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Nearly 60 Percent of Students at Conrad Fischer Are Living in Poverty, New Figures Show

Districtwide, poverty is at 13.5 percent, superintendent says. When a child enters the district in poverty, teachers must bridge the gap.

It can be hard enough to teach a room full of wiggly elementary school students. But if those kids come to school without proper school supplies, if they haven't had the benefit of preschool or been exposed to books in the home, or if they can't read English, their path to achievement is a lot steeper.

When one thinks of Elmhurst District 205—or Elmhurst in general—poverty is not something that comes to mind. But some sobering statistics shared at Tuesday's District 205 School Board meeting indicate a dramatic increase at Conrad Fischer School of students living in poverty.

In the last year, out of Fischer's nearly 500 students, the number of those living in poverty increased from 39 percent to 57 percent of the student population. Five years ago, it was 19 percent.

The district determines the number of students living in poverty by looking at the number of students in the free or reduced lunch program. And while Fischer clearly has the largest population of poverty-level families in the district, Superintendent David Pruneau pointed out that poverty is spreading.

"Poverty is increasing pretty dramatically districtwide, up to 13.5 percent and moving forward," he said. "We have a lot of students, a lot of parents in need."

According to the 2012-13 budget approved by School Board members Tuesday, District 205 receives about $430,000 in Title I funds for low-income students at Fischer and Churchville Middle School, the district's only Title I-eligible schools.

Title I was first developed as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The legislation aims to narrow the achievement gap by allowing all students, regardless of income, the same shot at a quality education. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act reauthorizes the ESEA.

Currently, Title I funds can be spent only on those children specifically targeted as living in poverty. But since Fischer has far surpassed the Act's threshold of 40 percent of its student population in poverty, the district can petition to use Title I funds for all students attending the school.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Charles Johns told the School Board that if the schoolwide model is approved, all students at Fischer will benefit.

"When you get to a critical mass of poverty in a school, even students who are not from an impoverished background still need support," he said. "The whole school has a degree of need."

The federal government doesn't exactly make it easy to convert from a targeted model to a schoolwide model, and Fischer Principal Jane Bailey and her staff have been hard at work for a year gathering data to outline the learning needs of students, as well as a plan of action.

The plan leans heavily on parent participation, a broad range of academic interventions and infusion of technology—all things that already are being implemented at Fischer.

The first step to conversion to a schoolwide model is board approval, Johns said, and the board unanimously approved the measure Tuesday. Board member Maria Hirsch took the opportunity to point out the special challenges teachers at Fischer face.

The majority of students in District 205 have support from home and extended family, strong language and conversational skills, early childhood education and a "solid base" from which they are starting their education—"so many things many of us take for granted," she said.

But the majority of students at Fischer come from a different environment, she said.

"Not only are we asking Fischer staff to help (students) meet typical growth that is expected of our high-achieving school district … we also are asking them to make up for and fill in the gaps of these students that don't have that foundation coming to us," she said. "Not only do we have a building where almost 60 percent of the students come from a background that is not as solid as the rest of our buildings, but we also are holding (teachers) to very high expectations."

Fischer staff has been committed to academic intervention. They have provided free school supplies and backpacks to students, free physicals to families and a strong summer school program. School Board member John McDonough was the board's liaison to Fischer last year.

"I was invited to witness all the school planning," he said. "I saw a group of passionate professionals, really engaged people who are there with a calling to give that little bit extra the school might need. It was a tribute to the leadership of Jane Bailey and all the teachers there, and the community members who were participating—courageous, active individuals.

"It was really a great experience. I left the session moved that day."

Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 02:14 PM
MaryAnn, Bee, Sarah, and concerned citizen thank you for your thoughtful comments on this issue and elevating the level of comments and discussions. I do believe we need to provide language support and be in compliance, my issue is in how we do this. I am not an expert in the law, but there has to be a way to provide the needed support without segregating the classrooms. Unfortunately, the bilingual classrooms will be made up entirely of Latino/hispanic children and the non bilingual classrooms will look very different. Your first friends are those in your classroom, your early friends also become your friends for life. By separating children, we miss a great opportunity for children to learn from each other, to learn about each others culture, and embracing differences. By segregating classrooms, we inadvertently create divisions and lack of understanding. Lack of understanding and relationships creates a culture of us versus them, of stereotypes and biases. If you recall lessons from the brown eye/blue eye classroom experiments conducted by a teacher in Iowa it wasn't very hard for stereotypes and divisive behavior to arise in the classroom when childern were treated differently based on the color of their eyes. www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/ . There has to be a better way to be in compliant and retain a sense of community, versus division.
Dan September 28, 2012 at 02:27 PM
This just reinforces the fact that at the very same time local funding of education through property taxes has increased with the state paying a smaller share every year the schools face ever increasing state mandates. What ever happen to local funding results in increased local control?
Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Elmhurst Mom, I was raised in Elmhurst and attended Conrad, Churchville, York. I attended the gifted programs, received enough AP credit to graduate from college a year early and earned my Masters from the University of Illinois. In addition, I have had a successful career as a corporate executive, that has allowed me to provide very well for my family. I never attended a bilingual program. My siblings and husband are teachers. My first language was Spanish. My parents were immigrants to this country. My father bought a house in Elmhurst because of the quality of the schools. My immediate and extended family all made it a priority to learn English and advance their careers in the United States. To assume that most families haven't taken the time to learn Spanish is a gross overgeneralization. I personally don't believe we should have to provide instruction in Spanish, but we do have to provide support for all children to learn. Yes there are some families that have not learned English, perhaps they have just recently arrived here and are in the process, perhaps some choose to not learn. But to say 70% haven't is ridiculous
Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Elmhurst Mom- I would also be very angry if my child was placed in an ESL classroom for reading support, since he wasn't an English as a Second Language student. This is the issue with the new policies in place in school. My child had reading issues in 1st grade at Fischer and due to early intervention by Fischer's teaching staff and small group instruction, he is now reading at or above grade level. This would not have happened if he was placed in an ESL classroom, especially since his English is much better than his Spanish. I encourage parents to attend the Bilingual Parents Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee on Tuesday, October 2 at Fischer. I am going, even though my children are not in bilingual education, as what happens with these progams will affect the quality of instruction and climate for the entire school.
Floyd September 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM
My Grandfather built his house here North of 290, back in the 1940's. Not only do I carry his name but I also hold his values, the same values that helped found this town. I attended CF & all 3 of my daughters have attended CF, over the last 15 yrs up to this currant year. Needless to say our school has seen a hoard of change over those years, including 3 principals. In my opinion Principal Jane Bailey, is A great fit for our diverse community, & one of the best things our school has seen this decade . Take a look at the difference in school ethnicity & ISAT scores across Elmhurst. http://www.zillow.com/local-info/IL-Elmhurst-schools/r_4568/ CF, 46.%w,35.6%h,13.4%a,5.%b Emerson,81%w,8.6%h,6.4%a,4.%b Field,85.4%w,4.2%h,8.1%a,2.2%b Hawthorne,93.8%w,1.9%h,2.4%a,1.9%b Edison,92.4%w,3.3%h,4.2%a,0.0%b Lincoln,96.7%w,1.2%h,1.6%a,0.4%b Jefferson,95.7%w,1.6%h,1.3%a,1.3%b Jackson,89.3%w,3.3%h,4.7%a,2.1%b I could have posted the middle schools & if your interested please look @ the site & you'll see Churchvill, is just as lopsided as CF, is to the rest of Elmhurst. The Teachers&Staff @ CF do not control from what financial or ethnic background our students come from. Needless to say if CF, had not added the Spanish curriculum to the class room, our ISAT scores would be MUCH lower. Thank You Principle Jane Bailey, w/o you,Mr Navaro, & other Teachers & staff, it would be our Students that fail.
Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Floyd, thanks for your supportive comments. The bilingual classrooms were added this year. The great results you refer to were driven without this year's policy. I just dont want the district to break what is not broken. Bailey and her staff are the reason for the success! They need the freedom to do what is best for the school and not be held to the district's ELL coordinator's policies. Spanish at Fischer is not a bad thing, in fact being exposed to many languages is great for our children, it's creating segregated classrooms that is bad for society and school culture.
Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Let me clarify, the addition of bilingual classrooms in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd are new this year. I believe we have had a bilingual kindergarten in the past.
D205 Parent September 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Many languages, not just one!
D205 Parent September 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Excuse me not just one other language. There are many different languages in the world and Fischer has many children of different ethnic backgrounds: Polish, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish, Bosnian, etc.
Ken September 28, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Many languages but only bilingual in Spanish.
D205 Parent September 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Yes, Ken only Spanish. I went on a field trip with a class from Fischer last year. They separated the kids into groups of 4. Each group had a parent chaperon. One group consisted of a Hispanic parent, 2 Hispanic children and 2 English speaking children. The parent spoke both Spanish and English, but chose to speak Spanish during this trip. The English children in her group did not speak Spanish only English. The parent speaks English perfectly fine, but chose to speak Spanish. Everyone seems to be afraid to tell parents to speak English because they might feel discriminated against. How would she feel if her Hispanic child was put on a field trip with a Polish speaking parent? I believe she would say something and not be happy. Weren't these English speaking children discriminated against? Some people are bilingual and speak many languages including English. When choosing a language to speak during school, it should be English like the other 7 grade schools in Elmhurst.
D205 Parent September 28, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Yes many teachers at Fischer are awesome, but again cater to ALL children!!
Vincent Russell September 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Shame on all of you if you are of Irish, Italian, German, etc., decent. This is the EXACT same discrimination and predjudice that our great grandparents faced when they arrived in this country. Public schools were inadequately prepared for the immigrants so many went to Catholic schools. These Mexican immigrants are working their tales off because they know what is ahead. It is not a life of food stamps, but a life of prosperity that we promise if you work hard. It is not their fault the that government and schools got involved in the social welfare sytems that the government had no right to get involved in the first place. Teach in English or teach in Spanish but teach and learn!
Fischer Parent September 28, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Great point Vincent!
Ralph September 28, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Yes, illegal immigration needs to be rewarded. Perhaps that is why our parents struggled so hard. What were they thinking?
End Hate September 28, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I am appalled by the bigotry that is being spread on these comments. In the public schools we teach all children. No matter their gender, race, socioeconomic status, educational abilities. We pride ourselves on doing what is best for each and every child, not just a select few. If you do not wish or your child to be in an environment like that you can choose to send your child to a school where they hand select and don't allow certain children. There are quite a few options in the area. Pull your kids out and stop torturing yourself, your children, and the staff. Don't wait to get your "government handout" in the form of a school voucher.
Independence666 September 29, 2012 at 03:33 PM
What the............. The majority of kids attending one of our Elmhurst schools are now living in poverty? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!! And it is one more piece of hard evidence which proves that the Obama administration is leading this country into the toilet. If the American people are foolish enough to vote this turkey back into office for another four years, we truly deserve all of the continued pain he will bring. MR. O HAS GOT TO GO!!!!!
D205 Parent September 30, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Lastly, this is not about bigotry or racial hate. It's about our children receiving the same education as the other grade schools in Elmhurst. Receiving the proper help when needed. If you focus on one other languae, you will need to focus on them all at all of the schools not just one. If that is done, then we will have to waste a half hour of valuable learning time listening to the morning announcements in 10+ languages. It should be one language, one community, United, not divided. Thank you!
Independence666 September 30, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I agree with you 100% Parent! These kids will have little chance of succeeding here in this country unless they can communicate fluently in English. If they cannot or will not use English, they will surely end up on the welfare dole, and the Lord knows that we don't need anymore of that in this country.
Resident and Tax Payer September 30, 2012 at 03:31 PM
"If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime."
mary uher September 30, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Then teach the man to fish - idiot. Why are we trying for a grant for bike racks? These kids need our help.
USA September 30, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Government assistance is supposed to be temporary, not a way of life!!!
Ken October 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
But the past generations weren't catered to with special classes, voting ballots, commercials, TV programs, Dial 1 for Spanish, etc. like these are. Plus Catholic schools didn't teach bilingual classes either.
ABC123 October 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I found an article about this type of set-up in the Naperville schools. I have a friend in Naperville who put her son's name in a lottery to get into this Spanish Immersion class and was thrilled when he was chosen - 14 Spanish speaking, 14 English speaking students. From the article, it sounds like that district is now offering the program at 5 of the 14 elementary schools and there is a wait list at all 5 schools. Maybe 205 is behind the trend by only having this program at one school. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-17/news/chi-naperville-district-203-language-immersion-20120717_1_language-immersion-naperville-schools-elementary-schools BTW I.Love.Elmhurst - I'm a Field parent and we only have one, old Smart Board at our school. C.F. Is not the only one.
Fischer Parent October 02, 2012 at 10:38 PM
It would be great if we had language immersion programs that would benefit the entire school and help children become fluent in more than one language. Unfortunately that is not what is being offered at Conrad Fischer.
ABC123 October 02, 2012 at 11:50 PM
I misunderstood the previous explanation of how Conrad Fischer has classes set up. I thought it was similar ....my apologies.
Karen Chadra (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 05:20 AM
A comment was removed for violating our terms of use.
Fischer Parent October 03, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Last night Ms. Mulaterri had her first bilngual committee meeting. She was solicitating parents to participate in the committee. Several Fischer parents were told they could not participate in the committee were told they could not participate as they did not have children receiving services. She even tried to say it was illegal to participate. But backed down and said she would research this issue. How we provide these required services impacts the entire school, as well as the resources available to all children. Yet instead of letting all parents participate in the program and the solutions, she rather keep the parents divided. Those with kids receiving bilingual services versus those whose kids do not. Just like the classrooms, divided.
Fischer Parent October 03, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I also have heard that these new policies are dividing the teachers who historically have worked very well together and team taught. The new classrooms do not allow for this. In addition the new classrooms are staffed by former resource teachers that were available to help all who needed it. Now they only can help their Esl or bilingual classroom.
elmhurst resident December 18, 2012 at 06:00 PM
150 try 200+ eating FREE breakfast and lunch and getting many more free things at our expense

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