Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Belvidere Board of Education hires co-interim superintendent


BELVIDERE– In early August the Board of Education for the Belvidere School District named Cheryl Gieseke as its temporary interim superintendent.

At its next meeting the Board will take formal action to hire Dr. Larry Weck. Dr. Weck will work alongside Ms. Gieseke as co-interim superintendent for the remainder of the school year.

Dr. Weck is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois. After serving as the Superintendent of Schools for the Addison School District from 1983 to 2003, Dr. Weck has assumed interim positions in Addison, Grayslake, Benjamin School District 25, Evergreen Park, and most recently Big Hollow School District 38.

The Board of Education is working with B.W.P. and Associates in its search for a permanent leader.  Staff, students, and community members are invited and encouraged to participate in the search process by completing a survey, Finding a Leader for our Future, and by attending an upcoming forum.

The survey is available on the district’s website at and is open until Oct. 1.

From:  Board of Education hires co-interim superintendent

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Thousands “walk-in” to Milwaukee public schools to oppose takeover. | Fred Klonsky


– By Kim Shroeder, President Milwaukee Teachers Education Association

Thousands of parents, educators, students and community leaders held “walk-ins” at more than 100 public schools across the city of Milwaukee to celebrate public schools and to share information about how a proposed public school takeover will hurt students and the Milwaukee economy.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Schools and Communities United coalition organized the walk-ins in response to a public school takeover plan that was passed in July as part of the Wisconsin state budget.

The school takeover plan charges the Milwaukee county executive with choosing a takeover commissioner this fall. The commissioner would then choose 1-3 schools to convert into privately run charter or voucher schools for the 2016-17 school year. In each subsequent year, up to five schools could be handed over to private operators.

Parents and community members have raised several concerns about the takeover plan. Among them:

• The takeover plan offers no new ideas or resources. Changing who runs a school will not provide the resources or support that students need to succeed.

• Many students will be left without critical services. The takeover schools are not required to meet the needs of special education students or English language learners.

• School takeovers eliminate good jobs in our city. Takeovers have hurt the local economy in New Orleans, Memphis and Detroit.

• The takeover plan eliminates democratic local control and disenfranchises black and brown communities.

• Takeovers will affect all public schools, not just a few individual schools. The very existence of our public school system is in jeopardy.

The citywide walk-ins were a step forward in building a network of school defense committees to protect and strengthen every public school in the city of Milwaukee. Parents, educators, community members and students will work together in the coming months to solidify their school defense committees and prepare for an all-city summit of school defense committees on December 5, 2015.

Thousands “walk-in” to Milwaukee public schools to oppose takeover. | Fred Klonsky

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Do you want input into the selection of a new District 100 Superintendent?

There is an on-line survey which asks for your opinion on the decision.  GO TO:  and complete the survey.  A survey is available in both English and Spanish.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

De Blasio to Announce 10-Year Deadline to Offer Computer Science to All Students - The New York Times



To ensure that every child can learn the skills required to work in New York City’s fast-growing technology sector, Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce on Wednesday that within 10 years all of the city’s public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students.

Meeting that goal will present major challenges, mostly in training enough teachers. There is no state teacher certification in computer science, and no pipeline of computer science teachers coming out of college. Fewer than 10 percent of city schools currently offer any form of computer science education, and only 1 percent of students receive it, according to estimates by the city’s Department of Education.

Computer science will not become a graduation requirement, and middle and high schools may choose to offer it only as an elective.

But the goal is for all students, even those in elementary school and those in the poorest neighborhoods, to have some exposure to computer science, whether building robots or learning to use basic programming languages like Scratch, which was devised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach young children the rudiments of coding.

At least two other American cities have recently made commitments to offering computer science to all their students. Chicago has gone the furthest, pledging to make a yearlong computer science course a high school graduation requirement by 2018, and to offer computer science to at least a quarter of elementary school children by then. The San Francisco Board of Education voted in June to offer it from prekindergarten through high school, and to make it mandatory through eighth grade.

Technology companies, which have been criticized for having very few female and minority employees, have supported these efforts, partly to expand and diversify the pool of qualified job applicants. Google and Microsoft have contributed to Chicago’s initiative, and San Francisco has received financing from Salesforce, Facebook and Zynga.


Noting that tech jobs in New York City grew 57 percent from 2007 to 2014, Gabrielle Fialkoff, the director of the city’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, said, “I think there is acknowledgment that we need our students better prepared for these jobs and to address equity and diversity within the sector, as well.”

New York City plans to spend $81 million over 10 years, half of which it hopes to raise from private sources. Some of the early contributions have come from the AOL Charitable Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation and the venture capitalist Fred Wilson and his wife, Joanne, who previously financed New York City’s first high school devoted to computer science, the Academy for Software Engineering.

The city estimates that it will have to train close to 5,000 teachers to meet its pledge to provide the instruction at every level of schooling. Some might teach computer science exclusively, while others might be traditional elementary school teachers who will learn to incorporate it into the curriculum.

Schools that have begun to incorporate computer science say the biggest challenges have been finding people qualified to teach it, and adding yet another requirement to the mountain of skills that students already need to graduate. The National Science Foundation has said it plans to train 10,000 teachers to teach computer science.

“The difficulty is getting enough teachers who are trained in it, and trained well enough to make it a good introduction to computer science,” said Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “And if you are well-trained in computer science, you can make a lot more money in industry than teaching.”

Nationally, computer science jobs are some of the fastest growing and highest paying, but a majority of students have no access to computer science classes before college. A quarter of principals say their schools offer computer programming courses, according to data from Google and Gallup. Just 6 percent of high schools are certified to offer Advanced Placement computer science courses.

But interest in computer science is growing among both schools and students. Last year, the number of students taking the A.P. test increased 25 percent over the year before, to 48,994.

In New York City, some of the most elite public schools, like Stuyvesant High School, have offered computer science courses for years. Mr. Wilson said in an interview that he had long wanted to see computer science education expanded to a wide range of schools. But he said it was only in the past several years that the city had evidence, from the Academy for Software Engineering and other programs, that students who were behind grade level in math and reading, as most students in the system are, could benefit from computer science classes.

The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, a middle and high school in the Bronx, requires all its students to take computer science courses in each year of middle school.

One of the school’s computer science teachers, Ben Samuels-Kalow, is certified to teach in social studies, but when he was doing his teaching residency at the school in the 2012-13 school year, the principal, Ramon Gonzalez, noticed that he was computer savvy and asked if he would participate in a pilot program aimed at training teachers in teaching computer science.

Mr. Samuels-Kalow said he found that students are often willing to work harder in his classes than in their other classes, because the rewards of, say, being able to play a game that they designed were so enticing. And, by working with his colleagues, he said, he can sometimes find ways to reinforce concepts that students are struggling with in other courses.

“I’ve literally had a conversation with a student where she’s saying, ‘I really don’t like math,’ as she’s walking me through a JavaScript function to have an interactive photo gallery on a web page that she had also built from scratch,” Mr. Samuels-Kalow said. “I looked at her and said, ‘This is harder math than what you’re doing in your math class.’ ”

In New York City, as in the rest of the country, the students who elect to take computer science courses tend to be male and either white or Asian. Of the 738 city students who took the Advanced Placement examination in computer science in 2014, only 19 percent were black or Latino and only 29 percent were female, according to the Education Department. (The fractions are even lower nationally.)

City officials and Mr. Wilson, the venture capitalist, hope that exposing all students to computer science concepts in elementary school will increase those numbers.

“If we can get them earlier, I think we can get them excited about it,” Mr. Wilson said.

De Blasio to Announce 10-Year Deadline to Offer Computer Science to All Students - The New York Times

Friday, September 11, 2015

Seattle Teachers Go On Strike, Say It’s “About Caring For What’s Right for Our Kids” - Working In These Times


UPDATE: Seattle teachers did not come to a settlement with the school district last night, and teachers walked off the job this morning.

The Seattle Education Association, representing 5,000 teachers in Seattle Public Schools, voted to strike unanimously last Thursday, declaring that they will not be working the first day of school on September 9 if an agreement between the district and the union cannot be reached.

“There was incredible passion around the issues tonight,” SEA Vice-President and bargaining team chair Phyllis Campano told In These Times after the unanimous vote. “It really, truly is about caring for our kids and what’s right for our kids. We don’t want to strike, but we feel that’s our only option right now."

After participating in over 20 meetings with the school board since starting negotiations in May, their contract expired on August 31. The union’s proposals contain a wide variety of social justice-based demands.

Campano has said that SEA will be the first large union in the country to attempt to include a set amount of recess time in bargaining, asking the district for at least 30 minutes a day, a decrease from earlier demands of 45 minutes. Union members argue that the lack of protections for a set amount of time for recess has schools fluctuating between an hour and as a little 15 minutes a day for recess. The schools most likely to have shorter recess times are those attended predominantly by low-income students or students of color. A 2013 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics calls recess time crucial, saying, “Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.”

SEA is looking to cement an end to the ties between student test scores and teacher evaluations, and hopes any agreement includes the union in any test-scheduling decisions. SEA’s proposals are bolstered by the fact that Seattle is home to a burgeoning local opt-out movement that has energized students, parents, and teachers toward school-wide test boycotts at several sites in recent years.

Another crucial point for SEA is the fully-funded creation of institutional space for race and equity teams at each school site, aiming to, through team-led training, decrease punitive punishment that has disproportionately affected students of color. “At some schools such as Seattle’s Washington Middle—where, despite comparable populations, 94 African-American kids were disciplined and just seven whites—the data is so lopsided that confrontation with uncomfortable questions becomes difficult to avoid,” the Seattle Times reported in June.

“Today is the beginning of a break [from a] failed model of partnership unionism, and moving towards social movement unionism,” says Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher who led a test boycott movement at his site, Garfield High, in 2013. “Our bargaining team has put forward an incredible list of demands for the school district, and I think the reason why they have put forward a social justice platform of demands is because of the social justice educators inside the union.”

While the union and district have been able to come to agreement on 30 minutes of guaranteed recess since the strike was called, the biggest deal-breaker in negotiations has been the district’s reluctance and hedging on meeting SEA’s goals for compensation. With no cost-of-living increases in 6 years, or increases in health care funding in 5 years, many teachers have seen a loss in compensation over that time. But last week, according to the union, the district made matters worse for the union as it began demanding an extra 30 minutes per school day, with little assurance of a higher salary. This proved to be the breaking point that led to scheduling the strike vote, according to Campano, who stressed that the district has $40 million in extra funding that could go towards increasing pay and benefits.

“When school boards ignore the needs of their students, and absolutely refuse to act in the best interest of their students, sometimes all educators can do is to withhold their services,” SEA president Jonathan Knapp said in an September 6th op-ed for the Seattle Times. “When that happens, I am proud that educators have the strength to stand in unity and solidarity with the children they serve.”

SEA last walked out earlier this year in May, participating in a 65-district, 40,000 teacher-large rolling strike wave, protesting the state legislature’s failure to achieve court-mandated, and voter-approved class size reductions. Six thousand teachers and supporters marched through downtown Seattle to support the one-day walkout. SEA activist Susan DuFresne told In These Times at the time that the strike could be “placed at the tipping point in the struggle between progressive education reform and corporate education reform.”

Because the legislature has since failed to implement the court-ordered increases in funding, the Washington state supreme court began fining the legislature $100,000 a day on August 13 until it funnels the required amount into education coffers, making it the first time the court has ever sanctioned the state, according to Joseph O’Sullivan of the Seattle Times. Some lawmakers have shown a lack of urgency in return, finding any financial penalty paltry compared to the multi-billion-dollar price tag attached to increasing education funding in the tax-light state.

“We’re tired of being disrespected, and we’re tired of seeing a district with enough resources, willfully withhold those resources and refuse to create a school system that our students deserve,” says Hagopian. “I’ll go back to work when they start respecting students and teachers.”

Mario Vasquez

Mario Vasquez is a writer from Santa Barbara, California. You can reach him at

Seattle Teachers Go On Strike, Say It’s “About Caring For What’s Right for Our Kids” - Working In These Times

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

National University Rankings | Top National Universities | US News Best Colleges | page 4


In-state tuition and fees:
$15,626 (2015-16)
Out-of-state tuition and fees:
$30,786 (2015-16)


Overall Score: 61 out of 100.

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign is a public institution that was founded in 1867. The school has 41.7 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students, and the student-faculty ratio at University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign is 18:1.

Get access to expanded profiles, financial aid statistics, GPAs and more.

In-state tuition and fees:
$10,410 (2014-15)
Out-of-state tuition and fees:
$26,660 (2014-15)


Overall Score: 61 out of 100.

University of Wisconsin--Madison

Madison, WI

University of Wisconsin--Madison was established in 1848 as a public institution. University of Wisconsin--Madison follows a semester-based academic calendar and its admissions are considered more selective.

Get access to expanded profiles, financial aid statistics, GPAs and more.

National University Rankings | Top National Universities | US News Best Colleges | page 4