Located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood at 4420 N. Beacon, Stockton is part of a diverse community, and its student body reflects that diversity. The school is about 1/2 African-American, 1/3 Hispanic, 8% white, and 4% Asian. In addition, Stockton has a very high special education population (30.4%), in addition to a mobility rate of 32%, a recent increase in the number of homeless students from 20 to 70, and about 70% low-income students. Nearly a fifth of the school is English-language learners. Stockton is a Level 3 school, considered low-performing.
While Stockton is listed by CPS as a school that is closing, the building will stay open and the students will remain. A school about a mile away, Courtenay Language Arts Center, a higher performing school according to the CPS performance level rating, will be closed and their students will be sent to Stockton. But since Courtenay can’t offically be “closed” and sent to a lower-performing receiving school, CPS says Courtenay will be “relocated,” and the Stockton building will be renamed Courtenay. This is a fiction CPS has created to accommodate their plans.
So many of the children who attend Stockton have been impacted by difficulties – refugee children who have escaped war-torn countries such as Sudan and Somalia, children who live in the Cornerstore Transitional Shelter for the homeless, others who live in Chicago House – a home for families who have an HIV-positive member, children with special needs who have been moved before. Another transition, another disruption will clearly negatively affect their academic performance. One of the major points of stability in their lives is their neighborhood school. A website created by a Stockton teacher has comment after comment about the value Stockton has in the lives of students and families.
As an example of instability, some Stockton students in the autism program were only placed there a year ago when their last program at Coonley was unexpectedly and abruptly closed:
“[C]hildren on the spectrum must have stability. Change is not an option.[…] Our children have been moved multiple times in their short time with CPS. This year they lost their teacher mid school year, due to the fear of the school shut down situation, with less than a week’s notice. Our children are six and under dealing with this inconsistency. They have finally settled in and are very comfortable. Everyone knows them and are very supportive. They have made leaps and bounds academically.” — Minerva Feldman, parent of two Stockton students
Stockton School has consistently used their discretionary funds to guarantee smaller class sizes for the students, the thing that has been proven by years of research to increase student performance. “To punish our school for doing right by our students- for choosing to fund smaller class sizes- is not only unwise, but unconscionable” states a Stockton teacher. Small class size is an important predictor for academic achievement, particularly for the kind of student population served by Stockton.
According to CPS’s calculations, Stockton is underutilized with 475 students, and at 45% utilized, it should have over twice that. However, CPS space utilization calculations do not take into account Stockton’s nine special education classrooms, including a special autism unit, and there are many questions about how a 100% utilization rate would affect the 1/3 of the student body with special needs. One of Stockton’s classrooms is a Snoezelen room, which provides sensory stimulation and relaxation for children on the autism spectrum. Stockton speech therapist Marilyn Sandler got over $65,000 in grants on her own time in order to get the Snoezelen room built, one of the only such rooms in CPS.
According to one teacher at Stockton, there are currently only three empty rooms, with an additional room that could be converted to a classroom but is currently used as a conference room for teachers and for parent IEP conferences, etc. Where will the over 275 students from Courtenay fit unless class size is tremendously increased? Will there still be room for the nine self-contained special education classrooms as well as the three self-contained special education classrooms currently at Courtenay?
Even though the students will not be moving, numerous programs at Stockton may be disrupted, including a $15,000 garden project, a $100K hands-on science grant, a partnership with the Community Counseling Center of Chicago (C4) that gives Stockton families access to free counseling, and the HEART program.
There is tremendous uncertainty at the school. Stockton isn’t actually being closed – only renamed. There are many questions, and parents and teachers have been unable to get answers from CPS: How large will the class sizes be if Courtenay students come? How many teachers currently at Stockton will retain their jobs? What will happen to all of the special education students from both schools? If the new school would contain over 700 students, approximately 225 would be special education students. Is there room for twelve self-contained classrooms? What will happen to the small class sizes, so central to both of these schools and so important to maintain?
When you look at both Stockton and Courtenay, their stories have similar elements. Both have and value small class sizes; both have large (over 30%) special education populations many who are served in self-contained classrooms. With the merger of the two schools, both of these valuable education strategies will be jeopardized. While Barbara Byrd-Bennet says CPS plans will provide a higher quality education for all students, this clearly is not the case here.
Post authors: Diane Horwitz