Problems Identified in Chicago Schools As 5-Year Improvement Plan Is Sought

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An internal study of the Chicago public-school system has found "suspicion and anger" among most teachers, dissatisfaction among three of four graduates of its high schools, and inefficient implementation of desegregation and antipoverty programs.

The 102-page report, prepared in the development of a five-year plan for the system, found widespread morale problems as well as low reading scores and rates of graduation.

Referring to the five-year plan, Superintendent Ruth B. Love said, "I think this will be a first for Chicago. I don't see how you can function without a road map with a system of this size." The Chicago school system's annual budget is $1.2 billion.

The five-year plan will establish 12 goals for the system of 24,000 teachers and 467,000 students, Ms. Love said, including:

Bringing reading and mathematics scores to the national average;

"Integrating" technological advances into instruction, administration, and financial management of the system;

Improving the fairness and flexibility of various funding systems;

Giving teachers the preparation and "motivation" to teach in large urban schools with large minority populations;

Making the schools safer;

Improving ties with business, parents, and civic groups;

The report, which was prepared to provide information for the formulation of the five-year plan, cited a number of problems in the system. Administrators surveyed, for example, questioned whether teachers--buffeted by budget uncertainties, union combativeness, low salaries, criticism from outside the system, sometimes dangerous working conditions, and little say in development of curriculum--could remain effective.

In the area of student performance, the report noted that only 25 to 28 percent of elementary-school students read at or above the national norms. In the high school graduating class of 1982, more than half of the students applied for college admission, and 37 percent were admitted.

The report cited studies between 1974 and 1977 that showed that three out of four high school graduates were dissatisfied with the academic and vocational instruction they received.

The report also noted that many area business leaders complain that graduates often lack necessary basic skills in reading, writing, mathematics and communications.

The Board of Education now employs 6,000 teachers and staff members for a variety of desegregation and antipoverty programs, many of which are "unproductive," the report said.

The programs fail because of inadequate teacher preparation and funding levels that overwhelmingly favor elementary schools at the expense of high schools, the report said.

The five-year plan will be made public on March 4, according to school-district officials.

Vol. 02, Issue 17

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