Now that the Tribune is reporting your office will decide the fate of Big Picture High School within the month, I feel the need to speak out about the school as a neighbor and a friend of its students and their families. Yes, Big Picture is expensive. Yes, it's an open question how good a job the school is doing getting kids to score high on the almighty PSAE. More importantly, whether students are learning the math they need for college is a very open question. But it is doing something our other neighborhood high school is not doing—getting kids to go to school and keeping those kids in school. The school's annual dropout rate was 6 percent in year one and 5 percent in year two. The annual dropout of its nearest neighbor, Richards High School, was about twice as high in the same period. In 2005 Big Picture had a 93 percent attendance rate, a very strong showing among city high schools. Richards' attendance was 87 percent, one point above the city average but substantially lower than its neighbor.
When Big Picture opened, elementary school counselors here rushed to send them students they feared would not make it in regular high school. As a result, I would bet you dollars to donuts that well over half of the 75 or so students in that school right now would be dropouts today had they started at Richards or any other neighborhood high school. How do you weigh that in a decision to close a school? And while Don Pittman is crying about the expense, the district is happy to run Second Chance alternative high school here in the neighborhood, which serves even fewer kids. Having been an alternative high school teacher I know we need schools like Second Chance, but wouldn't you rather spend that kind of money before the students drop out?
There are plenty more kids growing up here who will need a high school like Big Picture. They will need a place where they know and trust their teachers and classmates, a place where their interests are valued and shape their schoolwork. Despite the best efforts of some people in CPS to destroy what Big Picture schools do to bring student choice into the classroom and build strong relationships between teachers and students, Big Picture at Back of the Yards has done both of those things for most of its students. I know this because I see them on my block and I talk to them, because I work with them on their college essays, because they come over to my house to prepare and rehearse their quarterly exhibitions. With all the weaknesses this school has, it is still a wonderful opportunity for young people who don't get many opportunities handed to them. I hope you will find a way to keep the school open and to give it a real chance to operate as it was designed.
- ► 2009 (82)
- ► 2008 (217)
- Cranium Challenge
- Julian Gets Lucky/Big Picture Goes to Church
- Busy Saturday Night
- Won a Skirmish in Graffiti Wars
- Big Picture Goes to Clark Street
- Big Picture in the Press
- Big Picture, Test Scores, and Life after High Scho...
- Open House Draws a Crowd
- Big Picture Open House Jan 18, Part II
- Open House at Big Picture Jan 18
- The San Miguel Visit
- Bring your A Game, Arenda
- Yup-Yup latest
- Troutman in Handcuffs!
- Graffiti Wars Rage On
- An Open Letter to Arne Duncan
- Joey's First El Ride & An Experiment
- ▼ January (17)
- ► 2006 (105)