More than half of Chicago's 675 Public Schools are on probation for chronically low student performance. CPS is trying a few strategies to change that. One way they're attempting it is by closing struggling schools altogether and sending kids to better schools.
Another tactic is "phasing out" schools, which means enrollment is gradually reduced one grade per year until no students remain. Phase outs target severely underperforming schools where there are safety concerns about moving students from the building.
CPS is also proposing school co-locations, in which a new or existing school is placed in a facility with an existing school.
Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard announced the proposed closings, phase outs and co-locations on Wednesday. CPS reported these moves plus school turnarounds would give 7,800 students access to higher quality schools.
Guggenheim and Price are two low-performing elementary schools targeted to close. When asked about whether or not closing schools made good financial sense, he said they'll figure out the financial side of it all later.
"Fundamentally our focus has been on improving the lot for kids around performance, not necessarily about dollars. I think part of past mistakes have been the district has been focused on efficiency," Brizard said.
Brizard added that Crane and Dyett High Schools were decided to be phased out over the next few years.
Robert McMiller is the principal at Dyett High School. He said he and his staff received the news Tuesday morning and were shocked. A network chief came into the school and read a letter from Jean Claude Brizard to the staff.
"As an administrator, you learn to accept a lot of things. I was feeling bad for my staff. I have a very hard-working, dedicated staff. My concern was for them," McMiller said.
McMiller has been principal at Dyett for just over two years, and he said in that time there have been improvements. He said this year the school had its first student who scored a 25 of the ACT, a solid score on a standardized test for college.
"I'm convinced that all we need is a few more years. It's not easy to academically turn a school around without a lot of resources," McMiller said. "It takes time to change the overall culture of the school. It takes time to get parents more involved in the school."
Another controversial strategy being used to improve struggling schools is called "turnaround." On Tuesday, CPS announced a record ten schools it would overhaul with all staff being replaced at the end of this academic year. Two organizations: the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and the Office of School Improvement (OSI), have been chosen to run turnaround schools.
Brizard and staff said schools chosen for the various actions were not necessarily the worst performing of all Chicago's Public Schools. Priority was given to schools with nearby better performing schools that had room to accept incoming students.
"There's a capacity issue. I'm not going to close a school for efficiency purposes if I cannot find a way to put those kids in a better place. And right now the quality pool in some neighborhoods is pretty lacking," Brizard said.
Brizard also stressed safety as a big consideration. He said CPS staff has been meeting with Chicago Police, community groups and the CTA to determine which schools have the best chance of combining without putting student safety at risk.
All teachers and staff at schools being closed, phased out, or turned around will be given pink slips. CPS would not say how many teachers and staff people that could affect.
CPS gave the following important dates in the school actions process:
12/1 – 12/31/2011: Informal parent and community meetings; Informational enrollment briefings
1/1- 2/10/2012: (1) Formal hearing and (2) Community meetings for each SB630 action; (1) Formal hearing for each turnaround
2/22/2012: Board vote on SB630 school actions and turnarounds
3/2012 – 9/2012: Ongoing interaction with communities to collect input on needs, concerns, etc. (Will feed into the following year’s school action decisions)
Proposed Closings of Schools Already Being Phased Out
Academy of Community and Technology Charter, 4319 W. Washington Boulevard, locates to Nash Elementary, 4837 W. Erie Street.
Chicago High School for the Arts, 535 E. 35th Street, takes additional classroom space in the Doolittle East Campus (currently PreK-8, located next door to the ChiArts High School).
Additional Talent Development, 4319 W. Washington Boulevard, takes classrooms at Crane High School, 2245 W. Jackson. Crane is currently a proposed phase out school under board consideration.
Proposed Turnarounds to be Managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership
• Pablo Casals Elementary School, 3501 W. Potomac Avenue
• Melville W. Fuller Elementary School, 4214 S. Saint Lawrence Avenue
• Theodore Herzl Elementary School, 3711 W. Douglas Blvd.
• Marquette Elementary School, 6550 S. Richmond St.
• Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, 1040 N. Keeler Ave.
• Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary School, 7424 S. Morgan St.
• Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA) High School, 2100 E. 87th St.
Proposed District-run Turnarounds
• Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School, 4747 S. Union Ave.
• Wendell Smith Elementary School, 744 E. 103rd St.
• Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School, 4414 S. Evans
Below is a clickable map of the 10 schools slated for closure, phase out or co-location, as announced on Thursday:
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the schools Crane and Dyett students will attend if the proposed school actions are passed. Crane students will be reassigned to Wells High School; Dyett students will be reassigned to Phillips High School.