CPS’s EFMP: A critique

In early September, CPS embarked on a series of community engagement meetings ostensibly to gain feedback on its 10-year Educational Facilities Master Plan, a draft of which the District published in May. Critics of the 458-page document maintain that it offers little substance about what, exactly, its “long range plan and current recommendations” are. 

They’re right. I’ve read it.

There’s very little of substance in the document, which I had somehow imagined would read more like this June Board of Education Report. Most of the EFMP reads like a group project paper, with the unifying theme taking the form of an oft-repeated refrain of its “educational goals” of who, what, where, and when the District teaches its students. 

In 78 pages of summary text, the District makes exactly nine statements of what it will do, although it offers little–if any–plans as to how it actually will accomplish these goals. 

p. 49: “We will be constructing and replacing playgrounds for those schools that have the capacity for them.” 

Except that CPS fails to mention which schools have the capacity for playgrounds, which schools need them replaced versus new ones, when these playgrounds will be constructed, and what and how the budget will be. 

p. 49: “We are expanding certain facilities to provide universal Full Day Kindergarten. In our FY13 Supplemental Capital Plan, we have allocated approximately $13.4 million in classroom build-out to prepare all schools for Full Day Kindergarten. Another $2.0 million has been set aside for kindergarten appropriate furniture across the district.”

I wonder how K students in 1/2 day K managed without furniture all this time? I looked up the FY13 Supplemental Capital Plan and there are only 13 schools listed in the plan as receiving funds. One of them is Smyser, which lists its ideal enrollment as 860 and its actual AY2012-13 as over 1,000. How on Earth 
can CPS carve space out of an overcrowded 81-year-old 

p. 50: “We will expand Gifted/Selective Enrollment opportunities.” 

Because there will be more seats? Or is this an allusion to the work scheduled to be done at Walter Payton? 

p. 56: “We will expand our International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes.”

p. 56: “We will expand STEM Elementary Schools and Programs, and Early College STEM” 

p. 62: “We will expand Career and Technical Education….During SY13-14, CTE academies or CTE programs will be added to 6 high schools (Roosevelt, Southside Occupational, Prosser, Gage Park, and South Shore). Of these, Roosevelt and Southside Occupational will require facility modifications to support the expanded program offerings. In SY14-15, CTE academies or CTE programs will be added to 5 high schools (Bowen, Farragut, Kelly, Ray Graham, and Foreman). Of these, Bowen and Ray Graham will require facility modifications to support the expanded program offerings.”

Finally: some substance! But still: lots of questions remain about what sorts of facility modifications will be required to support expanded CTE options. Also, while computer science and drafting are included in CTE, it’s unclear if those will be among the offerings at these 11 high schools. 

p. 67: “We will expand our Service Leadership opportunities….For SY2013, two proposals were submitted into the Call for Quality Schools authorization process to expand Rickover Naval Academy and Marine Math and Science Academy to include 7th and 8th grades. While the Board of Education has approved these grade level expansions, the schools will require new, larger facilities to support the increased demand for both its existing grades as well as the additional 7th and 8th grades. Furthermore, both Rickover Naval Academy and Marine Math and Science are co-located schools that will more easily achieve building efficiency standards once in their own building.” 

p. 68: “We will be elevating Arts Education to a core subject.” 

Great, but no funding or capital improvements set aside at this stage, which suggests that this is an afterthought, not an actual budgetary priority. 

p.69: “We will provide innovative, bold and effective instructional practices for students with diverse learning needs while being a credible, supportive partner for schools, parents, students and the community at large. All student s with disabilities have the right to access quality public education options designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for postsecondary education, employment and independent living” 

Again, no funding or monetary amounts mentioned in conjunction with this. Another afterthought. 

p. 15: “We have protected and increased investments in programs that boost student learning such as full school day, early childhood development and maintaining class size, while at the same time expanding high quality school options across the district to give parents more choices.” 

Would to know how CPS can justify maintaining class sizes of 28-38 students/classroom–if we use AY2013-14 numbers–as a good thing.

“Expanding high quality school options to create nearly 6,600 new seats in high quality magnet, selective enrollment, Charter, International Baccalaureate, Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs”

How to discount “new” seats from seats converted from existing programs within an existing building? Indeed, p. 56 details new programs at existing schools: 

“In Fall of 2013 CPS will open 5 new IB high school programmes (Farragut, Kennedy, Juarez, and Bronzeville), expand 6 other high schools to become Wall to Wall IB high schools (Hyde Park, Senn, Taft, Lincoln Park, Clemente, and the new Back of the Yards High School), and if recommended school actions are approved, will implement new IB in the following elementary schools: De Diego, DePriest, Ellington, Fiske, Jenner, Mollison, and Wells.”

p.17: “Similarly, we need a long term view into population trends in areas of overcrowding, particularly in areas where we may be contemplating capacity expansions. “There are approximately 65,000 fewer students enrolled in neighborhood elementary schools in areas that are underutilized today than enrolled 10 years ago.”  

Does this reflect a real population shift or increased enrollments in charter schools in some areas? The “schools of choice” argument suggests that many children go to school outside their neighborhood schools. I wonder how in-depth CPS got into the demographics? Did they perform any impact studies? 

p. 39 “If a principal enrolls out of area students, year after year, as the school’s capacity is increasingly utilized, a school can become overcrowded. Because of this, for elementary and high schools with traditional geographic attendance area boundaries (e.g., neighborhood schools), CPS measures the school’s actual enrollment efficiency, based on total enrollment relative to capacity, as well as the school’s notional enrollment efficiency, based on the percentage of enrollment consisting of students residing within that school’s attendance area boundary. The notional enrollment efficiency rating assists the District in determining the extent to which a neighborhood school’s efficiency or inefficiency relates to a high or low number of out-of-area students enrolled relative to the facility’s capacity.” 

Translation: if you are overcrowded because you over-enrolled non-neighborhood kids as a school of choice, too bad. This suggests that the District thinks that only magnet, SE, and charter schools should be “schools of choice” within the District. Choice is an illusion. Indeed, if you look at the “notional utilization” rate assigned by CPS to each “overcrowded” District school, the utilization rate drops down to a more reasonable level. Belding’s 139% becomes 110%, for example. However, Gray, Palmer, Prussing, and Smyser hold steady at utilization rates at 126% and up. 

p. 42: “We believe that if these alternative methods of overcrowding relief were fully deployed, overcrowding could be solved with approximately $500-600 Million, but it is unrealistic to expect those other means could be successfully deployed to resolve each of these situations.”

There are only 13 schools targeted to receive additions to relieve overcrowding, (p. 46) although the authors of the document fail to include status (and cost) of the projects within this report.


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