Students in one-third of Chicago Public Schools K-8 classrooms returned to in-person learning over the past month with one key element missing — a teacher.
And that learning condition — sitting in a classroom while an educator teaches remotely — was more frequent in majority Black and majority Latino schools than in majority white schools.
Those were among the findings of a survey of school leaders conducted by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association and released this week. Administrators at 195 of CPS’ 415 elementary schools responded, said CPAA President Troy LaRaviere, who pointed to the racial disparity as evidence the district’s reopening plan is hurting even those students of color who resumed in-person learning.
Asked if he was confident the results represented the experiences of students district-wide, LaRaviere said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that the association’s sample of about half the city’s reopened schools gives plenty of insight on how reopening has gone elsewhere.
“The pain and the frustration comes largely from the fact that we told the district repeatedly ... that [principals] did not have the staff to make this safe or instructionally sound,” LaRaviere said. “And at one meeting after another, the district ignored our warning.”
Nearly two-thirds of principals who responded to CPAA’s survey said staffing issues and other obstacles have made in-person learning “less effective than remote learning for a significant number of students” at their school — a common thread regardless of the racial makeup of the school.
Principals have privately raised concerns over the past few weeks about staffing shortages that had the potential to disrupt their reopening plans if they hadn’t already. After long and tense negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union, CPS granted work-from-home accommodations to 28% of returning K-8 staff, including more than one-third of the 10,800 K-8 teachers.
The CPAA’s survey found 32% of K-8 in-person classrooms are operating with a remote teacher, including nearly half of classrooms in majority Black schools, 35% of those in majority Latino schools and only 17% of majority white schools. The vast majority of CPS elementary schools are majority Black or Latino; about 27 are majority white.
Another 7.4% of in-person classrooms have no teacher at all, the survey found, again with higher rates in schools that largely serve students of color.
Other findings included 7.4% of classrooms combined students from more than one grade; 5% of classrooms were being taught by teachers who had to switch grade levels or subjects; and 40% of schools — including more than half of majority Black schools, 35% of majority Hispanic schools and 29% of majority white schools — did not have the staffing necessary to allow for a recess period.
Asked about the survey at an unrelated press conference Wednesday, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said she couldn’t “respond to the findings because I have zero visibility into the survey.”
“What I will say is that hybrid learning, learning with our kids coming back, it’s a process,” Jackson said. “And there are some places, just like with remote learning, where it’s working extremely well.
“I can’t give a blanket statement on how it’s going, but what I will say is it’s not a match to in-person instruction. Which is why we’re working so hard to return to that every day for all of our students when we think it’s safe to do so.”