2001 News Briefs
January 24: New start date for schools
The school board votes to reinstate a schedule in which schools open after Labor Day, ending a four-year experiment to start classes in August.
February 6: Staff development survey
The Consortium on Chicago School Research and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge unveil a set of reports that call for improving the quality of teacher training in the city's public schools. But most teachers surveyed were lukewarm about CPS training programs, rating them moderately-good at best. Schools CEO Paul Vallas responds to the report by commissioning a one-day telephone survey of CPS principals: Most disagreed with the Consortium's findings.
February 9: Vallas: Not a candidate
After months of public speculation, schools chief Paul Vallas announces he will not run for governor in the 2002 election.
February 15: Daley lights fire
In his annual State of the City address, Mayor Richard M. Daley tells board officials to "think outside the box" to find new strategies to improve reading instruction. It is the first public indication of that Daley is dissatified with his school team. CEO Paul Vallas quickly announces that the board has several new reading programs in the works, including expanded summer school and board-funded programs for the system's 200 lowest-performing elementary schools.
February 20: New reading program
At a press briefing, Vallas unveils the Comprehensive Approach to Student Achievement (CASA) program. Under it, each of the system's 200 lowest-performing elementary schools must choose one of 22 board-sanctioned curriculum models. Nearly two months pass before a catalog of options is mailed to schools. Programs are to be up and running by September.
March 9: Bad news on high schools
A long-delayed report on high schools by G. Alfred Hess Jr. of Northwestern University, released today, indicates that teaching in the city's lowest-performing high schools has shown little improvement since 1997, despite board-led efforts such as probation, reconstitution, re-engineering, and high-school re-design. Two weeks later, Crain=s Chicago Business previews a finding by the Consortium on Chicago School Research that the school system's dropout rate has held steady at about 43 percent.
March 15: New magnet programs
Board officials announce a $3.3 million plan to add 22 new magnet programs in neighborhood high schools in fall 2001. To qualify for the programs, students will need C-plus grade point averages or above-average scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.
March 26: Alternative certification program for principals
In a monthly briefing, School Board President Gery Chico announces that a new national non-profit, New Leaders for New Schools, is coming to Chicago to launch its non-traditional training program for non-traditional principal candidates, including those without teaching certificates. The program will also launch in New York City, too. The Chicago Public Education Fund, which has committed $600,000, is among the programs funders.
March 28: Vallas gets raise
The Board of Education approves the first-ever raise for CEO Paul Vallas-- an extra $30,000 a year, retroactive to July 2000. Vallas says he will accept only a $26,000 raise, to match the 16 percent increase teachers have received during his tenure. Vallas's new $176,000 salary ranks him 16th among the state=s school superintendents.
April 5: Mayor's Reading Roundtable
Nationally prominent reading researchers as well as local experts present their ideas to the School Board and literacy coordinators, at a public forum convened by Mayor Daley in yet another sign of his impatience.
April 23: Building bust
After a four- year building streak, the board's multibillion-dollar school construction and renovation program is running out of money, according to a report released today by the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, an organization that tracks public-works spending in Chicago. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, schools CEO Paul Vallas acknowledges that the system needs more money for an estimated $3 billion in school repair and construction work yet to be completed.
April 24: Management shakeup
In his monthly briefing with reporters, School Board President Gery Chico confirms that a major reorganization of top management is in the works, but he declines to give any specifics.
CPS awards the Academy of Urban School Leadership the first contract to open and run a school, the Chicago Academy, which trains career-changers to enter teaching.
May 13: Hunger strike
Parents in the Little Village community on the Southwest Side begin a hunger strike to pressure the school board into building a new high school to relieve overcrowding. Three weeks later, they end the strike, declaring victory even though they have received no new promises from the school board. Board officials note disagreement in the community over school plans and say that they do not have money to build the school.
May 17: Test scores down
Board officials announce a drop in high school reading, the first in five years, and elementary school math scores, the first in seven years.. Elementary reading scores are up slightly over all, but they fell in 3rd grade, despite expanded summer school programs for early grades.
May 17: King College Prep on ice
Board officials announce that plans to re-open King High School on the South Side as a college preparatory high school this fall have been shelved because not enough students applied. On the North Side, where board officials chose to build college prep high schools from scratch, the schools have been swamped with applicants.
May 21: Budget cuts
Crain's Chicago Business reports that board officials plan 300 layoffs in non-teaching positions. Subsequent reports add that the board's fiscal 2002 budget will cut 100 more positions through attrition. Board officials say they also intend to raise property taxes by $48.8 million, the maximum allowed under state-mandated tax caps.
May 23: School for teachers, too The School Board approves Chicago's first contract school, an elementary school that will also serve as a training center for aspiring teachers. Created by Martin "Mike" Koldyke, founder of Golden Apple Foundation, the Chicago Academy opens Sept. 4 with pre-kindergarten through 4th grade students from the Portage Park and Belmont-Cragin neighborhoods. Plans call for a yearlong teacher-training program-including a mentor teacher and two trainees in each classroom-to be in place by September 2002.
May 24: Exit Chico
Gery Chico abruptly resigns as president of the Chicago Board of Education. Mayor Richard M. Daley makes the announcement during a press conference on an unrelated topic in the morning. At a press conference that afternoon, Chico maintains that he is leaving to focus on his family and his law practice, not because of pressure from Daley, as rumored.
May 25: New president at CTU
In an upset, Deborah Lynch-Walsh unseats Tom Reece as president of the Chicago Teachers Union, according to the official results released today for the union's May 9 election. Lynch-Walsh won 57 percent of the vote in her third try for the post. Members of Walsh's caucus, Pro-Active Chicago Teachers (PACT), took more than two-thirds of the seats in the union's legislative body. Walsh's campaign had targeted Reece's alliance with CEO Paul Vallas, whose policies Walsh criticized sharply.
June 5: Intervention on hold
Paul Vallas announces that intervention, the board=s toughest sanction for schools with low test scores, will not be expanded to any more schools. Test scores generally dropped at the five schools placed on intervention last July. However, school officials say program will remain in place at all five schools for a second year.
June 6: Exit Vallas
After weeks of lukewarm support from Mayor Daley, Paul Vallas says he is quitting as schools CEO. At a press conference two days later, Vallas insists the decision to leave was his own and the mayor praises him as "quite simply, the best chief executive in the history of the Chicago Public Schools."
June 7: New School Board President
Mayor Daley announces that Michael Scott will replace Gery Chico as president of the Chicago Board of Education. Scott, an executive with AT&T, will leave his post as president of the Chicago Park District board to take the schools post. Previously, Scott served on the school board under Mayor Jane Byrne, worked as Daley=s deputy campaign manager in his first mayoral campaign, and worked for mayors Harold Washington and Eugene Sawyer.
June 11: CASA suspended
Days before staff development sessions are scheduled to begin for the 200 CASA program schools, the board sends a letter to service providers that says the program is being put on hold. Ana Espinoza, interim officer of curriculum, instruction and professional development, explains in the letter that the new school leadership team will make their own decision on whether or not to continue the program.
June 26: New schools CEO
Mayor Daley announces that Arne Duncan, deputy chief of staff to Paul Vallas, will succeed Vallas as schools CEO. Prior to working for the School Board, Duncan, 36, ran an education-related foundation for longtime friend John W. Rogers, founder of Ariel Capital Management Inc. and the former president of the Chicago Park District Board. In an interview with CATALYST, Rogers said Duncan was among his personal heros. Duncan supporters say he knows how to get things done without making enemies, but skeptics are concerned about his age and inexperience.
July 11: Vallas for governor
Former CEO Paul Vallas tells Democrats in the Illinois congressional delegation that he will run for governor. The next day, Mayor Daley says he will not endorse any of the candidates. Vallas' formal announcement to run comes on July 30. On Aug. 12, when U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich formally announces his candidacy, former School Board President Gery Chico appears at the congressman's side.
July 23: Busing hubbub
At a School Board meeting, more than a dozen parents protest a new busing plan that shifts pick-up sites from children's home block to neighborhood schools, for an estimated $7 million a year in savings. Parents say their kids will not be safe. Aldermen echo the parents concerns when new CEO Arne Duncan appears before the City Council's education committee a month later. On the first day of school in September, many buses fail to arrive at pick-up points, leaving some children stranded.
July 30: Exit Davis
Chief of Schools and Regions Blondean Davis resigns, saying she will pursue her dream to become a superintendent. News reports say that she was not in the running for the chief education officer job in the Duncan administration. In spring 2002, Davis is considered for the superintendent's job in Orland Park's high school district.
August 3: New No. 2
Arne Duncan selects Barbara Eason-Watkins, the noted principal from McCosh Elementary in Woodlawn, to be chief education officer. During Eason-Watkins' 12-year tenure at McCosh, reading and math scores doubled. Cozette Buckney, her predecessor, is later named liaison between Duncan's office and the Board of Education.
August 7: Intervention canned
CEO Duncan calls for an end to intervention, a punitive policy imposed on five low-performing high schools a year earlier, with disastrous results. Test scores declined at three of the five intervention schools, and 65 of 300 teachers left voluntarily. Duncan goes on to close the Office of Intervention and reassign Intervention Officer JoAnn Roberts and her staff. The four curriculum specialists assigned to each school will remain but report to the principal instead of central office.
August 9: Duncan's players
CEO Duncan introduces his management team, which includes several local academic and civic leaders. Of the 43 senior positions, 36 are holdovers from the Vallas administration.
August 13: Jones scare
CPS Chief Operating Officer Tim Martin causes an uproar at Jones College Preparatory High School when he tells parents and students that they will be temporarily enrolled a various high schools and colleges while Jones undergoes renovations. He says a plan to move students to the shuttered Near North High School building fell through because it interfered with the city's schedule for redeveloping the site. After four days of parent complaints and public scrutiny, Arne Duncan says Jones students will be able to occupy Near North for a year.
August 16: New reading initiative
Duncan unveils the Chicago Reading Initiative, a plan that calls for every teacher to carve out two hours daily for reading instruction and provides for 114 reading specialists to join the faculty at schools where two-thirds of students read below grade level. The initiative also earmarks funds to set up classroom libraries in every kindergarten through 3rd grade classroom. Budget director John Maiorca later pegs the cost of the initiative at $31 million.
August 20: (No) money for new schools
The School Board releases its capital improvement budget, allocating $525 million for capital spending, an amount comparable to capital budgets for the past four years. School officials say they plan to build seven new schools, but admit they don't have the money. A total of $15 million is allocated for site preparation and planning for new high schools in Pilsen and Little Village and for a replacement for Westinghouse High.
August 29: Exit McGee
State Education Supt. Glenn "Max" McGee announces that he will step down when his contract expires in December. McGee bows out after coming under fire by board members who blame him for improvements in public education not happening quickly enough in Illinois.
August 30: Small schools
Mayor Daley announces an $18.2 million high school redesign initiative that will subdivide five troubled high schools into clusters of smaller schools. By definition, a small school is an elementary school with fewer than 350 students or a high school with 500 students or less. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $12 million; local foundations pitched in the rest.
September 4: Progress on state tests
The State Board of Education releases CPS results on the 2001 Illinois Standard Achievement Test. While CPS averages still lag behind state averages, CPS gains at a number of grade levels outpaced state gains.
September 6: Teacher test scores
The Chicago Sun-Times publishes the first part of an investigative report finding that 5,243 Illinois teachers failed at least one of the tests required for Illinois teacher certification. While the majority eventually passed, 727 failed to pass any of the tests, and 868 teachers were unable to pass the Basic Skills test, an exam that experts consider easy enough for an 8th- or 9th-grader to pass. The report also finds that teachers who failed the exams are likely to be assigned to schools with high poverty rates, low test scores and high enrollment of students of color.
September 9: First-day attendance up
Eighty-five percent of CPS students attend the first day of class, up from a record-low 76 percent a year earlier, when classes resumed before Labor Day. The return to a September start date was publicized with a "Back to School Countdown" that included a parade and an appearance by pop group Destiny's Child.
October 24: Uncertified teachers targeted
The Chicago Board of Education board gives uncertified teachers two years to get certified. As many as 1,750 teachers are teaching on temporary certificates, in bilingual classrooms.
November 8: New school report cards
Following longstanding advice from experts, the School Board decides to report year-to-year gains on test scores as well as absolute scores. Other additions to school report cards include the percentage of students retained in grade and the percentage of teachers with full certification. The new report cards will debut in July 2002.
November 14: On notice
The Illinois State Board of Education issues its academic "early warning" list naming 594 schools, including 371 in Chicago. The last time the state issued an early warning list in 1998, it flagged only 78 schools statewide. In the interim, the state revamped its testing program.
November 15: Revolving door at ISBE
The Illinois Board of Education appoints Ernest Wish, a retired Chicago businessman, as interim superintendent. Three months later, Wish resigns under pressure, citing a conflict of interest-a consulting agreement with Michael "Mickey" Segal, a Chicago political insider who is indicted by the U.S. Attorney in early 2002. The board appoints an interim superintendent and begin an extended search for a permanent replacement.
November 15: More after-school programs
Schools chief Arne Duncan announces plans to revamp after-school programs, expanding to an additional 50 schools and serving another 50,000 students. The pricetag: $2 million. The revised program allows schools more choice in the types of extracurricular activities offered to students.