With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hang tough Gresham!

“At least give us one school in the community where AUSL don’t have to take over,” Candace Stigler shouted in the school’s gym. -- WBEZ

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Principal Diedrus Brown, Ald. Brookins and the Walter Gresham Elementary School community for having the courage to resist Byrd-Bennett's move to hand their school over to the private management company,  AUSL.

They're standing on solid ground when they say the resource-starved schools has been making steady progress. In 2004, when Brown became principal,  34.7 percent of Gresham students met or exceeded state standards, according to the Illinois School Report Card. By 2011, that number had almost doubled to 64.4 percent and Gresham was up to good standing status. But in 2012, the number of students meeting standards dropped to 58.3 percent and the school's good standing status was removed and now BBB is threatening to fire the entire faculty and staff.
Network Chief Elizabeth Kirby told the 200 parents and community members at a Wednesday meeting that Gresham was being proposed for a turnaround because of a "steady decline" in academic performance. -- DNAinfo
Gresham is a small school of 350 students. In schools of that size year-to-year dips and bumps in test scores are common, as 3 or 4 high or low-scoring kids graduate or enter the school. It's one reason why even the test makers don't want schools to use short-term score swings as measurements of school success or failure.

Gresham parents & community members pack meeting.
The problem faced by Gresham and many other neighborhood schools in the south and west sides, is not test scores, but a lack of resources. Even though it's a small school, CPS spent millions of dollars renovating Gresham last summer, a lot of it was spent on installing two elevators, which Brown said the school did not have the disabled population to support. "I don't know any school that has two elevators," says Brown.

Meanwhile, the school has no librarian and, like so many neighborhood schools, is in bad need of a music and art teacher.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), whose ward includes Gresham Elementary, is also against the proposal.
"I am going to try and stop it. I am against the school turnaround," Brookins said Thursday. "And I have concerns about [the Academy of Urban School Leadership] taking over the school and cutting out the Local School Council in the process."

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