Groups representing teachers and parents of Chicago Public Schools students appeared yesterday at a Board of Education meeting to protest the district's approach to turning around troubled schools.
Heads of the Chicago Teachers Union, Parents United for Responsible Education and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators all spoke out against the process, which involves dismissing virtually all of a school's staff.
Several teachers, at least one of them facing a job elimination, asked for a moratorium on turnaround schools and closures.
CTU President Marilyn Stewart calls the turnaround procedure draconian, and says it is difficult for the city to recruit and retain teachers when turnarounds and closings force them out.
Jackson Potter, a teacher at Little Village Lawndale High School, says a moratorium on new turnarounds would create time so that data from existing turnaround schools can be analyzed. Including the six new turnarounds started this year, there are eight turnarounds operated by CPS and the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).
“It‘s a shell game where they‘re moving the problems around,” Potter says.
He supports a moratorium which would exist “however long it takes to get that analysis done.”
“I agree with teachers who are asking for a moratorium,” says Julie Woestehoff, PURE executive director. “Traditional schools need help. Closing them down is not the answer.”
After more than two hours of public comment, the board heard the timeline and criteria for this year‘s turnaround schools procedure.
By that point, the speakers had all left the board‘s chambers, and there was no conversation among board members about setting a moratorium.
Turnaround projects, closings and consolidations will be announced sometime in January, says Ginger Reynolds, director for CPS research and accountability.
Proposals will be voted on at the February board meeting, and the plans will include up to a record 12 turnaround schools, CPS officials say. In a recent interview, chief education officer Barbara Eason-Watkins said those schools had not yet been decided on.
Reynolds says this year's turnaround selection process will focus on schools that are not making academic yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind requirements and have a three-year history of low test scores.
Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.