MEDIA WATCH: First round of reports on turnarounds and closings shows corporate media ape Rahm Emanuel's party line...

The first round of media reports on the proposed closings, turnarounds, and other continuing attacks on Chicago public schools continues to show that the lines and routines first pioneered by Arne Duncan ten years ago are continuing to frame the narrative for corporate America's version of what to do to "fix" Chicago's broken public schools. Even thought ten years have passed since Duncan first announced (to the cheers of the editors and pundits) that the city "couldn't wait another minute" to move in an "save" schools through closures — and within a few years "turnarounds" — the same mantra seems to be repeatable ten years later from the mouths of Duncan's latest successor, Jean-Claude Brizard.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has staged more press conferences, media events, and publicity stunts during the six months since his inauguration in May 2011 than his predecessor Richard M. Daley held in 22 years in office. Emanuel's staging of the events is built for TV cameras, and reporters are generally trained to sit down, be quiet, and ask one or two official questions before reporting the official version of that moments events, provided in easy form both in print and digitally from the enormous staff of the mayor's press office and whatever subsidiary agenda (like CPS) is joining Emanuel in that particular event. Above, reporters take their seats before the lecture and staged event at Morton "School of Excellence" begins on November 29, 2011. None of the corporate reporters present notices that the fancy charts handed out by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) to prove that AUSL's marketing claims about "turnaround" had left out the high schools AUSL has failed at, or even some of the elementary schools. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The script reads as follows, whether the person repeating it is Arne Duncan in 2002 or Jean Claude Brizard in 2011: "We've got to save these schools now — NOW DO YOU HEAR! —" as if that wasn't what they'd been doing, and failing at even by their own measures for the entire 21st Century. It's as if Chicago media were in another dimension, where the scripts have already been written in narratives like "Waiting for Superman" and the job of reporters was just to fill in the blanks on the latest iteration of the same lies, half truths, and propagandas.



PS Announces Closures, 'Phase-Outs' Planned At Eight Chicago Schools. The Huffington Post Lizzie Schiffman First Posted: 12/ 1/11 01:41 PM ET Updated: 12/ 1/11 01:46 PM ET

After announcing Tuesday that ten Chicago Public Schools will be subjected to a controversial "turnaround" treatment next year, CPS named four schools for closure Wednesday, and initiated a "phase out" process at two more that will close in the next three years. In all, 20 schools are facing adjustments, colocations, turnarounds or closures in the coming year.

The sweeping changes facing so many Chicago schools were directed by the School Actions Guidelines, issued Tuesday by the Chicago Board of Education, which flag schools with composite Illinois State Achievement Test scores below their geographic average, with low graduation rates or located in close proximity to a higher-achieving school for consideration. (See the full terms of the School Action Guidelines here.)

Simon Guggenheim and Florence B. Price Elementary Schools will be closed after several years on academic probation and average ISAT scores about 20 percent below neighboring schools, CPS reports. Two schools already in the phase out process--Julia C. Lathrop and Walter Reed Elementary Schools--will close after graduating their last class this year. (Best Practice High School, which was fully phased out by 2009, will be formally closed this year). Phase outs will begin at Walter H. Dyett and T. Crane Technical Preparatory High Schools, which have spent seven and 10 years on academic probation, respectively.

"Co-locations" merging charter schools with traditional, under-enrolled CPS schools will embed alternative or enrichment programs into Henry H. Nash Elementary School, James R. Doolittle Jr. Elementary School and Richard T Crane Technical Preparatory High School, according to the CPS release.

The new batch of adjustments is poised to impact 2,769 students, on top of the 5,800 at schools being turned around. CPS reports that more than 123,000 Chicago students attend underperforming schools in the district, nearly one-third of all young people enrolled. "Every child in every community in Chicago deserves a high quality education, which is why we are making the tough choices today to put our students on the path toward college and career success," CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement. "Our students have one chance at a quality education and they cannot wait another year for the level of instruction and support they deserve to become successful."

Some education advocates have praised the CPS overhauls as a necessary change, citing record low state test scores across Illinois this year, pushback from teachers over proposed changes in the way their performances are evaluated and the release of test scores proving that charter schools, once thought to be a solution to Chicago's educational woes, face the same problems as their public counterparts. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial Wednesday praised the actions for "moving CPS in the right direction."

Four reporters listen and take notes while AUSL-selected parents talk about how wonderful AUSL turnarounds have been. The reporters (rear) are (left to right) Rebecca Vevea (New York Times, Chicago News Coop), Linda Lutton, WBEZ radio, Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, and Sarah Karp, Catalyst. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.But the Chicago Teachers Union has already issued criticism of the CPS announcement, calling out the district for targeting predominantly African-American schools on the South and West Sides and arguing that shutdowns can destabilize communities.

"School closings, consolidations, turnarounds and other similar experiments do not work and do little to improve student achievement," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. "Today's 'school actions' are the same old, ineffective, policies couched in new and exciting public relations boosting language; however, the outcomes will remain the same. Until this administration addresses the structural inequity in our schools and deals with poverty and other social impediments to learning, we'll be right back at this place again next year."


Turnaround Schools, Jennifer Wholey | December 1, 2011 9:00 am

Parents in some Chicago neighborhoods are angry by proposed changes made by Chicago Public Schools. We discuss the ideas and more on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.

In a round of sweeping changes, Chicago Public Schools may be sending mixed messages. CPS officials released plans this week to close two elementary schools and phase out two high schools, meanwhile implementing “turnarounds” for an additional eight elementary schools and two high schools.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, along with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, met to discuss revamping 10 schools in the 2012-2013 academic year. The schools serve a total of 5,800 students. Four of the schools will be transitioned by the CPS Office of School Improvement, and a record six by the AUSL.

As part of a turnaround, all current teaching staff would be removed; a total of 429 teachers and other staff members will have to either reapply for their old jobs and receive intensive training, or find new jobs entirely. For students, turnarounds include one-on-one counseling and a full-time social worker, tutoring services and additional after school programming.

The Chicago Teachers Union, however, is calling foul. In a November 30 Chicago Sun-Times article, CTU President Karen Lewis says she finds a possible conflict of interest in AUSL conducting turnarounds:

Carter G. Woodson School

“The fact that AUSL is the beneficiary of these turnarounds and that the board president and the chief administrative officer have ties to AUSL — it doesn’t sit that well with us,” Lewis said in the article. “That should be dealt with on some level.”

The AUSL will oversee the turnarounds of Pablo Casals Elementary School, Melville W. Fuller Elementary School, Theodore Herzl Elementary School, Marquette Elementary School, Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, and Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary School.

The CPS Office of School Improvement will oversee the turnarounds of Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School, Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School, Wendell Smith Elementary School, and Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School.

Jean-Claude Brizard

As for school closings and phase-outs, students will be transferred to nearby higher-performing schools. Although effective as a means to cut costs, merging pre-existing schools has the potential to strain neighborhood relations among students, and could result in gang violence as turfs cross.

The two schools to be closed are Simon Guggenheim Elementary in Englewood, and Florence B. Price Elementary in North Kenwood. Students at these schools will initially attend Bond Elementary, and later incoming students will attend Stagg Elementary. The phase-outs include Crane Tech High School on the Near West Side, and Dyett High School near Washington Park. Crane Tech students will be merging with Wells High School, a nearby school that is currently on academic probation but said to be improving; and Dyett’s incoming freshmen will be ushered towards Phillips High. Three of the transfer schools are overseen by the AUSL.

Brizard has said these CPS projects are critically necessary to improve struggling school districts and the lives of the children they serve.

“We are committed to moving students to higher-performing schools and making investments into the schools they're going to,” Brizard said on Wednesday. “We know how difficult this is for some folks. But we all have to agree that we have to do what’s right for kids and this is the best solution.”

Do you think Chicago Public Schools should be closed if they are failing? Sound off on our discussion board!

[The story has many links...].


CPS proposes record number of school turnaroundshttp:/

By: Sarah Karp / November 29, 2011

Chicago Public Schools leaders propose to “turn around” 10 schools next year, more than the district has ever done in a single year. The turnaround process, under which the principal is replaced and most teachers are fired, has now become a national education strategy. The announcement is the first of the school actions to be announced for next year. With a state law now requiring that CPS make its proposed facilities decisions by Dec. 1, leaders are expected to reveal more plans, including perhaps a record number of school closings, later in the week. After a slew of public hearings, the Board of Education will vote on the proposed school actions at their February meeting.

Among the schools are Tilden High School, which last year got a $6 million federal School Improvement Grant to engage its existing teachers in an effort to improve. The other high school on the list is Chicago Vocational Career Academy, a large high school on the Southeast Side of the city.

Marquette Elementary School, one of the district’s largest elementary schools, is also on the list. It is in the last year of a grant that paid for extended-day programs, and is one of three schools with significant Latino populations. So far, all existing turnaround schools have had a predominantly black student body.

CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the proposed turnarounds are in the “emergency room and need help.” They are being turned around, instead of closed, because other nearby schools could not accommodate their students or were not markedly better, added Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat. One promise made by CPS officials to parents and community activists is that they wouldn’t close one school and send its students to a lower-achieving one.

But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis immediately took issue with the announcement. “It is a very expensive and destabilizing process,” Lewis said of turnarounds.

While about 5400 students attend the schools on the list, CPS officials declined to say how many staff would face job uncertainty because of these actions. Brizard insisted that he is worried about the children, not the adults.

$20 million investment

The district expects to spend about $20 million on these turnarounds over the next year and a half as they hire new staff, including extra people to provide social-emotional and instructional support, and provide them with intense professional development.

Much of that money will go to the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a not-for-profit teacher training organization that already manages 19 CPS schools, including 12 turnarounds. CPS leaders chose AUSL to take over six schools, while the district's Office of School Improvement will do four, including both high schools.

Brizard insisted that AUSL has done a laudable job with its current schools. He said that he could feel the difference when he walked into Howe Elementary School, an AUSL turnaround on the West Side.

“I would love to take you on a walking tour before and after,” said Brizard, who arrived in Chicago a year after Howe’s turnaround began.

Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley, who, up until taking the post at CPS this Spring, worked for AUSL, added that turnaround schools were the “worst of the worst.” (Board President David Vitale served as AUSL’s chairman.)

CPS leaders pointed to strong Illinois State Achievement Test results. For example, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the ISAT at Morton Elementary School shot up 40 points within two years after the AUSL turnaround. (On Tuesday, Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be at Morton to showcase happy parents.)

However, in recent months, leaders have distanced themselves from the ISAT as the district moves to a more rigorous test. Also, no definitive study has shown that turnarounds take the same students and improve their outcomes. A University of Chicago Consortium on School Research study on turnarounds has yet to be released. Spokeswoman Emily Krone said that study is being “held up” by the Institutes of Education Sciences review process.

Last year, CPS took a break from turnaround schools. Instead, it won eight federal School Improvement Grants for "transformation" by making a financial investment without replacing the entire staff. (Tilden was one of the transformation schools.) However, Brizard in the past has likened transformation to "trying to fix a plane while flying it."

Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso said that many of the teachers who underwent the transformation professional development over the summer have already left the school. Others might lose their position at Tilden, but be hired at other schools and therefore their training won’t be for naught.

CPS officials said 70 percent of teachers laid off because of a turnaround find jobs at other schools.


Casals and Piccolo elementary schools in Humboldt Park

Fuller and Woodson South elementary schools in Grand Boulevard

Herzl Elementary in North Lawndale

Marquette Elementary in Marquette Park

Stagg Elementary in Englewood

Tilden High School in Back of the Yards

Smith Elementary in Pullman

Chicago Vocational Career Academy in Calumet Heights

IF THERE HAD BEEN AN AWARD FOR THE SILLIEST PIECE OF PROPAGANDA ON BEHHALF OF SCHOOL CLOSINGS AND TURNAROUNDS, IT WOULD GO TO THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR PUBLISHING, A WEEK BEFORE THE TURNAROUND WERE ANNOUNCED, A HAGIOGRAPHY OF CPS CHIEF PORTFOLIO OFFICER OLIVER SICAT. You can read it here and judge for yourself. With more than 23,000 teachers in real public schools in Chicago every day, why is The New York Times featuring this FNG? Answer: Martin Koldyke of AUSL is one of the people who runs the New York Times Chicago News Coop, ensuring that it regularly slants the coverage in the Times to the corporate party line.

Emanuel’s Point Man on School Closings. New York Times via the Chicago News Coop, by REBECCA VEVEA | Nov 22, 2011

Closing down underperforming public schools in Chicago has historically been a traumatic process, with battle lines drawn between affected communities and district leaders.

School closures take on an even greater significance this year, because they are designed to be the first step in the strategic plan of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school administration to overhaul the struggling system.

The Chicago Public School district, which has closed about 50 schools in the last decade, this year is expected to increase the number of schools being turned around and to expand the number of charter schools. Officials must release the list of schools they plan to shutter by Dec. 1.

The leader of the process is Oliver Sicat, 32, the district’s new chief portfolio officer, a newly-created position focused on providing, in the words of Chief Executive Jean-Claude Brizard, a “high-quality seat” in a good school for every child. Sicat is a former teacher and principal—positions Emanuel said would be on the resumes of his new district leaders.

The son of Filipino immigrants, Sicat grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., where he said his parents had to game the system to get him into a good public school.

“I learned early on that there are different inequities based on where you live,” Sicat said, noting that at one point, his parents used a different address to get him into a better school.

“Looking back now, I see exactly why my parents were doing that,” he said. “But I think there’s something really unfair about it. There’s no reason why families and parents should have to do that.”

If Sicat is successful in the task handed to him by Emanuel and Brizard, families will not have to gamble on where their children go to school. After low-performing schools are closed, Sicat and district leaders say they plan to reorganize or replace them with schools managed by both public and private operators that have proven track records of success.

When Arne Duncan, now the U.S. secretary of education, served as chief executive, he sought to increase the number of high-quality schools under the Renaissance 2010 initiative, opening 100 new schools over a five-year period—most of them charter schools. Research findings on the Renaissance 2010 initiative were mixed but mostly showed little improvement in academic achievement.

Sicat, who previously served as the principal of UIC College Prep, a Noble Street Charter School, has already met his opponents. Last week at a community hearing on the plan for school closings, audience members shouted at Sicat, questioned his decision-making power, and demanded that the district invest in existing schools rather than close them and open up new ones.

“Everyone agrees that we’re trying to improve the educational options for our students, but I think how we get there is where we disagree,” Sicat said at a recent Chicago Board of Education meeting.

A group of community organizations were scheduled on Tuesday to release their own agenda for improving schools, calling on the district to invest in neighborhood schools by providing preschool and full-day kindergarten, supporting after-school programs, and taking better advantage of community partnerships. The groups had already presented their proposal to Beth Swanson, Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education, and Jamiko Rose, the district’s chief officer for family and community engagement.

Joanna Brown, the lead education organizer at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, said Swanson and Rose seemed receptive to their ideas, but added, “The question is where the priorities and the resources are.”

At the last two school board meetings, Sicat has given glimpses of the district’s strategy and priorities.

In October, he said school-closure decisions will be made primarily on academic performance. In November, the board approved a contract with an outside consulting firm to develop a “school choice matching system” that would require all prospective students to apply to the public schools. The district also sent parents a new school report card recently that labels their child’s school as a high or low performer. The city’s public charter schools were not given a report card, causing some to question why they are not being exposed to the same high-stakes evaluations as others.

Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University, said there is “no question” that the number of charter schools will increase under the new administration.

The Chicago Teachers Union is vehemently opposed to charter schools, and last week president Karen Lewis said the new guidelines for school closings unfairly favor “publicly-funded, but privately-managed charter schools” that are not held accountable to the same standards.

“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,” Lewis said.

The CTU does not represent teachers at city charter schools.

Sicat and other district officials say the aim is to expand good schools, regardless of who runs them and whether they are charters or not.

Research on the impact of closing and opening schools on the basis of student achievement has been inconclusive.

A 2009 report from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research showed that student achievement dipped in the year leading up to closure, but was largely unaffected once a student was placed in a different school. Researchers found that only 6 percent of students moved into high-quality schools, while 42 percent continued to attend low-achieving ones.

The plan is to close those low-achieving schools as soon as possible. But opening “high-quality” schools in their place may take time, and even so, may still not produce the results Sicat and others are hoping for. Multiple Analyses of schools opened under Renaissance 2010 showed that most of them performed only slightly better or about the same as nearby neighborhood schools.

Still, “We want to make sure we’re giving our students better options now,” Sicat said.


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