Dozens of Chicago schools eligible for closure, turnaround under new criteria

Print More

Some principals and school staff should be sweating right now, while
others can breathe a sigh of relief: CPS officials could announce, as
early as this week, which schools to close or turnaround this year.

At the Dec. 16 School Board meeting, the district laid out its clearest
criteria yet for closing and turning around underperforming schools.
The turnaround process sends the principal and staff packing.

Our analysis at Catalyst Chicagoshows that some 35 elementary schools and 25 high schools could
qualify, leaving district administrators plenty of discretion about
where to intervene. Historically, CPS has closed or turned around about
10 schools a year.

Some principals and school staff should be sweating right now, while others can breathe a sigh of relief: CPS officials could announce, as early as this week, which schools to close or turnaround this year.

At the Dec. 16 School Board meeting, the district laid out its clearest criteria yet for closing and turning around underperforming schools. The turnaround process sends the principal and staff packing.

Our analysis at Catalyst Chicago shows that some 35 elementary schools and 25 high schools could qualify, leaving district administrators plenty of discretion about where to intervene. Historically, CPS has closed or turned around about 10 schools a year.

Several principals were surprised to hear that their school could qualify.

“This is quite alarming information for me,” says Demetrius Bunch, principal of Louis Armstrong Math and Science Elementary in Austin.

On the same day the criteria were announced, the district posted a review of schools’ performance measures on its Research and Accountability website. Still, many principals don’t know it exists and don’t know their school’s status.

“Every staff member would like to know what the status or the performance of the school is, straight from the principal’s mouth, instead of hearing it from hearsay or seeing it on a website,” Bunch says. “Certain things should be done in a decent manner.”

Under the policy, any school that has scored less than 33.3 percent on the district’s performance policy, which incorporates test scores and other measures like attendance and dropout rates, in both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years can be turned around.

The district can also close elementary schools that meet these criteria, or that have fewer than 250 students and less than 40 percent utilization. However, central office will not intervene in Fresh Start union-run schools, or schools with principals hired less than two years ago.

The release of the criteria represents increased transparency for the district’s controversial closing and turnaround policies. “I think for some time, this has been too murky,” Board of Education member Norman Bobins said shortly before the policy was adopted.

A principal from a Northwest Side high school that qualifies to be turned around sounded resigned when he heard the news. Like so many high schools in Chicago, there have been many tries to improve his school, from reconstitution to creating small learning communities.

On one hand, the principal says it’s good that the district not give up on improving chronically struggling schools. But on the other hand, turning schools around takes an emotional toll, and data cannot tell the story of all the positive effects.

“Relationships are a part of it,” says the principal, who has been at his school for five years. “Performance management (the district’s data-driven approach to improvement) doesn’t pick up what evolves in the hearts and minds of people.”

He notes that some of the schools that have been turned around, like Fenger, have seen their climate suffer.

Sonja James Bellephant, who became principal of Grand Boulevard’s Parkman Elementary in 2008, says she is glad the policy will give principals time to transform their schools before the district steps in.

“To do any good, anywhere, takes time,” Bellephant says. “For new principals, that data is owned by someone else.”

In addition to neighborhood schools, six of the district’s charter schools scored low enough to be eligible for turnaround or closure if they were neighborhood schools. Those schools are Chicago International Charter School – Washington Park; the Barbara A. Sizemore Academy of Betty Shabazz International Charter School; ACT Charter High School; ACE Technical Charter High School; Young Women’s Leadership Charter School; and Youth Connections Alternative Charter School.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS ELIGIBLE FOR TURNAROUND OR CLOSING

School Name

Area

% of Possible Points 08-09

 

% of Possible Points 07-08

PARKSIDE

17

7.10%

 

33%

WOODSON SOUTH

13

9.50%

 

29%

GILLESPIE

17

11.90%

 

31%

RUGGLES

14

11.90%

 

29%

MCNAIR

3

14.30%

 

24%

MADISON

17

16.70%

 

29%

O’TOOLE

13

16.70%

 

31%

ROSS

13

16.70%

 

31%

DENEEN

14

19.00%

 

26%

DEPRIEST

3

19.00%

 

26%

GUGGENHEIM

14

19.00%

 

26%

MOLLISON

13

19.00%

 

29%

PARKER

14

19.00%

 

33%

TILL

15

19.00%

 

29%

AVALON PARK

17

21.40%

 

26%

BARTON

14

21.40%

 

33%

CARTER

13

21.40%

 

21%

LAWNDALE

9

21.40%

 

29%

LIBBY

13

21.40%

 

26%

KEY

3

23.10%

 

23%

ARMSTRONG, L

3

23.80%

 

33%

BOND

14

26.20%

 

29%

MAY

3

26.20%

 

29%

CROWN

10

28.60%

 

33%

WADSWORTH

15

28.60%

 

24%

EMMET

3

31.00%

 

31%

FAIRFIELD

11

31.00%

 

29%

FERMI

15

31.00%

 

12%

MORGAN

16

31.00%

 

29%

SMYTH

9

31.00%

 

29%

SULLIVAN

17

31.00%

 

31%

WOODS

14

31.00%

 

29%

HIGH SCHOOLS ELIGIBLE FOR TURNAROUND

School Name

Area

% of Possible Points 08-09

% of Possible Points 07-08

ROBESON

23

8.30%

14%

CLEMENTE

25

11.10%

17%

ROOSEVELT

54

16.70%

22%

CHICAGO VOCATIONAL

24

16.70%

17%

HOPE

21

16.70%

23%

WASHINGTON

23

16.70%

14%

GAGE PARK

23

16.70%

17%

PHILLIPS

19

19.40%

28%

SCHOOL OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

24

19.40%

21%

CRANE

21

22.20%

8%

SCHURZ

19

22.20%

25%

SENN

25

22.20%

33%

TILDEN

23

22.20%

8%

HYDE PARK

24

22.20%

19%

HARLAN

23

25.00%

11%

SCHOOL OF LEADERSHIP

24

25.00%

15%

SCHOOL OF TECHNOLOGY

24

25.00%

21%

FENGER

29

25.00%

14%

DYETT

21

27.30%

27%

FOREMAN

26

27.30%

21%

HIRSCH

23

27.30%

24%

DUNBAR

19

27.80%

17%

NEW MILLENNIUM

23

27.80%

27%

CHICAGO DISCOVERY

24

30.60%

22%

FARRAGUT

26

30.60%

19%

SULLIVAN

19

30.60%

33%

Notes: This list includes each non-charter, non-Fresh Start school that received less than 33.3 percent of possible points on the district’s performance policy, unless the school’s principal – according to a phone survey, principal tenure data, and Chicago Public Schools principal contract records – has worked at the school for less than two years. Principal tenure information may contain errors.

Sources: Chicago Public Schools principal contract records and principal tenure data; school survey of principal tenure; school performance policy data provided by the Chicago Public Schools Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability