Paderewski Elementary Learning Academy is a small community of 172 students. Although CPS believes that this school is underutilized, its staff and students say that this school is a vibrant, supportive environment where Black and Latino students learn together. In 2010 when Paderewski was threatened by school closings, grandmothers, teachers, and community activists came together to speak out for their school.
Although Paderewski is deemed a Level 3 School, its student achievement is improving on some indicators. The percentage of students who meet or exceed ISAT standards over the past 5 years (2007 vs. 2012), for example, has gone from 38% in reading to 62%. In that time math proficiency increased from 49% to 65%, and science proficiency jumped twenty points from 35% to 55%.
Latinos make up nearly 20% of Paderewski’s students, and these students have also seen significant gains – Latino students achieved 76% proficiency in math, up from 43% in 2010. Latino student proficiency in reading doubled from 26% to 52% in that same time.
“I was really shocked to hear that Paderewski was closing. [My grandchildren] have learned so much. I want the school to stay open.” — A Paderewski Grandmother
Although CPS claims the school is underutilized, parents and staff report that every classroom in the building is used to benefit the students. The first and second floor are used for classrooms, with class size averaging around 30 students. All rooms on the third floor also are in use. The third floor is home to:
two science labs–one for upper grades and one for lower grades
science resource room
math resource room
clinician’s classroom–for speech pathology and other services
teachers’ copy room
the TRIO student support program–in partnership with Malcolm X College
ALC Changing Worlds
The Paderewski community feels that more resources, like a pre-K program, would boost the school’s enrollment:
“Darlene Williams, a parent who has four children at Paderewski, said she thinks CPS should give the school a shot at the pre-K program, thereby boosting its student population. Williams, a 52-year-old stay-at-home mom who’s been involved at Paderewski for nine years, said she was devastated by the announcement of the school’s closure. ‘I just felt the need to stand strong. I didn’t show how much it affected me at that point that day. But I went home, and actually I broke down,’ she said.”
Paderewski students are officially going to be sent to Castellanos and Cardenas, even though both of them are already rated as “efficient” according to CPS utilization standard and will unlikely to be able to take in the Paderewski students given the substantial numbers of special education students at all three schools. Instead:
“Paderewski students will more than likely go to Crown or Penn, both of which are performing at lower levels than Paderewski. Parents are concerned about sending their children to either of the schools, given the historic rivalry between Crown and Paderewski, gang territories surrounding the receiving schools, and the potential to cross Ogden Avenue, a major interstate highway.”
Post contributors: Kate Kindleberger, Maria Moser, Erica Clark