Schools Update – March/April 2014

With Spring upon us and CPS admission letters in mailboxes, C4C thought it a good time to provide an update on schooling issues in our service area.

High Schools

C4C continues to actively pursue a high school for our service area. The new high school proposal for which we have been advocating for the last two years can be viewed here: Public Education Task Force Presentation Central City High School Proposal

We have recent indications from the Mayor’s office that they are interested in new education options in our area. We are encouraged that we have been noticed by the 5th floor and they appear receptive to our call for an additional near west side high school option.  Additionally, we have had several meetings with David Vitale and other CPS officials and they also are receptive to a new high school option.  What both the 5th floor and CPS need to see now is a united and vocal community.  So please, take a few minutes to read (or hopefully re-read) the Central City High School proposal. C4C and its Public Education Task Force will soon be organizing a large Central City High School public engagement initiative as part of the new master planning process for Roosevelt Square to get additional public feedback as follow up to our many public meetings last year and to collect letters of support.

With a united and vocal community, we believe we can make this happen.

While C4C firmly believes that we need a new high school, we do want to let community residents know about an interesting high school option nearby, that might not be on residents’ radar screens.  UIC College Prep, run by the Noble Street Charter Network, is located at Damen and Washburne. We would encourage you to look carefully at this school and its very, very impressive outcomes.  The school’s average ACT scores and college attendance rates put it amongst the very best high schools in the city.  And the program offers academic opportunities at UIC that most high schools cannot offer.  Take a look.

Elementary Schools

As anyone with children who moves into our area knows, we have some of the best elementary magnet school options of any neighborhood in the city.  Jackson, Galileo and STEM magnet schools produce academic outcomes that are among the city’s highest.  So we are quite fortunate.  Smyth magnet school continues to make huge improvements in their outcomes and is benefiting from partnerships with Illinois Math and Science Academy and the UIC College of Education. Dr. Alfred Tatum, a recognized expert in literacy, and Dean of UIC’s College of Education, has worked closely with Smyth Principal, Dr. Ron Whitmore, on UIC’s deep engagement at Smyth. C4C is committed to continuing to work with the Smyth community to do our part to help improve academic outcomes and access to opportunity for the Smyth community.  If you’re interested in working with Smyth in some capacity, contact us to let us know.

It is a crucial time for schooling in our area.  Now is the time to get active.  If you want to assist with the effort to bring a new high school option to the area, let us know.  If you want to volunteer or assist with Smyth, let us know and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Schools Update (3/20/2013)

The past three months have been particularly busy ones in C4C’s efforts to obtain a new high school which we are calling by the working name, Central City High School.  Our Central City High School Proposal Executive Summary provides a sound rationale and data to support why we need a new high school. Our Central City High School Proposal contains the details of our proposed innovative model and demographic data which provides additional support for this model.

We recently met with some members of the Chicago City Council to outline our proposal and seven Aldermen signed a Central City High School City Council letter. We are also presenting our proposal to the Local School Council’s of the seven proposed feeder elementary schools in our community area and expect to complete these presentations in March. We will then convene a meeting of our C4C Public Education Task Force to discuss all of the feedback we have collected. After that, we will schedule some larger community meetings to gather additional feedback.

We want to fully understand and consider, to the best of our ability, questions, ideas and concerns regarding this proposed innovative model. So far, the questions, ideas and concerns we have received have been very thoughtful. We have also received almost uniformly positive feedback and many offers to support this effort. After we put in some additional effort, we will be reaching out to parents and other community residents to help advance this effort to a successful completion. There is much work to complete but we have made significant, positive progress in the past fifteen months.

Community High School Update

Connecting4Communities has been very busy on the public education front. We recently formed a large Public Education Task Force consisting of parents, CPS teachers and other public education professionals and community residents with experience in public education. In early January we presented our model for a new District Innovator high school, along with supporting demographics, at a community meeting hosted at University Commons. In addition to University Commons residents, neighbors from the West and South Loop communities as well as Roosevelt Square were in attendance.  Shortly thereafter we presented to the Andrew Jackson Language Academy Local School Council. We are scheduling dates and times to present to the other six local elementary schools and have also begun meeting with the Aldermen in whose wards the seven elementary schools are located that our model proposes feed into a District Innovator high school.

Our efforts to increase access to high quality public education have attracted the attention of print and television media. NBC 5 covered C4C Public Education Task Force member Cristen Dokic’s daughter, Ella, a 4th grader at STEM Magnet Academy, when she addressed the Chicago Board of Education at their January meeting to speak about increasing access to neighborhood schools, including a high school. A couple of days later, NBC 5 interviewed Ella and Cristen live on The Talk hosted by Marion Brooks.

Public Education Task Force Meeting (January 13, 6:30 p.m.)

Happy New Year!!!!

Connecting4Communities intends to make 2013 a year of positive growth for our organization, our community and our public schools. As President of C4C, and one who cares deeply about public education and access to it for all residents of our community area, I agreed to chair the C4C Public Education Task Force and to keep you informed about our work in this area.

At the end of October I posted an update on our efforts: https://connecting4communities.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/high-school-update/ Since then we have accomplished much despite our initial efforts in forming the C4C Public Education Task Force getting sidelined by the CTU strike, the school action plan controversy, extensive professional development and testing at CPS for principals that took place during the summer break, and some additional groundwork that C4C needed to accomplish.

The core values of C4C are to operate with transparency, integrity and in a community participatory manner to engage all of the talented people in our area who wish to contribute to making our community one of the most exciting in Chicago. Please take a moment to review our Central City High School Proposal Executive Summary, our Public Education Task Force Presentation UC Jan 2012, and our Smyth Demographic Detail

We will be hosting a meeting for parents at University Commons next Sunday, January 13th at 6:30 p.m. in the 4th Floor party room which has a spectacular view of the beautiful Chicago skyline. Our agenda C4C Public Education Task Force Meeting Agenda is a tight, efficient and impactful one and if you would like to attend we require that you R.S.V.P to our executive director so we may adequately prepare handouts for all adult attendees. Of course, children are welcome to attend with you but please just let us know how many you will bring.

High School Initiative Update

From its founding, C4C has been diligently working to obtain guaranteed access to high quality public primary and secondary education for our community. Its current emphasis is to obtain a high school, since access to quality secondary schools in our community and in Chicago, in general, is much more difficult to obtain than it is for primary education. Recently, CPS announced a new neighborhood plan for Jones College Prep. Beginning in Fall 2013, 25% of the seats at Jones College Prep will be allocated for new high quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in pre-engineering and pre-law. This is only 75 seats per grade and neighborhood children who live within a very large proximity boundary will get an opportunity to apply for these selective enrollment seats.

The Jones College Prep preference boundary roughly runs from Grand Avenue on the north to Ashland Ave on the west, 26th street on the south, and east to Lake Michigan. It is an enormous boundary that covers much of the near west and east sides, Chinatown, Pilsen, and Roosevelt Square. In 2012 there were 1,293 children between the ages of 14 and 17 residing just within the South Loop Elementary School, the John M. Smyth Elementary School, the Skinner West Elementary School, and Washington Irving attendance boundaries. The population this age within the Jones College Prep preference boundary is certainly larger. Furthermore, the neighborhood children will have to meet the required criteria for selective enrollment high school admission. Despite the flaws, the Jones College Prep preference boundary is a small step in a positive direction.

C4C is currently working on an additional plan for a community high school. Our goal is to realize a community school concept that draws children from across the city, accommodates children who live within our service boundaries, and accommodates children who come to the many terrific magnet, gifted and classical programs located within our local elementary schools. To that end, C4C has met with Board President David Vitale and many other high level officials at CPS to discuss our vision for a community high school. We have also carefully analyzed data from the 2010 US Census to determine how many school age children live within our service areas and how many children we would need to accommodate in a community high school. Surprisingly, CPS doesn’t use Census data for planning, so C4C has taken on the task of forecasting the next 10 years of high school enrollment from our service area. Given the large tracts of vacant land in our community and in the South Loop that can be developed, careful public education planning is important to attract families to our area of the city.

Jeff Rosen – Board President & Education Task Force Leader

Jeffrey Rosen, Ph.D., has been a Chicago resident for 10 years and a resident of Little Italy for the last 6 years. Originally from New York, Jeff became involved in community issues early in his career working in the New York State Assembly’s Speaker’s Office and as a Research Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Jeff’s focus during these years was on issues in primary and secondary education. After leaving New York, Jeff moved onto The Ohio State University to pursue studies in, among other things, sample survey statistics. While at Ohio State, Jeff spent a number of years as researcher at the Center for Survey Research specializing in large probability sample surveys. After arriving in Chicago, Jeff worked in research with the Chicago Public Schools and is currently a Research Scientist at RTI, International a large research and development firm.

In addition to presiding over the board, Jeff heads the C4C Education Task Force.