Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Child mental health experts raise serious concerns about the impact of proposed mass school closings on Chicago students

Today, several notable social workers, counselors, and academic researchers from prominent Illinois and Chicago organizations and universities submitted a set of statements to the members of the Chicago Board of Education detailing their serious concerns about the potential negative impact of school closings on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students’ social-emotional health.  Tomorrow, the Board of Education is scheduled to consider approving up to 54 school closings and consolidations.

The experts shared their statements at a press conference held at Roosevelt University and sponsored by Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago public school parent advocacy organization, along with  CReATE education professors Ann Aviles de Bradley and Diane Horwitz.

Significant concerns raised by these experts include grief and loss, issues of transition, schools as community cornerstones, inclusion of student voice, and lack of adequate mental health services.

Full Press Release Available Here

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CReATE Researchers on Impact of Proposed School Closing

CReATE researchers Josh Radinsky and Federico Waitoller (University of Illinois-Chicago) have prepared a report that details the impacts of the proposed school closings in Chicago in terms of student relocation and faculty dismissal.  These researchers find that CPS statements on this matter greatly underestimate the scale of the impact.

The report on the Impact of Proposed School Closings is available at http://tinyurl.com/d86lzdx.

4/20/2013 Now updated to reflect 2012-2013 Student Data.

Dr. Josh Radinsky josh.radinsky@gmail.com
Dr. Federico Waitoller fwaitoll@uic.edu

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

CReATE Researchers Issue Open Letter on School Closures

Education Scholars Agree Chicago School Closures are Ill-Advised and Unsupported by Data

 An Open Letter of Concern to
Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
and the Chicago School Board

We, the undersigned, call upon the Chicago Board of Education to reject the closing of 54 schools at their May meeting, and instead, to implement reforms that are guided by solid research and by a vision of public education that offers every child the very best that our city has to offer.  We also urge consulting with the professors in CReATE, who bring both scholarly and practical expertise on these issues.

Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), a network of over 100 professors from numerous Chicago-area universities who specialize in educational research, has reviewed the literature on school closures and conducted an analysis of newly released data to critically assess Chicago Public Schools arguments to justify school closures and to gain a better understanding of what Chicago residents can expect from massive school closures.  The history of previous school closures and school actions reveal that closures negatively impact academic performance and create more hardship for communities already suffering from social abandonment.  Our findings do not support CPS’ arguments for closing schools and we conclude that school closures will contribute to a separate and unequal educational system in Chicago.  

Primary Contact: Prof. Stephanie Farmer, Roosevelt University, sfarmer@roosevelt.edu, 312-341-3746.  Complete list of 107 Chicago-area Education Researchers who signed this letter available at http://tinyurl.com/bn34ncb

UPDATE April 3, 2013 - Education Researchers Nationwide endorse CReATE Open Letter. 
A complete list of the 100 education researchers from across the country who have added their signatures to the CReATE Open Letter is available at http://tinyurl.com/buasg2m.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CReATE Releases Research Brief on School Closures

When a school is closed, the facility is shut down, school staff is displaced, children are sent to other schools, and the community loses a vital resource. If Chicago Public Schools (CPS) follows the city’s Commission on School Utilization March 2013 recommendations, 80 CPS neighborhood schools (13% of the entire system) will be closed, disrupting the lives of nearly 25,000 children. CPS expects that students will need to travel an added 1 to 1½ miles to get to their new schools. Over the years, CPS has mobilized three different types of arguments to justify school closings: underperformance, cost savings, and underutilization. In this new brief CReATE researchers examine each of these arguments in relation to current educational research.

The CReATE Research Brief on School Closures is available for download here in English, and here in Spanish.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Factsheets on Education Issues Facing the 2012-2013 Illinois Legislative Session

CReATE is a network of over 100 professors from numerous Chicago-area universities who specialize in educational research and who work collectively to conduct, review, and distribute studies in order to promote public learning and dialogue about education issues. Sorting out the rhetoric from the reality, CReATE is pleased to release a series of FACTSHEETS in November 2012 about five of the most pressing education issues in the 2012-2013 Illinois legislative season. Highlighting numerous studies about the nation, the state of Illinois, and the city of Chicago, these Factsheets share a common message. They tell us that the research is clear: Several of the most common and commonsensical reforms have not only been unsuccessful at improving schools, but more significantly, have already proven to make things worse as school governance becomes less democratic, school funding becomes more inequitable, and public education becomes far less capable of serving the needs of the children of Chicago and Illinois.

Factsheet on Charter School Funding (November 2012)
Factsheet on Charter Schools (November 2012) 
Factsheet on  School Closures, Governance and Accountability (November 2012)
Factsheet on School Funding Formulas (November 2012)
Factsheet on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) (November 2012)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Research Brief #3: Tax Increment Financing and Chicago Public Schools Construction Projects Introduction

CReATE |Research Brief #3
June 2012

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is one of Chicago’s leading financing tools for development. TIF districts create a development fund based on the property taxes generated in the TIF district. When the TIF district is formed, all the properties in the district have the property value amount on which taxing bodies draw their revenues (the baseline) frozen for 23 years. Any new tax revenue created above the property value baseline amount (the increment) is diverted into the TIF development fund, used to finance community development projects in both the public and private sector. State law requires TIFs to be used for the development of blighted or deteriorating communities. In recent years, the city of Chicago has expanded its use of TIFs to increasingly include sections of the city that are economically developed and stable. Currently, TIF districts cover over 30% of the city.

The effects of TIFs are controversial. On the one hand, critics of TIFs note that each district diverts revenues from the public school taxing body, thus depriving them of revenues that would have otherwise gone to them. TIFs capture about $500 million in tax revenues each year, about half of which is diverted from the public school system. Critics have also pointed to the revenues given to large corporations, such as Boeing and United Airlines to finance the expenses of moving their headquarters to the downtown Loop, as an abuse of the intent of TIF. On the other hand, city officials and TIF proponents claim that the TIF is the only game in town for financing local development projects. They emphasize the public works projects and new school construction to demonstrate the benefits of the TIF program. Since 1983, 46% of TIF revenues have been allocated for public works projects, with 47% of those revenues going towards Chicago Public Schools construction projects.

This white paper examines the nature of TIF funded public school construction projects. Key findings include:

  • 1 out of 3 schools receiving TIF funds are in the highest socio-economic communities (Tier 4) as measured by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), even though the TIF was designed to help develop blighted communities. 
  • Selective enrollment schools constitute 1% of CPS schools but receive 25% of TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • Schools with some form of an exclusive enrollment process (includes selective enrollment schools and charters, magnets, etc) received nearly 50% of all TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • Neighborhood area attendance schools constitute 69% of CPS schools but receive 47% of all TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • 78% of the schools receiving TIF funds are located in the northern 50% of the city, even though the TIF is suppose to help underdeveloped communities.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Research Brief #2 - Increasing Safety Through Restorative Justice: Making Schools Safer for Girls and LGBTQ Students of Color in Chicago’s Public Schools

April 2012

From the relentless bullying of Phoebe Prince at her school in North Hadley, Massachusetts, which resulted in her suicide, to the murder of Derrion Albert near Chicago’s Fenger High school, stories of youth violence draw the public’s attention to the important matter of school safety. But how exactly are we conceptualizing the problem of violence? Which students are at risk for being harassed and bullied? What are the safety concerns for girls and LGBTQ students of color? Are punishing perpetrators and increasing the policing of schools the best directions for Chicago Public Schools (CPS)? What role can restorative justice strategies play in ending school violence and fostering safer CPS schools?

School violence includes both the extreme acts that capture the media’s attention as well as the everyday, chronic harassment that often flies under the radar of school disciplinary policies and security measures, undetected by safety officers and surveillance cameras. Events involving extremely dangerous violence are rare, and rates of gun violence on school grounds have actually declined in recent years in the U.S. More widespread is the chronic harassment of peers, which has serious negative implications for both academic achievement and physical and emotional health. Among the most common student behaviors that threaten the safety of others are bullying, physical intimidation, and harassment. These safety threats are particularly problematic regarding gender and sexuality. Hill and Kearl report that 48% of the middle and high school students they surveyed had experienced some form of sexual harassment, including physical and cyber- harassment, and negative comments related to students’ perceived sexual identity.

Chicago is no different. The Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) has argued that “safety is an urgent issue at both the elementary and high school levels for both students and teachers in Chicago schools.”4 In their recent survey of student and teacher perceptions of school safety in CPS, they found that students welcomed efforts by teachers and security staff to make their schools safer, but did not believe that harsh discipline increased their safety. Furthermore, students reported concerns about safety (or lack thereof ) not only in classrooms, but also in hallways, the cafeteria, and outside of school buildings.

Too often, schools respond to violence with punishment, including schools here in Chicago. CPS has one of the highest suspension rates in the nation. Suspension and expulsion rates have declined overall in the last 10 years, but there is a “discipline gap” in which CPS students of color experience a far higher rate of suspension, and expulsion from school. While African American males comprise 25% of CPS students, for example, they represent 45% of the students suspended from school and are the students who are most likely to drop out.

Multiple studies confirm that student misbehavior that impacts school safety does not vary significantly by student ethnicity or race. In other words, student misbehavior is consistent across ethnic and racial groups. However, there is consistent and staggering evidence of disproportionate disciplinary referrals and sanctions. African American youth, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Latino/a and Native American youth, experience disproportionate amounts of school disciplinary actions. In the 2009–2010 school year 44,567 of CPS’s approximately 410,000 students were suspended. Suspensions continue unabated in CPS despite research that shows the negative impact on students’ school performance and school safety. Our “solutions” are not only missing the problem, but also are exacerbating other problems.

The main purposes of this research brief are to highlight the often overlooked problem of gender and sexual harassment for girls and LGBTQ youth of color, and to recommend that harsh school discipline procedures for students involved in incidences of harassment and bullying be replaced by restorative justice strategies that heal, rather than harm. This research brief synthesizes current research to offer a more complex understanding of the problem of school violence and presents an alternative framework for the solution of making schools safer through restorative justice practices, particularly for girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students of color. Because fewer than 10% of CPS students are white, when referring to girls and LGBTQ youth in CPS, this brief necessarily centers its analysis on girls and LGBTQ students who are predominantly African American and/or Latino/a.

This briefing paper was prepared by William Ayers, Leslie Rebecca Bloom, Kevin Kumashiro, Crystal Laura, Chris Mack, Erica Meiners, Kate Phillippo, Amira Proweller, and Gerri Spinella.