Monday, May 08, 2006

More on money and Chicago schools

The Chicago Reporter has a couple of great articles about the difficulties Chicago schools face. The cover story article compares Lincoln Park High School which has 10 science labs with Farragut which has one.

The schools in communities where residents are poor have to spend so much on things like tutoring and remedial programs, as well as preschool, special education, transportation and free lunch, that they have little left for much else. The article compares these schools to schools in Western Springs and Northbrook where there is money to spend on well-educated teachers, access to technology and programming in the fine arts, sports and extracurricular activities.

The second article tells the story of Mary McLeod Bethune elementary school at 3030 W. Arthington in East Garfield Park, my neighborhood, where the unemployment rate is 23% and the median household income is $24,216.
Principal Charlotte Stoxstell said she is stuck trying to choose between spending time and money on children’s emotional needs and pouring her energy and resources into academics. Those conflicting spending demands were apparent on Feb. 14, 2006, when Stoxstell discovered a fifth-grader who was not wearing the school uniform. The girl’s mother failed to get the uniform ready because an uncle was killed the night before in the alley behind her house.

The principal spent much of the rest of the day with the girl, a sister and her brother, making sure they had some time to talk with the school’s social worker. “It is not the first time this has happened,” Stoxstell said. “One mother told me she sent her kids to school so she would have time to make funeral arrangements. But how is a child supposed to learn after something so traumatic happens?”

Then, at the end of the day, a teacher mentioned to Stoxstell that the girl’s cousins---the children of the man killed---were also Bethune students and also were at school that day.

On the next day, Stoxstell focused on making sure that the murdered man’s children met with a social worker. Only this took some extra calling around because it wasn’t the day Bethune’s social worker was scheduled to be there. The social worker is assigned to three schools and spends two days a week at Bethune.

Bethune is one of the worst performing schools in the system with just 19 percent of the students performing at or above grade level in reading, math and science on state standardized tests.

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