basis of overall scores on the elementary school ITBS or the high school TAP. Under the new policy, all schools are classified into six performance categories, and some are eligible for monetary awards. In November, the first round of 60 schools receive $10,000 each to use for staff development, textbooks or supplies.
November 21: Tutoring order
Illinois State Board of Education officials announce that 26 failing schools—25 in Chicago—must offer tutoring services within two months under the mandate of the federal No Child Left Behind act. The law requires that districts provide before- or after-school tutoring to students in schools that fail achievement tests in one year and do not make sufficient progress in subsequent years.
December 5: CASE closed
School officials dump the Chicago Academic Standards Exams (CASE), a group of standardized exams in core subjects given to 9th- and 10th-graders. The decision to cancel CASE comes several months after a group of Curie High School teachers announced their plan to boycott the exams, complaining the tests were poorly designed and not connected to state standards. CEO Arne Duncan says he wants to replace CASE with a new test that is better aligned to state and district standards.