Progress Seen at Chicago Turnaround Schools

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Friday, February 10, 2012

A study of Chicago's most aggressive efforts to reform failing schools, including replacing school leadership and staff in "turnaround" efforts, finds that targeted schools did improve even though students continued to score below district standards.

On state tests, underperforming elementary schools improved reading skills enough to cut in half the gap that once existed between their performance and district standards and did well enough in math to cut the gap by two-thirds, according to a report by the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research. But at the high school level, the report concluded thatCPS' efforts — overhauling school staff or closing schools and then opening charters in their place — had little effect.

"Is it enough change? That's a matter for debate," said Tim Knowles, director of the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute, which oversees the consortium. "Is it significant change, given the trajectory of turnaround schools compared to other schools at the bottom? Absolutely."

The report comes as the Board of Education is set to vote on closing seven low-performing schools, and "turn around," or replace staff with specially trained teachers and administrators, at 10 other failing schools. The study will no doubt add fuel to an already charged debate.

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