West Side schools gifted new academic programs

Morton School of Excellence, Clark, Sayre and Amborse to get gifted, IB and foreign language programs

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

When Chicago Public Schools reopen this fall, four West Side schools will be getting new academic programs.

East Garfield Park's Morton School of Excellence elementary school, at 431 N. Troy St., will become the first West Side school to have a gifted program. Austin's George Rogers Clark Elementary School, 1045 S. Monitor Ave., will get the Spanish World Language program. 

Older students at Galewood's Sayre Language Academy elementary school, at 1850 N. Newland Ave., will get an International Baccalaureate program. And North Lawndale's Ambrose Plamondon elementary school, 2642 W. 15th Pl., will get more Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) classes.

For the past two years, the Chicago Public Schools district has been giving extra funding and resources to schools throughout Chicago, with particular emphasis placed on improving schools in "high needs" communities. While it's not clear how many schools applied, 22 elementary and high schools got a total of $18 million in funding.

The applicants were chosen based on the Annual Regional Analysis, which looks at school enrollments, neighborhood demographics, whether students choose to attend schools in their neighborhood and what kind of programs each school offers. CPS also held five community workshops to get resident input and looked at the applications that didn't get approved last year.

According to a CPS press release, Morton's gifted program will originally be open to kindergarteners who can qualify based on test scores. As the students make their way through the grade levels, the program will be expanded to one additional grade a year, so that, by the time they reach eighth grade, the program will be offered at all grade levels. Thirty students are expected to take advantage of the program at the start of the next school year.

With the World Language program, the idea is to not only teach students a foreign language (in Clark Elementary's case, Spanish), but to help them "develop an appreciation for and understanding of the culture(s) associated with the language." Eight-hundred CPS students are expected to benefit from this program, but it's not clear how many of those students are from Clark.

The International Baccalaureate program is a program that was originally established in Geneva, Switzerland to provide a consistent program for students who went to school in several different countries.

As noted on the CPS website, the IB program encourages students of all ages "to think critically and challenge assumptions, develop independently of national systems, incorporate quality practice from research and our global community of schools, encourage students of all ages to consider both local and global contexts [and] develop multilingual students."

The program Sayre is getting is specifically geared toward students in grades six through 10, so only the school's sixth through eighth-grade grade students will be able to take advantage of it.

The West Side currently has three other public elementary schools that offer the IB program: Ellington Elementary, 243 N. Parkside Ave. and DePriest Elementary School, 139 S. Parkside Ave. are located in Austin, while Faraday Elementary, 3250 W. Monroe St., is located in East Garfield Park.

In an official statement, CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson described the decision as an important step in reducing disparities between schools in various parts of Chicago.

"These critical academic investments push the district closer to a future where every student has access to high-quality educational experiences regardless of the neighborhood they live in," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. "We remain focused on our Five-Year Vision as we expand academic programming and opportunities to strengthen schools through the second year of our program."

CPS will be holding four virtual workshops to help figure out which schools will get additional resources next year. The West Side workshop will be held on July 8, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For information on how to participate, visit: cpsarasouthwest.eventbrite.com.

Email: igorst3@hotmail.com

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