Brentano Supporters Bolster Argument for Remaining Open in Logan Square

By Victoria Johnson on March 1, 2013 5:04pm 

LOGAN SQUARE — Supporters of Brentano Math and Science Academy Elementary School have created a video and a 13-page booklet of data which they say demonstrates why their school should not close.

Brentano, at 2723 N. Fairfield Ave., was one of just three Fullerton Network schools that made Chicago Public Schools' shortlist for closure because they didn't meet criteria used to drop schools from consideration.

The supporters had gathered at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave., Thursday night for the second CPS school closure community engagement meeting for the Fullerton Network. There, they presented the report (see the report here) and told CPS officials why the school should stay open.

Brentano has just 454 students enrolled when CPS considers ideal enrollment there to be 960.

The school was also put on academic probation this year and demoted to the worst, level 3, performance rating after its average ISAT score dipped 0.7 percent.

But Brentano supporters argued once again, that those numbers fail to tell the whole story.

One third of the students majority-Latino school are "Limited English Learners," according to the CPS website, and teachers said this means those students need additional learning time and special attention.

Emily Bartlett, a fourth grade teacher at the school, spoke of one of her students that climbed from the 45th to the 80th percentile in reading after exiting the schools program, and another student that saw his math scores jump by 20 percentage points.

"That was the direct result of the individualized daily interventions that all students get at Brentano Math and Science Academy," she said.

The teachers held up graphs demonstrating faster-than-average growth in several of the school's classrooms since the beginning of the school, something Sharon Vinh, a third grade teacher, said she's seen big jumps in her class as well.

"Overall, my students scores have grown twice as fast as the national average in both reading and math," Vinh said.

To further bolster their argument, supporters put together the booklet outlining some of these gains as well as a map that shows what they think would happen if Brentano closed.

Three of the four nearest elementary schools are  at capacity, so if Brentano students were moved into Darwin Elementary, which CPS said is also half empty, parents fear there would be no room for the growing community.

"Logan Square has really changed a lot since the 2010 census, and we really think there are more babies in the neighborhood since 2010," Local School Council member Chris Hewitt said last month after parents delivered a petition to CPS. "So we think there is potential for enrollment to boost the school."

Hewitt noted then that of 1,041 signatures of support for the school, 239 came from parents with children not yet of school age.

Like many parts of the city, Logan Square saw a decrease in school-age children between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Census data is thin for the years since 2010, but reports indicate the overall population of Chicago is growing again.

A CPS spokeswoman confirmed officials received copies of the supporters' booklet, but as of Friday afternoon, they had not commented on it.

The other two area schools facing closure are Manierre Elementary School in Old Town and Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts in River North.

CPS said it considered community feedback when it came up with the criteria for closing schools, which included factors such as test scores and proximity to other schools.

Schools with more than 70 percent utilization were taken off the list as were schools with more than 600 students enrolled, regardless of the utilization level.

A combination of other factors, such as performance and enrollment trends, could also spare the school from the chopping block.

 

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