Students at Calhoun North, in East Garfield Park, are exceeding grade level standards at rates far above CPS averages. In 2012, 22% of students exceeded grade level standards in math; in 2011 it was 33% of students (the CPS average is only 15.8% of students). Students at the school are succeeding despite economic disadvantages. The student body, which is 99% African American, is 97% low income with 14.7% of students with disabilities.
While pushing all students to succeed to their greatest potential, Calhoun North teachers are also providing support for students with serious disabilities. According to Calhoun’s principal, 81% of their special needs students have met or exceeded in math. A Medill Reports article tells the story of a fourth grade student with cerebral palsy who couldn’t write and could barely talk before coming to Calhoun. His mother, Marshetta Ross describes the school’s work with him:
“The school has learned to work with him,” Ross said, adding that her son was beginning to feel like the rest of the children. “They’ve adapted to his needs, and him going to another school would be like hitting rock bottom all over again.”
Calhoun’s designation as a Level 2 school belies its incredibly high scores. 82% of its students met or exceeded standards on the ISAT. (Looking at ISAT statistics across all elementary schools in CPS, a school with Calhoun’s demographics is predicted to have only about 64% of its students meet or exceed standards.) And cohort data for the school shows that the longer as student is enrolled, the better they do. CPS’s own report card indicates that Calhoun’s students grow more in the course of a year than students nationally. The Chicago Tribune points out that Calhoun’s ISAT scores are higher than it’s receiving school, Cather Elementary. LaShonda Johnson, a mother of two at the school, is not alone in wondering why CPS would chose to close a school as high-performing as Calhoun:
“We did better than Cather (on test scores), but they are closing Calhoun? Why is that? That’s wrong. I didn’t even think it was possible they would consider closing Calhoun because it is such a good school. My kids are extremely upset.”
Geraldine Young, the parent of 13-year-old Calhoun student, is similarly confounded by the proposed closing:
“The only thing they can say is maybe years ago the enrollment was higher. The facilities are being utilized totally. The school that they’re transferring us to don’t have things that kids need.”
Calhoun offers two computer labs plus laptops for students and has separate rooms for their library, gym, cafeteria, and auditorium. It also has four special education classes and a Head Start program. They have partnered with the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum and the Cook County Bar Association.
“I’m mad and I’m sad. I’m used to the teachers that help me at Calhoun because they’ve got a certain way of helping me. I don’t know if [new teachers will] help me like the teachers at Calhoun did.”–Malik Flax, sixth-grader at Calhoun