Friday, May 19, 2006

Big Picture Meeting

About 75 people attended a meeting at Big Picture last night to discuss the board's plan for the school. I think a number of the most vocal people there were parents of current 8th-graders who planned to attend Big Picture. Principal Alfredo Nambo says district officials have decided the school will not be allowed to take in 9th-graders next fall, but all the current students in grades 9,10, and 11 will be allowed to stay. I think that means through graduation, but I'm not sure. At first I thought only the 11th graders would be able to stay, but last night Alfredo assured everyone that all the current students will be staying on and not have to transfer. That's a big relief.

Alfredo says the school has decided not to fight the board's decision about stopping the flow of incoming freshmen, and instead staff will concentrate their efforts on making sure all the current students are succeeding. I can't argue with that, given what I'm seeing from Julian and Dawn. Julian is not succeeding, though he told me last night he's a lot more on top of his work this quarter than he has been in the past, and I'm glad to hear that. With about a 2.5 GPA, Dawn is doing OK but not great, and she needs to do great to have a shot at real success in college. I'm also disappointed that neither of them will be participating in an organized summer program. I know how hard it is to get kids to do that, but there are students going to Colorado, Montana, and other places and I was really hoping Dawn and/or Julian would be among them. Many factors are responsible for that, including their own lack of initative and my lack of being on top of them about getting it done, but I do wish the school was also more on top of them about applications. I was really hoping Dawn would do the Lincoln Park Zoo internship but we missed the application deadline and neither her advisor nor the LTI coordinator were on top of it. (I grant the LTI person was very new in the job at that point.)

The other Big Picture is in exactly the same boat. I think CPS is having a really hard time accepting how this model of education works when its own internal thrust is largely about test scores. While I can see that the execution of the model here needs work, if CPS had its eye on the most important indicators--dropout/graduation rate and college readiness--I think it would be a lot easier to find a meeting of minds. I also can't argue that it's not expensive. It is.

I also wish I could do more directly to be of help.

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