I was pretty sure that this was more a function of data massage rather than better education policy, especially given the catastrophic rise in truancy detailed in the report. Turns out I was right. From the full press release:
“Change In Definition Of “Dropout”
ISBE changed its definition of “dropout” to only include students who dropped out of ninth through 12th grade rather than those in kindergarten through 12th grade. The change in the grade levels considered in dropout rates would have resulted in a decrease in reported dropouts.”
According to a new study to be unveiled Thursday, Chicago and Illinois school dropout rates appear to be declining, but truancy and chronic truancy are dramatically escalating.
The study, by Dr. Andrew Sum of Boston’s Northeastern University, will be presented at a forum which will also feature panelists from CPS, the state legislature, and local alternative school administrators. Pre-registration for the event has closed, but you can still probably show up and get in to hear the presentation scheduled from 9:30 to noon at Chicago’s Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson.
I don’t know what Dr. Sum will say tomorrow and I’m no scientist, but it’s clear to me that city policies have completely sabotaged the feelings of belonging and engagement that students need to stick with school. Chicago’s formerly proud, vibrant and close-knit communities have been decimated by Mayor Emanuel’s devastating school closings. Neighborhood schools that are still open are forced to compete with self-contained charter schools which generally have little connection to the community where they are sited.
How many students have been rejected by a charter school? How many have no neighborhood school at all? How many have given up going to school out of fear for their safety? Whose set our children up this way?
I am suspicious of upbeat drop out numbers from the “cook-the-books” folks at CPS. There have also been changes in the way dropouts are counted. Though I can’t prove it, I believe that more students drop out at earlier ages (which the Consortium on Chicago School Research’s Ending Social Promotion study found to be true of students flunked under CPS’s terrible elementary promotion policy).
The press alert on tomorrow’s event says that the presentation of this new data is intended to support the work of the Truancy in the Chicago Public Schools Task Force which will convene on Friday, December 6, 2013. Where do you think they will go to look for answers?
This was not a PURE-related meeting, so I won’t share the details. But it was the kind of experience I have had from time to time in the course of my work, and I know many of you have had them, too. It’s a transcendent experience of the power of good people speaking their truth against the expectation of privileged elites. To quote from the Christmas story, these are experiences to “ponder in your heart.”
My first such experience happened nearly 25 years ago at the very first meeting of our neighborhood school’s very first local school council. A group of us who were not among the privileged elite of the school community had been elected. From the beginning, we asserted our truths. We set the tone by moving the meeting table down close to the public instead of sitting above them on a stage. We refused to rubber-stamp budget transfers we had not seen. During the year, we united to stop the practice of diverting funds to a tracked magnet program at the expense of bilingual programs and the (mostly African-American) children consigned to the non-magnet programs. When the principal’s contract was up, we carried out a careful, fair process in the face of internal faculty coercion, threats to LSC members’ jobs, and even one quite credible death threat. At a critical meeting, several friends from the neighborhood showed up to the meeting to speak or just show their support. That “cloud of witnesses” made all the difference.
This is why we do what we do, and why I am so grateful to have PURE in my life.
Apparently Madison Avenue has declared today Giving Day, an antidote, I guess, to the past few days’ orgy of eating and shopping. So generous of them!
But it’s also Public Schools Action Tuesday, and it’s the end of the year when we usually make a special ask for donations anyway, so why not?
If PURE has helped you speak your truth or helped you put your truth into words, if you have picked up the newspaper and read a quote from me or Wanda or another PURE member and said, “Yay! Someone needed to say that” – please consider giving.
Plus, we have a new donate button (please find the orange button up and to the right!) – why not try it out?
Their announcement came at the end of a week of action by PURE and More Than a Score challenging this private company’s threat to Chicago students’ privacy. We had meetings with the Sun-Times and Tribune editorial boards, held a forum with special guest speaker Leonie Haimson from New York City, and testified at the Illinois State Board of Education meeting. A couple of weeks earlier, Cassie Cresswell and I met with Chicago Board vice-president Jesse Ruiz and key staff to share our concerns about potential problems with the inBloom program.
Good decision by CPS.
But there is much more to be concerned about. There are 34 other districts in Illinois where the inBloom threat still looms.
And, as MTAS member Chris Ball has pointed out, on p. 41 of the CPS student code of conduct, CPS assumes the right to share student data without parent notification or consent with “school officials” which “can include contractors, consultants, volunteers or other parties under the Board’s direct control with whom the Board has agreed to outsource certain institutional services or functions, and who have a legitimate educational interest in the specific education records disclosed. The Board’s agreement with these contractors, consultants, volunteers or other parties will specifically outline the legitimate educational interest and which educational records are disclosed.”
So, CPS can call pretty much anyone it wants a “school official.”
We are also aware that there are “rogue” contractors coming into individual schools with free broadband and tablets through which they are likely also accessing student data without parental knowledge. These programs need to be regulated. Parents should ask questions about these programs and find out what is happening to the information that students enter into outside databases. They should have the right to opt their children out.
LSCs have the authority and should consider approving policies barring or restricting any programs that collect student data without parental permission.