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Chicago Teachers Union to protest 'Turnarounds' at headquarters of AUSL

Parents and community members from schools slated for "turnaround" by CPS visited the Chicago Academy High School/Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) headquarters and protested the district’s use of a program that causes instability for their children and costs millions for taxpayers instead of a less expensive, research-proven transformation with the teachers they know and trust.

In the past month, four CPS Schools slated for “turnaround” at the estimated cost of more than $1 million dollars per campus/per year have voted to ask the CPS to use an alternative model proven to be highly effective, research based, and costing only one-fifth as much as AUSL, the most frequently used option. The turnaround strategy that the four schools are asked CPS to approve is called the CPS-SLI School Transformation Process. It can be used as an alternative to an approach used in recent years by AUSL in which the entire faculty and leadership of a school is terminated and a new staff hired. It costs approximately $1 million to implement the AUSL approach.

"Research has demonstrated the qualities that schools need to succeed," said CT Vice President Jesse Sharkey. "CPS has already invested in a transformation plan developed by Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) that embraces that research. It is highly effective, already proven in CPS schools, and can save an enormous amount of money. We urge CPS to embrace this option. It will be excellent for the children, their families, their schools and their neighborhoods."

Officers and members of the Chicago Teachers Union, joined by community organizations and parents, will be protesting today, May 16, 2013, at the headquarters of the "Academy for Urban School Leadership" (AUSL) against the proposal by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett that additional schools be added to the AUSL porfolio of so-called "turnaround" schools. The teachers and parents charge that AUSL's so-called "turnaround model" is a failure, and that the costs of the program belie the claims by Byrd Bennett that the school system is trying to save money because of a massive deficit. Protests also note that the President of the Chicago Board of Education, David Vitale, and the Board's "Chief Administrative Officer", Tim Cawley, have had longstanding ties to AUSL and therefore have a conflict of interest in the matter.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley, above during the March 2013 Chicago Board of Education meeting. The "March" meeting took place on April 3, 2013 because Board members were afraid of the massive march against school closings that was organized by the Chicago Teachers Union and its community allies for March 27, the day of the scheduled meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Cawley was brought to CPS from AUSL by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2013. He was appointed to the high paying job (more than $200,000 per year at this time) despite his residency problems (he lives in the northern suburbs), the conflicts of interest (CPS routinely awards lucrative no-bid contracts to AUSL), and the fact that he has had no teaching or public school administrative experience. Substance photo by David Vance.The protest is scheduled to take place at the Chicago Academy, located at 3400 N. Austin in Chicago. The Chicago Academy, an AUSL public school, is located on the site of the former Wright College and is used to train AUSL teachers who are then placed in schools where AUSL gets the contracts for so-called "turnaround." Chicago was where AUSL began the so-called "turnaround" ten years ago when Arne Duncan was "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools. AUSL has since been hailed, without research-based evidence, as a model for national turnarounds by the Obama administration. When President Barack Obama announced that he was appointing Duncan to be U.S. Secretary of Education in December 2008, he chose the "Dodge Renaissance Academy", the first AUSL turnaround school, as the site of the media event announcing the Duncan appointment.

Critics note that in 2013, Dodge is one of the public schools facing changes under Duncan's latest Chicago successor, Barbara Byrd Bennett.

According to a CTU press release:

Parents and Community to blast CPS’ “turnaround model” at AUSL headquarters as school closings loom... Group to release proven alternative can save CPS and taxpayers millions while improving schools and scores

CHICAGO – On Thursday, May 16, parents and community members from the schools slated for ‘Turnaround’ by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are going to Chicago Academy High School/Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) Headquarters, 3400 N. Austin, at 12:45 p.m. to question why the district uses a program that causes instability for their children and costs millions for taxpayers is better than a less expensive, research-proven transformation with the teachers they know and trust. In the past month, four CPS Schools slated for “Turnaround” at the estimated cost of more than $1 million dollars per campus/per year have voted to ask the CPS to use an alternative model proven to be highly effective, research based, and costing only one-fifth as much as AUSL, the most frequently used option. The turnaround strategy that the four schools are asked CPS to approve is called the CPS-SLI School Transformation Process. It can be used as an alternative to an approach used in recent years by AUSL in which the entire faculty and leadership of a school is terminated and a new staff hired. It costs approximately $1 million to implement the AUSL approach.

“Research has demonstrated the qualities that schools need to succeed,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. “CPS has already invested in a transformation plan developed by Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) that embraces that research. It is highly effective, already proven in CPS schools, and can save an enormous amount of money. We urge CPS to embrace this option. It will be excellent for the children, their families, their schools and their neighborhoods.”

CPS itself – with the help of the Chicago non-profit Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) – developed, funded, and demonstrated a viable alternative to the CPS-AUSL model during an eight-school, four-year demonstration project, over 2006-2010, with high-poverty, low-performing schools. These scores demonstrated significant turn around and showed sustained improvement.

One of these schools, Willa Cather Elementary on Chicago’s west side, was recognized as CPS’s most improved school out of 473 elementary schools based on ISAT Composite Score. Cather received national attention when the US House of Representatives held a “Congressional Hearing on Turnaround Schools” in May, 2010. The Lead Witness featured the results of Cather and seven other schools that were part of the CPS-SLI Demonstration Project.

Schools chief executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett recently visited Willa Cather School Elementary in Garfield Park. She cited Cather as an example of a high-performing school that had been chosen to become a “welcoming school” for some of the 51 schools CPS was closing because of excess capacity.

The six schools facing CPS-AUSL turnaround for next year are Barton, Carter, Dewey and O’Keeffe on the South Side and Chalmers and Lewis on the West Side. The faculties at Barton, Carter, Dewey and Lewis have voted overwhelmingly use the CPS-Strategic Learning Initiatives rather than doing a AUSL turnaround plan.

Financially, the CPS-SLI model costs just one-fifth of the cost of the CPS-AUSL model and has shown as good or better results. Additionally, this model provides children with continuity and stability at school by keeping the teachers who are often like second parents, especially to young children. It also produces creates more school leaders and is not disruptive for communities, students and families. It empowers school staffs to improve instruction and to involve and engage parents. It requires buy-in to the process from the bottom to the top of the CPS, from the teachers to the CPS leadership. School staff become empowered to continuously improve their core processes, from classroom instruction to parent engagement to the leadership provided by the principal and leadership team.

For the cost of one CPS-AUSL school, CPS can fund five CPS-SLI schools. That would be five high-poverty, low-performing schools which could be leading their own turnaround strategy, and gaining all the related skills, rather than being fired and their valuable experience lost. The annual cost for the CPS-AUSL model is more than $1 million per school. (Designs for Change,“ Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out Perform Chicago ‘Turnaround Schools,’” 2012 page 20. (www.designsforchange.org). For Six Turnaround schools over three years the cost totals $18 million. The CPS-SLI model is less than $200,000 a year. For six schools over three years the cost totals $3.6 million (www.cps.org Board Reports, 2006-08). Over three years, the CPS-SLI model would save the CPS and taxpayers $14.4 million.

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Comments:

May 17, 2013 at 12:46 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard

AUSL takeover of Douglas Park

Here is an excerpt from my letter to the editor of Catalyst Chicago.

As we enter the final stretch of the race to close down a record number of schools, the most ever in a single district at one time, we are extremely concerned about the patterns that are emerging in North Lawndale...Community residents have questioned whether the proposed school closings are providing cover for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which operates turnaround schools, to consolidate its interests in North Lawndale. Bethune, an AUSL school, will close before being completely turned around. This will free capacity for AUSL to take over Chalmers, situated across the street from the northeast corner of Douglas Park. Pope, situated across the street from the southwest corner of Douglas Park, will close, and Johnson, which is an AUSL school, will assume its attendance boundaries. Johnson is situated across the street from Douglas Park on 14th Street. AUSL controls Collins High School, situated inside the park. After the dust settles, AUSL will control essentially every school in or around Douglas Park.

In addition, while Henson’s receiving school is Hughes, the new attendance boundaries are drawn such that the lion's share of Henson students will go to Herzl, another AUSL school. There are also connections to the current CPS leadership. Board President Vitale is the former board president of AUSL. CPS’ Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley is a former managing director of AUSL.

While we believe schools should be improved rather than closed, it should be noted that AUSL schools do not necessarily present better options. AUSL schools in North Lawndale have historically under-performed the North Lawndale Average.

May 17, 2013 at 12:51 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard

AUSL in the capital budget

It was clear from the start that the hearings had a pre-determined ending. CPS included all six schools, by name,with an aggregate capital investment to be made in the schools--in the supplemental capital budget--WEEKS BEFORE the turnaround hearings were held. The supplemental capital budget was approved by the board before these hearings.

May 17, 2013 at 1:04 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard

Chalmers hearing officer report

Here is a link to the Lawndale Alliance's public comments for the Chalmers hearing. http://www.scribd.com/doc/141811278/Public-Comments-to-CPS-Regarding-Proposed-Turnaround-of-Chalmers-School

Here is a link to the Hearing Officer's Report on the Proposed Chalmers Turnaround. http://www.scribd.com/doc/142005205/Hearing-Officer-Report-for-Proposed-Chalmers-TA-609851

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