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Afternoon Edition: May 5, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

CPS has touted its new policy as an “equity-focused grading plan.”
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be rainy, with a high near 48 degrees. Tonight, we could see some more showers as temperatures drop to 39 degrees. But we’re in for a warmup tomorrow: It’ll be partly sunny with a high near 59 degrees.

Top story

Is CPS’ new grading policy ‘equity-focused’ or ‘cruel’?

A debate has raged in the days since Chicago Public Schools released new grading and promotion guidelines last week. The central question concerns how schools can keep educating students, and reward them for their work, while ensuring kids aren’t further harmed by health or economic circumstances during the pandemic.

The district touted its new policy as an “equity-focused grading plan,” and schools chief Janice Jackson said in a news release that it “allows students to improve their grades while ensuring their academic standing isn’t harmed due to circumstances beyond their control.”

CPS will be leaning heavily on a grading system that issues either a passing grade or an incomplete, a change that was demanded by parents, students and teachers so no student would fail. But the biggest point of contention is that the policy affords only students with access to digital learning materials the opportunity to earn fourth quarter letter grades — those who can’t get online can only “pass,” and won’t have a chance to improve their grades no matter how well they do.

The long-awaited guidelines were welcomed by some, but criticized by others, including parents and Chicago Teachers Union officials who said the system would lead to further inequities. Student newspapers at three of CPS’ top high schools joined together yesterday afternoon in condemning the policy and calling on the district to change it.

We’re making our vital coronavirus coverage free for all readers. See the latest news here.

CPS has largely bridged a technology gap that saw one in three of its 355,000 students lacking computer or internet access when remote learning started last month. But as of last week, there are still 13,000 kids without digital devices. By the time those final students receive laptops — in mid-May, officials estimate — a month will have passed since the start of the fourth quarter.

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates called the grading policy “Jim Crowish” for students who are trying their hardest.

“If we were just providing passes and incompletes for everyone, then that would make sense,” Davis Gates said. “But to put students who are already in a compromised situation, and even more so now, is cruel.”

LaTanya McDade, the chief education officer at CPS, said district officials took into consideration how the policy would play out in various scenarios.

“This is a really complex situation. … All districts are grappling with this,” McDade said. “What we found is that awarding credit for those students who are non-digital that are completing the learning packets and engaging with their teachers, them earning a pass would be the most equitable option.”

Read the full story from Nader Issa.

More news you need

  1. Getting tested for COVID-19 helps epidemiologists understand the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But what will it do for the rest of us? Read Neil Steinberg’s latest take.
  2. Chance the Rapper is taking to Instagram for the first-ever “Twilight Awards” honoring educators during Teacher Appreciation Week. He plans to surprise 10 teachers and schools by donating supplies and a total of $300,000 on behalf of Box Tops for Education.
  3. Illinois officials have reported another 176 COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily count the state has seen since the pandemic began. The state previously saw a record-high 144 deaths on April 28.
  4. Mayor Lori Lightfoot will receive an honorary degree from Northwestern University in recognition of her leadership in office, particularly during the pandemic. She’s one of four people being recognized by the school this year.
  5. With traditional graduation ceremonies canceled across the country, former President Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address to America’s three million high school seniors next week. Here’s how to watch the event, which will also include the Jonas Brothers, Bad Bunny, Lena Waithe and LeBron James.
  6. Today is Cinco de Mayo and Taco Tuesday. Even though you can’t go out to eat to celebrate, many places like Taco Bell and Chipotle are offering deals and discounts to mark the occasion. Here’s a roundup of Cinco de Mayo deals.

A bright one

Is it safe to hug your mom on Mother’s Day?

As Mother’s Day approaches, many wonder if it’s safe to hug a loved one during the pandemic. One renowned epidemiologist says it’s OK — maybe.

“I think a hug or two done in a very safe way with your fabric mask on and your hands clean and after you’ve been very careful, may be OK, but I can’t promise that it’s going to be OK for everyone,” University of Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon said last week. “But I can tell you that for me, it may be worth the gamble.”

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and one renowned epidemiologist says it might be OK to give your mom a hug.
AP Photos

Landon said the new set of stay-at-home guidelines that went into effect May 1 are a sign people should start to slowly “expand their quarantine family,” with the understanding coronavirus cases are still rising across the state.

“I’m not suggesting that everyone in the family should get together for a big reunion right now,” Landon said, “but if it’s really important to you and mom and … if everyone’s been really careful, everyone’s very low risk and if it’s OK with everyone involved, maybe now’s the time you put your fabric mask on, you wash your hands, and you give everybody a hug on Mother’s Day, and then maybe keep your distance a little bit more again.”

Read the full story from Carlos Ballesteros.

From the press box

Ahead of the fourth night of “The Last Dance” this weekend, former Bulls center Will Perdue looks back at the wrath that Michael Jordan unleashed on his teammates during practices.

Sticking with the ‘97-98 Bulls, did you know the team almost traded Scottie Pippen and Luc Longley to Boston before the season so Jerry Krause could draft Tracy McGrady? Former Sports Illustrated writer Franz Lidz has the background on the earth-shattering deal that fell apart once MJ found out.

Your daily question ☕

How have you been keeping your kids entertained and busy lately? Is it working?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday was Star Wars Day, so we asked you who you favorite character is, and why. Here’s what some of you said…

“Han Solo. Cool under fire and deep down, he’s a good guy.” — Alexas Bartkus

“Rey: she is a great example of strength and determination for my daughter.” — Joe Medearis

“Yoda! I mean, he’s Yoda!!” — Wanda Dotson

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