Leaders Abandoning Trump

Noting all these corporate and other leaders abandoning Trump’s various advisory committees and task forces. Can’t decide whether this is a good move from a leadership standpoint, or whether it would have been a better idea to attend the meetings, and confront POTUS and his staff on the multitude of issues they don’t get. And certainly don’t get right.

Here’s a latest one…


CICS Celebrates 20 years

20 years of great work for mostly underserved, under-represented kids in Chicago, CICS celebrated yesterday at the UIC Pavilion. Our Distinctive Schools team is proud to be a part of it all. Anxious for the work to continue in these college prep focused campuses. Have a great school year.

Emotional Engagement, Looking Beyond Test Scores

In a recent article David Brooks states, “Education is one of those spheres where the heart is inseparable from the head.” If students are to succeed, the best possible conditions for them, for anyone, is to come from a home where they feel safe and secure. Experiencing strong attachments to family and friends allow them to bond with teachers and parents. They need positive reinforcement and some sense of identity, some confidence about their own worth and some sense of agency about their own future.

Today many students come to school lacking a secure emotional base. In the first five years the kind of educational environment that surrounds a child is the most important for effective nurture.

Teachers who motivate their students to show up every day and throw themselves into school life may not even realize how good they are, because emotional engagement is not something we measure and stress.


Music Ed. Accelerates Development of Auditory, Speech, and Language Skills

The study of music seems to have helped accelerate cognitive development, and particularly the auditory and speech and language-processing abilities, of a group of young children in Los Angeles.  The students are taught using an approach based on El Sistema, developed in Venezuela. They receive free instruments and intensive, regular training from adult musicians. To gauge their brain development the students are occasionally monitored with MRIs, EEGs, and other activities.

Research two years into the study revealed the students in the music group were more able to identify differences in musical pitch than other students. The brain scans also showed that these students had more-developed auditory pathways than their peers. Development in auditory processing also affects students’ ability to process speech and language, which means it could have an impact on students’ academic progress as well as musical abilities.

Most schools have experienced cuts in arts and music programs in recent decades. Advocates have been highlighting the inequitable distribution of arts programs in schools. (Many schools serving the most disadvantaged students don’t have robust arts programs.) Studies like this bolster claims that music education, especially where many students are living in poverty, could benefit children’s cognitive development.

Why so many Marginalized Students are left out of Gifted Education

A preliminary giftedness test given to all second-graders at a Broward County, Florida school has proved incredibly beneficial for the improving the academics of all students. The traditional system relied on nominations from teachers and parents, giving students who come from families with more resource an unfair advantage over their just as intelligent, but marginalized peers.

“The screening program led to a 180 percent increase in the gifted rate among all disadvantaged students, with a 130% increase for Hispanic students and an 80% increase for black students.”

These students were also more likely to have parents that spoke a primary language other than English. Under the new system, the new gifted students (who were predominantly black, latino, immigrant children and kids from lower income families) benefited academically. Because researchers noted poor and immigrant children tend to have lower test scores and grades on average, some may have been led to assume that few of them had the intellectual potential of more-privileged kids, but they excelled just as well as their peers already in the program.

In relation to the study, National Association for Gifted Children board chair George Betts said the standard educator and parent referrals are not enough to identify all gifted students. It’s time to change the way we approach gifted classes and make sure that students in those classes reflect the larger demographic of their schools’ as a whole to be sure students of all backgrounds have a chance for advancement.

Congrats! CICS West Belden Featured in EdSurge

Using technology in the classroom is now the standard, but teachers and schools must decide which tools to use and how to implement them. Distinctive SchoolsCICS West Belden is among the schools interviewed about technology in the classroom for a recent EdSurge article. In conjunction with LEAP Innovation, West Belden has been narrowing down tools for learning to find those that are most beneficial for instruction. Teachers are after tech that helps analyze data “at the speed of teaching” by immediately crunching data.

“Digital tools like the ones West Belden has put into place give students the ability to work at their own pace and progress as they learn key concepts, without teachers losing the ability to track their performance.”

Relationships between developers like those at LEAP Innovation, and teachers like those at CICS West Belden are being formed to select and craft software that works for teachers are students with a teacher’s first hand input driving decisions and development.

Keep up the good work West Belden!!!


Do Military Recruiters Belong in Public Schools?

The United States Armed Forces can offer an incomparable
opportunity for our country’s youth: paid college tuitions, specialised training, marketable skills, discipline and integrity. A course through the Armed Forces can turn into a lifelong career. This much acknowledged, do recruiters belong in the Public School System? Out of all of the developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one that permits this.

What began as presentations with an open invitation for students to visit recruiting offices, has evolved to a level that goes very much unadvertised by the Recruitment Departments. Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools give the military as much access to campuses and student contact info, as given to any other recruiter. Brian Lagotte, University of Kansas anthropologist has expressed concerns that school officials do not fully understand the policy and have granted unrestricted access of the campus to recruiting officers. He has found that a multitude of schools go so far as to allow military recruiters to coach sports, serve as substitute teachers and engage in extra circular activities.

Unsurprisingly, data released by the Army indicates that their recruitment activities in the State of Connecticut last year disproportionately targeted schools with high levels of low-income students. With all respect and admiration due for the armed forces, this does come across as predatory. And while it’s very much true that the military can offer a viable opportunity to escape the low-income generational cycle; should it be presented so overwhelmingly that it appears the only option? Should we be allowing recruiters to serve as substitute teachers? Or does this cross a line? I welcome you to share your opinions or experiences with this in the comment section below.

7 Solutions to the 7 Threats to High School Graduation

In the United States, we have indeed seen a tremendous improvement in high school graduation rates. Yet the numbers of high school dropouts still hover around half a million annually. In this brief article, the seven greatest threats to high school completion are explored, along with proposed solutions to each.

Now that our work in Acceleration Academies is entering its 4th year, these same threats are more real than ever before. We must progress on this front much. I’m proud of the school districts we partner with as they work to prevent the problem and we work to recover those kids who fell through the cracks.


The Crisis Facing Young African Americans in Chicago

Nationwide, the dropout and unemployment rates of African American youth are significantly higher than white/Caucasian counterparts. These numbers are rooted in systemic issues widely acknowledged and agreed upon by educational and civic professionals. Looking forward as a society, we attempt to bridge that gap; ideally, there would be genuinely equal economic and educational opportunity, regardless of race. Some localities have wider gaps to solve than others:

Chicago may lead with the percentage of unemployed African American youth for big, American cities: according to this Chicago Tribune article. An estimated 41 percent (aged 20-24 years old) are jobless. These statistics indicate that there is nothing short of a crisis facing Chicago’s black community

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