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Part 1 about the meetings held with principals regarding budget cuts is here.

Claypool and the CPS Central Office staff held meetings with selected principals and not all principals. This is not unusual when the District is trying to vet potentially bad news with schools, principals, teachers and parents. They gather the equivalent of a focus group together to test out how they are communicating the bad news, get feedback, get ideas, etc. So if you’re wondering why some principals were given information and some weren’t, that explains why.

It was interesting to hear some of the ideas that Claypool and his staff “floated” with attendee principals, especially his idea of schools needing to “fill the glass.”

Let me explain what I was told that this means.

Claypool is under the assumption/impression that classes are not as full as they could be, nor are schools making the most of every minute in their scheduling and that principals can be taught to “do it better” (especially when it comes to special education students). So his idea of filling the glass is two fold:

  1. Get those classes full to the brim.
  2. Make sure every minute is scheduled to the second and that absolutely no time is wasted.

While there might be some cases of class sizes under 28 (for K-3) or 31 (grades 4-12) in this enormous District, on the heels of School Cuts in 2012 and before I look at the data, I’m going to posit that this is relatively rare anymore. So how can we fill a glass that is already full?

My hypothesis is that CPS is going back to their “efficiency” model of 20% ABOVE the maximum class size in order to make the glass bigger. The class sizes that they will be aiming for as an efficient use of space will likely be closer to 33-34 for grades K-3 and 36 for grades 4-12.

This is not confirmed. This has not been said. Or discussed. It is only a hypothesis. And I’m happy to look at the District’s data on actual class sizes this year to see just how empty that portion of the glass is.

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The scheduling strategy for “filling the glass” is just as confusing to me. Already students are held to 20 minute lunches, 20 minutes of recess, restricted bathroom breaks, and no wasted time that I am aware of and I follow school scheduling very closely. Are they considering dropping any and all special education pull out services? Dropping any and all teacher prep periods? Keep children in classrooms and make any special classes such as foreign language, art, music, etc. come in on a cart to reduce any movement in the hallways? As always, I find it completely baffling as to how Central Office believes it knows how to run a school better than the principals it hires. 

That’s a very quick way to lose talented principals.

Also mentioned was the possibility of sharing art teachers, school counselors, music teachers, foreign language teachers, gym teachers, and other specialists between schools much like we have moved to sharing engineers, nurses, and other professionals and paraprofessionals as of late. Why CPS believes that these professionals are wasting half of their current day and have the bandwidth to move between schools, I am not sure. Again, would love to see their data.

Pull COunselor

As I mentioned to some colleagues this afternoon, if these budgets drop, I think that Central Office’s best strategy would be to break the glass entirely…and free up principals and LSC’s to manage in the ways that suit them best so that they can make a smaller budget work for them under these grueling financial constraints. Get rid of arbitrary reporting, busy work or anything that doesn’t directly get in front of a student on a daily/weekly basis.

Or get rid of most of the different types of standardized testing that students are required to do for the year. That alone would save millions. 

4 thoughts on “What did Claypool recommend to principals?

  1. It’s not an issue of whether or not they have data that supports these absurd ideas. They can manufacture data that “demonstrates” we’re wasting time and resources.

    These ideas demonstrate a blatant lack of understanding of teaching and learning.

    In high schools, our class periods tend to be around 50 minutes. Five to ten minutes at the start of class are reserved for taking attendance and getting the students too take out the relevant materials for the day. Twenty to thirty minutes are used for instruction related to new material, reviewing previous information, and setting up the day’s activities.

    We use the remaining time to provide additional help to students that need it. Some days we have 25 minutes to do this; others we have just ten minutes. But before we can identify which student needs help on a particular topic, the student has to first give it a shot, so at least five of those minutes are used allowing students to struggle with an idea before we do anything

    Everytime another student is added to the class, two things happen:

    (1) There’s a new personality that gets introduced to the learning environment. This means engaging that person in the topic of conversation, managing behavior to minimize distractions, being aware of that student’s learning style (including their strengths and challenges), being empathetic to the challenges in that person’s life, and understanding the impact that the student’s personality has on the dynamics of room, to name just a few.

    (2) From a very practical standpoint, the time that I have to work with any individual student is diluted. This means the time inside of the classroom, in addition to the amount of feedback and help outside class are concerned. If the class has 20 students in it, each student gets an average of one minute and ten seconds (with the understanding that some students require more than a one minute explanation). If the class size is increased to 30, students only get up to 50 seconds of their teachers time. And then you factor in grading (this is how we give students feedback, and it can almost never be done during the school day), and teachers’ workload is drastically increased (five classes of 20 students means giving feedback on 100 assignments; increasing the class sizes to 30, brings that to 150 assignments; but the increase to 35 students makes it 175). If I give a short writing assignment – just one page – that means reading an additional 75 pages per night, which is 375 additional pages per week. And learning to write isn’t just a matter of correcting grammar or punctuation; it’s much more about challenging the students’ thinking (Are you clearly expressing your thoughts to the reader? Will someone that doesn’t have the opportunity to have a 30 minute conversation with you in which you clarify yourself understand the larger point that you’re making? Is there a rhythm to your writing that allows the reader to follow the connections your attempting to make? And because I get to spend less time with students in class, that means more students will need additional help outside of class (some students will come in on their own, but many students will need to be chased down so that I call work with them, so a lot of teachers’ time is spent finding students and arranging times to meet, which is something that many students are unable (because of family responsibilities, work obligations, or extracurricular activities) to do. Or the student is unwilling to put in the extra time and effort. And I don’t blame those students, either, because after asking them to spend 8 hours running from one class to another, with no down time, we’re asking them to spend another hour away from their friends or boyfriends/girlfriends, away from leisure activities that they enjoy, or away from looking for a job that they need to make ends meet. Remember, we’re talking about teenagers, who are not yet adept at taking the long view and understanding that their sacrifices, now, can lead to a slightly easier life in the future.

    But when you put the former head of the CTA, with ZERO understanding of teaching and learning in charge of our public schools, this is what you get: an effort to make bus routes more efficient. When the bus leaves two minutes later, it amounts to a relatively minor inconvenience, but no one gets left without a ride. When you try these same tactics in education, real kids don’t get the feedback that they need to actively participate in their learning; real teachers have their workload, literally doubled; and the folks live in our neighborhoods reap the benefits of the greedy motives that led to the deterioration of public education.

  2. Pingback: What did Claypool recommend to principals? | Apples 2 Apples in Chicago Public Schools – bibliobiography

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