Test scores, “warm and demanding” teachers, Obama returns

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, and intern Elaine Chen, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way:

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The big story

A reminder that Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen. 

Newly released test scores show that Chicago students have made small gains in math but flatlined in reading on a national test called NWEA. These scores matter a lot — they factor into students’ admission scores into selective-enrollment high schools and also factor into a school’s quality rating.

The gains aren’t equal among demographic groups. Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said half of black students still aren’t achieving at grade level. While 61 percent of Latino students met or exceeded grade level, that’s compared with 86 percent of Asian students and 84 percent of whites. There are also wide disparities in gains among schools. Search how your school compares here.

The week in review

Building trust is No. 1 for new principals: When schools open next week, 17 schools will see new principals at the helm. Chalkbeat Chicago sat down with three of them, who all agree that their priority is building trust among students, parents, and faculty.

Social emotional learning not just for students: Chalkbeat Chicago listened in on a panel discussion at the Leap InnovatEd Summit to hear how educators aim to recognize their own biases and control how they respond when teenagers argue.

Obama surprises summer interns: Former U.S. President Barack Obama showed up at Solorio Academy in Gage Park to host a roundtable discussion with participants of the city’s One Summer Chicago jobs and education program. WBEZ caught the highlights.

Another loss in Englewood: TEAM Englewood High School was originally going to be phased out in coming years along with two other Englewood high schools, but WBEZ confirmed that TEAM is now officially closed and students will have to transfer to existing schools.

Educators need trauma support, too: Shakita Smith, a teacher’s assistant at Pablo Casals School of Excellence in Humboldt Park, tells Chalkbeat Chicago why she thinks educators need social and emotional support to ensure their students’ well-being.

Advice from retiring CTU chief: Retiring Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis published her parting words this week: “With our due diligence, creativity, expertise and insights, we can one day make this the strongest school district in the nation.”

Looking ahead

Chicago educators who return to schools for staff training next week will encounter a slate of new measures, from curriculum changes to stringent new policies around student-staff interactions. What’s at the top of their minds as the school year looms? We’re asking educators to take this short survey and tell us.

South Side Weekly is hosting a community discussion on Sep. 15 at Kusanya Cafe reflecting on the stories of Robeson High School in Englewood, which closed in June. Since June, the Weekly has been collecting stories of former Robeson students, staff, and community members in the form of audio documentaries. Listen here.


PHOTO: Rick Coppola
Rick Coppola, a teacher and Ph.D. candidate, believes his teaching informs the theories he researches.

This week’s #HighFive goes out to Rick Coppola, a finalist for the Illinois School Board of Education’s 2019 Teacher of the Year — and he’s not only a teacher, but also a Ph.D. candidate.

He’s entering his fourth year at South Loop Elementary teaching seventh-grade language arts, and before that he taught at Drake Elementary for eight years. On top of teaching, he’s in his seventh year of doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying language literacy and culture.

“We always talk about how theory can inform practice,” he said, “but I think there’s a missed opportunity on how practice can speak back and inform theory.” One of his earlier doctoral projects, Project READI, examined how to support students in reading. Through teaching, he knew that he and fellow researchers needed to consider specific aspects of students’ lives — such as the need to take care of siblings, or long commutes to and from school — when developing ways to support students through the project.

After he finishes his doctoral program, “I do plan on staying in teaching,” he said, “I feel like it’s my soul’s work. It’s the place where I feel I have the greatest opportunity for impact.”