Data on AUSL turnarounds offer more complete picture

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The investment

In addition to the per-pupil funding provided by the district, the Academy for Urban School Leadership gets extra money from the district to spend on turnarounds. AUSL Executive Director Donald Feinstein says that the additional money is still not enough to provide all the resources and professional training that a school needs to be rejuvenated. He also relies on private philanthropy, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave AUSL $10 million in 2006 to use for five years. When that grant ran out, AUSL won another two-year, $2 million grant from Gates.

How money was spent
Per school
All schools
Hire a principal and administrative staff, provide professional development for new team of teachers
$300,000/school
$3 million
Security guards, support staff, curriculum, material, ongoing professional development, after-school programs
$412/student
$6.6 million

Uneven achievement

Based on ISAT scale scores—rather than the percentage of students who meet or exceed standards, the measure that is typically reported—the AUSL turnaround schools have higher achievement, albeit marginal, than comparable neighborhood schools. The lowest scale score is 120 and the highest is between 329 and 410, depending on grade.

 
Math 2010
Math 2011
Difference
Reading 2010
Reading 2011
Difference
AUSL turnaround schools
221
229
+8
209
212
+3
Other CPS schools
235
238
+3
222
223
+1

Area rankings

Morton School of Excellence is the only AUSL school that out-performed other schools in its network in reading and math. Howe Elementary School, also on the West Side, was a top performer too. The three schools that outranked Howe are new magnet or contract schools.

Gains over two years
AUSL schools by CPS network Reading rank in network Math rank in network
Austin-North Lawndale Elementary Network
Howe School of Excellence 4 of 34 schools 4 of 34 schools
Johnson Elementary 7 of 34 schools 5 of 34 schools
Garfield-Humboldt Elementary Network
Morton School of Excellence 1 of 27 schools 1 of 27 schools
Bethune Elementary 12 of 27 schools 12 of 27 schools
Pershing Elementary Network
Sherman Elementary 21 of 29 schools 8 of 29 schools
Rock Island Elementary Network
Curtis Elementary 8 of 28 schools 8 of 28 schools
Skyway Elementary Network
Harvard School of Excellence 11 of 37 schools 10 of 37 schools
Bradwell Math Science and Technology Academy 19 of 37 schools 9 of 37 schools
Deneen Elementary 27 of 37 schools 3 of 37 schools
Dulles Elementary 29 of 37 schools 17 of 37 schools

Value-added scores

Based on the district’s value-added test scores, only one AUSL school, Curtis, made better-than-expected gains in reading compared to similar schools. According to the district’s color-coded ranking, green means students are making faster growth than their peers in similar schools, yellow signals similar growth and red is slower growth.

School
ISAT value add color – Math
ISAT value add color – Reading
Deneen Elementary
Green
Yellow
Johnson Elementary
Yellow
Red
les Elementary
Green
Yellow
Harvard School of Excellence
Green
Yellow
Howe School of Excellence
Green
Red
Bethune Elementary
Green
Yellow
Morton School of Excellence
Green
Yellow
Bradwell Math Science and Technology Academy
Green
Red
Sherman Elementary
Green
Red
Curtis Elementary
Green
Green
NOTE: The value-added metric controls for student demographics such as poverty, limited English proficiency and race/ethnicity.

On the bubble

CPS has trumpeted the improvement in ISAT scores made by AUSL turnarounds. But ISAT improvement can be deceptive: Schools can look as though they are improving dramatically simply by moving a group of students just over the line into the “meets standards” category. More AUSL turnaround students are in this category than at neighborhood schools in general.

Percentage of students who are just above “meeting standards” in ISAT reading
Grade Neighborhood schools AUSL turnarounds
3rd grade 21% 30%
4th grade 28% 42%
5th grade 28% 44%
6th grade 25% 37%
7th grade 23% 40%
8th grade 24% 39%
Percentage of students who are just above “meeting standards” in ISAT math
Grade Neighborhood schools AUSL turnarounds
3rd grade 19% 26%
4th grade 19% 23%
5th grade 22% 39%
6th grade 18% 21%
7th grade 17% 20%
8th grade 21% 31%
NOTE: Based on discussion with experts, Catalyst Chicago’s criteria for placing students at just above standards was within 10 percentage points of the “meeting standards’ benchmark.

Tougher tests

CPS leaders have been pushing the notion that the ISAT is a faulty barometer of student learning, but the district still relies largely on it to rank schools as Level 1, 2 or 3–the best to the worst schools. This year the district published school-level results on the NWEA and on the 8th-grade EXPLORE, both of which are considered more difficult than the ISAT and give a better picture of how CPS students perform compared to children nationally. The results show that the ISAT-based rankings are no predictor of achievement on these tougher tests.

 
NWEA math, 3rd-5th grade
NWEA reading, 3rd-5th grade
NWEA math, 6th-8th grade
NWEA reading, 6th-8th grade
EXPLORE math
EXPLORE reading
Level 1 (excellent standing)
52%
45%
57%
51%
28%
39%
Level 2 (good standing)
36%
31%
42%
37%
13%
25%
AUSL turnaround
25%
25%
29%
28%
6%
15%
Level 3 (poor standing)
22%
19%
28%
24%
7%
18%
Note: The CPS rankings are based on a variety of factors such as student attendance, ISAT scores and value-added test scores.

Strict discipline

AUSL turnarounds emphasize a calm school climate. Principals insist that students are capable of adhering to the strict discipline, but the turnarounds have more misconducts than other schools.

Type of school
Misconduct per 100 students
AUSL turnaround schools
51
Lowest-achieving elementary schools (without AUSL)
40
All elementary schools (without AUSL)
22