|IASB JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE|
2003 JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Board members become learners on schools tour
Right on schedule, yellow buses pulled up to the door to take eager learners to school.
The only difference? These students were school board members.
For the 32nd year, Chicago Public Schools opened their doors for the Chicago
Schools Tour during the Triple I Conference. And more than 150 school board members took
the opportunity to learn about successful, innovative programs in the state's largest
"We're big," CEO Arne Duncan told school tour participants during
breakfast before they boarded their bus, "but we also share some common
Issues of poverty, test scores and English as a second language are not confined to
Chicago, Duncan said.
Schools selected for this year's tour included:
- Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, a magnet school that school prepares
students for careers in agricultural sciences and agribusiness, and is located on the last
working farm in the city.
- Lane Technical High School, another magnet school that focuses on technology learning
and houses three outstanding art collections.
- Daniel Hale Williams Multiplex, a reconfigured renaissance school, which serves the
Dearborn Homes housing projects, with four schools within a school.
- Two preschool programs - Dewey Child Parent Center, a federally funded early
childhood program, and Rachel Carson Elementary School, which has a state-funded pre-K
program, a dual language pre-K class and a full-day kindergarten.
- Pilsen Community Academy, a neighborhood school that focuses on literature and writing,
and John Spry Community School/Community Links High School, which opened in September with
its first 30 students and has a focus on service learning.
The diversity of the programs toured emphasizes the CPS goal to get away from a
one-size-fits-all mentality in education, Duncan said. "Our mission here is to make
every school in Chicago a school of choice."
During their tours, board members were able to observe classrooms as well as hear from
building administrators about the programs offered in each building. They could ask
questions and take home ideas, not only on classroom structure and programs but learning
strategies, like "Math Chants." The program is a responsive, rap-like exchange
between a teacher and a student that helps teach math facts.
One of the truly unique buildings toured this year was the Williams Multiplex, which reopened in September after a yearlong planning and rehabilitation project. One three-story building currently houses four programs for children from preschool through ninth grade, with the intent to expand through grade 12 over the next three years.
Shenita Johnson, CPS liaison to Williams Multiplex and a tour guide, said
community/parent input was crucial to the decisions made before the school reopened. One
of the biggest was the decision to add a high school program that began this year with 30
The program, known as Big Picture, allows students, parents and staff to develop
individualized learning programs based on the student's interest. In addition to time
in class, each student serves an internship with firms such as a photographer, a
veterinarian and a family law practice.
In addition to Big Picture for high school students, William Multiplex has an
elementary (pre-K through grade 3) program that partners with the Erickson Institute; the
Williams Preparatory Academy (grades 4 through 8); and KIPP Chicago Youth Village Academy,
which began this year with grades 4 and 5. KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) features an
expanded day, with students attending school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as an
expanded year (44 weeks).
Each program has its own principal and students are easily identified by the color of
their shirts. The principals also have a senior advisor, Frances Oden, a veteran principal
with 38 years in education.
"Each school has its own philosophy but (shares) the same goal," Oden told the
18 board members who toured Williams Multiplex. "We want to be different, but we want
to work together as a team to ensure we have a quality education for every child."
Kim Ambrose, the parent of a KIPP student and herself a graduate of Williams, said it
took many people to design the school. "The kids and staff are working very hard to
make our Renaissance program a success."
Seeing successful programs in action is the goal of the Chicago Schools Tour. Tariq
Butt, a member of the Chicago school board and the IASB board of directors, commended those who took the time not only to make the tour but to attend conference.
"You are securing the future for children by attending conference and
learning," Butt said.
Participation in the tours is open to Conference registrants for an additional
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