Schools Close Despite Student Walkouts and Mass Protests

February 28, 2009

There was a huge, defiant protest of parents, students, and teachers at the Board meeting February 27th, 2009. Around 150 students walked out of Orr High School and picketed in front of the Board; buses and vans came from other schools. Some TSJ teachers took off work and some brought students to the protest.

Congratulations! Despite carefully prepared testimony and strong evidence, school protests, door to door organizing, petitions, and courageous stands by families, students, communities, and teachers, the Board went ahead and voted its plan to close, consolidate and reconstitute 18 schools. Abbott Elementary School parents were victorious in stopping CPS's plan to close down their school which is the heart of the Wentworth Gardens housing community. Congratulations to Abbott parents and staff for this important victory!!

Two things are clear:
1) There is a large outpouring of opposition and many strong parent and community leaders with the clarity and will to fight for quality education for all children in their neighborhoods. They are an inspiration and the base of a city-wide movement to take back Chicago public schools.

2) CPS administration has acted with complete disregard for the will of the community and all evidence contesting their plan. The "hearings" were a complete sham. Jobs in "turn-around" schools run by AUSL were already posted and postings closed by Feb. 20, 7 days before the board was supposed to weigh the evidence and make a decision about the schools. Parents at one school were told their school would be phased out even though officials had not looked at the evidence they presented. The board meeting was worse. Although we arrived at 6:30 AM they wouldn't let us sign up to speak until 8AM; they "reserved" exactly half the seats for CPS staff and only opened one overflow room to keep the public out of the public hearing. They kept out the hundreds of others who came to oppose the board's decisions even though there were empty seats in both rooms. They arrogantly disrespected the parents and students who spoke against the board's decision. Neighborhood schools are being replaced with magnet schools, disenfranchising communities of color and handing over their schools to gentrify neighborhoods and/or save the board money.

TSJ is working with an emerging coalition that includes Pilsen Alliance, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Save Senn, Midsouth Education Association, Blocks Together, parent groups at schools, and other community groups. Our common message is: Moratorium on all school closings until there can be an independent study of the effects on students and school communities. School decisions should be determined by the school community.

Next steps:
*Strengthen and expand a principled coalition for equitable and quality education in the hands of communities. Define what this means and develop a protracted plan of unified action.


*Build a campaign for an elected school board and the end of running schools as businesses for business. We need schools of social justice. Read the Full Story


Schools Affected (2009)

February 22, 2009

Las Casas Occupational - closed (don't want to renew the lease, building not in good shape) - students will go to home schools
South Chicago Elementary (under-enrolled), students going to home school
Peabody Elem 1440 W Augusta - receiving schools Ogden, Talcott, Lozano

Carpenter - receiving schools Ogden, Talcott, Lozano--PROBABLY SHIFTED TO PHASE OUT
Nia Foundation -
Princeton - students go to home schools

Abbott - consolidated into Hendrix
Schiller - consolidated into Jenner
Medill - consolidated into Smith-Joyner
Global Vision consolidated into New Millenium
Davis Developmental Center 91st Jeffery - will consolidate with Hughes into new building being built for Hughes (which burned down)

Phase out
Key - Ellington receiving
Lathrop - receiving schools Johnson and Lawndale
Hamilton - receiving Blaine, Burley, Audubon
Best Practice
Reed - receiving Banneker Parker and Nicholson

Johnson 1420 S. Albany
Bethune 3030 N, Lawndale
Holmes - 955 W. Garfield

Fenger HS
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Research Reports Support Moratorium on School Closings

February 21, 2009

Two studies were released on Tuesday Feb 17th at a GEM press conference. They can be found below at the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education website. The first critiques CPS school closing criteria, examines patterns of gentrification and school closings, and has three case studies of schools to be closed (turn-around, phased out). The second analyzes ACT scores of charter and neighborhood high schools, and looks at differences in the student bodies.

This report provides data that can be used to examine Chicago Public Schools plan to close, consolidate, phase out or turn-around 22 schools announced January 16, 2009. This report builds on the framework and analyses of the Data and Democracy research paper released February 2008.
February 2008
Paper #1: Examining CPS' plan to close, consolidate 11 schools and turn-around 8 schools

Available for dowload in PDF*

The report provides data that can be used to examine the Chicago Public School district's plan to close, consolidate and turn-around several schools. Announced January 24, 2008, the plan - if approved - is to be implemented following a decision made by the CPS board at its February meeting. CPS announced it would use the turn-around model to address chronic under-performance in 8 elementary and high schools and relocations, phase-outs, consolidations, and closings to address underenrollment in 11 elementary schools. Data in this report show these schools are primarily in communities of color experiencing gentrification or rapidly changing demographics. Read the Full Story


HB 363: Moratorium on School Closings

Rep. Cynthia Soto's HB 0363 putting a one-year moratorium on school closings PASSED the House Education committee on Thursday Feb19th...an important step in the process! It next goes to the House floor, then to the Senate.

GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) people (including parents) came from Chicago and met w/ reps yesterday, then a number of people testified this morning at the committee meeting. A partial victory!
See the press release from Designs for Change, a GEM member.


State Rep Cynthia Soto (4th Legislative District) has introduced a bill that would (1) place a one-year moratorium on school closings, turnarounds, phaseouts, and consolidations; (2) establish a Joint School Facilities Subcommittee consisting of 3 members from both the State House and State Senate Education Committees; and (3) institute an equitable process for school openings, closings, repairs, turnarounds, phaseouts, and consolidations with wide community involvement, which would be in effect once the moratorium ends. [The bill]

Below are the 17 House Co-Sponsors of House Bill 363.  This large number of co-sponsors reflects the work of the GEM coalition, affected schools, and Representative Soto herself:

Luis Arroyo - Karen A. Yarbrough - Sara Feigenholtz - Maria Antonia Berrios, Marlow H. Colvin, William Davis, Paul D. Froehlich, Annazette Collins, Elizabeth Hernandez, LaShawn K. Ford, Esther Golar, Deborah Mell, Arthur L. Turner, Michael K. Smith, Thomas Holbrook and Monique D. Davis

The more we can add to this list, the stronger the momentum will be to pass the bill. Please help by CALLING your state rep on this point. Soto's press release which has "talking points" you can use.

To find the State Representative for your school address or home address, go to: http://civicfootprint.org.  Enter the address and all the elected officials for that address will be displayed. Thanks to Don Moore and Designs for Change for working on the legislative piece.
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Curriculum: The Whale's Stomach & Environmental Justice

February 5, 2009 0 comments

Preview: The bag of items represents the stomach contents of a dying, 28-foot female sperm whale found on a beach in North Carolina in December, 1992. Veterinarians concluded that none but the smallest pieces of plastic could have passed through the whale’s intestinal tract, and that the garbage was a large contributing factor to, if not the entire reason for, the whale’s death. It is assumed that sperm whales either mistake plastic for food, or, perhaps more likely, go after squid that are hiding in and around the garbage and accidentally swallow the plastic as well. Finding plastic in whales is uncommon, but this is not an isolated incident. Most whales who die do so off shore and are not found by people.

Level: Grade 4 and up
Time: 15-45 minutes
Relevant subjects: Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies

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Curriculum: Math & the Vanishing Rainforests

 A discussion of the importance of Rainforests and how we can analyze their health.

Writer: Pamela Krausz, Institute for Humane Education
Grades: 6 through 8
Areas: Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies

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Curriculum: More than a Label: Analyizing Attitudes & Practicing Tolerance

This activity inspires students to think about their own areas of bigotry and to identify how we develop our attitudes about others, and it empowers them to take action to reduce bigotry in their own lives and in society.

Curriculum Writers: Amy Morley, Kristina Hulvershorn, M. Ed., Institute for Humane Education

Grades: 9 & up
Time: 90 minutes
Relevant Subjects: Social Studies and Language Arts

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Curriculum: Analyzing Advertising

From the Institute for Humane Education and The Power and Promise of Humane Education.

Curriculum Writers: Amy Morley, Kristina Hulvershorn, M. Ed., Institute for Humane Education
Level: 5 and up
Time: 45-60 minutes

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Curriculum: Using Visual Arts to Explore Local Community

A visual arts lesson plan that allows students to explore their connection to their local community. For very young students to begin to foster a sense of community engagement and social justice, an important first step is recognizing one’s connection and relationship with the immediate community around them.

Using collage artist Bryan Collier’s book Uptown as a starting point, students will study the way that Collier integrates painting, photographic images, and other mixed media into collages that emphasize and celebrate the local cultural heritage of the neighborhood of Harlem. In similar process, students will choose a personally meaningful image from a wide selection of photos of places of interest from around their own local community, create a collage, and write a memory about their community. The exhibit will provide an explanation of the lesson, student work, and guidelines for how educators in other disciplines could use a similar process in their classroom.

Curriculum Writer: Annie S.
Level: Early Elementary
Area: Visual Art

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Curriculum: Examining Conflict Histories from Multiple Perspectives

The content focuses on the conflict surrounding labor unions from the perspectives of: the government, management, pro-union laborers, and anti-union laborers.

It should be noted that this was classwork for a college social studies methods class and taught to college-level peers.  The lesson would need to be adapted for younger students.  

Writers: Stephanie D., Gina C., and Sarah W.
Level: Elementary
Area: Social Studies

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Curriculum: Unit Plan: What Young People Should Know Before Joining the Military

“What Young People Should Know Before Joining the Military” is a unit designed for a 10th grade US History class. The historical component revolves around imperialism and the Spanish-American War. A contemporary connection is made through a look at imperialism and the Iraq War. The final project for the unit consists of group presentations on what CPS students should know about the military before they consider joining. The presentations were videotaped and then edited and compiled to make a 15-minute video that was posted on YouTube.

Writer: J. Cyriac M.
Level Grade 10
Area: U. S. History

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Class-produced Videos:

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Curriculum: Anti-Hate Campaign: Teaching Anti-Hate Using the Holocaust as a Lens

What is hate? Introducing the word HATE:

To begin our study about standing up against hate, the students and I brainstormed words and situations that we associated with the word HATE. We created a web on large chart paper that still hangs in the back of the room. From this discussion, my students mentioned ideas around gang fights in their communities, violence on the street and bullying in school. We talked about how hate can escalate into violence and how people get involved in violent acts that are fueled with hate.

The next day, the students were broken into groups to define vocabulary around hate and intolerance. The students created their own definitions and then created posters to depict the meanings. These posters to posted around the classroom for reference throughout the entire unit. Vocabulary used: Intolerance, discrimination, prejudice, axis powers, allied powers, genocide, segregation, and holocaust.
Day by day: How 5th graders began to understand how hate can escalate…

Compiled by Alissa L. and Liav S.

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Curriculum: Unit Plan: Realistic Fiction: Characters Just Like Me

Unit Description: This unit will be based off the Teachers College Writing Unit for Realistic Fiction and Reading Unit for Character Study. Students will explore their own identities. They will have multiple opportunities to embrace those identities, which promotes positive self-esteem. They will also learn how those identities can be the source of tension in various situations. Students will write Realistic Fiction pieces with characters that share similar identities to them. They will feature a situation where a particular identity is the cause of conflict.

Compiled by Alissa L. and Liav S., Brooklyn

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Resource: Community Building Activities

Most teachers spend some portion of the school year, especially early in the year, doing community building activities. Many of these activities are centered on getting to know each other. We believe firmly in “going deeper.” This includes developing students’ sense of self-love, acceptance and understanding of classmates, and strengthening listening skills in order to promote comfortable, safe learning spaces.

Compiled by: Liav S., Brooklyn
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Sample activities include:

CHAIN OF STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES – Students use sentence strips. On one side of the sentence strip the student writes one of his/her strengths (academic or personal). On the other side of the sentence strip the student writes one of his/her weaknesses. Students share these in a circle. As they share, students use a stapler to create a link in the paper chain. After each person shares, the class watches as the chain grows. The teacher explains how each person has strengths AND weaknesses. Teacher guides students to notice how flimsy a single strip of paper is compared to the chain. Teacher emphasizes that this year students do not have to feel alone when working on their weakness but rather that they have a support network. Our students frequently discuss their strengths and weaknesses openly and freely ask for help from their classmates. Our classroom environment is noticeably stronger because of these discussions around strengths and weaknesses.

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES READ ALOUDS – Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patrica Palacco, “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara, found in the book of short stories called America Street, and Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick are valuable texts that support the students’ acceptance of their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.

WEB OF COMMONALITIES – Sitting in a circle on the rug, one student starts by saying something about him/herself. Student then passes a ball of yarn to another person who shares that commonality. Students see how these commonalties make a web. They see how interconnected they are as well as how strong and intricate the community is with each and every commonality. The students really enjoy this activity! Later a bulletin board was created to visually show the activity and commonalities. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents loved looking at the bulletin board and began to see the values we are emphasizing in our classrooms.

CLASS BILL OF RIGHTS – New York State begins 5th grade Social Studies with studying local, state, and federal government. Students review concepts government, democracy, basic rights, values, and documents through creating their own Class Bill of Rights. Students also review the Bill of Rights and the NYC Dept. of Education’s Student Bill of Rights. Most classrooms create some sort of classroom rules. Our goals were to connect classroom rules to the mandated Social Studies curriculum AND establish strong communities.

IALAC – Lesson taken from Open Minds to Equality by Nancy Schniedewind and Ellen Davidson. Students learn what it means to feel “lovable and capable.” Students create a paper IALAC and slowly rip it apart while reading about a boy’s bad day. After ripping the paper IALAC, students are asked to put it back together. They call out “but I can’t!” or “it won’t work!” Explain to students that once somebody’s IALAC can be broken it takes a lot of tape, and love, to repair it. Reference students’ IALACs and characters’ IALACs throughout the year. An “IALAC” feels tangible to students whereas discussing self-worth and self-confidence is abstract. Students use this term throughout the year at school and home. They feel comfortable saying that their IALAC feels “low” or “broken.”

WRITING ABOUT OUR IALACS – Our mandated literacy curriculum (the Reading and Writing Project from Teacher’s College at Columbia University) requires that students begin the year by writing Personal Narratives. We viewed this Personal Narrative Unit as an opportunity to build our community and accomplish our academic goals. Students had to feel safe to share these stories to partnerships and have others read them. Going through the Writing Process with an important, personal story was motivating for students. This also emphasized that authors write with purpose and often reveal themselves in their writing.

ACTIVE LISTENING – During the first week of school, students created a Class Bill of Rights. The students chose to include “actively listen” as one of their agreements. A few weeks into the school year it became evident that students did not have a clear, or common, vision of what it meant to “actively listen.” These words had no meaning to them and therefore were not following the rule they had created.

Calling out is a common issue during classroom lessons. In order to bring the students’ attention to this issue, try this activity from ___________. Begin by having the students stand in a circle. Present them with the challenge of counting to 10. There is no set order of who speaks and if there are two or more people who speak at once, the class starts again at one. Students are excited with the challenge, and start the game strong! Their concentration is clear! Then, students quickly begin to get stuck around 2 or 3. Stop the students to discuss why this is happening. Students explain that their classmates are “getting too excited,” “want to speak REALLY badly,” “forgot the rules,” or “feel the rules are too easy and don’t want to follow them” to name a few. Teacher then explains how these same things are happening in the classroom during lessons. Students are forgetting the rules or feel they were too easy and therefore don’t have to follow them. Students see this connection and it serves as a review of classroom rules and expectations. Play this game during transitions moments throughout the year and the students rise to the challenge! Once they get to 10, push them toward higher numbers!

Students also participated in a simulation activity demonstrating the significance of “not listening.” Lesson taken from http://www.experiential-learning-games.com/listeninggames.html. Students then worked in pairs to describe Active Listening, its importance, and the danger of “not listening.” As a class, we constantly discuss how listening often seems so easy and effortless but it is actually quite difficult and is a skill that needs to be developed. Students were exceptionally responsive to our activities and constantly refer to it. Students enthusiastically decided to embark on a journey of developing this skill and wanted to start an Active Listening Campaign at our school. Students have discussed ideas such as an Active Listening art installation for other students to walk by in the hallway, offering Active Listening workshops to other classes, and creating public service announcements.

“I CAUGHT YOU” JAR – Students fill out strips of paper where they can compliment a classmate on something wonderful they saw them doing. Students write things like “thank you for playing with me at recess” or “you made my IALAC feel big by explaining the math problem to me.” Once a week, the teacher pulls out three slips to read aloud to the class. Once the jar is full, all the slips are handed out to the recipients even if they have not been read. Our students look forward to this each week. They really enjoy complimenting each other and building up their classmates’ IALACs.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS – Students participate in weekly Community Meetings. This is a forum for students to bring issues to the community that are negatively impacting the classroom culture (i.e. bullying, classroom jobs not being fulfilled, teasing, stealing). The teacher or students may act as facilitators and must help resolve the issue. These serve as means to deliberately practice Active Listening and participate in democratic problem solving.

Also shared by Liav:

Children’s Books We LOVE!

· Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
· America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories by Anne Mazer
· Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
· Keep Your Ear on the Ball by Genevieve Petrillo and Lea Lyon
· Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
· Leon’s Story by Leon Walter Tillage and Susan L. Roth
· Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo
· Fire From the Rock by Sharon Drape
· A Taste of Colored Water by by Matt Faulkner
· Esperanza Rising
· Harvesting Hope
· Si Se Puede! Yes We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A. by Diana Cohn
· The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
· Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
· Luba, the Angel at Bergen Belsen by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick
· I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Hana Volavkova
· Anne Frank: Behind the Diary by Rian Verhoeven, Ruud Van der Rol, Tony Langham, and Plym Peters
· The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse
· Letters to Rifka
· Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Teacher Resources we LOVE!

Rethinking Columbus
Open Minds to Equality
Global Exchange Fair Trade Cocoa Unit and Chocolate Book




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Curriculum: Movement and Storytelling in Art

Movement is a powerful means of expression, and many artists have made
attempts to capture the feel of motion in their artwork. To get students to begin to
think about movement in their daily lives, specifically on their way to school (the
kinds of transportation used, the kinds of things they see in motion on their way,
and even the path they take through their neighborhood), and in preparation to
be thinking about puppet performance later in the semester, students will be
asked to engage themselves in studying various kinds of motion through
performing and line drawings to better their understanding of how to create the
illusion of movement, and how movement is involved in their own lives and in the

Curriculum Writer: Joshua R.

Level: Early Elementary

Area :Visual Art

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February 2, 2009 0 comments

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