By Michael Beyer, Principal
I knew our city had a problem with the perception there is a 'lack' of quality schools when my son was barely one year old. That summer I was in our front yard, pruning our trumpet vine, when a neighbor stopped by. His wife was pregnant and he wanted to know what elementary schools I could recommend. He was thinking years ahead of us, as we did not start considering until the year before preschool. We would have been happy with our neighborhood option, but alas, all preschool spots went to high-needs students, mainly four-year-old children from families in poverty.
Our son is 8 years old now and we're already looking ahead to high school. Now and then my son asks if I could be his teacher, and I remind him that we probably wouldn't get along so well if that were the case, but that I would like to be his principal if he attends Ogden International High School.
I'm not worried about him, or his sister getting in to a selective enrollment high school (SEHS). While we won't discourage applying, we know there are plenty of excellent options besides SEHS in Chicago. Ogden International is one of the best options., and perhaps better than most of the SEHS.
The University of Chicago produces some of the most respected research on educational outcomes. Recently, they released reports that indicate, as The Atlantic asked after reading one report, "...what if the high-school rat race is largely for naught?"
The authors of a recent study on Selective Enrollment High Schools (SEHS) find some benefits, but they are not academic as GPA is often lower for students in SEHS and, "...when it comes to test scores, attending a SEHS has no statistically significant impact. Simply put, on average, these students would have performed well on tests with or without selective schools."
Crain's take on the report, "The core conclusion-that attendance at Payton, Jones, North Side or one of Chicago's other elite high schools is a bit of an academic placebo-is disturbing. But it makes a little more sense once you consider what I'll call the small-fish, big-pond syndrome."
Parents perceive SEHS as 'better' because they start with the 'better' students. But are these students learning? Apparently not as much as we think, if students perform just as well if not better at a non-SEHS. In many cases they are losing opportunity to learn and grow, because they could have taken more leadership roles at a non-SEHS. I often wonder if parents are pushing their students to attend a SEHS for the perception of education they might receive, or for the label that comes with being accepted to a SEHS?
There might be other detriments from attending a SEHS. While SEHS are culturally diverse, students aren't being exposed to a diverse range of academic abilities. What will happen when students who attend a SEHS enter college or the job market and have to collaborate with peers or supervise people who struggle academically? Will SEHS graduates be able to relate to these people? Or will they dismiss them as 'lesser' in the same manner we dismiss the schools that serve such students?
In another report, researchers conclude IB schools with Diploma Programmes offer more rigorous learning opportunities:
I encourage parents to be confident that your child or children will be all right. In a more positive twist of 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree', your child will be fine because they are your child. If you didn't fail, they won't either, no matter what school they attend, or don't attend.
In the mean time, join Ogden International High School at our last Open house on November 30th by registering here: http://ogden.cps.edu/admissions.html
Consider all the options, and quit the rat race.
By Principal Michael Beyer, Head of East Campus Cara Kranz, and Head of West Campus Stacie Chana
Hopefully by now, everyone has received an email or message from CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and CEdO Dr. Janice Jackson, which stated in part,
“With emotions running high after the presidential election, we want to acknowledge the responsibility we all carry as members of the CPS community.
Regardless of political affiliation, every one of our staff and students has the right to a safe, welcoming school environment where they feel valued and respected. We are proud of our District’s diversity, and believe strongly that every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, sexual orientation, language, religion or culture has the right to reach their full potential.
Helping students process this week’s events is both a challenge and a responsibility, but we are confident that it can be done in a way that supports their growth. Remember that this election presents us with a unique learning opportunity - a chance to teach our children about democracy while reminding them how important it is to respect each other’s differences and unique perspectives. Shortly, school leaders should expect to receive additional resources to support school staff in this capacity.
This is a time to support each other, our students, and our broader community through what may be a difficult time.”
We as administration at Ogden International have also received emails from parents emphasizing their concerns about how the election has affected their children, and their relationships with other children in school.
At East Campus, parents were concerned about how children are talking about the election during lunch and recess. My own son came home one day asking if his mother would be deported because she is from New York. I was able to clear up that misconception, but it was still disturbing recognizing he might have temporarily harbored fears of losing his mother.
We also heard numerous concerns from teachers and students at our West Campus, where they had a mock election the day before the actual election. The majority voted for Clinton/Kane, while 14% voted for Trump/Pence. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the main predictor of a person’s views are their parents’, and Ogden’s mock election results mimic the results for Chicago.
The day after the real election, many students at West Campus had emotional breakdowns, crying at the prospect of having family members deported, and others angry about the bigotry they perceived in the election rhetoric. Another problem arose because students openly debated the candidates’ positions, so people knew who voted for which candidate in the mock election. Several Trump/Pence supporters didn’t feel welcome as emotions ran high.
Fortunately our teachers intervened and led conversations about respecting all opinions and perspectives. I read a brief statement over the intercom also stating as much, hopefully setting an official tone to help tamp down emotions. Since then teachers have begun planning how to channel students’ emotions. They want to create a quilt to highlight the diversity and unity Ogden West has enjoyed in recent years. Students will be encouraged to take action in their IB personal projects and other studies so they attack the issues from an academic standpoint.
As an IB school, Ogden International embraces the opportunity to take any real life issue or event and turn it into a learning experience, and we hope our parents embrace this opportunity, as well. We also hope our parents embrace these opportunities to learn and grow. This year we have SEED offered to parents and teachers. Although this cycle of SEED has already begun, we will be offering it again later in the year or next school year. We are taking intentional efforts at both campuses to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, faculty at West have begun a Diversity Integration Team, which will eventually grow to the East Campus, as well.
The concepts of inclusion and respect for all opinions are built into the philosophy of IB, and we invite you to join us in our quest to improve how we welcome and embrace families of all types at Ogden International. If you are interested in helping our efforts, please contact administration with your ideas on how to improve Ogden.
This blog has contributions from a variety of faculty and staff at Ogden International.