Chicago

Acero teachers begin nation’s first charter union strike

This week Chalkbeat reporter Yana Kunichoff reported from the front lines of the nation's first-ever charter strike, which is now stretching into day four. The strike has elevated a considerable list of teacher demands and made compelling political theatre, but it has displaced 7,500 students, putting a considerable strain on families. Working parents have had to scramble for coverage or leave their children home alone, while parents who don’t work or who have flexible jobs, have had to contend with bored and confused children. Meanwhile, public and community organizations such as the Chicago Park District and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago have stepped in to help.

Late in the week, both sides reported small gains in negotiations — even on the contentious issue of the pay scale for support staff. But as of Friday morning, the strike was still on, and demonstrators planned to spread their protest to the offices of Ed Burke, an early supporter of the charter network whose increasingly Latino ward includes seven Acero campuses.

Stay tuned and keep following us for the latest coverage. 

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org. And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.  One more reminder: Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live- tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @yanazure.

The Week in Review

School closing overturned: A county judge ruled on the side of parents at National Teachers Academy, effectively blocking the district’s plan to convert the elementary school into a new high school on the Near South Side. Read about the historic decision at Chalkbeat Chicago.

From theory to practice: When Chicago Public Schools rolled out a comprehensive inventory of its schools and programs earlier this fall, community activists feared that the district would wield the report to close yet more sparsely attended neighborhood schools, and bring in more charters. But the opposite happened. Chalkbeat Chicago explored the precedent-making decision.

Charter backers stand up: Propelled by fears that Chicago is turning a cold shoulder to charters, a parade of charter parents from networks across the city weaved through striking Acero teachers outside school district headquarters to speak to the school board Wednesday. Chalkbeat Chicago was there.

A generation of school closings: WBEZ unveiled a new project focused on school actions in Chicago since the 2001-02 school year. A team of reporters tallied every school opening, closing, re-staffing, and phaseout, released an interactive overview of the data, and published a deep dive into the dozens of vacant closed school buildings that litter Chicago neighborhoods.

Nursing contract under fire: The school board approved $26 million in spending through the next three years on eight nursing temp agencies, including one that has come under fire for failing to provide students with enough care. The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ousted principal speaks out: Michael Beyer was removed last month from his post as principal of Ogden International School in the Gold Coast after the district’s inspector general accused him of falsifying attendance records. This week, he spoke out about his dismissal in an interview with ABC7. Watch it here.

Looking Forward

Annual Regional Analysis meetings: Chicago Public Schools will hold five more workshops offering the public a chance to comment on a controversial report about enrollment, academic options and quality at schools throughout Chicago. Here’s a list of presentations to come.

Final week for GoCPS: Families have until Dec. 14 to apply to schools outside their neighborhood via the district’s GoCPS application.

Education for all? On Dec. 12, we’re hosting our biggest public forum to date on the topic of Chicago’s next mayor and the future of schools in the city. Our event has sold-out, but we’ll release a few seats today to the first newsletter subscribers who email us at chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org. Use the subject line “Event.”

#HighFive

Kudos to Chicago Public Schools for earning a spot on the College Board’s annual AP District Honor Roll. The designation recognizes school districts committed to boosting access to AP courses for underrepresented students while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students who score a “3” or higher (considered a passing exam) on AP exams. According to district data, from 2011 to 2017, the number of students taking AP exams increased by nearly 44 percent, or 6,907 students, even as overall enrollment declined. And the number of students receiving a “3” or higher on at least one AP exam nearly doubled during that same time period.