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Tag: education reform

The highest praise I ever possibly could shoot for as a journalist

This email made my day:

“Your two-part series on charter schools contains some of the best coverage on the issue I’ve seen from a local paper in a long time. Congratulations on introducing your readers to a new concept in a clear and very fair manner. School reform is fraught with distracting issues. But you found a way to convey the challenges and promise of charter schools, in a very human way.”

That’s pretty much the highest praise I ever possibly could shoot for as a journalist. Thank you!

You can read part one of that series here, and part two, here.

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A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media)

This is the second in a two-part series on the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of another.

PINGREE GROVE — By all accounts, the first year or two of Cambridge Lakes Charter School were, in Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston’s words, “bumpy.”

There were claims of poor communication from parents and a change in administrators after only a few months of operation. Attempts to unionize by some teachers ended in court, while a lawsuit against the architect of several of the school’s academic buildings was filed by the charter holder last year.

“I think it had more to do with the fact the corporation, prior to running Cambridge Lakes, didn’t have any background in education. I think it took them a while to get up and running,” Marston said.

But, the village president added, “Definitely, I’ve heard great things about it now.”

Cambridge Lakes Charter School, now in its fifth year, has been a benefit to both the village of Pingree Grove and Community Unit School District 300, according to village and district officials.

Now Elgin officials are discussing whether a charter school wouldn’t be a benefit to the City in the Suburbs, too.

That was one of many ideas that emerged from strategic planning discussions last month about education as a “quality of life” issue, something that attracts families to a city, according to Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller. Elgin’s public schools, part of School District U46, can be seen as a “barrier,” Moeller said.

“This is just a very early stage question about just education in general in U46,” she said.

“There are some strong opinions out there on both sides. I think people have kind of latched on to that concept (of charter schools). We’re not at that point yet where were hoping to recommend either way.”

For the rest of the story, read A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media)

This is part one of a two-part series about the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of starting another.

PINGREE GROVE — On the drizzly, foggy Friday before spring break, preschool and kindergarten students ran in circles in the common area of one of four academic buildings at Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove. They hopped on one foot.

One boy walked on his hands. A group of girls made a ring around a teacher.

“Now find an orange square!” said Whitney Orlando, a preschool teacher.

Somebody switched off the radio, and the school’s smallest students sprinted for the orange-colored tiles in the floor.

“And freeze!”

Freeze-dancing teaches coordination and colors, Orlando said.

Playing together with the charter school’s kindergarten classes gives students at Cambridge Lakes Preschool a chance to get to know the kindergarten teachers before they move to the school on the same campus, she said. It shows them what the kindergartners are up to, she said.

And, the preschool teacher said, “Friday is a good day to get the kids moving a little bit.”

‘Forward-thinking’

Cambridge Lakes Charter School’s full-day kindergarten program was one of the more “forward-thinking” ideas in its original charter proposal, according to Tom Hay, assistant superintendent for instructional services — teaching and learning in Comichaelmmunity Unit School District 300.

That program, in which 138 students are enrolled, definitely has been a benefit to the western part of the Carpentersville-based school district, Hay said.

And the school, one of only three charter schools in the Chicago suburbs, definitely has been a benefit to the Pingree Grove community, according to Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston.

The success of some charter schools, like Pingree Grove’s, is why Elgin is discussing the benefits of attracting a charter school to its school district as the Elgin City Council and city staff formulate a strategic plan to direct the city over the next five years.

“It’s a relatively modern concept: Could this be an option for (District) U46?” Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

For the rest of the story, read Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

State seeks to waive No Child Left Behind standards (Sun-Times Media)

State seeks to waive No Child Left Behind Standards (Sun-Times Media)