First Intimation Chicago Public School Closings This Year

[Reading the CPS pledge about their school closing plans is a little like reading a Peanuts cartoon.  The classic autumn one, I mean, when Charlie Brown takes out his football.

This Indymedia photograph shows opponents of school closings and turnarounds protesting public service cuts on MLK day, Jan. 18, 2010

Remember how Lucy approaches with that sly smile, telling him to ignore all the lessons of past experiences and let her hold the ball on the tee while he practices kicking it?  How she lulls him into trusting her ONE MORE TIME?  And then, just as he is about to kick the ball she jerks it away, he falls on his back? Remember that one? The Chicago Tribune reports (Jan 20) in the following article that 14 schools will be closed, consolidated or “turned around,” but not with the devastating consequences we have come to anticipate.  Long on promises and short on implementation is the stock in trade of the wizard of oz-CPS.  Dorothy and Toto and the rest of us had better make other plans — Lew Rosenbaum]

Chicago schools unveil next round of closings

January 19, 2010 10:55 PM UPDATED STORY  (This story appeared in the Jan. 20 print edition of the Chicago Tribune)

Students displaced by the newest round of Chicago school closings won’t be bounced to equally dismal schools, according to policies highlighted today as the district unveiled the next round of schools to be targeted.

Chicago Public Schools will close, consolidate or overhaul 14 schools this year because of low achievement, underenrollment or outdated facilities.

Officials long have defended the closing of schools because of poor performance, saying they believe it gives students a shot at a better education. But recent research shows that just 6 percent of displaced students were moved to top schools and gained academically. The majority did no better because they landed at schools about as bad as the ones they’d left.

This year the district outlined criteria to ensure that the 1,900 kids displaced by closings have access to better schools as measured by things such as test scores and attendance. The schools they are sent to also either will be within 11/2 miles of their address, or transportation will be provided.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get them into a higher performing school,” schools chief Ron Huberman said at a news conference.

Four schools will be closed and another four consolidated with other schools, Huberman announced. One school will stop accepting new students and five others will be “turned around” by operators who will overhaul staff and offer new resources in an attempt to create a new school culture.

Despite the new guarantees for displaced students, critics remain unmoved.

Chicago Teachers Union president Marilyn Stewart noted that two of the schools to undergo “turnaround” — Deneen Elementary and Gillespie Elementary — were just beginning a reform that linked teacher pay to student performance. Indeed, many have undergone past reforms. And the principal at Montefiore school, which is to receive students from the closing Las Casas Occupational High School, said she had not been told of any such transfers.

Curtis, Guggenheim and Prescott Elementary schools and Las Casas will be closed. McCorkle, Paderewski, Marconi and Mollison elementaries will be consolidated into nearby facilities. Schneider Elementary will stop accepting new students.

Three elementary schools, Gillespie, Deneen and Bradwell, and one high school, Phillips, will be operated by the successful Academy of Urban School Leadership as turnaround schools. Marshall High will be revamped by the Office of School Turnaround at Chicago Public Schools.

New this year, the district will pay for extra classroom time at receiving schools and assign staff there to help displaced students make the transition, the district said. Schools also will coordinate with the Chicago Transit Authority and the Police Department to ensure safe passage for students.

One critical issue that could stymie the new policy is that parents might not send their kids to the designated receiving schools. Indeed, the research report on school closings conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School Research showed that parents chose to send their kids to a wide variety of schools, not just the ones suggested by the school district.

“There were many, many schools involved in the process — more than 100 receiving schools,” said Marisa de la Torre, the author of the report.

At Prescott Elementary, which is to be closed, students will be sent to Agassiz or Burley Elementary schools. Parents on Tuesday seemed unable to even consider the change.

Fernanda Figueiredo’s son, Felipe, 4, attends preschool at Prescott and is happy there. She said that though she lives closer to Agassiz than Prescott, she wouldn’t feel comfortable sending him there.

“I feel horrible,” she said. “I really, really think that the teachers and all the staff at Prescott are engaged to help the students and parents.”

Though turnarounds have been less controversial than school closings, they still have stirred anger because critics say they destroy the social capital in a school.

Kayla Brent, 15, a sophomore at Marshall High School, said bringing in a new staff is useless. Daily gang fights have reduced teachers to little more than security officers, she said.

“You’re going to fire people that actually care about the students and bring in people who don’t even know us,” she said.

Huberman, however, remains optimistic about Marshall, which has a championship basketball team and is a veteran of reform.

“The formula for this seems to be, if you do deep, whole school change that’s fundamental, you end up beginning to win and improve,” Huberman said. “The historical work at Marshall is much more piecemeal.”

Azam Ahmed and Daarel Burnette II

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