Chicago school reforms fail to raise scores

Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, a school reform plan launched by Mayor Richard Daley and then schools chief Arne Duncan, has done little to improve educational performance, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis. Secretary of Education Duncan’s Race To The Top is based on Renaissance 2010 strategies, the Tribune points out.

Scores from the elementary schools created under Renaissance 2010 are nearly identical to the city average, and scores at the remade high schools are below the already abysmal city average, the analysis found.

The moribund test scores follow other less than enthusiastic findings about Renaissance 2010 — that displaced students ended up mostly in other low-performing schools and that mass closings led to youth violence as rival gang members ended up in the same classrooms.

Renaissance 2010 “dramatically improved the educational options in communities across Chicago,” said Peter Cunningham, Duncan’s spokesman. Advocates say it’s too early to judge the reform plan’s success.

Schools CEO Ron Huberman says “about one-third of the new schools are outperforming their neighborhood counterparts; one-third are identical in performance; the rest do worse.”

However, a not-yet-released study finds “pass rates in (Ren10) schools are now 4 percentage points higher than those in comparable neighborhood schools.”

The reform plan also closed chronically low-performing schools. Most students were transferred to other low-performing schools, where they did just as poorly as before. Violence increased as teenagers crossed “racial, cultural and gang boundaries” to attend school.

In response, Duncan decided in 2006 to replace the principal and teachers at turnaround schools but leave students in place. That’s worked at three of four elementary schools taken over by The Academy for Urban School Leadership, reports The Tribune.

Daley plans to expand Renaissance 2010. Huberman says the district will “put our energy behind the proven factors that work” and close underperforming Ren10 schools.

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  1. So are these the results we can expect from Race To the Top? When are they going to stop creating random programs and blaming teachers when they don’t work? Why not just ask US what works in our classrooms?

  2. The article failed to note that another intervention, Strategic Learning Initiatives, managed to improve struggling schools very substantially without firing teachers or the principal. An AIR validation study found that SLI’s schools’ improvement far outpaced that of other schools in CPS. Two SLI elementary schools apparently made the largest ISAT gains of 473 elementary schools in the system.

    This isn’t to take away from achievements of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which seem impressive. But it’s important to acknowledge that several strategies–including those that don’t begin with staff replacements–have been effective.


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