Study: School Closing Plan Hurts Poor, Black Students | WBEZ
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Study: School Closing Plan Hurts Poor, Black Students

A new analysis concluded that a plan to close a Near South Side elementary school will disproportionately harm poor, black children, its authors plan to announce at Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting.

Chicago Public Schools leaders want to convert the school, the highly-rated National Teachers Academy elementary school, which serves primarily low-income, black students, into a high school to serve the South Loop and parts of Chinatown, Bronzeville, and Bridgeport. CPS argued the new, non-selective neighborhood high school could be among the city’s most diverse. The board is expected to vote on the plan in February.

This is not the first time critics of the conversion plan have charged that it hurts poor black students.  

And now, they have armed themselves with a racial equity assessment. Among the critics is a two-year-old group called Chicago United for Equity. They undertook the study, which analyzed whether the conversion would have a disparate impact on any one student group. This included analyzing data, surveying residents, commissioning a panel of academics and experts, and engaging 300-plus community members. The group shared their study with WBEZ earlier this week.

The group’s analysis spurred the school district to launch its own comprehensive equity analysis. In December, the Board approved a $85,000 contract with Westat, a Maryland-based research and communications firm. The results of the CPS-funded analysis will be available in mid-February, shortly before the Board of Education is set to vote on the proposal.

CPS officials have said the plan to convert National Teachers Academy into a high school would better serve the mostly black children of Bronzeville, as well as create a needed high school option for the area. Existing NTA fourth graders could stay through high school graduation, while younger and incoming students would be funnelled to the high-performing South Loop Elementary School.

Chicago United for Equity Executive Director Niketa Brar said the assessment also found that Chinese-American residents will be underserved by the high school because the proposed school boundaries don’t include all of Chinatown. She said with the Chinese community spreading further West and South to areas outside the proposed boundaries, families will not be guaranteed a seat.

Brar said ideally CPS would abandon the conversion plan and let the community vote on alternative solutions to create a new high school.

Brar said that the group is also in the process of doing a similar assessment on the plan to close four high schools in Englewood on the South Side.

Also Wednesday, the board plans to vote to make Janice Jackson permanent CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Jackson has been acting CEO since Jan. 1. Her  predecessor resigned in December after the school system’s inspector general called for him to be fired.  

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her at @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

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