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Decatur Local School Council. 7th & 8th Grade Committee Jill Martensen Kimberly Jockl Co-Chairs. The History. Decatur Classical School was established in 1978 and shared space with Boone Elementary School in the West Roger ’ s Park

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decatur local school council

Decatur Local School Council

7th & 8th Grade Committee

Jill Martensen Kimberly Jockl


the history
The History

Decatur Classical School was established in 1978 and shared space with Boone Elementary School in the West Roger’s Park

neighborhood. Along with 4 other Classical elementary schools, Green Classical, as it was originally known,

was a 1-6 grade accelerated program designed to meet the needs of the desegregation. Green Classical quickly outgrew its

shared space at Boone Elementary and in 1979 was relocated to a primary school building located at 7030 N. Sacramento Ave

where it became Stephen Decatur Classical School.

In 1988 CPS added Kindergarten to all Classical Schools to give more students the opportunity to receive a Classical education.

  • Green Classical-
  • Feeder school-

The original design of all Classical School Programs was to feed directly to the Academic Center Programs at Whitney Young, Morgan Park, Kenmore Academy and eventually Taft HS. Sometime prior to 1991, the feeder program was dropped as not all children from Classical Schools were prepared for the rigorous curriculum. According to Mr.. Jay Lee, Decatur students were not the problem but they could not allow only one Classical feeder school, so they discontinued them all. No alternative placement was ever offered to Classical School students.

  • 7th grade attempt-

In 1990, the LSC Chairperson at Decatur was contacted by the District Superintendent and told that in order to

retain a full time Principal, Decatur would have to complete its program. The school went to great lengths to

expand its curriculum to continue a Classical Education plus meet HS placement requirements.

A split class of 6th and 7th graders was introduced in 1991, as only 7 students remained at Decatur for 7th grade.

CPS then came to evaluate the program and it was cancelled.

Why it failed:

1. The Superintendent who contacted Decatur did not have CPS support to expand the Classical Program.

2. Whitney Young protested greatly that losing Decatur students would hurt its Academic Center Program.

3. Not enough Decatur students stayed.

Decatur was allowed to retain a full time Principal and discontinued its middle school program after only 1 year.

options and requirements
Options and Requirements

In order to apply to the academic centers at Whitney Young, Taft or Kenwood, you must place at the minimum

of 7th stanine in both Math and Reading on the 5th grade ISAT tests.

A combination of your 5th Grade final grades(300 points), 5th grade attendance(100 points) and an entrance

exam score(600 points) with a possibility of 1000 total points determines admittance.

In order to apply to the Gifted Program at Edison, Bell, or Beaubien, you must be in the 90% in both Math

and Reading on the 5th Grade ISAT tests.

The GEAP application and exam are used to place students in spots made available by students leaving the

Gifted schools.

In order to apply to the IB Prep Program at Lincoln or Ogden, you must be in the 90% in both Math

and Reading on the 5th Grade ISAT tests.

An extensive interview and test are given at the schools for this program.

*This program starts in 6th grade.

Skinner Classical School is the only Classical School to currently have a 7th & 8th Grade Program.

In order to apply to Skinner at 7th grade, you must reapply and retest for the Classical Program.

In order to apply to the Classical Program, you must be in the 80% in both Math and Reading on the

5th Grade ISAT tests.

The GEAP application and exam are used to place students in spots made available by students leaving Skinner.

  • Academic Centers
  • Gifted
  • IB Prep*
  • Classical
the round table
The Round Table

On Thursday, March 7, 2008 a select group of Administrators, Teachers, Parents, Alumni and Students met to discuss the pros and cons of expanding Decatur Classical School to include a 7th & 8th Grade Program.

The participants included past and present representatives of the Decatur community.

  • Pros
  • Continuity of Programming
  • Small School environment
  • Safety Net for students/another option
  • Stress relief for students and families
  • Mentoring opportunities between grades
  • Limit matriculation
  • Cons
    • Need more space
    • Program limitations
    • Honors classes

There was a general feeling that a middle school program would be good for Decatur students IF the atmosphere was right….a new addition.

It was agreed that Decatur would not be able to compete with Academic Centers, but offer a viable alternative to neighborhood, magnet, private or gifted programs.

2008 6th grade parent survey
2008 6th Grade Parent Survey
  • 63% of responding parents said their family felt stress over placement/testing.
  • 28% of responding parents said their child was selected for their first choice.
  • 74% of responding parents said that even now, knowing where their child would go for 7th grade, they would STAY at Decatur for 7th & 8th grade.
  • 71% of responding parents said they would still test in 6th grade.
  • 80% of responding parents said that Decatur in its current state COULD NOT support a

7th & 8th grade.

  • Pros
  • Well performing school, quality education
  • Quality of teachers/Trust
  • No stress until HS placement
  • Continuity of education
  • Small school environment
  • Transition year (7th) affects HS placement
  • Remain with friends at critical age
  • Logistics/Transportation hardships for students
  • Cons
  • Facility too small
  • Advanced Placement/Honors Courses/HS credit
  • If accepted to Academic Center you’re set for HS
  • Sports/Extra Curricular
  • Of responding parents 77% said Whitney Young was their first choice in Academic Centers
  • Of responding parents 11% said Taft was their first choice in Academic Centers.
  • Of responding parents 3% said Morgan Park was their first choice in Academic Centers.
  • Of responding parents 9% didn’t specify a first choice in Academic Centers.
the money
The Money
  • Tax Increment Financing

-Decatur Classical School is in a new TIF district. The school would qualify for funding via the real estate tax increment fund.

-The Touhy/Western TIF fund has not yet collected its first taxes.

-Currently, a new school is slated for construction to alleviate overcrowding at Boone and Clinton schools in the same West Roger’s Park neighborhood. ($7 million from Touhy/Western TIF fund)

-Debt collection must be established before the County will know if another project can be funded out of the Touhy/Western TIF fund.

Currently working with Ald. Stone’s office, The City of Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development and The Cook County Office to establish fund liquidity and what it means for Decatur.

  • CPS

Individual schools are not allowed to apply for TIF funding on their own behalf. CPS must apply for the money to be used to supplement the construction of any new addition at Decatur.

Only half of a school project may be funded by TIF. The Chicago Public School system must provide additional funding.

in the mean time decatur helps
In the mean time, Decatur helps

Current 6th Graders

  • Established 7th & 8th grade Fair to communicate options to parents. Academic Centers, IB Prep, Gifted, Magnet and Private schools with scholarship opportunities. Adding new programs and options every year to help alleviate stress of placement.
  • Testing at Decatur for all students. In November 2007, all Decatur students were given the placement test for the Academic Center Program, regardless of 5th grade ISAT results.


  • There is no “history” of the Classical Programarchived at CPS.All the information found has been compiled from interviews with former administrators, teachers, Alumni parents and Alumni students.
  • Exploration of other programs including requirements has helped form opinions.


  • Surveys have been given at many different points to many different parties, including a 2006/07 Exit Poll, 2007/08 6th Grade Parent Survey and 2008/10 SIPAAA Stakeholder Survey.
  • Round Table participants were given topics to focus the conversation. Many of those who could not attend sent in their responses.
the big picture
The Big Picture
  • Parent Fears
    • No placement for students. We are often reminded that all children go somewhere, of course they do it’s the law to send your child to school until at least age 16. The fear is that the student will not continue his/her education in the same manner that they began at Decatur Classical School. Some students do not even meet requirements to test.
    • Large school settings. Some parents fear their children are not ready for a large school setting and would prefer to remain in a smaller school until the HS placement.
    • Joining a program for only two years, one of which is your HS placement benchmark year is too disruptive to the education of the child.
    • Neighborhood Schools not an option. For many parents placing their child in their neighborhood program after years at Decatur is just not an option.
    • Stress! The number one conversation when discussing a need for a middle school program at Decatur is to relieve some of the stress in the children and the parents.
          • 5th Grade: ISAT scores, Grades and Attendance worries.
          • 6th Grade: Placement Testing and admissions process worries.
          • 7th Grade: (Transition year) ISAT scores, Grades and Attendance worries.
          • 8th Grade: Placement Testing and admissions process worries.
    • Grading Scale. Academic Centers use 5th Grade Final Grades as part of your total 1000 points. Decatur students work above grade level with no credit in the process.

Example: A student at Decatur* who has a 92% in Math and Reading gets B’s

A student at McDade who has a 92% in Math and Reading gets A’s

Grade Points:

Decatur student has 100 points (50 points for each B)

McDade student has 150 points (75 points for each A)

Decatur student is already at a disadvantage even if attendance and entrance exam test results are

identical. All things being equal McDade student gets the placement.

*Decatur uses the CPS suggested grading scale. There is no policy on unified grading.

what if s the reality
What IFs…the reality

CPS Climate

CPS relocated, consolidated and closed several schools by looking at the numbers and not the humans. What happens when we ask for a program expansion?


Will CPS admit there is there money for an addition to Decatur?

Political Clout

Decatur is not a neighborhood school so technically we do not have a representative

to turn to. Alderman Bernard Stone has pledged his support but what does that mean?

If we build it will they come?

Decatur will never compete with Academic Centers. We would encourage students who

place into the Academic Center Program to attend. We would strive to offer a “safety net” for

families not ready to move on.

GEAP has been instrumental in recruiting new students for placement at Skinner to fill spots

made by students not opting to stay in the Classical Program.

Skinner’s Principal Ms. Deborah Clark stated that it’s a great opportunity for the

students who may not have been at the top of the class to really soar and gain


are we ready
Are we ready?

• • Open Discussion • •

Special thanks to all those who had input, opinions and

determination for the students of Decatur.

The Decatur Administration and Staff (ALL OF YOU!) • The Decatur LSC past and present •

•June G. Shackter • Ila McElroy • Cathy Skopis • Hugh O’Connor • Clara Littau • Karen Ley •

Eileen Schmakel • Brad Cantwell • The Balan Family • The Boyle Family • Kelly Zehfuss • The Regalado Family • The Rajput Family • The Ricker Family • Reese/Bernstein Family • Patrick Coyne • Dawitt Hadgu • Beth Ann Bryant-Richards • Diane Jackson • The Rossinof/Leff Family • The London Family • Naisy Dolar •Anita Goldstein •Jeff Madl •Joey Gerharz •The Masias Family • Helen Loosevelt • Shia Kapos • Beth Wangman • Leslie Toepfer • Joanne Botten • The Benaissa Family • The McGinnity Family • Arlene Zoeller • The Greven Family •

Mr. Bernard Stone • GEAP Office • City of Chicago Dept. of Planning & Development •

David Orr and the Cook County Clerks Office •

And all the parents and students who have supported this effort by attending public meetings, signing petitions and giving opinions on surveys. This has been a group effort and all participation is greatly appreciated!