Several NW Side schools to get funds for programs
by KEVIN GROSS
Several Northwest Side schools will receive funding for expansion of academic programs as part of a $32 million investment from Chicago Public Schools in the next 6 years at schools citywide.
"Chicago schools are stronger than ever, and together we are laying the foundation for a bright future for students across the city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press release. "By expanding high-quality academic programs in schools across the city, we are supporting the record academic progress Chicago’s students are making, and inspiring the next generation as they continue to shatter barriers and redefine what they can accomplish when given the opportunity to succeed."
The investment is possible due to changes to the education spending formula that was signed by former Governor Bruce Rauner in 2017.
Northwest Side schools benefiting from the program expansion will include $72,500 to Roosevelt High School, which will become one of the first high schools on the Northwest Side where students receive instruction in two languages, $235,000 each for new science, technology, engineering, arts and math or STEAM programs at Steinmetz Prep High School and Peterson School, $200,000 for a new International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program at Locke School, and $120,000 each for new fine and performing arts magnet programs at Portage Park and Belmont-Cragin schools.
Citywide, the program expansion is expected to affect nearly 17,000 students, according to the press release. Schools identified their needs based on data from the district’s regional analysis conducted in 2018.
The STEAM programs at Steinmetz and Peterson would help integrate engineering and science topics and technology into core class curricula and lead to certain computer science course requirements and new tech-based electives, according to a CPS vision statement.
The arts magnet programs at Belmont-Cragin and Portage Park schools would integrate arts into academic classes and increase extracurricular activities. Portage Park principal Maureen Wood said in an e-mail that they hope to add a new dance class teacher and an after-school dance program, new beautification programs such as student murals, and new cultural field trips.
"Schools with magnet arts and performing arts distinctions use arts integration to encourage innovative curriculum, and use high quality, rigorous standards to foster lifelong learning," she said.
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in an e-mail that Portage Park School could now accept students both from within its regular neighborhood boundaries and outside via a competitive application because it is a "magnet cluster" school.
Wood said that Portage Park School could "take in more students based on under-enrollment in specific grade levels," but that it is "a neighborhood school first and will only take in more students where we have space." The school’s enrollment is 850, she said.
Locke School’s new early-years IB program would prepare students age 12 and younger into Steinmetz High School’s existing IB program, which lets students take tests to receive college credit while in high school.
While discussing his school’s new dual language program, Roosevelt principal Daniel Kramer acknowledged that many schools already offer world language classes and English as a Second Language programs. However, he said that the Roosevelt program, slated to begin in fall of 2020, would further immerse students in classes such as chemistry, math or history that would be taught both in English and Spanish. As seniors, students could then test to receive a Seal of Biliteracy certificate, which could boost their potential college admissions or employment opportunities.
"At the university level there’s also a lot of cognitive research that says learning a second language contributes to one’s overall cognitive level, not just within a second language, but also in English compared to single language-speaking counterparts," Kramer said.
If the program is successful he hopes to expand dual-language curricula to additional languages in the future, listing Arabic and Urdu as languages that a growing number of its students already speak and Mandarin Chinese.
Kramer said that the school district awarded grants for new programs based on a proposal’s feasibility and vision, and that Roosevelt’s request was helped due to the fact the school already employs a high number of bilingual teachers.
"Rather than a top-down agenda and CPS saying ‘here’s what you get,’ we were able to look at our numbers and data and engage our community members and faculty and say to CPS ‘here’s what we need’," Kramer said. "We knew from enrollment numbers that our students often, perhaps 80 percent of them, enter our halls speaking more than one language or other primary languages at home …We’re located in one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the United States, and right now there are 28 languages spoken by students here (at Roosevelt)."