Brizard: CPS office will no longer run turnarounds

June 18, 2012

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Chicago Public Schools is changing who turns around failing schools.

There are two groups tasked with improving the poorest performing schools in CPS: the district itself and the privately-run Academy of Urban School Leadership, or AUSL.

Over the weekend, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard unexpectedly told a group of school community groups that the district’s Office of School Improvement would no longer do school turnarounds.

Instead, CPS plans to get more outside organizations, like AUSL, to do the work of firing existing staff and essentially starting schools over.

“AUSL’s, I think, done tremendous work in this city, but they don’t have enough capacity, nor should they be the only ones doing this,” Brizard said at a community meeting Saturday morning. “We’re looking for other folks who can help us do this work.”

Brizard told WBEZ’s Steve Edwards on Monday that he worked with outside vendors, like the College Board and Expeditionary Learning, while he ran the public school system in Rochester, N.Y.

The number of privately-run schools in CPS has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

AUSL runs 19 schools and more than 100 other CPS schools are run by outside groups. The district plans to increase that number by up to 60 over the next 5 years.

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel came under fire for giving AUSL additional schools because two of his top CPS appointees—Board president David Vitale and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley—previously worked for the private school management organization.

The district’s Office of School Improvement took on four turnarounds last year. All of those schools have temporary federal grants. Brizard said that work will continue, at least until the grants run out.

Brizard said OSI will focus on designing a system wide process for all schools on probation. Those schools, which already have several additional accountability requirements, will have another added layer of accountability.

Roughly one-third of the district’s schools are on probation.