University of Chicago Consortium discovers that young children who are absent a lot are -- absent a lot and don't do well in school... Local right-wing think tank continues to ignore the perils of poverty and class oppression in Chicago's schools

For the opening of school, the University of Chicago has done it again: A major and expensive study proclaims the obvious while ignoring the viciousness of class society and its impact on the youngest children during the pre-school and kindergarten years. When the brutal realities of segregation and poverty in Chicago are reduced to "data", a lot of serious nonsense continues to be spread around. And the reductio ad absurdum from the U of C is particularly loathsome because the "researchers" who do the work there can walk a mile to their south or west and see in the faces and lives of real children the work that capitalist exploitation and segregation have done to the families living in poor and working class communities in 2013. It takes a great many dollars and a lot of hypocritical energy to reduce an obvious problem to a series of almost mindless babblings in professorspeak.

The majority of "studies" by the Consortium are designed to promote the status quo and ignore the underlying issues of neoliberal policy that are making the lives of poor and working class people more and more difficult in the 21st Century in Chicago's public schools.But in September 2013, they're back.

It's not the first time that a "study" coming out of the people down on the "Midway" have breathlessly belabored the obvious, while missing the reality that sprawls in all directions a few miles from where they sit.

For several years, the University of Chicago's "Consortium on Chicago School Research" has spent millions of dollars proclaiming the obvious while ignoring the underlying causes of the troubles of working class and poor people in Chicago. Often, the work of the Consortium has become an excuse for the perpetuation of the status quo in failed corporate education "reform" policies, while the vapid, anti-union meanderings of the University's Timothy Knowles are regularly quoted in the news columns of the city's dwindling number of news outlets.

The most notorious of these studies came about seven years ago, when the University discovered that a large number (their numbers were wrong because their study design was seriously flawed) never finished college. But in that study, the University of Chicago ignored the cost of college as a possible reason why poor and working class people can't complete college -- at least in four or five years. Coming from a university where an undergraduate education costs between $200,000 and a quarter million dollars, that finding was typical. Why: Because the implication was that the reason working class and poor children from Chicago's schools couldn't finish college was that they were not made "college and career ready" by the public schools they had attended.

That study is repeatedly cited as if it were more than another example of theology -- the repetition of belief -- pushed out into the public domain as "science."

As school opens in Chicago in 2013, we have another "study". This one shows that many poor children don't get to "early childhood" education, and that those who miss a lot of school often have trouble later in school. Once again, the most prestigious university in Chicago leaves out the obvious issues of race and economic class, acting as if the ability to get to school were something that every family had equally in Chicago.

Here is the summary of the latest:

From: Consortium on Chicago School Research Date: Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Subject: New UChicago CCSR executive summary: Absences add up for youngest learners in Chicago

New UChicago CCSR executive summary:

Absences add up for youngest learners in Chicago

Coinciding with Attendance Awareness Month nationwide, the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR) released today a new executive summary, highlighting the critical importance of consistent preschool attendance. Students who attend preschool regularly are significantly more likely than chronically absent preschoolers to be ready for kindergarten and to attend school regularly in later grades, the report finds.

“The significance of this research extends well beyond Chicago. People tend to think of attendance as a middle and high school problem, but this study demonstrates conclusively that attendance matters as early as pre-kindergarten,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national initiative to promote better policy and practice around attendance. “We keep talking about the value of early education, but it’s only valuable if children show up regularly so they get the most out of the enriched learning experience.”

The study, which follows 25,000 three- and four-year-olds served by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) school-based preschool programs, finds that chronic absenteeism is rampant among preschoolers in Chicago. In 2011-2012, almost half of three-year-olds and more than one-third of four-year-olds were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10 percent of the school year. These patterns are particularly problematic for students who start school with the weakest skills. Those children are the most likely to benefit from regular preschool attendance but also the most likely to be chronically absent.

Key findings from the report include:

The more days of preschool a student misses at age four, the lower she scores on CPS’s kindergarten readiness evaluation, even when controlling for incoming skills. Moreover, students who are chronically absent for multiple years have reading performance levels at the end of second grade that are, on average, considered “at-risk” and in need of some level of intervention.

Students who are chronically absent in preschool are five times more likely to be chronically absent in second grade. Chronic absenteeism in preschool establishes a pattern of inconsistent attendance that is often repeated in later grades. One-third of chronically absent four-year-olds go on to be chronically absent in kindergarten, compared with just 6 percent of students who were not chronically absent from preschool.

African American children are almost twice as likely to be chronically absent as other students.

Chronic absenteeism is also higher among students who live in high-poverty neighborhoods; however, even after taking into account neighborhood poverty, African American students are still much more likely to be chronically absent than students of any other race/ethnicity. African American students are absent more frequently because they are sick more often and because they face more logistical obstacles to getting to school.

Sickness is the number one factor driving preschool absences. Logistical obstacles affecting families are the second largest factor. More than half of all preschool absences are due to children being sick. Another 18 percent are due to a range of logistical obstacles facing families, including transportation and childcare issues

Most parents with children enrolled in preschool believe attendance is important; however, those who believe that regular preschool attendance is as important as attendance in later grades have children with significantly better attendance.

“These findings are challenging because chronic absenteeism is so prevalent and the reasons preschoolers miss school are so diverse,” said report co-author Stacy Ehrlich. “However, there is also a clear opportunity to engage families and communities by addressing the issues that contribute to chronic absenteeism in preschool. Improving preschool attendance will require a student-by-student, family-by-family, school-by-school approach.”

[This report is the result of a collaboration between the UChicago CCSR and the Office of Early Childhood Education at Chicago Public Schools. It was generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.]

Go to our website to access a copy of the full executive summary and technical appendix.

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September 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM

By: Susan Zupan

The "Captain Kangaroo" Study

Does anyone else recall this info being called "the Captain Kangaroo study" from way back 25 or so years ago? about the correlation of Kindergarten attendance on high school drop out rates?

September 6, 2013 at 4:23 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Consortium studies designed to hide real world, blame schools

The "Captain Kangaroo Study" was more or less fun, although flawed not nearly as much as the "studies" by the Consortium.

The signal fact of the Consortium's studies, going back now more than 20 years, is that they white out the impact of all external poverty factors, except perhaps as a footnote, and then blame the schools by implication -- and sometimes explicitly.

This study of pre-K absences is no different.

The University of Chicago has been a primary player in Chicago's segregation, and the apologetics for it, since the days when many of its professors were proud eugenicists and preached the gospel of "natural" superiority of certain "races." You will recall that they even hosted the debate over whether people from Italy were more African than "white." (Hence, Cabrini-Green, by the way).

These studies all have the same central factor flawing them: The ignore the facts that anyone from the study could witness and truly report on simply by walking due south from the U of C campus for five or six miles and interviewing a dozen people every mile or so:

"Why was your kid out of school today?"

A: Because I couldn't afford child care and so she had to watch the little ones.

Of course, the University of Chicago would never notice that most civilized countries (those not presently practicing the current fashionable eugenics of "Race To The Top") have government paid child care so that poor and working class mothers aren't forced into these "choices."

But then, what do you expect from an outfit that seriously believes it it providing some kind of "access" when an undergraduate education costs a quarter million dollars if the student is blessed to complete it in a mere four years?

September 9, 2013 at 12:07 PM

By: Patricia Breckenridge

Listen to a story about a almost 20 year veteran teacher who never was appointed to tenure after excellent evaluations in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). To build an overarching theme you should know that the African American economy has been deliberately decimated, and veteran teachers who have educated the most difficult to educate students in at-risk inner city neighborhoods are being terminated and refused employment - especially African-American teachers, and the murder rate has increased during hard economics times in our communities instead of compassion for one's neighbor we're in a democracy that uses the middle-class to bail-out the rich from paying their just due Eisenhower tax rate of 90% to sustain and maintain our democracy and economy.

Today, I was told by the Assistant Principal that another substitute teacher had been populated by Aesop after being placed at a school for 2 weeks (8/27/13 - 9/6/13 through the new substitute teacher website and webpages. However, I was told I was returning by an assistant that was sent to my room and that I would be preparing for Open House, 9/12/13;as well as completing 5 week progress reports on 9/25/13.

I had done everything a principal would want a substitute teacher to do and more until I was asked to write lesson plans by the assistant and I told her that wasn't my responsibility and the teacher on leave sent lesson plans for the first week but did not send lesson plans for the second week. I followed the teacher's lesson plans as we read The House on Mango Street by native Chicagoan Sandra Cisneros. We made collages to communicate the target lesson of identity. We read the book to master the skill of explicit textual evidence while predicting identity. The assistant showed students how to fold their composition book in half to complete the comparison/contrast of explicit textual evidence and predict identity. I placed students in cooperative learning groups with group roles as to further exemplify the skill of predict identity. I gave the students a spelling test, open-ended question assessment, and extended-response assignment all of which I was unable due to being told someone else was populated and the school had no control over me being replaced, however I know the principal could have requested me as has always been the procedure.

I have a reading clinic of my own, so I had brought the students books but I was unable to assign them to the students as another teacher was in the classroom and I was met with "We have a substitute teacher..." by a few of the students so instead of further disrupting the class I left and reported this incident to CTU and I am still awaiting a call.

The AP insisted he had no control who was populated and asked if I got an email. I told him no. I didn't get an email informing me not to come back. He said someone else had already taken the classroom and that he was sorry for the misunderstanding.

I know it wasn't a permanent position, but I prepared for the class as though I was the regular teacher with the exception of the lesson plans that are not required by the Substitute Teacher, however I did post the common core standards for ELA reading and writing. There are no positions available for the next day 9/11/13 after about 20 years of service to CPS/CTU. Where is the justice for these veteran teachers that finance local and state government with their pensions and educate students many years below their reading levels.

I did not expect to leave until September 25th. So, at this point I am not guaranteed employment. I have taken a position on far South of where I leave. I cancelled a position far west of me I thought I couldn't make in time because of the sub being populated and the school not informing me, and I tried to get it back but it was gone that quickly. I was replaced with a middle-aged African-American male for the record, and I am not sure if he's Cadre or day-to-day. Tenured Cadres or Cadres displaced from full-time teaching positions get priority over day-to-day substitute teachers. They are terminated if they do not find employment after 10 months if they were not displaced for economic reasons as this means they have been stigmatized as being incompetent --THAT'S THE BIGGEST UNJUST LIE. There are reports of teachers committing suicide as they are humiliated in the public eye after working above and beyond the call of duty to educate children not raised in affluent households where literacy is a given. God help us all.

September 9, 2013 at 4:21 PM

By: Amy Gooden

Teachers in layoff status

I think that the commenters,Mr. Pruitt and Ms Breckenridge,have presented some very important issues that nobody seems to want to address.

It is demeaning for any qualified educator to have to wait for a substitute opening every single workday. Why is this happening? It is due to the text of the latest teacher contract and the shameless manuevering of CPS.CPS is getting over-qualified subs and expects the schools to pay for them out of an already limited budget.

CPS is playing a game with people's livelihoods and professional reputations. THe C T U should reach out to those who have lost their hard-earned positions and tenure. Veteran teachers,especially those of color, are under attack and are justifiably angry. They need to hear from the Union leadership.

September 10, 2013 at 5:56 PM

By: Rodney L. Pruitt

Displaced teachers? Deafening CTU Silence

We continue to place hope in an organization that has continued to neglect the displaced. CTU is presently consumed with establishing itself as a parents organization. It has not done much to address its own membership for quite a while...some may say "since the contract". What is being done to the displaced by CPS is really not surprising. However, I pray for a return to "proactive" representation of those who pay the dues. At this time the displaced are floundering. Many have found themselves with no summer income and declared ineligible for unemployment. The displaced are collateral damage. During a past CTU rally, I warned against currently employed teachers sitting silent hoping that their jobs were safe as those around them were being forced out. I guess no one was listening.

As an African American teacher, you are forced to either look at charter schools or get out of education completely. How disgraceful. I could expound on African American leadership in addressing the 11% African American teachers in this school system, but that would be a total waste of time...Its obvious that it is not "politically" expedient to stand for anything these days. I guess we must "flow" with the system. Integrity and character is no longer a quality.

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