Sounding the Alarm

Building the Climate & Culture Our Students Need

June 2017

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“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what do you do if the village is asleep? You sound the alarm.” – Venita Conway, Tilden Career Community Academy High School

Chicago’s current landscape — a starkly segregated city, high rates of poverty and violence, and an underfunded and struggling school system —  expose far too many of our students to deeply distressing experiences every day.  This trauma impacts students’ development and perspectives, hindering their ability to succeed emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. As teachers, we know that the obstacles our students face at home do not stay there; they follow students into the classroom and, if not acknowledged and addressed, can harm their capacity to learn and negatively impact the climate and culture of our schools. At the same time, we also know that our students are bursting with curiosity and intelligence; It is our job as teachers to ensure that each and every one of them is able to rise to their full potential.

Strengthening the climate and culture of our schools is key to supporting students’ in overcoming these challenges and capitalizing on their strengths. We must start by addressing the trauma impacting many of our neighborhoods, the social-emotional health of our students, and the overly punitive discipline practices in our schools. All schools should be able to tailor their climate and culture to fit the unique populations they serve, so we recommend that district and school-based leaders prioritize A.C.C.E.S.S.

Recommendations: A.C.C.E.S.S.

  • Assess & Compile: Assess and compile resources that will allow schools to evaluate their current policies and practices and how they interact with the specific populations they serve, in order to make adjustments based on the needs of individual school communities;

  • Coordinate: Coordinate existing infrastructure, policies, and systems to more directly establish school climate and culture as a priority at the district and school level;

  • Execute: Execute on the prioritization of school climate and culture by creating new frameworks and structures that support a school’s ability to address the needs of its student population and connect with families and the broader community; and

  • Support & Sustain: Support schools in obtaining and sustaining the resources, training, and ongoing development necessary for their entire school community to prioritize school climate and culture.

About the Teacher Action Team

We are a diverse team of 18 teachers who met from January through March of 2017 to craft recommendations for how Chicago can improve school climate and culture across the district.

We conducted 26 focus groups, engaging more than 300 Chicago teachers, administrators, school staff, and students to provide feedback on our recommendations. We also surveyed more than 460 E4E-Chicago member and non-member teachers to gather more information on the issues educators identified as most vital to improving school climate and culture: social-emotional learning, trauma-informed schools, and restorative justice.

Nicki Anselmo Director of Data and Technology and Computer Science Teacher at Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academic Center

Shayna Boyd 4th- and 5th-Grade Teacher at Oglesby Elementary School

Kenya Butts Dean of Students at North Lawndale College Prep High School

Cory Cain Assistant Principal at Urban Prep Charter Academy - West Campus

Heather Duncan Early Childhood Teacher at South Shore Fine Arts Academy

Marissa Duric 3rd-Grade Teacher at Henry Elementary School

Dayna Heller Diverse Learning and Humanities Teacher at Roger C. Sullivan High School

Katherine Hosanna 2nd-Grade Teacher at Agassiz Elementary School

DeJernet Farder 1st-grade Teacher at Morton School of Excellence

Uriah Knudson 2nd-Grade Teacher at Chicago International Charter School - Basil

Artemis Kolovos Diverse Learning Teacher at Lyman A. Budlong Public School

Jhoanna Maldonado Middle School Inclusion Teacher at Yates Elementary School

Bryan Meeker Biology Instructor & GSA Faculty Sponsor at Lindblom Math & Science Academy

Melissa Miller Art Teacher at Ida B. Wells Preparatory Elementary School

Lynn Osborne-Simmons Educator of Diverse Learners – Chemistry at Curie Metropolitan High School

Dr. Ivy Randle Lead Kindergarten Teacher at James Ward Elementary School

Tara Stamps Middle School Lead and 6th- through 8th-Grade English Language Arts Teacher at Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts

Yazmin White Mitchell Diverse Learning Teacher at O'Keeffe School of Excellence