While not as shocking as Daley's retirement, the timing of Ron Huberman's decision to quit on the Chicago Public Schools was a bit shocking. But it's one that many of us looking forward to a new Mayor and new head of CPS are moving past quickly. There are a lot of issues in CPS, some obvious and urgent, some not-so-obvious, but still in need of attention. I hope to write a little bit about those issues here and encourage Chicagoans to make it a priority to ask all Mayoral hopefuls not just about their dedication to public schools, but what plans they have to address certain needs such as:
- The scattering of CPS students: The recent decision to allow any and all siblings to go to the same magnet school is AWESOME. There are far too many parents who are shuttling all over this city to take 1 kid here and another one there. That said, why don't we go back to the idea that a school is a community center, that kids in the neighborhood go to a school down the street and then families know each other in the neighborhood? I know one family who live in Hyde Park and one kid goes to school on the near West Side and the other on the far South side. Thankfully there are two parents to shuttle these kids. Why shuttling? Because CPS doesn't bus kids who live farther than 4 miles away from the school. Um, aren't these the students who SHOULD be bused in? Instead they are shuttled by parents or take the CTA at a younger age than most parents plan. This issue is always raised when talking about gang fights but the current mayor says he won't let gangs draw school maps. Nice dodge.
- The drop out rate: Why do we need hip hop stars to come in and tell kids they need to stay in school? I love the idea, don't get me wrong, but I think it signals that we aren't providing certain students with a good view of what their future holds....Or others in power are painting them a picture that they are rejecting and thus see no use in education.
- RECESS: My daughter's school does not have recess as a regular part of their day. Sometimes they go out before school, but if it's before school, is it recess? There are far too many studies that say recess is key to academic success. Not to mention Michelle Obama wants out kids to be moving.
- Libraries for all: The Whittier Moms should not be forgotten. Not when we have 164 schools without libraries and some schools have sorry excuses for a library. I talked to one mom whose child goes to a school with a literature focus that does NOT have a library.
But as we move towards these changes, I would like to see one thing changed. The way we view schools on the CPS website. Take the Jane Addams Elementary School. We can click around and see when they were inspected for asbestos, how well they recycle and demographics. But you have no idea if you are applying to school without a library, that keeps their students inside for 6 hours without fresh air and how long they give kids to eat their lunch. But you know there is a dress code. Jane Addams was a bookworm. If there isn't a library at her namesake school, she's rolling in her grave. But you don't know these things unless you think to ask (why would anyone think otherwise until the Whittier moms brought the issue to light?) or you find out when your child comes home to report there is no library.
This is a critical time for public education, especially in Chicago. We have a new mayor coming in soon and eventually new leadership for CPS. In DC "No Child Left Untested, er, Behind" needs to be revamped so that the top schools can go back to being totally awesome. Honestly, is it a surprise that NCLB reform is now all the rage once the top schools start failing?
But I'm rested from Tuesday...Gotta be. Mayoral hopefuls are having fund raisers and signatures are being collected. We need to get a hopping!