Renaissance school’s success not supported by test scores

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Thank you for the powerful stories in your March 2006 issue about the impact of the Chicago Public Schools’ Renaissance 2010 program. (“Slow progress amid strife“) We need more careful analysis like this before any Renaissance 2010 programs are proclaimed models. It was therefore frustrating to see the editorial characterization of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) as a “proven program.” (“There’s got to be a way to make schools better for kids“)

Let’s take a closer look at the new Dodge, currently AUSL’s only school serving a predominantly minority, low-income student body. The only other AUSL school that’s been open long enough to have a track record is the Chicago Academy, whose students are 48 percent white and 52 percent low-income. That hardly qualifies as a comparison school for these purposes.

But Chicago Public Schools is already touting the “new” Dodge as a Renaissance 2010 success, claiming that students who attended both the old Dodge and the new Dodge are making greater achievement gains at the new school.

PURE reviewed the internal CPS analysis on which this claim is based and found some unfavorable statistics the district is not talking about. For example, overall yearly student gains at Dodge were higher in 2002, when CPS closed the school, than they were in 2005 (1.39 in reading and 1.25 in math in 2002 versus 1.32 and .81 in 2005). Iowa test scores in math were actually higher at Dodge in 2002 than in 2005. We also learned that the good news about big gains for the “old” to “new” Dodge students is based on the scores of 12 children.

In addition, the new Dodge’s overall ISAT scores dropped from 33.5 percent meeting standards in 2004 to 25.5 percent in 2005, a fact not mentioned in the memo but easily found in the most recent state school report card. It seems that CPS is working awfully hard to make lemonade out of lemons.

And keep in mind that the public was promised “dramatically better” schools under Renaissance 2010.

PURE is disturbed by the media’s willingness to overlook facts like these in what has essentially become a partnership with CPS to promote Renaissance 2010. We are even more concerned because CPS has declared the planned 2006 takeover of Sherman Elementary by AUSL to be the system’s first official restructuring project under the No Child Left Behind Act. Pretty soon the Renaissance will seem like the good old days.

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE)