Chicago Teachers Union opposes school closings this school year

In a major move, the Chicago Teachers Union announced on November 17, 2011 that it opposes all proposed school closings during the 2011 - 2012 school year. The union's position, outlined in a lengthy press release, follows:

NEWS RELEASE. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin. November 17, 2011 312/329-6250

Chicago Teachers Union critiques CPS School Actions Guidelines; calls for moratorium on “School Closings” this year. Lewis: "CPS set to close schools it never tried to save; lack of support cited…"

CHICAGO – A Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) analysis of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) School Action Guidelines for school closings and consolidations found the new policy does not help improve student achievement and will not help the district reach its goal of providing “quality” schools in every community. Union officials join the growing list of parents, teachers and community leaders in the call for a moratorium on all “school actions” this year.

CPS will announce its list of “school actions” by December 1st, having earlier said that 42 percent of its schools are on academic probation. The CTU plans a series of activities, including a citywide “Teach-In on Stopping School Closings” on Saturday, December 3rd at 10:00 a.m. at King College Prep High School, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. At the event parents, educators, clergy and community activists will discuss strategies on how to save neighborhood schools from unnecessary or arbitrary closures.

“The guidelines are more of the same failed policies and practices of previous CPS administrations: moving too quickly to close neighborhood schools and replace them with charter schools without ever demonstrating that CPS faithfully tried to adequately support struggling neighborhood schools,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Too often, a school is put on the ‘school action’ list and then CPS gives the building to a publicly-funded but privately-managed charter school which will not be held accountable to the same guidelines. We support a moratorium on all ‘school actions’ this year.”

The Chicago Consortium on School Research’s (CCSR) “Five Essential Supports” addresses the problems that schools face. Closing, phasing out, restructuring/turning-around and co-locating schools are not remedies for low-performing schools. CPS keeps stating that “far too many underperforming schools are not preparing our children for college and career,” but CPS is not telling us what exactly it has tried to do over the years to help support struggling schools, and there has not been a publicly stated hypothesis for why these campuses continue to struggle.

CTU's Research Department arrived at the following conclusions about the School Action Policy:

Closing schools for academic reasons is rarely a good idea.

Schools on probation are supposed to get assistance from CPS.

The social and academic supports that the receiving schools will get should have been provided to the school they close.

The School Action remedies are not appropriate for low-performing schools. The CCSR’s “Five Essential Supports” addresses the problems. (see below)

CPS has had problems rolling out its Performance Policy because it analyzes different data than the previous system. The Common Core State Standards go into effect next year, again disrupting trend data, an important component of the Performance Policy.

Charter schools are exempt from the “school action” process, as they are exempt from the Performance Policy (Board Report 10-0728-P04). Several charter schools are on probation and would qualify for a School Action.

Value-Added is a major component of this process, yet it has been proven to be flawed on many levels.

Using CPS Network averages is problematic because the range and diversity across the large geographies make the comparison of the schools biased, especially when magnet and gifted schools are included.

Using the 25th percentile on the growth component of the Performance Policy, a quarter of the schools will always be considered failing even if they are doing well.

“’Five Essential Supports’ have been calculated for every school in the district. Why can’t CPS take this analysis and work with the schools to build up these supports,” asked CTU Chief Researcher Dr. Carol Caref. “Why would closing, phasing out or otherwise restructuring a school solve the issue of under-performance?”

In addition, the analysis said CPS and the Network Chiefs should already monitor all schools to ensure each school receives the supports it needs in order for all students to achieve academic success. These School Action Guidelines do not take into consideration the availability of important school supports until stage 3 – Transition Plans – and only then provides those supports to the receiving school, which is much too late to help the students reach their full potential. “This shows CPS’ lack of sincerity in ensuring that all schools are equally supported. Nor does it reflect a commitment to creating higher quality educational options for students,” Caref said. The use of a Value-Added metric in determining whether or not schools get on this list for possible school actions is also problematic. A large body of research shows this metric does not account for the severe disadvantages and lack of resources faced by students and school staff in some communities. Value-Added is not a valid measure of school performance and should not be used for high stakes decisions.

For high schools, this policy will include “Freshman On-Track” and “Drop-out Rate.” Measurement of these components is fraught with errors such as failing to account for grade repetition, student re-enrollments and transfers, and inconsistency, among others. Such measures can also be heavily biased against under-resourced schools.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at



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