How teachers feel, police reform in schools, nature playgrounds

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:

The big story

PHOTO: Educators for Excellence
Kallie Jones (center), a Chicago Public Schools teacher, discusses results of E4E’s first nationwide teacher survey

In an era when every aspect of education is being examined and reexamined, how do teachers feel about some of the field’s most controversial topics? Teacher-advocacy group Educators for Excellence addressed that question with its first-ever survey, asking teachers how they feel about safety, discipline, school choice, and policy. More than four in 10 Chicago teachers feel unsafe at school, a markedly greater percentage than teachers nationally — but at the same time, Chicago teachers also feel better prepared to deal with violence and oppose arming teachers — more so than their peers across the nation, according to the survey. The group surveyed 1,000 teachers nationwide but drilled down with teacher groups in six cities, including Chicago. Chalkbeat looked closely at the results.

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The week in review

Police in schools: Only a few pages in a 232-page proposal for reforming Chicago police focus on police working in schools. But those pages could have a big impact. Chalkbeat Chicago explains. 

Proving the benefits of pre-K: Chicago schools released data this week that looks, five years later, at a cohort of students who attended CPS-funded pre-K. The announcement came on the same day Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced another early childhood education center at Passages Charter in Edgewater. Chalkbeat Chicago has the latest.

Speaking up for your child: Parents who have a child with a disability must navigate a maze of specialists, doctors, and public school choice to find the resources most suitable for their child. This week, Chalkbeat Chicago sat down with parents from Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) on the fifth stop of our Summer Listening Tour. They advised to document everything, compare notes with other parents, and more.

Teaching teachers about trauma: Trauma can make it hard for kids to learn. Here’s how Chicago teachers are learning to deal with that. Chalkbeat Chicago talks to a child psychologist who is preparing young teachers for the reality of the classroom.

Back to nature: This Chicago preschool teacher saw her young learners’ language blossom at a neighborhood natural playground. So she started a research project that compares natural playgrounds to traditional play spaces and classroom settings. Chalkbeat Chicago talks to her about her remarkable findings.

Abuse by peers: The Chicago Tribune followed up on its series about sexual abuse in Chicago schools, examining instances of student-on-student violence. The paper found that school staff and administrators failed to protect students in many cases.

For-profit school firm exposed: CPS is moving to debar Camelot LLC, which manages five schools in Chicago, following findings from the district’s Inspector General that the firm gained access to Chicago with help from educational consultants  involved in a kickback scheme with former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. WBEZ dug in.

School reformers with $200 million: A new group called the City Fund, which brings together education reformers from across the country, has raised $200 million in its efforts to push cities to adopt the portfolio model, in which district regulations are reduced and schools have more autonomy. Chalkbeat National reported.

Looking ahead

Two more listening tour events: We’re hosting two more events for our summer listening tour, in which we’re traveling around the city to hear from parents, students, and educators about their experiences in schools. On August 14, we’re partnering with OneGoal to host a discussion with high school teachers. And on August 23, we’re partnering with City Bureau to hold a public newsroom about education journalism. Join us!


Amber Anderson and her Black is Gold team

Last year, Kenwood High School incoming senior Amber Anderson and her student organization, Black is Gold, hosted a bookbag drive in Chatham at Urban Legends Hair Studio. The students passed out 100 backpacks filled with school supplies. This year, she says, “We wanted to make it a bigger and better event.” She said the goal was to pick a different community that needed help— “to give back to the students in the neighborhood to ensure that they have the necessaries supplies to succeed in the classroom.”

On Saturday, Anderson and the Black is Gold crew will stage an event at Marcus Garvey Elementary on the Far South Side. The students will provide backpacks, food and free hair services, says Anderson. “This event is very dear to my team and I. It gives us a chance to give back to our city.”

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