Friday, September 30, 2005

Illinois High School Summit, held Sept. 29, 2005

Illinois High School Summit presented by Illinois College Access Network (IllinoisCAN) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The discussion at the Summit was framed by the question, “What is the future vision and what must be achieved systematically for high schools to be successful in the 21st century?”

Some of the key speakers and panelists included: * Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools * Jesse Ruiz, Chairman of Illinois State Board of Education * Terry Mazany, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust * Allan Alson, Superintendent of the Evanston Township High School * Peggy Luce, Vice President of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce * Sandra Guthman, President of Polk Bros. Foundation * Donna Carroll, President, Dominican University

Opening: Joan Klaus, Founder Illinois College Access Network

Joan set the stage for the conversation by providing statistics similar to these which were part of a speech given in late September by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in an address to the National Association of Manufactures Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, DC. Among her comments, she said:

Manufacturing executives rank a "high-performing workforce" as the most important factor in their firms' future success. But how can you be a high-performing worker when you don't even have a high school diploma?...

"Among ninth-graders, five out of 10 minority students fail to finish high school on time. Overall, three out of 10 ninth-graders don't finish on time... Leaving our high school students behind is not only morally unacceptable, what the President calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It is also economically untenable.

"When you lose a million students every year that has a tremendous impact on our economy. And it represents the American Dream... denied.

"So I would suggest, for this and a host of other reasons, that how well our students are doing is not just an "education issue." It's also an economic issue, a civic issue, a social issue, and a national security issue."

You can read the entire Margaret Spellings speech at:

A similar 2-day summit was held in Washington in September 2005. The two-day event, called The Fate of the American Dream: A National Forum on Strengthening Our Education and Skills Pipeline, was hosted by Jobs for the Future and sponsored by a number of corporations also committed to improving the education and skills pipeline. JFF has put much of this summit on its web site. Visit

The Chicago High School Summit was attended by more than 100 leaders of community organizations, foundations, businesses, schools, etc. It was hosted by the Illinois College Access Network ( ) . While the panelist were first rate and the information discussed was critically important, this forum did not have an Internet collaboration portal, thus most of the participants did not get to ask questions, and the comments of most speakers were not recorded or posted on the Internet where others could read them, comment, or reach out to find ways to work together to solve the problems that were discussed.

I’ve commented on this in previous messages that I’ve posted on this blog since April 2005. While the Summit offered time for networking, the number of participants made it impossible for anyone to talk to everyone he/she might have wanted to meet. Such networking is also not suitable for an exchange of complex ideas, which is possible through an Internet discussion portal.

I took notes as I listened to the speakers and below, I’ve posted some quotes that I feel were important. I’ve also added my own comments (see DB: xxx) Whenever I attend a meeting I am always thinking of the purpose of the meeting, and the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, as I listen to speakers. Thus, I’m constantly innovating new ideas making notes of “things to do” as I listen to speakers. Yesterday, for instance, I took 12 pages of notes.

Most of the time these notes just go in a file that I keep, which I refer to for inspiration from time to time. If I had someone who would transcribe these notes for me, I’d post them on a blog like this, so others could share my own thoughts and perhaps innovate along with me.



First Panel:
Moderated by Warren Chapman. Vice President for Corporate Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase:
How did we get here? 100 years ago most schools only served 3rd through 8th grade. * High schools began to be built in early 1930’s. Not planned as college prep. Post World War II high schools became national policy issue. In 1960’s became a civil rights issue. In their current states high schools are less than 75 years old.

DB thought. It never was the intention of wealthy to educate masses to hold leadership positions reserved for their own kids.

First panelist: Michael Cohen, President of Achieve, Inc.
Achieve’s web site provides a much better overview of what Michael Cohen added to the forum than I can post here. Visit

Cohen: Formal high school sorting process has limited options for many kids by steering them to college or vocational paths. Now, every child needs to be able to chose for himself which path he wants to take

Second Panelist: Allan Alson, Superintendent, Evanston Township High School. Mr. Alson is also part of the Steering Committee for Chicago Public High School’s High School Transformation Project.
DB: I would love a transcript of Mr. Alson's comments. He was right on target.

. Presumptuous to predict where we’ll be in 70 years when the system we’re in is only 70 years old.
. Not one system fits all needs. Need to have goal.
. High schools must serve Equity, Social Justice, Democracy goals

DB: even in US Constitution it may not have been intention of framers to educate all kids

DB: why rebuild box? Why not re-design learning distribution system?

Alson: can’t just fix one part and not fix other connected parts.

. Goal: a) improve curriculum; b) improve instruction; c) connect youth with teachers and other adults

Alson: Let’s not make mistake of saying all kids enter high school at same place (academic preparation)

Kids are not just behind in skills. If you’ve gone through 14 years of your life thinking you cannot succeed, your confidence is eroded.

As you rebuild skills, think of messages we send – high expectations. Every teacher, counselor, adult, needs to say we know you can succeed and paint picture of how to get you there.

DB: wish Alson had his comments on Internet. A ETHS student could interview Alson and post his comments on blog.

Alson. Is a 10 month year sufficient to get done what we need to do? We need to create professional learning communities.
DB: are these connected to peers on other schools?

Broker partnerships with community agencies and business. Give offices inside high school so CBOs can stay connected with same kids from middle school through high school.
DB: Great idea!!

Chapman: How do we organize schools in order to train knowledge workers. What are things that need to happen over next couple of years? From Tops Down and Bottom UP?:

Cohen: organize government and business leaders
a) learn math and English skills required for careers in business
b) research shows that only 3 states require students to take needed courses (state standards too low
c) graduation tests standards too low. In six states the math you need to know to pass the test is equivalent to what kids are expected to know in 7th or 8th grade in other countries.

Cohen – top down
a) get expectations into state policy; bring educators and employers in to picture in ways not done before; make system more transparent
b) build political will to make these changes
c) build different pathways for kids to go through the system to reach common standards of career and technical skills
d) build capacity of the system to deliver results

db: what is the marketing plan that will get millions of people involved and educated on this issue. What is strategy to create this political will?

It is one thing to say they need to take this, but Algebra 1 in one school is different than Algebra 1 in other schools. We must address equality in learning.

We must listen to kids. What helps/hinders their education? Turn peer influence into a positive.
Db: this could help with program in peer mentoring at Maine South where my daughter is a 9th grader

Alson: We have broken system on how we recruit, train and support teachers.
a) Must be building human capital to deliver goods
b) This must be a K-16 system. Need to look backwards
c) Knit communities together. All work together.

Chapman conclusion: I hope this panel inspires you to think about these issues.

Arnie Duncan – CEO of Chicago Public Schools

Improving performance of high schools is most important issue in America. We need to figure out how to make this viable.

Db: Tutor/Mentor Connection is not just a connection of volunteers with kids. It is a connection of a volunteer with the issues of educating youth for 21st century careers. This is a social, democratic issue and is a strategy of engagement. Why don’t schools understand this?

Duncan: Every other city mirrors what is happening in Chicago. Goal is to have systems of excellence instead of just islands of excellence.

Duncan talked about research team that came up with new plan for high schools. Goal was how to take system to next level?

DB: no one on research team every talked to me. I cannot find a web site collecting public input.

Duncan; We’ve improved. We’re down to a 10% annual drop out per year.

DB: that’s 40% over 4 years.

Duncan: We need a laser-like focus
a) raise expectations
b) improve quality of teachers
c) improve quality of opportunities

Improve quality of teachers and classroom instruction
1) better tools; better support
2) RFP out for new curriculum (DB, don’t we change curriculum too often? Shouldn’t we stay with something long enough to make it work?)
3) Pilot in 15 schools per year (DB, with 600 high schools in system, that will take 25 years to reach all schools

Need to hire 100 great principles. No good organization without good leaders. We need to figure out how to get better at this.

a) shrink principle eligibility pool (fewer choices of higher quality people)
b) area managers spend more time on development of leaders
c) hire recruiter to go national in looking for talent
db: how to address retention of quality people in system

Expand Quality Options - need more schools like Whitney Young. Average students don’t have quality options. Students need more choices. Need 6-8-10 great options in each section of city.

DB: What about social and emotional development, civic education, community and career mentoring? Adopt a neighborhood vs adopt a school. What about elearning? I did not hear anything all day about Internet learning.

What are we doing to get kids better prepared to enter high school with a chance to succeed? This means we need to focus on elementary schools.

URGENCY: Easy to say this is theoretical issue. We need to recognize how important this is. 85% of CPS students live in poverty. This is a life transforming opportunity. Where we don’t educate well, we perpetuate poverty.

They can rebuild New Orleans all they want, but if they don’t change the education system you’ll still have the same poverty 30 years from now.

Media not going to put spotlight on education. We need to find ways to do it ourselves.
DB: this is why I don’t understand his not embracing T/MC strategy.

Duncan’s conclusion: we must move from islands of excellence to a system of excellence.

From 9:30 to 10:30 A Panel Discussion was moderated by Peggy Luce: Her first question to Jesse H. Ruiz, Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, was “Is there one challenge? One magic answer?”

Ruiz: Remove bureaucracy; raise standards. Gary Chico appointed to lead Illinois Education Task Force.

The second panelist was Cynthia Barron, Instructional Officer, Small Schools Area for Chicago Public Schools:

Luce to Barron: “What is most important issues of keeping students on track and bringing others up.”
Barron -
a) curriculum is most important element of high school transformation,
b) we’ve been teaching to the middle. We need to have personal plans for every student
c) every high school needs to offer advance placement classes for students that want rigor
d) at risk students, those who enter unprepared, what do we do?
e) Rigor, Relevance, Relationships-every school needs support structure to catch youth who begin to fail; intervene early
DB: where is mentoring in strategy? If boys tune out at 3rd grade, support needs to start earlier.
f) going to take ton of strategic planning to keep the momentum going
DB: what is strategy for public engagement? Building the political will?

The third panelist was Donna Carroll, Pres. Dominican University; and Federation of Independent Colleges and Universities –

Ms. Carroll introduced herself as “the university voice in college readiness”.

Remediation –access to higher education is a promise, and a presumption. I don’t think colleges will ever be out of the remediation business.
DB: universities need to re purpose resources. Look for other ways to use resources to impact college readiness goals. Colleges have army of students, faculty and alumnii.

Systemic issues of college prep. Dominican University’s average ACT is 23. CPS average ACT is 17.

Expectations and self-assessment. Students need mechanisms for understanding themselves. Most college students say
a) I wish my High School teachers pushed me harder
b) I wish I studied harder
c) I wish I knew what was expected for me to have the career I want

DB: I wish kids would listen to adults when we gave them all of this information, over and over again.

Colleges looking for students who persists vs students who do not.

Collaboration – we need to communicate more.
a) connect college and high school faculty. We need to create capacity and time to do that
b) very often it is student with potential who is working two jobs just to attend college. How can we expect him to do college work? We need to provide financial support.
Db: this is that question of political will again.

The next panelist was Jeff Mays, President, Illinois Business Round Table:

Role of business: help shape message; help reach broader audience
DB: Read ROLE of LEADERS in Tutor/Mentor Institute at

How they (youth) make decisions scares me. We need to do more to influence how they make decisions.

The next panelist was Terrell Burges – an African American teacher at Lane Tech high school. Burges was a recipient of the Golden Apple Scholarship and was a Bank One Saturday Scholar. He still works with Saturday Scholars in the summer.

a) many students don’t have access to technology and classroom support
b) need to provide authentic professional development for teachers; more collaboration time
c) provide extra learning opportunities. Saturday Scholars gave time to empower students to think
d) When students have opportunity to discover on their own, they learn
e) Only way to do this is to empower teachers
DB: but his help came from mentors in a non-school, privately funded tutor/mentor program. What about making more of these available?

The final panelist was Sandra Guthman, CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation. Funds Chicago HS Redesign Initiative.

DB: Polk Bros Foundation has funded the Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Program for several years, yet, they don’t seem to have any interest in the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It seems that foundation’s who fund mentoring, don’t automatically include mentoring in strategy of high school redesign. Why not? What are we not doing?

a) need to work as individual foundations to move system forward.
DB: if school reform system does not include mentoring in strategy, foundations won’t make priority to fund

b) some foundations work toward goals in a single community.
Db: Easy to work toward goals in a single community, but leader needs to assure that there is a foundation funding each community

c) Foundation role of critical friend (outside pressure). Maybe we can work together to make it (system) better.
d) New Schools for Chicago – some corporation and foundation supporting specific schools
DB: how do they network and learn from others who do same work in different places. Seems redundant.

At this point the moderator said “A few minutes for questions”. There were more than 100 people in the room. Less than 10 were able to ask questions and most were not able to follow up on the questions they asked.

One man brought up issue of political will. He said “Are the right people involved to make significant change? Are the people driving the process the ones in charge of crafting the solutions? This question was not given an answer and the questioner was invited to email the ICAN to post his question.

DB: this illustrates the need for a forum like this to have an internet component. This person and all others could have posted questions to speakers, and each other, on line.

DB: this event had a self-serving focus on ICAN. Two speakers mentioned Saturday Scholars. However, there was no effort in the meeting to expand mentoring. The two examples of success of CPS were a teacher and a college student, both who participated in Saturday Scholars, a privately funded non-school program. If this is such a good program why are policy makers not trying to get more programs like this?

While we talk of having good schools in every neighborhood, why are we not talking about having good Saturday Scholar type programs in every neighborhood?

Final speaker: Omar, a Saturday Scholar. He was one of the best speakers. I asked him to blog his comments for T/MC

Wish list for schools:
a) financial literacy
b) people of different backgrounds working together
c) cultivate good social skills
d) sports for everyone, not just talented
e) ought to be programs for students to make sure they are there (at college) on first day of classes. Transition from inner city high school to college terrifying to some
DB: I understand this need. A couple of y ears ago we had one volunteer drive a student to Wisconsin for first day of school just to make sure he got enrolled.

Terry Mazany, President, Chicago Community Trust, concluded the meeting

Mazany listed school reform funding goals of Trust:
Read the Strategic Vision of the Education Initiative at:

DB: CCT Education Initiative Goals do not seem to include funding of community supports or funding of elearning and collaboration.

We’re in third decade of school reform post A Nation At Risk. We know a lot. There is a paradigm shift. We’re now trying to prepare all youth for higher education.

Education is means to fulfill promise of American Dream

Failure to create school system that works leaves young people out of American Dream.
DB: suggest he say “learning system” instead of “school system”

a) 8 hour school day needed; staffing ratios that provide time for planning
b) counseling ratios of 100 to 1 needed
c) inner city schools need more resources than suburban schools because of poverty
d) resources needed for technology; need more buckets of water. Illinois is 49th in state funding of education
e) Fourth R: real world connections. Need pathways to careers.
DB: if foundations follow lead of schools and schools do not show non-school mentoring as priority, then funding will not support these programs. If these programs not in place, neither are pathways or adult supports.

The formal presentations ended at 11:15am and many participants continued to introduce themselves to others and network. I had the opportunity to talk to more than a dozen people who work with the T/MC, or who I have approached in the past for support. That’s the value of forums like this that bring people together face to face. As I left I was talking to an African American woman and she saw that my name tag said Cabrini Connections.

She asked if I served the Cabrini-Green neighborhood and when I said “yes” she told me she grew up in Cabrini-Green. I asked if she had ever gone to Montgomery Ward for tutoring and she said “yes”. I told her that I was the leader of that program when she was attending. I also told her of my goal of attracting many of the 4000 volunteers and more than 2000 youth who have participated in the Wards program since 1965 to the web site where they can share their stories and talk about how the opportunity to connect with a tutor or mentor at Montgomery Ward has influenced their lives. By bringing people who have been enriched by this process back together via the internet, we can continue to connect youth and adults from different backgrounds in the on-going networking that removes social and economic isolation and creates pipelines and pathways to careers.

We also can build an army of support for the vision of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which is to have programs like Cabrini Connections available to young people in every poverty neighborhood of Chicago and every other large American city.



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