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Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter time at Shedd School

I took this picture in front of Shedd School not long before the snow melted later in the week.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Childhood nutrition legislation

This segment aired on C-Span's Washington Journal this morning:
Tracy Fox talked about childhood nutrition legislation and its impact on schools, and she responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. This program was part of a week-long "Washington Journal" series on food policy in the U.S.
I would like to refer you to another segment from C-Span talking about childhood hunger here on this blog. Perhaps different subjects but similar tracks as we talk about what children are fed in our schools.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coalition calls for an elected school board

The video above is from Chicago Tonight which talks about calls for an elected Chicago School Board.

Below an article from the Chicago Tribune:
Chicago's next mayor shouldn't control the city's public school system, a coalition of teachers, community leaders, parents and students said Wednesday, raising an idea that quickly splintered the major contenders for the office.

The group called for an elected school board that would geographically represent the city instead of the current panel the mayor appoints. The proposed board would dedicate seven of the 13 seats for parents and community members. Two would go to teachers and one each to an administrator, education researcher, paraprofessional and business person.

The push is in its early stages; advocates will need to persuade state legislators to overhaul the landmark 1995 law that put control of Chicago Public Schools into Mayor Richard Daley's hands. To that end, the group is lobbying "key legislators," said Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, who declined to say which lawmakers the group is targeting as sponsors.
In an open letter to the "citizens of Chicago," the coalition also recommended the board stagger its meetings between weekday mornings in district headquarters and evening sessions in area schools. A student advisory board also would be convened and report to district leaders.

The proposed changes would upend the system that allows Daley to appoint a school CEO and board members. The school board now includes seven members drawn from several top financial and consulting firms in the city.

But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that's no substitute for the voices of parents, teachers and students who are in the city's schools every day. The union is one of the main architects of the proposal.

What's more, the union wants the return of an educator to lead the Chicago education system. Daley has favored the CEO model of leadership, picking four school chiefs in 15 years who were not career educators.

"The top-down decisions made by non-educators have not shown the improvement," Lewis said.
Before Mayor Daley took control of CPS back in 1995, I have no idea how one became a member of the School Board. In addition to that, I have no idea who appointed the School's superintendent. Today the schools have a Chief Executive Officer, the last superintendent of the public schools was Argie Johnson.

BTW, I have little problem with a CEO running the schools. Running a major school system will involve more skills than being an educator, especially if one needs to worry about making sure the school get all the necessary resources. But it's not unreasonable to call for an elected school board even if CPS remains a department of the City of Chicago where the Mayor still has a hand in who actually runs the system.

BTW, what about the Mayoral candidates on this issue you saw that in the Chicago Tonight video, but what about reading that article that I had excerpted.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

C-SPAN StudentCam 2010 Honorable Mention - 'Education for All'

Being that this is now an education blog this StudentCam entry from this past year is more than appropriate. Made by Carlos Mattos, Marc Cahill, & Cameron Crockett who were in the 12th grade at Lowell High School in Massachusetts.

Check their Tumblr site!

Monday, December 27, 2010

UPDATED: The agenda for the Dec. 8, 2010 Bennett-Shedd LSC meeting

EDIT: Hehehe forgot to post the actual agenda! It is posted below

I mentioned the T-Mobile check on this blog earlier. Thanks to T-Mobile putting a cell-phone tower on the school's property. Oh yeah they did hand out a booklet with regards to CPS' budget. I might blog about that in the near future.

Bennett-Shedd LSC Meeting Agenda

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Civics project teaches youths they can do big things

A project that not only informs of Dr. Martin Luther King's movement in Chicago especially in Marquette Park on the south side, but also how it encourages students to be leaders:
Students at Gage Park High School who had been unaware of their community's part in the civil rights movement — that Martin Luther King Jr. led marches through the then-all-white neighborhoods surrounding Gage Park and Marquette Park — wanted to build a tribute to the civil rights leader, hoping to enlighten others.

But students from a civics class at the Southwest Side high school — where nearly half don't make it to graduation — didn't want just a stone monument or a brick in the ground. They envisioned WiFi hotspots throughout the neighborhood where people could download audio and video about significant sites to their phones.

The result is a touch-activated interactive history kiosk that stands at the Marquette Park field house. The idea of hotspots didn't work out, but in January, students will get further recognition when the kiosk goes on display at the DuSable Museum of African American History for Martin Luther King Day.

The story of the Marquette Park memorial is not just about a class's journey to complete an innovative civics project. It's also about how a project can inspire students.
Read the whole thing it's a very good article!

Here's a link to the DuSable Museum.

Hey Shedd School blog is now mobile

This is how I can access this blog on my BlackBerry. Of course if you use a "WebKit-based mobile browsers" (as indicated by the Blogger in Draft blog) or an iPhone all you have to do is enter in the blog's address minus the ?m=1 and you will be redirected to a mobile version of this blog.

I had to directly use the url above because my BlackBerry isn't supported. Hopefully that will change soon and unfortunately using only that url well the header that was created for this blog doesn't fit on my 'Berry's screen. At least however I can follow this blog if I so chose on the go!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have a happy safe holidays. Perhaps it's time to take a break from this blog just as easily as many young students are currently on holiday break. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

C-Span StudentCam 2010 3rd Place winner

Donte Dinish was a 10th Grader at Jenks High School in Oklahoma when he won 3rd Place in the 2010 StudentCam documentary competition. His work is called Land of Opportunity and he made it with Sharlene Desima his classmate.  This interview aired on Washington Journal on April 1, 2010.

You can watch their work if you click this link!

You may want to know my point. Well I not only wanted to find some black faces in the competition, but I also wanted to see a black male face in this competiton. Besides, Bennett-Shedd Elementary Schools are largely populated by those black faces I want to see more of in this competition.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If only Bennett-Shedd students knew about this contest

The C-Span StudentCam Contest. For those of you from 6th to 12th grades (middle school to high school) you have until January 20, 2011 to enter. Winners will be announced March 9, 2011. The video above let's you know that there's only a month remaining in this competition.

Here's more:
C-SPAN's StudentCam is an annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation. Students are asked to create a short (5-8 minute) video documentary on a topic related to the competition theme listed below.
The topic:
Tell us about an issue, event, or topic that helped you better understand the role of the federal government in your life or community.
Man, I do wish I could enter this contest and perhaps I still could make a documentary on this very subject and I already have cameras too.

It reminds me when I was in the 7th Grade I was a huge enough Star Trek fan where I was very interested in re-filming episodes. Of course I had no idea where to start or began but I did start thinking about which classmates I would cast. :P

And by the time I hit 8th Grade - just in time to take the US and state constitution examinations - surely the subjects would've changed. If I had a video camera my interest surely would've turned to politics and just perfect for this contest depending upon the theme. It does change from year to year and I have no idea if this contest goes that far back.

If only I had a way to show what I could've done back them. Hopefully the project would've gotten off the ground then. ;)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Could this be your child?

Who makes you a proud parent of an Honors Student at Bennett-Shedd School? This picture was taken in the summer of 2009, I believe.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I know there was a lot of buzz about "Waiting for Superman"...

But have you ever heard of this film The Cartel, a friend told me about it.
The Cartel shows us our educational system like we've never seen it before. Behind every dropout factory, we discover, lurks a powerful, entrenched, and self-serving cartel. But The Cartel doesn't just describe the problem. Balancing local storylines against interviews with education experts such as Clint Bolick (former president of Alliance for School Choice), Gerard Robinson (president of Black Alliance for Educational Options), and Chester Finn (president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute), The Cartel explores what dedicated parents, committed teachers, clear-eyed officials, and tireless reformers are doing to make our schools better for our kids.

This movie will force the scales to fall from the eyes of policymakers, education officials, reformers, intellectuals, teachers, and taxpayers. Putting a human face on the harm done by the educational cartel, The Cartel takes us beyond the statistics, generalizations, and abstractions that typically frame our debates about education—and draws an unequivocal bottom line: If we care about our children's futures, we must insist upon far-reaching and immediate reform. And we must do it now.
If you know very little about Waiting for Superman, here is a brief description:
For a nation that proudly declared it would leave no child behind, America continues to do so at alarming rates. Despite increased spending and politicians’ promises, our buckling public-education system, once the best in the world, routinely forsakes the education of millions of children. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, and ultimately questioning the role of unions in maintaining the status quo, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind.
You know The Cartel ought to play at my local movie house. It does exhibit movies to a largely Black audience. Late last month it played host to Waiting for Superman and there was even a panel discussion for this film.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bennett/Shedd schools truly "Rocks for Reading!"

Was Googling information on the Bennett/Shedd Junior Beta club but found this instead although I couldn't establish when exactly this was written. Of course there were other messages from other city elementary schools from this organization:
Greetings ROCK FOR READING FAMILY, I would just like to say THANK YOU one million times for the worderful books and for us making HISTORY together. It was an honor to be the customer that sent RFR over the 500,000 in donations mark. You are doing a great service to the students in the CPS community. It is because of you our schools and our students have GREAT BOOKS! Words cannot express the gratitude and appreciation that Bennett/Shedd Elementary School has for you and ROCK FOR READING!


Should the schools prevent teachers from striking?

The Capitol Fax Question of the Day:
A new school reform proposal working its way through the Illinois House has a section which would severely limit teachers’ right to strike. If there’s an impasse, the state’s Education Labor Relations Board could appoint a fact finding panel which would then come up with a solution. If that’s rejected by both parties, the panel’s proposals are published in local newspapers and the sides then have 10 days to settle. If there is no settlement, the two sides exchange their proposals and then the school boards, by a two-thirds vote, can impose a solution on the unions. If the school boards cannot muster a two-thirds vote, then and only then the union has the right to strike.

However, according to an internal analysis I’ve obtained created by the Illinois State Board of Education, it appears that Chicago’s education board could simply impose their own terms on the teachers union and prevent it from striking. And lots of people believe that this bill is designed to prevent a teachers strike when the current contract expires in 2012.

The legislation would also prevent teachers from including school-year length in their union contracts. Again, this appears aimed at the city, where the school year is one of the shortest in the nation.
You should check out some comments. Here's one in that post:
Not only should the locality be able to set its workplace rules, it should be allowed to decertify any public employee union. One other element in this proposal is tenure reform. I can almost understand tenure in universities. Almost. But tenure in K-12 is beyond me. It handcuffs the school administration from making personnel decisions that improve student performance, school budgeting, and ultimately school effectiveness and viability.

And before anyone says I don’t know what it’s like to be a teacher, I held a Type 09 certification in Illinois and taught at disadvantage schools.
I wonder if this proposal will be defeated however. School vouchers as mentioned in a previous post was defeated in the state legislature earlier this year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Meeks for Mayor on school vouchers

Arguing that Chicago Public Schools are “broken’’ and that parents deserve a “choice,’’ mayoral challenger James Meeks said Wednesday he would offer $4,500-a-year vouchers to 50,000 low-and-middle-income Chicago families to use toward private school tuition. 

If he is elected mayor, Meeks said he would also offer full-day kindergarten and character education in all Chicago Public Schools and double the time spent on reading and math in first through third grades. Full-day kindergarten would be financed in part by cutting bonus pay for teachers with master’s degrees.

The 90 minutes of daily reading time — up from 45 minutes currently — is designed to make certain that students read at a third-grade level by the time they finish third-grade.

The Chicago Teachers Union would be given one year to develop a policy “with teeth” to “identify and dismiss” teachers who are not performing. If the union cannot or refuses to meet that deadline, Meeks said he would ask the Illinois General Assembly to mandate a policy to weed out bad teachers.
Sounds good.

I don't have the numbers to back up outright vouchers, but I've just as easily decided that I can't have a position on that. I believe in school choice and that parents should have the ability to "vote with their feet". I can support the idea of parents moving their tax dollars from school to school or district to district. Nothing says that you should remain at a failing neighborhood school.

As for getting tough with the Teacher's Unions, I can definitely support that. I also know that this could take years and years of fighting to win.

Via Newsalert!

Another Facebook group for Shedd School

Did you attend Shedd School during the years 1976 to 1984. Then this is the Facebook group for you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cell tower at Bennett

The LSC meeting in October and the recent one I attended this month both made mention of checks provided by T-Mobile. The optimist in me wanted to believe this money was out of the goodness of their hearts and to be good corporate citizens.

It turns out that my old school was merely a place to put down a cell phone tower. For their trouble Bennett School gets a few dollars for whatever they may want to use it for. At the December LSC meeting the one that wasn't on a schedule presented to me they tapped this fund for T-Mobile to get Shedd School another copy machine.

So why am I bringing this up. Worlee Glover at his Concerned Citizens of Chatham blog has raised an objection to these cell phone towers. The main question is whether or not this is beneficial to the schools who have these cell phone towers or it's more harmful that we may realize.

Besides there are many who are concerned that constant use of the cell phone may prove more harmful than not. So what about these cell phone transmissions?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Grading scales at Chicago public elementary schools

A chart by the Chicago Sun-Times as it relates to city elementary schools. Bennett is included but now I need to offer some context:
At Chicago's Northside College Prep, the top-scoring public high school in the state, a student who scores a 90 on a test gets an A.

But at another elite college prep, Whitney Young Magnet, that same score merits just a B.

It's also a B at Robeson Achievement Academy -- a school for kids who couldn't pass eighth grade.

Number cutoffs for grades across Chicago public schools are all over the map, a first-of-its-kind Chicago Sun-Times computer analysis shows.

That's because schools are routinely snubbing the grading scales that district officials recommended in 2008 when they introduced a new electronic grading program called Gradebook, the Sun-Times found. In unleashing Gradebook, district officials inadvertently exposed a crazy quilt of grading policies.
According to the Sun-Times chart above at Bennett School 93 is an A, 87 is a B, 78 is a C, and 70 is a D. Look at most of the scales on that very chart, there really isn't a wild variation amongst the elementary schools. Then again I could just go through it with a fine toothcomb.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicago parents scramble with new rules for best schools

Probably wasn't as crucial in my day as it may be now. Perhaps less so because parents and students have more programs and schools to choose from these days.
Every year, the competition for a precious spot in the city's top schools is fierce. Many neighborhood schools have significantly lower test scores, and parents see the competitive and magnet programs as their only option for a good public education.

But the odds of their children scoring a seat in one of the top schools are slim. And the nerve-racking admissions dance has become even more complicated by the fact that the rules keep changing — twice in the last two years.

Last year, the guidelines were rewritten to take an applicant's race out of the equation and replace it with socioeconomic factors from the applicant's neighborhood. This year, further changes to increase diversity were approved at a board meeting just a month before the Dec. 17 application deadline for the 2011-12 school year.

Even parents who thought they mastered the old system are at a loss, some wondering if their younger children will have the same opportunities as older siblings.

The bottom line is that there are many more children than spots at the elite schools. Last year, 13,065 teens took a test for 2,942 seats at the selective-enrollment high schools. For top selective-enrollment elementary schools, 10,050 students applied for 1,787 seats. Magnet schools, which choose students via computerized lottery, saw 31,185 applications for 3,352 spots.
I can only imagine what would happen when I become a Parent. Would I be content to sending my child to the neighborhood school that simply isn't performing or would I do what these parents are doing to ensure their children get to go to the best possible public school? I mostly did neighborhood schools in my day because my parents didn't really take the magnet school thing very seriously. Should I, when I have children?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We have a mayoral election next year

The frontrunner for Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff, has outlined his education platform in a letter to Crain's Chicago Business.

Also former School Board President Gery Chico outlines his plank on education.

The outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley also names an interim schools CEO in the person of Terry Mazany described by the Chicago Tribune as a philanthropist.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bennett School on Google Street View

Apparently this was taken before Bennett School's field house was razed and the concrete taken up to create the new Bennett School campus park. Although it's unclear when this park was created. Street View however was made available in 2007 so perhaps that project took close to a year to complete.

I think I shall do one of Shedd School at some point.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Campaign to end hunger

I posted at The Sixth Ward about our schools not allowing food grown in actual gardens at Chicago Public School facilities and serving them in school cafeterias. The premise started with what was discussed at the LSC meeting for Harlan High School that I attended last month. I even provided a link to the grocer, Whole Food Market who want to help provide public schools with salad bars.

Now this video (embedded above) from C-Span, features actor Jeff Bridges and Bill Shore talking about their efforts to end hunger by 2015. Of course the discussion went from the issue of hunger to nutrition. They talked about how most school lunchrooms don't even have kitchens to prepare meals. Duration is 40 minutes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Daley hopes to find new schools chief quickly

As you know Ron Huberman is expected to leave his post as Schools CEO before the year is out. Daley is leaving the Mayor's office next year and he wants to consider a replacement who can be acceptable to the incoming mayor, whoever that person may be.
Speaking at a landscape awards event at the downtown Hyatt Regency, Daley said he will be interviewing candidates and looking for someone "who will able to take the reins until the next mayor is elected, and he or she will then in turn review that person's position and be able to accept that person or move on." Daley said he has not yet spoken with Terry Mazany, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, who sources say is the front-runner to lead the budget-strapped school district. Under Mazany's leadership, the Trust has been pouring money and energy into the schools.

And he is not considering City Clerk Miguel del Valle for the position, the mayor said. Del Valle, who has announced his candidacy for mayor, represented Chicago in a failed bid to get federal funding from the "Race to the Top" program, as part of a statewide team.

Daley said he wants both the CEO position and the city post of chief education officer filled by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In CPS, library void goes beyond one sit-in

The subtitle: Lack of money, space leaves more than 160 schools inadequately equipped.

Almost makes me glad both Bennett-Shedd schools have decent libraries once upon a time. I wonder if some of these schools could work with the public library system to give CPS students access!

If they want to explore a wider world of books or get help with research from a trained librarian, children in Chicago often have to look beyond their school.

Many of the city's public schools lack libraries, a situation that made a group of mothers in Pilsen so angry they commandeered the ramshackle field house at Whittier Elementary School for more than a month.

The mothers won, and the Chicago school board is set to vote Wednesday on measures including a library for Whittier that should end the protest.

But the situation at Whittier is hardly unique. Citywide, 164 public schools — nearly 1 in 4 elementary schools and 51 high schools — do not have standalone libraries staffed by a trained librarian.

A lack of money and space and the competing need for new technology mean libraries are often left out of school plans even as students in Chicago Public Schools struggle to meet national standards in reading.

Even at those schools that do have a library, which by CPS' definition means at least one part-time teacher-librarian is on staff, the situation is sometimes far from ideal.
This is worth reading the whole thing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Observations before visiting that Bennett-Shedd LSC meeting

Well instead of writing about the meeting I'll just discuss the sights and sounds of that day.

First I was very disappointed to find that as I walk into the school there were metal detectors right at the entrance. It never made sense to me that before you go to school for the day you had to be searched as if you were entering a courthouse. Unfortunately we do know why they have metal detectors at our schools these days. We all too often hear about violent incidents at our schools, especially high schools, where a weapon (such as a gun) was involved.

I saw that the auditorium was open and then beyond the metal detector was a desk where security was posted. Very different from the last time I was there. Unfortunately safety around these schools are important and that means a presence of security cameras and before I left I caught a glimpse of what they see.

I was confused as to where to go for the meeting and at least there was a security guard who saw me and asked if I needed help. He told me where to go for the LSC meeting.

The school does look different but not as different as I saw Harlan last year. The school still looks like it was built in the late 1920s. There were signs for science project winners with very familiar names unfortunately the banners stopped around 1998 or so. There was a trophy case as well with a big softball in it.

Some of the classrooms look no different than the last time I attended a class there although I didn't enter a classroom. But I did get a glimpse of those murals I wish I could share with you in the school's cafeteria. Well there is a room where the students eat, and another room where the food is actually served during the lunch periods.

Oh yeah this school actually has two front entrances. I entered in the main entrance on the north side of the school near 101st. The other entrance is on the south end closer to 102nd Street. When students enter the school there they also have to walk through a metal detector posted outside that entrance.

If there was anything I could do I would get rid of these metal detectors unless they were absolutely needed.

I turned the corner and headed towards the school library where the meeting would take place. The open door was what would greet me to this meeting. A huge Chicago Public Library card would greet my outside the door. And I saw a decade plus amount of change just that quick.

Nine Dell computers, some large shelves of books were gone! There was more room in the library. Well the shelves used be on the floor, but in their place instead was smaller shelves. A table with chair designed for young children.

This library was decorated with a lot of decoration. Lot of stuff you would buy at an education themed store. I noticed on a closet that there were boards for Mayor Daley Book Club, announcements and others than I can't remember. There were on top of a bookshelf AV machines where displayed between displays noting the Bennett-Shedd Junior Beta club. One was dated for 1998.

Well the old school library has made way for the 21st century which was certainly a good thing. :)

I'll write about the actual LSC meeting later on. It started half an hour late and I wasn't out of there until at least 6:30.

Next time I arrive I want to take some pictures of the insides. Got to find a way to swing that!

Monday, October 18, 2010

New ISAT lets kids pass with more wrong answers

This is the oddest story I have seen out there. What is this about?
Illinois has been cutting the number of points required to pass annual achievement exams, allowing children to flub more questions but still be deemed "proficient."
Back in 2006, it took 36 of 56 points — about 64 percent — to pass the fifth-grade reading test. Now, it's 31 points, or 55 percent.
The third- and fourth-grade reading tests used to require 61 percent of possible points. This year, it's 54 percent.
Compared with 2006, fewer correct answers are required to pass 11 of 12 Illinois Standards Achievement Tests in reading and math, state data show, raising questions about how much students really have to know.
Meanwhile, passing rates on the exams have risen, assuring parents and the public that schoolchildren are making gains.
This article is worth your time. Almost seems like cooking the books here.

Via Capitol Fax!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CPS tenured teachers

First story is from CPR about what to do after a federal judge ordered that layoffs of tenured teachers must be rescinded after the Chicago Teacher's Union (CTU) sued.
Alicia Winckler is the chief human capital officer for the district.

WINCKLER: We'd have to find the money. We don't have any additional money to utilize for something like this, so we'd have to find that money within our budget.

Another district official says rehiring all tenured teachers could cost CPS about $30 million. In order to free up that money, the official says pink slips would have to be sent out to about 500 non-tenured teachers.
CPS plans to appeal this ruling however:
Earlier this year, the Chicago Board of Education gave Huberman the power to lay off tenured teachers to help close a multi-million dollar budget gap. When he exercised that authority, the Chicago Teachers Union sued the district, saying the layoffs were carried out with disregard to seniority or tenure.

A federal judge on Monday ruled that the district must work with the teachers union within the next 30 days to hammer out a plan to recall tenured teachers.

Huberman says state law does not require the district to rehire teachers based on seniority.

HUBERMAN: What’s right for kids and what’s right for performance—when we do recall—is the very best teachers who are most highly rated are the first ones who should be able to come back.
CTU Pres. Karen Lewis says that CPS can't merely pick and choose which parts of the law to follow.

Also Mayor Daley who plans to retire after the Mayoral election next year is still coming up with plans for the teachers in the school system that is under his control:
Mayor Richard Daley today touted a $34 million federal grant to increase pay for the best teachers at 25 "high-need" Chicago public schools as a good way to provide teachers and principals the support and feedback they need to succeed.

Under the five-year Teacher Incentive Fund grant, about 1,100 teachers will be able to receive merit bumps in pay of up to 15 percent for exceeding classroom standards.

"These are elementary schools with a high percentage of low income students, which have historically struggled with high teacher turnover," Daley said during a news conference at Ravenswood Elementary School on the North Side.
"We'll use the money to develop a system that will include meaningful evaluation criteria, supportive professional development for teachers, which will reward teacher performance for meeting or exceeding classroom goals," he said.
And speaking of Mayor Daley, Ron Huberman - his current appointment to lead the city schools - will not continue to serve under a new mayor. Head towards The Sixth Ward to find out more about that.

Monday, October 4, 2010

LSC meeting at Bennett on October 20th

I only know because well I took this picture of this sign at Shedd School. Since as stated many times here Shedd is a branch of Bennett to the south I suppose they combine the LSCs.

I want to go to this meeting but that depends on work and the fact that this is the same week as homecoming at Morehouse. Hmmm I need some more information like what other LSC meeting dates there are. I need some more information.

Friday, October 1, 2010

CPS Obsessed

A blog I found via District 299 blog. A parent wants to help other parents navigate the ins-and-outs of sending their children to the city's public schools system. Added to the blogroll!

BTW, quick trivia Chicago Public Schools is officially classified as City of Chicago School District #299, according to Wikipedia.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A minor change

A new page called Neighborhood, to replace the previous page for Rosemoor. Nothing much different than the previous page, however. Still an EveryBlock widget but this time for an 8-block radius centered at Shedd School's address @ 200 E. 99th Street. This area includes Bennett School, Harlan Community Academy, 95th Street CTA terminal, and Abbott Park.

This 8-block area is more concise than the Rosemoor area which includes Michigan Avenue on the West, 95th on the North, Cottage Grove on the East and 107th on the South.

Of course, the point of this page is no different than the Rosemoor Page. To check out the old neighborhood around Bennett/Shedd schools.

Previous Post
EveryBlock page for Rosemoor

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elementary scores up on state tests

However, scores for high school juniors fell flat! According to the Sun-Times:
Statewide, elementary kids showed improvement in almost every grade and subject tested. As a result, overall, more third- through eighth-graders passed their Illinois Standards Achievement Tests in reading, math and science than last year. The ISAT pass rate was 80.9 percent, up from 79.8 percent last year.

But improvement on the Prairie State Achievement Exam taken by high school juniors was flat, with only 53 percent passing that test both this year and last.

High school reading was down 2.9 percentage points, with only 54 percent of juniors passing that test. Even fewer kids passed math — only 52.7 percent — but that rate was up 1.1 percentage points from last year.

In science, 52.7 percent of juniors passed, up 1.1 percentage points.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magnet/selective enrollment application information

Some information regarding the application process as it has changed again. The period to begin applying starts on October 1st through December 17th. Please go to the CPS Office of Academic Advancement (OAE) website you can see the outline of those changes here as well. Information recieved via e-mail.

Cross-posted at The Sixth Ward!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gang graffiti at Bennett School from Sept. 3rd, 2010

Gang graffitti on the steps of Bennett Elementary School
Gang graffiti on the steps of Bennett School

Gang graffitti in the entrance to Bennett Elementary School
This graffiti is right in the entrance to the gymnasium

Tagging on the doors to the gym at Bennett Elementary School
This graffiti is right on the gymnasium's doors

Like I felt about the alcohol bottle in the backlot at Shedd School I almost feel like this is a desecration of hallowed ground to me. Childhood memories marred by those who seek to mark their criminal territory and I feel that schools should be free of that. Although all too often they are not since students who attend school may also be involved with the criminal element, unfortunately.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Follow-up: Bennett's report card

A follow-up to yesterday's post! From a spreadsheet (courtesy of the Tribune) I just found and downloaded this morning Bennett was graded in 2008-09 a C-, but for 2009-10 an F! This page at the Tribune gives us more data about Bennett including the number of students from low-income households (90.4% out of 583 students). In addition to ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievements Test) results where only 65.5% of Bennett students met or exceeded standards better than 14% of all schools in this state.

Unfortunately no mention of Bennett's Shedd Branch or any indication whether the students at Shedd are included in these results.

Friday, September 10, 2010

CPS report card shows many schools struggling

By Chicago Public Schools' own reckoning, about a quarter of its elementary schools and more than 40 percent of its high schools are failing, according to internal documents obtained by the Tribune.

Each year, district officials score each school based on academic performance. Last year, they assigned grades A through F based on the numeric scores, and schools chief Ron Huberman talked of publicly releasing them so school and community members would know where they stood. But he never did.

An analysis of the grades shows that a disproportionate number of schools scored in the D range or worse, including 48 percent of elementaries and 68 percent of high schools.
The grades skew toward the lower end of the spectrum. Among elementary schools, 47 of 474 received As, while just 4 of 92 high schools met that mark. Meanwhile, 104 elementary schools and 39 high schools got Fs. Not all schools had sufficient data to be scored.
More than 300 schools are on probation this year, the highest number since 1996-1997, according to an analysis conducted by Designs for Change, an education nonprofit.

"Probation has become a back-door method … for recentralizing the school system to strip Local School Councils, principals and teachers of their decision-making opportunities," wrote Valenica Rias-Winstead, an associate at the research group, in a February report.

Others see the grades as sad confirmation that billions of dollars and decades of reform have yielded little more than higher property taxes in the city. The data is from the 14th — and what will likely be the penultimate — year that Mayor Richard M. Daley controls the school system.
The whole article is worth reading. Hat-tip Capitol Fax!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The blog colors

I tried to get as close to gold and navy blue as possible in the color scheme for this blog. Even before I changed the templates here the header image lettering was navy blue and gold.

During my time at Bennett/Shedd we were expected to wear uniforms that consisted of the school's colors which are (surprisingly) navy blue and gold. So I have assumed that color scheme for this blog.

If you feel like the coloring is overboard feel free to let me know!

Another thing to note is that the school's mascot or nickname is badgers! So Bennett Badgers! :P

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kindergarten the new 1st grade?

It's been a long time since I was in Kindergarten (Kg) and I'm pretty sure that we weren't pushed as hard as today's Kindergartners are today! Oh yeah I attended Kg at Shedd.
Forget cookies and milk, nap time and finger painting. Kindergarten has gotten serious in the past 20 years — and even more so in the past 10. Due to forces ranging from rising parental expectations to the No Child Left Behind Act, many children now attend full-day programs complete with homework and standardized testing.

"Basically, kindergartens have become first grades," said Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

The growing expectations are controversial, with some experts saying the new kindergarten squeezes out forms of spontaneous play (building with blocks, for instance, or playing make-believe) that are vital to a child's long-term academic success.

Edward Miller, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Alliance for Childhood, points to a pivotal — and seemingly counterintuitive — German study that found that kids who had attended play-based kindergartens actually did better in reading and math at age 10 than kids who had attended academic kindergartens.

"I think the child's innate interest in learning things gets suppressed and basically atrophies" in academic kindergarten, Miller said.

"It starts this process of burnout where they don't learn to love learning and they don't really enjoy school. School becomes a chore. They're exhausted by the experience of school, even in the really early grades, and the long-term effect is that, by the third or fourth or fifth grade, they're done. They're really not interested anymore."

On the other side of the issue are researchers who say that play is important, but academics are, too, particularly for disadvantaged kids who may start school far behind their peers.

"If you want children to know how to read, you don't work on their social skills" in a play-based kindergarten, said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C. 
You know, I wish I could find some studies on the importance of pre-school or pre-kindergarten (pre-k). Hillary Clinton advocated for universal pre-k, same effect as turning Kg into the 1st grade. It seems today's parents want to push their children harder!

Read the whole thing! Via Newsalert!

Monday, September 6, 2010

School starts on September 7, 2010

Anyone out there reading this blog have children attending Bennett-Shedd tomorrow. Let me know how things go on the first day of school!

I took this picture outside of Shedd School on Friday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

EveryBlock page for Rosemoor

Yeah so on my other blog, The Sixth Ward, I had started a page using the EveryBlock widget that contains any data such as real estate, crime, media reports, even permit information for the 6th Ward district. Here on this blog I chose to have a more neighborhood centric page from where Bennett/Shedd schools reside.

According to EveryBlock the neighborhood where Bennett/Shedd resides is Rosemoor, however, we're talking about two neighborhoods split by I-94 between north and south. Therefore there are actually two distinct neighborhoods within this Rosemoor district.

Roseland Heights basically is north of the Calumet (Bishop Ford) Expressway. Borders are roughly the tail end of the Dan Ryan to the Calumet Expressways (both are also referred to as I-94) on the south and west. 95th Street and King Drive to the north and East.

Rosemoor is south of the Calumet Expressway (I-94) and using the rough borders from EveryBlock is Michigan Avenue on the west to 107th on the south and then Cottage Grove on the East.

In any event now here is a page to check out how the old neighborhood is faring around the beloved school!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Educators question significance of grades for homework

Interesting. Many years ago when I was in school well from elementary school through college, homework was life or death. Many teacher will threaten to hold you back for not doing it. I didn't care about the grade incentive, but what would happen if you removed it? Why remove the grade incentive anyway?

Educators say many of the daily assignments measure a student's work ethic more than knowledge. Besides, they say, some papers come back with an obvious assist from mom and dad.

"Don't get me wrong. I think homework is very important," Dehn said. "But the thing is, you don't know how much was done by a parent or someone else."

The shift upends years of tradition where teachers assigned homework, parents hounded kids to do it and students got graded based on what they turned in. That can make the change a tough sell to parents and educators who see homework as an important responsibility lesson and worry that kids may blow off assignments if they are not graded.

"People like to hold on to these things, these ideas of: 'That's how we do school. We have homework and we give grades,' said Lisa Cerauli, director of teaching and learning at Hawthorn School District 73. "It's hard to change that expectation of what school should look like."

Among those who have concerns is Lisa Kornfeind of Bolingbrook. She said homework counts for 10 percent of her high school daughter's grade, and she worries that might not be enough. She believes grades reinforce the message that students should take assignments seriously.

"If it counted for more, I'm sure more kids would get it done. And if you don't do homework, how will you remember what you learned?" Kornfeind said.
I don't have children yet, but even if homework didn't count for grades I still would want them to do their work. They don't learn anything if they don't hit the books when they get home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Huberman: CPS school class size to return to normal levels

Chicago's public school elementary class sizes are expected to be restored to normal levels and high school classes will increase to only 33 instead of 35, thanks to a bump of new state money, Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman said today.

Huberman combined the good news with a full court press calling for teachers and other unions to voluntarily forgo scheduled 4 percent pay raises amounting to a total $135 million.

That sacrifice would fill more than a third of the system's remaining deficit of $370 million, Huberman said.
I wonder how he is able to afford smaller class sizes if allowing that only costs more money, especially if you have to staff these small-classes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CPS chief wants to lay off worst teachers first

This is a good step, but I wonder what the Chicago Teacher's Union is saying about this?
The resolution presented at a board meeting allows Huberman to fire the roughly 200 lowest performers first, rather than basing firing solely on seniority. The measure drew immediate fire from union leadership, who said it would circumvent the contract, in place since 2007.

The board policy allows for the dismissal of teachers who are already under remediation or whose last evaluation was "unsatisfactory." It would cover layoffs that result from drops in student enrollment, too.

While layoffs are not a certainty, the school district has an estimated half-billion-dollar budget deficit.

Huberman is using the Illinois school code as his rationale for the last-minute switch. Under the code, "performance ratings or evaluations" is one of several criteria to be considered in layoffs.

But that conflicts with the contract, which calls for layoffs based on tenure. Huberman and his legal team believe that the school code supersedes the contract.

"The Illinois school code takes precedence here," explained Huberman.
Well not so fast!
While the board may have discretion under the state law, they have already exercised their choice by agreeing to a teacher contract, said Terry Smith, a law professor at DePaul University.

Further, tenure can be considered a property right, which means teachers are entitled to a due process hearing if it is going to be revoked, he said.

And finally, there is precedent for using the contract as a guidepost for layoffs.

"It's very important that they've adhered to seniority over the years because it indicates a mutual understanding of what the contract means," Smith said.
OK and reading this article the teacher's union has a problem with this. So Huberman may be picking an unfortunate fight, but ridding the schools of unsatisfactory teachers isn't a bad move in any way!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Children are pawns in CPS plans to increase class size

The decision by Mayor Daley and Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman to close their budget gap on the backs of Chicago's schoolchildren is a travesty that Daley should pay for in his upcoming re-election campaign.

Chicago Public Schools staff know, and Huberman himself knows, that there were many other places he could have cut other than making our children suffer, literally suffer, through a year (who knows how many more) of their precious education.

[The Chicago Board of Education on Tuesday voted to give school officials the authority to raise class size up to 35 and lay off teachers if necessary to balance the CPS budget.]

Let's look at my school, Gage Park High School, a neglected high-poverty neighborhood high school that has already been set up for failure by past policies.

As a non-magnet, non-selective enrollment, neighborhood high school, we are unfortunately a school of last resort. The highest-achieving students with good parental support don't come here, leaving us with very few top students who could be role models. We must take everyone else. And we do. We also must take students expelled from our neighborhood charter schools, private schools and jail schools.

We are overcrowded, have one social worker for 1,700 students, have four board-funded security guards to control those 1700 students and -- no surprise -- are on probation. But according to CPS, the media and the business community, we are the problem, and CPS continues to close schools like ours and be lauded for it.
Read the whole thing!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teachers to picket School Board vote

Not long after the election of a new union president we see the teacher's union engaged in some picketing already!
The president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union planned an "emergency picket'' today protesting a special Chicago School Board vote to raise class sizes and lay off up to 2,700 teachers.

"It's an emergency board meeting, so we're having an emergency picket,'' explained King College Prep teacher Karen Lewis, who takes over as head of the nation's third-largest teachers union on July 1.

Meanwhile, attorneys hired by current CTU President Marilyn Stewart said the board's layoff plans seem unusually onerous, as Board officials are contending that tenured teachers who lose their jobs due to rising class sizes will not be entitled to the 10-month pay cushion their displaced colleagues have received in the past.

"The board is putting them [tenured teachers] out on the street,'' said CTU attorney Jennifer Poltrock. "The only thing we can do about it is file a grievance ... which is the slow-boat-to-China route.''

Under the current contract, teachers displaced due to school closures are sent into a "reassigned teacher pool'' from which they can substitute-teach for four days a week, look for a job the fifth day of the week and continue to earn their usual pay for 10 months.
Speaking of teachers, we see that they haven't fared very well under a new evaluation system:
Far more Chicago schoolteachers received the worst rating under a new evaluation system intended to measure how educators connect with students, new research shows.

Eight percent of teachers got at least one unsatisfactory rating — defined as doing academic harm to students — under the new system, piloted in 44 Chicago elementary schools. By comparison, just 0.4 percent of teachers in the same schools were deemed subpar when they were evaluated using the traditional checklist one year earlier, according to the report released Tuesday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

The report offers a first look at Chicago's efforts to revamp how it measures teacher effectiveness. The findings come amid a national push to reward good teachers, train struggling teachers and remove bad ones from the country's classrooms.

Illinois lawmakers, for instance, recently backed legislation to require that student learning be a significant factor in teacher evaluations.

But classroom observations also play a role when judging a teacher's effectiveness, said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

"A system that relies only on test scores would not be accurate or appropriate," she said.
Via CapFax morning shorts!

Monday, June 14, 2010

CPS to borrow $800M, boost teacher pay 4%

CPS announced plans for a special School Board meeting Tuesday to take up the borrowing, teacher raises and a controversial plan to raise class size for the first time since Mayor Daley's 1995 city school takeover.

One resolution at the meeting will indicate that the system "will be unable to balance its budget'' unless it increases class size from, on average, 30 students to "up to 35.'' About 2,700 teachers would be laid off as a result, at a savings of $125 million.

However, in another resolution, CPS officials say they expect to have the money to pay promised 4 percent raises to teachers and seven other unions, for a cost of $100 million.

If School Board members do not pass such a resolution by June 15, the teachers union could open talks that might lead to a strike.

"We can't risk the uncertainty of putting our kids in a situation where they may not be able to go back to school because there's a strike," a CPS official said. "You take that off the table by saying, 'We're going to fund the 4 percent [raise].'"

The union has not struck since Daley's school takeover. One CPS official said many parents still remember "how many strikes there used to be. ... We can't put our students through this."

Also Tuesday, board members are expected to approve a resolution allowing them to borrow up to $800 million to cover late payments from the state. A CPS official said the line of credit is intended to help pay bills in the face of $437 million in late state payments this school year and the possibility of similar problems next school year.
This was news before the Chicago Teacher's Union voted to elect their new President this weekend.

Via Progress Illinois!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New CTU president is a fierce foe of Daley's agenda

Well I missed this one in recent days:
Karen Lewis, a high school chemistry teacher who has been a fierce opponent of Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 program to shake up and rejuvenate public schools, handily defeated two-term president Marilyn Stewart for the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union early Saturday.

Lewis and her Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) slate won in a virtual sweep against Stewart's United Progressive Caucus team that has been in power for 37 of the last 40 years, with Lewis trouncing Stewart by a 3-2 margin.

The change in CTU leadership -- Lewis takes the reins July 1 -- could put Mayor Daley in a political pinch through demands for the city to return tax-increment financing (TIF) funds to each school taxing district.

Lewis has organized protests against the Renaissance 2010 program, which has closed schools and displaced hundreds of teachers. Closed schools have reopened as charters that use non-CTU teachers. She inherits a hornet's nest of troubles as the Chicago Public Schools system struggles with an estimated deficit of $437 million, plus another $420 million in late state payments.

One elementary school teacher who voted for Lewis said teachers at her school "were really fed up with Marilyn Stewart. . . . They feel like she's in bed with Mayor Daley and [schools CEO] Ron Huberman, and she's not standing up to them," said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

Up to 2,700 teachers and 300 non-teaching union members could lose their jobs if class sizes rise from an average of 30 to 35, which has been proposed as a budget-balancing measure by CPS officials. This would infuriate parents, who have protested against larger class sizes.
Well not so sure Ms. Lewis would be much more of an improvement over Marilyn Stewart who was on record as not wanting to give in to any conncessions. Not sure that makes her an effective stooge of Mayor Daley, but hey it sure made for great theater. Besides that kind of talk in terms of unions having to give something in terms of whats going on currently in public finance is not something the public wants to hear right now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Teachers ring City Hall during protest of layoffs, larger classes

Thousands of protesting teachers encircled City Hall and commandeered an entire block of Clark Street during rush hour Tuesday to rail against rising class sizes and deficit-driven teacher layoffs.

One police official estimated up to 4,000 protesters marched from Board of Education headquarters to City Hall and back again.

With mounted police lining the route, teachers decried Schools CEO Ron Huberman's plan to raise class sizes to 35 -- causing up to 3,000 Chicago Teachers Union layoffs -- to battle an estimated $600 million deficit.

"Don't treat our children like sardines,'' read several protest signs. "Don't supersize classrooms,'' said others.

As they completely surrounded City Hall, some teachers chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, Mayor Daley has to go.'' But outside Board headquarters at 125 S. Clark, the last half of the chant changed to "Huberman has to go.''
Very interesting! Tough times at the Chicago Public Schools for sure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

District 299: Budget Cuts Still Looming

Alexander Russo at the Chicago Schools Blog discusses a variety of news from state budget negotiations in Springfield, student protests against education cuts, and punishment against those protests.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reading scores stay flat for CPS eighth-graders

Despite the mantra from Mayor Daley to focus on reading, Chicago's eighth-grade reading scores haven't really budged since 2002 on a key national test, although fourth-grade results have seen a gradual uptick, results released Thursday show.

Chicago landed in the middle of the pack of 18 big-city school districts that agreed last year to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card. The city trailed New York and Miami, but outpaced Los Angeles and Milwaukee.

Overall, 45 percent of Chicago fourth-graders reached at least the "basic'' reading level in 2009, while 60 percent of eighth-graders hit that mark. But only 16 percent of fourth-graders and 17 percent of eighth-graders reached the higher bar of "proficient.''

Statistically significant fourth-grade improvement only emerged by comparing 2009 Chicago results to those from 2003 or 2002. Eighth-grade scores didn't show any significant gains between 2002 and 2009 -- a period spanning most of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's tenure here as Schools CEO.

Chicago posted no substantial progress since 2002 in closing the achievement gap between white students compared with African Americans or Hispanics, and between poor and non-poor students.

The standout was Atlanta, which showed the biggest, most consistent jumps in both grades.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My country tis of thee

This was what used to be sung instead of The Star Spangled Banner after we recite the pledge of allegiance. Usually just one section of the song, however.

Check out the Wiki article!

BTW, it does have a resemblance to the British national anthem!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Charter school in Englewood gets all seniors admitted to college

This Tribune article was crossposted @ The Sixth Ward

I think this is wonderful news that should be lauded.
The entire senior class at Chicago's only public all-male, all-African-American high school has been accepted to four-year colleges. At last count, the 107 seniors had earned spots at 72 schools across the nation.

Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman surprised students at an all-school assembly at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men in Englewood this morning to congratulate them. It's the first graduating class at Urban Prep since it opened its doors in 2006.

Huberman applauded the seniors for making CPS shine.

"All of you in the senior class have shown that what matters is perseverance, what matters is focus, what matters is having a dream and following that dream," Huberman said.

The school enforces a strict uniform of black blazers, khaki pants and red ties -- with one exception. After a student receives the news he was accepted into college, he swaps his red tie for a red and gold one at an assembly.

The last 13 students received their college ties today, to thunderous applause.
This is something I think is key and wished I had when I was in high school. It might have helped me immensly.
College is omnipresent at the school. Before the students begin their freshman year, they take a field trip to Northwestern University. Every student is assigned a college counselor the day he steps foot in the school.

The school offers an extended day--170,000 more minutes over four years compared to its counterparts across the city--and more than double the number of English credits usually needed to graduate.
I wonder what other English do those students take other than composition or literature?

And I like the idea of assigning a college counselor to every student. Of course I wonder if I would take advantage of such access. Perhaps back then I wouldn't of, but if I knew now what I didn't know then. Of course if that was the mission of my school then the outlook would be much different.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CPS board to vote on 7 school futures

Today there are a lot of schools under the gun for either closing or turnaround today. Got to find some news on what the results were, however.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2 schools on closure list to stay open

Well Bennett/Shedd isn't on the list, but there are plenty of elementary schools that are. There are people who are dedicated to saving these schools. Anything from community activists to the teacher's union (believe it or not).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Social networking for Bennett-Shedd schools

There is a Facebook page for former students of Bennett-Shedd Schools.

There is also a ning group for former students of Shedd School. The group is largely closed but they will approve people in time.

Check them out!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bennett/Shedd Elementary Wesbite

Go to

There isn't much going on there. Not a lot of information, but it does appear to have info on  pre-school programs. I wish there was more about the school itself. On top of that there should be a much better website.