March 16, 2018

Educators for Excellence-Chicago and Chicago Public Schools Co-Host Problem-Solving Forums to Strengthen School Climate & Culture, Restorative Justice

March 16 (Chicago) - Educators for Excellence-Chicago (E4E-Chicago), a teacher-led organization, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), hosted three community forums on March 13, 14 and 15. These forums brought together nearly 70 participants, including educators, CPS staff and community organizations. Participants discussed how schools can improve their climate and culture, with a focus on supporting non-punitive discipline strategies like restorative justice, which help schools peacefully address conflict and behavioral issues without removing students from classrooms or schools.

“My fellow educators and I see the impact that trauma has on our students’ behavior on a daily basis. Being prepared to use restorative justice strategies - rather than relying only on detention, suspension or expulsion - is important because the last thing a struggling student needs is to miss out on instruction,” says Janelle McGhee, an E4E-Chicago member and teacher at Tilton Elementary School. “Our students benefit from the skills associated with restorative techniques - communication, problem solving, behavior management. We need to get to a place where all our students are given the tools to sit down with one another, hash out the problem and come to a consensus for how an issue can be resolved.”

“At CPS, we believe in investing not only in the academic growth of our students, but also their social and emotional growth. And, we’ve made great strides in reducing out-of-school suspensions, but we know there is more progress to be made,” says Dr. Janice K. Jackson, Chief Executive Officer at Chicago Public Schools. “We are always eager for the opportunity to partner with teachers and community members and identify strategies to move this work forward, and to keep more students in the classroom and on track to graduate.”

E4E-Chicago hosted an initial round of four forums in November. CPS staff attended these events, which focused on bringing communities together to collectively solve challenges facing schools across Chicago. After the initial forums, CPS and E4E-Chicago partnered to plan and host this second round, which were located in three Chicago neighborhoods (Archer Heights, South Austin and Lincoln Square). With well over 150 attendees engaged across all seven forums to date, both CPS and E4E-Chicago acknowledge the clear demand for prioritizing ongoing opportunities for collaboration to educators and communities across the city.

Kelly Moran, an E4E-Chicago member and teacher at LEARN-Hunter Perkins Elementary School explains how these forums can support teachers to better meet the needs of their students. “Teachers need the time and space to have an open dialogue around common struggles, discuss strategies that work and identify resources that are available to us. These forums are critically important because they create spaces where we can collaborate, learn and grow together.”

“We know the importance of prioritizing the social-emotional needs of our students through strategies like restorative justice and trauma-informed teaching,” says Acasia Wilson-Feinberg, E4E-Chicago Executive Director. “We are grateful that the district recognizes the value of creating spaces for collaboration and problem-solving around the issues that most impact our city’s children. These forums can serve as a critical step toward providing Chicago’s students with the resources and supports they need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.”