Mayor Richard M. Daley today rang a traditional school bell to mark the start of the 2005-2006 school year and the beginning of the second decade of Chicago’s nationally acclaimed school reform program.
“Today, as we begin the school year, we are more determined than ever to build the best school system in urban America by staying focused on learning in the classroom,” Daley said in remarks at the Tarkington School of Excellence, 3330 W. 71st St.
Tarkington is one of the 40 new and replacement schools built for the Chicago Public Schools over the past decade. It is one of three newly constructed schools opening today in Chicago, along with the Little Village High School campus, 3120 S. Kostner Ave., which will house four small schools, and Aspira Charter at Haugan Middle School Campus, 3729 W. Leland Ave., which will house two separate academies.
Tarkington, which was built to relieve overcrowding on the Southwest Side and will serve up to 1,000 elementary school students, is a teacher-training school that is run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which also runs the Chicago Academy on the Northwest Side and the Dodge Renaissance School on the West Side.
These schools recruit and train dedicated and committed people from a variety of fields who have decided to make a mid-career move and become teachers.
“The teacher-training model is just one of many creative recruiting programs that we’re using to bring the best and brightest new teachers to Chicago,” Chicago Board of Education President Michael W. Scott said. “Improving teacher quality is one or our three core strategies, and we’re seeing great results from that focus. We have about 10 applicants for every available teaching position, which allows us to be highly selective and keeps our vacancy rate very low.”
Tarkington is one of a record 22 new schools that will open this year – 12 grade schools and 10 high schools. “This reflects our commitment to create new learning options in neighborhoods across Chicago, and to continue to relieve overcrowding,” Daley said.
Tarkington is Chicago’s first “green” school. It was built under guidelines for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as established by the U.S. Green Building Council, and features a green roof that captures rain water and reduces the roof temperature; low-emitting materials to improve indoor air quality; and storm water runoff that feeds into a lagoon to reduce the load on sewers. Ten percent of the building materials are recycled, and 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
Since Daley assumed responsibility for the school system in 1995, test scores have risen to all-time highs, there has been financial stability and labor peace, and more than $4 billion has been invested in upgrading existing schools and building new ones.
In his remarks, the Mayor outlined a number of new school programs that will begin this year.
Earlier this month, the school system announced that it is replacing the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills with a new diagnostic reading assessment that will be given three times each year and will allow educators and parents to stay on top of the students’ instructional needs.
The Iowa Tests were administered in the spring, with results not available until several months later. Results of the new diagnostic assessments will be reviewed within weeks after the tests are taken.
The schools will add another 275 teachers who were trained through alternate education programs. They come from a variety of backgrounds and switched to teaching in mid-career.
“This is just one dimension of a much broader effort to improve teacher quality throughout the Chicago Public School system, and we’re doing more today than ever before,” Daley said. He noted that the schools have almost 375 teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standar