Principal Michelle Van Allen describes Marcus Garvey School‘s academic program:

“Marcus Garvey Math and Science places an emphasis on math with the Saxon Math Program in grades 1-3, which incorporates using math manipulatives, frequent review, and assessments. Our emphasis on science is enhanced with three state-of-the-art Science Labs. To assure that our students acquire the skills of research, writing and publishing, we have a Computer Technology Program for grades Kindergarten-8th. Our Computer Technology Program is centered around a computer lab with 32 computers and a mobile laptop unit. Marcus Garvey also offers Accelerated Reader, Primary and Upper Grade Science Fair, Upper Grade History Fair, International Fair Program, Young Authors Program, Character Education, and Mentoring.”

Marcus Garvey is one of the schools in CPS with a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program.  You can see this program and its impact explained by teachers and students in this video.

“Garvey is a safe environment for kids to learn and be the best that they could be. I feel safe at Marcus Garvey, because we use social and emotional learning skills to solve our problems. We learn how to show empathy for each other, and how to control our anger and emotions. I love the SEL program at our school. We go to a peace center to discuss problems and follow problem-solving steps that help us to pick the best solutions for our problems.” —Asean Johnson, Garvey 3rd grader

Marcus Garvey has 286 students, of which 94% are low-income and 99.3% are African-American:

“My students live in a situation of extreme poverty where the majority of them come to school for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They do not have enough money to purchase school supplies, much less novels to help them grow.” —M. Dunleavy, Garvey teacher

Mrs. Crump, a teacher at Garvey, describes her students in her recently funded $954 DonorsChoice literacy project:

“The students I see each day face many challenges. Most students don’t know where their next meal is coming from once they leave school. Many cannot even indulge in the innocent act of outdoor play because of the danger of gangs and random gunfire that takes the lives of innocent children each day.

I have worked with children from here (Illinois) to Kentucky, in urban, suburban, public and private schools. My students have come from the lowest household incomes to the most affluent families in the City of Chicago. I will say without a doubt, that my latest group of students were the best I have come across since I started my trek in education seven years ago. My students were kind, honest, and the brightest problem solvers I had ever met. They hit the ground running and were eager to learn from the very first day. They loved a challenge, whether it came from small group activities or role playing how the planets rotated around the sun on the rug. The students thrived because of their teacher support and their freedom to explore. The teachers were able to lend that support, because of the support we received from our administration. I was very pleased with my students and their abilities despite their immediate circumstances. It was an honor to be their teacher.” 

With the closure of Garvey, its students will be sent to Mount Vernon Elementary School, which, while less than a mile away, is described as a rival school, and children will be crossing gang boundaries at 104th Street in order to walk there. This has Garvey parents and students worried:

 “I’m afraid, actually, because of the gang lines over there.  Just the thought of him going there makes me sick.” —Denise Stowers-Fultz, Garvey alum and parent

“I’m concerned with my son walking to school. A gang war exists right now in this neighborhood,” —Marilyn Cooper, parent of Garvey 6th grader

“We’re on two different sides of town. Even though we’re right down the street, they’re on that side and we’re on this side. It’s always been like that. It’s always been a division,” she said. —Staci Goddard, Garvey parent

“Currently my daughter walks three blocks to school before she reaches the playground where staff are waiting for her. Moving her to another school would cause her to walk a longer distance; and instead of being on a main street, she will walk on a dim side street. As a parent, I am concerned with her safety.[…]I have been able to make relationships with community businesses who watch out for my daughter and my son as they walk home from school. If my child has not passed a certain place by at a certain time, I receive a call asking where are they, did they get picked up. I’m asking you to please not close Marcus Garvey.” –Garvey parent

“Before I came to this school, I attended a school in the neighborhood that had gang members hanging around the school area; and when I was ten years old, I was shot on my way home from school. I can’t quite describe what it feels like to be shot, other that I was in shock and in a lot of pain. You could see right through my leg where the bullet hole went in and out. Because of what happened to me, I was afraid to go back to the school. My mother was afraid for my safety and transferred me to Marcus Garvey in 2010, hoping for a better education and not living in fear while doing so. I can walk to school and from school with my siblings without fear of being hurt. I feel safer than ever. The neighborhood is better, and I don’t have to cross any gang lines just to get to school. I no longer have to avoid fights that have carried over from an unsafe neighborhood into the classrooms and halls.” —Dmari Moore, Garvey student

Garvey parents are also worried about the academic environment at Mount Vernon.  Garvey is on probation for the first time  in decades this year, although its reading scores appear to be improving and its math scores are stable.  Mount Vernon, in contrast, has been on probation for five of the last eight.  Garvey’s 5 essentials rating is “organized for improvement.”, with positive trends and a rating of “strong” in both the categories of ambitious instruction and supportive environment; whereas, Mount Vernon is rated “not yet organized for improvement” with no strong ratings in any category. ”

According to Joy Lewis a teacher at Garvey, “Marcus Garvey School students have been performing at or above their peers in reading and math, not only for the last three years, but the last eight years.”

And, parents at Mount Vernon are worried about the increased class sizes from a flux of incoming students:

“The classes are already over-packed. It’s already one teacher to 35 kids with one assistant, and that’s just impossible.” —Lacey Little, Mount Vernon parent

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Post author: Kim Smolen


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