U of C points to Woodlawn site for charter school

By Tim Michaels

The University’s first charter high school moved closer to reality last week with the selection of Wadsworth Elementary School at 6420 South University Avenue as a potential site for the school, as well as the appointment of Barbara Crock as its director.

Community members discussed an enrollment proposal sent to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on February 14 that would create an attendance boundary around the school, thereby giving priority to Woodlawn students. CPS is expected to vote on the Wadsworth site in late March.

Officials point to the school’s proximity to the Woodlawn neighborhood and capacity for 2,000 students as boons for Wadsworth Elementary. Currently, the school has only 320 students enrolled.

“e believe the building can and will be the location of two great schools—the existing elementary school and the new high school campus,” said Linda Wing, deputy director of the Center for Urban School Improvement.

While city administrators dwell over its future location, however, Crock’s appointment as director has brought Wadsworth some attention. After a national search that included over 50 applicants, the governing board of the University of Chicago Charter School Corporation (UCCSC) unanimously voted to offer Crock the directorship in December.

“She has superb experience and combines strong management skills, excellent instructional knowledge, and a very good sense of how to work with diverse audiences,” said Hank Webber, vice president of community affairs and chairman of the governing board of the UCCSC.

Crock’s 14 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator have taken her to public schools in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.

Crock’s experience as a math teacher has been called especially appropriate by supporters, as the Woodlawn charter school aims to implement a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes the math and sciences.

“As a math teacher, I understand the importance of having a coherent and aligned curriculum across and within courses and consistently high expectations for performance,” Crock said.

Crock emphasized that success in science and mathematics in high school is crucial for future success in college, expressing her commitment to a series of newly proposed initiatives. One such program implements the sciences to deepen understanding through community research projects; another aims to start teaching algebra in eighth grade. Crock has also overseen a pilot program for the third edition of the University of Chicago Secondary Mathematics Project’s secondary curriculum.

When the school year gets underway, Crock said she would work to ensure that the high school meets the same success of the University’s other charter schools, North Oakland Kenwood and the Donoghue School.

“In the first few years we hope to have 100 percent of freshman students being ‘on-track’ for high school graduation at the end of summer intersession, have our middle school students successfully complete algebra in eighth grade and achieve high student attendance rates,” Crock said.

From kindergarten through grade 12, there will also be six-week benchmark assessments that will help inform teachers and administrators of students’ progress.

On top of her appointment as director of the Charter High School, Crock is also a doctoral student currently pursuing her education degree at Harvard University. Her research includes working with instructional leaders of new high schools in Chicago and attempting to improve instruction during the start-up of a new school.

Crock hopes to uniquely combine her research from the ivory tower with real-life applications in the CPS.

“I’m intending to use my dissertation research to inform my own work at the new charter high school,” Crock said.