A Chicago mom | Chicago Reader

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Re: “How Rahm Emanuel can 'save' the schools (and he doesn't have to give me credit)

Yes, CPS is a mosaic. The challenge in any large public school district is striking the balance between the needs of every individual student, focus on the tail ends of a bell curve and making every decision work for the "vast middle". Each approach has its advantages and limitations. Add politics and austerity in public funding (partially (or a whole lot) the result of politics) and the work gets really complicated. At the end of the day no one, even brilliant muckraking journalists, can be happy.

And frankly, I think that's the point of a participatory democracy--we get the best of the big group's ideas combined with the wisdom of expertise and experience.

The fact is, the vast majority of students in Chicago's public schools simply don't have the opportunity to participate in "after school" activities such as violin lessons, chess team, swim team or painting class. We know the many reasons why this is sad but simple truth. It's also the case that time in public school for Chicago's children is too often taken up by things other than basic instruction (yet alone regular recess.)

When we at The VIVA Teachers' Project asked CPS teachers how they would structure time in school if they ruled the world, guess what? They said they'd want more time with students, they'd want more "after school" activities built into the regular daily routine, they'd want recess every day ("its a human right") and they'd want gym and sports programs for all CPS students. You can take a look at their written report--containing 6 recommendations and 49 (yes 49) specific suggestions for how to make time work better for students and their teachers here: www.vivateachers.org .

I suspect if the parents in Mt. Greenwood, and Austin and South Lawndale, talked with CPS teachers about how to give all kids--those who are advanced and can benefit from "enrichment" and those who need to work more slowly or to catch up on time lost in the past--the time for both mastering the content and developing into critical thinkers, there'd be a lot less angst about Mayor Emanuel's vision for giving all (and that means all, even those who can otherwise buy their way out) Chicago student a fighting shot at the public education they deserve.

Sure, the devil is in the details and CPS leadership has a huge lift to actually implement a school calendar that delivers what the students in each school and neighborhood need, but the vision of a big public system actually meeting the needs of kids rich and poor is not one we should rally against. As the founder of The VIVA Project, I am grateful that 600 classroom teachers in Chicago public school took the time to do just that--put politics and self interest aside just long enough to use their professional expertise and hard-won experience to think big about a big problem and be specific about real solutions for all students.

6 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by A Chicago mom on 03/30/2012 at 1:35 PM

Re: “The Bulldog at the Gate

On line transparency is not the answer. I tried to find simple information last night about the number of CPS schools in Belmont Cragin. I ended up relying on the realtors' on line resources because CPS organizes their virtual information according to their bureaucracy not according to students, parents or community need. My sympathies and gratitude to all you reporters who will be dealing with the closed castle. We in the community depend on you.

Posted by A Chicago mom on 12/11/2009 at 8:26 PM

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