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The [Wednesday] Papers

"Some of the city's high schools are shrinking. In fact, some are shrinking so dramatically, it's questionable whether students are getting access to a basic education," Linda Lutton reports for WBEZ.

I'm going to excerpt at length, but go read and/or listen to the whole thing.

Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city's West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers.

If you ask seniors Kendale Brice and Janiqua Johnson to list the teachers they're missing at Austin Business, it sounds like they're reading from a job board:

"We need a music teacher," Kendale says.

"We need a Spanish teacher," Janiqua adds.

"Last year we didn't have a Spanish teacher, so we had to take Spanish online," Kendale says.

"We need a science teacher - which is biology and forensic science," says Janiqua. "We need an English teacher for juniors and seniors."

Keyshawn Fields, a junior slated to take the ACT exam next month, says he had a biology teacher "for maybe three weeks at the beginning of the year, then she was gone." Music and Spanish - requirements for graduation - are offered online only, students say.

"It's hard, because sometimes some students (are) physical learners - like, they need to be in person with a teacher, and that doesn't help being online," says senior Moeisha Webb, who's in the online music class.

WBEZ interviewed a dozen students at Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, and all of them told the same story. Their core courses in English and science have been taught mostly by substitutes this year - sometimes a different substitute every day - meaning no homework, and often no classwork. One student said students are passed automatically since there are no teachers.

The root of the problem seems to be low enrollment.

And here's where the mayor comes in:

A West Side charter high school, Chicago Talent Development, announced this year it is phasing out, unable to attract enough students. Other schools with low enrollments are skimping on teachers, activities and electives.

And even new schools like Austin Business - which was started as a Renaissance 2010 school after CPS closed down Austin High School in 2004 for poor performance - are challenged. All three schools that opened in the Austin High building under Renaissance 2010 are struggling to attract kids, and struggling to keep promises of a better education. One of the schools, Austin Polytechnical Academy, had to write a grant this year to be able to pay for a college counselor; per pupil funding from CPS did not cover the cost.

But ironically, Chicago is adding high schools. The district recently approved seven new charters - five of them with high school seats - meaning students will be spread even thinner across schools like Austin. The district has said it will not close any schools for five years.

A few things:

1. You'd think low enrollment would be a good thing - smaller classes! But instead of taking advantage of low enrollment, CPS turns the opportunity into a crisis by pulling resources from those schools.

2. At Robeson High School in Englewood, where I'm involved in the Urban Youth Journalism Program, the students tell me that low enrollment means they don't have many activities because there aren't enough kids to sign up for them. They're also painfully aware of lack of equitable resources. And they tell me it just doesn't feel like they're getting a "high school experience" because the low enrollment depletes the energy in the school.

3. Low enrollment in some neighborhoods, of course, is the consequence of the city losing 175,000 blacks in the last decade - in part due to the destruction of public housing, as well as the devastating impact of the Great Financial Scandal and the city's rising cost of living. Closing schools in black neighborhoods only empties out the neighborhoods more. (Many parents won't move to a neighborhood without a school.) You can't build neighborhoods up by tearing them down. Public policy has to be integrated - policies for schools, housing and economic development, for example, have to complement each other. Which in a sense they do now, but not to the good. This is why Chicago needs a neighborhood mayor, not a downtown mayor.

4. Closing neighborhood elementary schools and opening charter elementary schools isn't going to help neighborhood high schools; charter schools are an entire system unto themselves, a privatized shadow district that seeks to retain students K-12.

5. When kids don't attend neighborhood schools, they don't acquire the same sense of community they would otherwise; charter schools represent an "every person for themselves" mentality disconnected from geography. This disembowels public institutions and promotes a dangerous kind of libertarianism that tears the social fabric because it separates people from each other - even those living on the same block. And elites separate themselves the fastest, like the best and the brightest attending Ivy League schools instead of their state institutions. Pretty soon elites don't want to pay taxes so other people can ride the CTA. And most importantly, public education continues to get defunded - and the vicious cycle becomes ever more vicious.

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Asking Axelrod
Bullshit and buttons.

Rethinking Chicago's Kickstarter Book Burner
A different kind of fail.

Lydia Loveless Loves Liver
And: Lupe's Leadership & Bizarro Bloodshot. In Local Music Notebook.

The Fantasy Fix Top 50
Can you spot the lone Chicago player?

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BeachBook
* Tenants To Protest Low-Income Housing Conditions Of Mayor's Pal.

* Huge FOIA Win Against CPD.

* Deployed Illinois Soldiers Receive Combat Patch.

* 30th Anniversary Meeting Of The International Titanium Association.

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Posted on March 12, 2014


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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