Chico’s Education Plan

Just got back from Gery Chico’s presentation of his plan to revive CPS.  The 15 page plan handout can be found here if you’re interested.

For those just looking for the bullet points:

  • As the former head of the Chicago Public Schools Gery knows something about education.  Further, as the leader when the schools were really bad, he knows something about education reform
  • Need to spend more money, in conjunction with the Chicago Park District, to increase the Mom’s & Tot’s and other programs.  The goal being to have every child “Ready by Five.”
  • CPS has grown bloated over the years.  Middle management in some admin offices has doubled in size.  The whole organization needs to “Dismantle and Restructure” in order to be more lean & nimble.
  • Each school with open a Parents Academy so they can more fully participate in the educational process of their children.
  • A new research-based evaluation system will track teacher performance and make sure that we only have the best teachers available.  Recruiting efforts will be doubled to attached the best teachers wherever they may be.
  • A two-hour longer school day and 24 more school days will increase the level of learning.  Charter schools and school vouchers will also be options.
  • Every high school student will be issued a laptop immediately.  By the end of 4 years, every grammar school student will have on as well.  In order to make sure that student have internet access the city-wide Wi-Fi program must be pushed forward as quickly as possible.
  • More police to make schools safe and alternative schools to deal with the disruptive or violent students.
  • An increased focus on the arts, sports, and languages.
  • Massive infrastructure improvements in both new and existing buildings.

Well then, this certainly seems like a good start.  But there are concerns:

  • There is no plan to MEASURE SUCCESS OR FAILURE.
    — This is key.  The problem of CPS is that for years the numbers have been padded and frankly just made-up.  What I want to see is the GOAL.  The GOAL should be CPS students scoring at the national average on standardized tests in 4 years.  That’s how you measure success.
  • Union buy-in can be prohibitively expensive.
  • The police are already 2,500 people down, finding more to guard the schools takes them off the street to guard the non-students.
  • I’m not even sure that “municipal Wi-Fi” is legal.  This was a project that got started in many cities but is currently held-up in various lawsuits brought by the likes of Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner.  So city-wide Wi-Fi is not going to happen anytime soon.  But we can make free hotspots out of schools, libraries, and other city buildings.

The bottom-line is that Chico presented a plan.  It’s light on details and has a few rough spots to smooth over but overall a decent plan.

It’s clear that Chico knows something about education.  He may just be the guy able to pull sometime like this off.  Definitely something to watch.