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Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

As Education Secretary Arne Duncan goes around the country touting Chicago’s turnarounds as a model for improving the nation’s worst performing schools, he may want to warn districts that it is no quick fix. 

And that there is yet no evidence that they can fix high schools at all.

 

As Education Secretary Arne Duncan goes around the country touting Chicago’s turnarounds as a model for improving the nation’s worst performing schools, he may want to warn districts that it is no quick fix. 

And that there is yet no evidence that they can fix high schools at all.

For those who don’t know, the turnaround approach involves the wholesale replacement of teachers and usually the principals in schools. CPS has done this with seven elementary and two high schools since 2006. Next year, it will take on an additional six schools.

The elementary school test scores released last week show that four of the seven elementary school turnarounds---Howe, Dodge, Sherman and Harvard -- saw noteworthy increases in the percent of students meeting and exceeding standards All of the four are managed by the not-for-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership. One school managed by AUSL and two first-year turnarounds managed by CPS administration saw a drop in test scores.

There is one big difference between the AUSL and CPS turnarounds, and AUSL Executive Director Don Feinstein credits it for the turnaround successes. Half to 75 percent of the teachers in the AUSL turnarounds come from AUSL’s yearlong training academy and are used to working collaboratively with a common purpose. 

But the fact that AUSL-managed Morton Elementary School on the West Side saw a drop in scores, while some nearby schools, including Ryerson, saw increases, shows how tenuous the process is. Feinstein blames the Morton performance on the school’s leadership and what he sees as a not the right talent among staff. Come next school year, Morton will have a new principal.

The same is true at one of the turnarounds being run by CPS, says Don Fraynd, the new head of the Office of Turnarounds. Fulton Elementary in New City will get a new principal, too. The overhaul last summer at Fulton and Copernicus, which is close to Fulton in West Englewood, resulted in pretty significant drops in test scores. Both now have only 38 percent of their students meeting and exceeding standards—dismal results in a school district where 69 percent meet the threshold.

Fraynd doesn’t have particularly high expectations for test scores in the first year of a turnaround. In the early stages, turnarounds are focusing on decreasing serious misconduct, increasing the attendance rate, getting more parents involved and changing the culture and climate of a school. Fraynd hopes that by year two or three, these changes will result in improved test scores.

The turnaround strategy made its debut in high schools this past year. Both Fraynd and Feinstein say they are nervously awaiting the results of the PSAE, the state high school exam, for Harper High School on the South Side and Orr on the West Side. Fraynd says that new CPS CEO Ron Huberman has told him that in the future the CPS turnaround office will focus on high schools.

Whether it works in high schools is anyone’s guess. “Doing this in high schools is much more complicated,” Fraynd says. “There is not a lot of research. We are pioneers.”

12 comments

Huberman give neighborhoods School Staff Time to meet!! wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Funny, why doesn't CPS give neighborhood schools time to work collaboratively. We have been waiting a long time for this. Talk about a practice that is sound! Common sense MR. Huberman. This is an easy one. This is low hanging fruit! An Easy Win Win! Right now the short instructional day hampers any collaboration!

Lorraine Forte, Editor in Chief wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Thanks for your comment. Indeed, researchers--and educators--have repeatedly said that planning and collaboration time are essential to long-term school improvement. A longer school day would help provide for this, if sufficient funding were also provided.

Tarzan wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Yes the administration at Morton was weak but did mr Feinstein spend one minute talking to the teachers for imput or support.easy to blame the teachers but what did AUSL do to help their teachers ,new or experienced?

Tracey Bouwens Douglas wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Based on the inflated test scores in Chicago charter schools reported yesterday in USA Today, I wish that the media would start reporting the specific scores. Using terms such as "noteworthy increases" doesn't adequately inform the public. I'm finding that the Arne/Obama team's definitions and use of such desciptors to be highly misleading.

Lorrain e Forte, Editor wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Just an update for those readers wondering about the raw scores and how they changed over time at the four schools with 'noteworthy increases." Here's a rundown on the change in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state reading standards in the past five years--a measure of pre- and post-turnaround achievement.
Harvard: from 24% to 52%
Sherman: from 24% to 46%
Dodge: from 34% to 73%
Howe: from 24% to 49%
One point to note is that there has been a steady rise in scores--not just a one-year jump--since the new state test was instituted. Also, all four of the schools have had significant increases in enrollment during this time.

Gene wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

I think one thing that gets lost in these data is that improving a school doesn't necessary mean improving the kids that were at the school before the turnaround. If you change the kids in a school, you can get dramatic test score improvements at that school - turn the school around - but what about the kids?

For example (from the PURE website):
1) Only 12 students who were enrolled at Dodge when it was closed in 2002 were still there in 2005.(Memo, CPS Research Dept., 3/20/2006)

2) At Sherman, by 2008, the data show a 20 percent drop in enrollment, a 10 percent drop in the number of low-income children, and a 17% increase in the mobility rate. (from 2008 Illinois school report card)

And about the awaited High School results, WBEZ reported on March 10th, 2009:
3) But if scores go up [at Harper], it might be due to something else as well: 30 percent of Harper students are gone.

Lorraine Forte, Editor wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Thanks for your observation. We here at Catalyst have also wondered about the impact of changing student populations at turnaround schools. However, absent an influx of middle-income, higher-scoring students, I don't see scores going up just because the students change. All of the four turnarounds remain high-poverty (higher than CPS average) schools, so the students may be different, but the demographics are not. Still, it remains to be seen whether the turnaround idea will work at high schools.

Casey wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

I'm tired about hearing about turnaround schools. The only way to turn a school around is to start from the bottom up with good and experienced primary educators who adequately prepare and remediate young students in grade school. Provided that these students receive good instruction and stay in the same school until eighth grade, we can send students that are adequately prepared to high school. There's nothing wrong with our high schools - their can only be as good as the students that come from the elementary schools.

Julie Woestehoff wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Lorraine, I'm sure you know that not all poor children are low-performing. Raw demographics will not show you whether a school pushed out the lowest-performing students and potentially-disruptive behavior problems, as we are hearing happens at AUSL schools.

An indication that this is exactly what happened is what PURE reported about Sherman. For example, enrollment dropped significantly the first year, as did the low-income rate.
http://pureparents.org/index.php?blog/show/More_Sherman

We know that when AUSL took over Orr High School, they immediately sent scores of students away to other schools.

In any case, you simply cannot compare test scores across years and call the result a "turnaround" if there is evidence that the student body itself has significantly "turned around." It's bad science and will continue to lead to bad public policy.

Heather Moorehouse wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

Often times test scores are compared and held as the "bible" to see if schools are improving... does anyone see a problem with this? By no means am I "numbers" person but there are too many variables for this particular data to be compared. Different students taking different tests each year.

I will put it out there... each year -- the junior group is different and the only way to see if there was an improvement is to look at that specific junior group over their high school careers. I'm guessing its the same as elementary students. What improvements are made within the same group of students from 3rd grade testing to the next test.

What kills me is that, these new turnaround schools will take credit for improved scores after just eight months with these students if the scores go up and if they go down or do not improve, the school will say it takes more than just one year. I know for one particular school -- the scores should have improved. There was definite improvement in scores between their freshman and sophomore years -- and from what I heard there were nice gains in the Fall testing.

I don't want credit but it would go back to the idea that the ALL teachers that were let go in the process of turning around a school were not "bad." Just a thought

pablo wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago
jan collins wrote 4 years 38 weeks ago

Four of seven turnarounds see progress, high schools now on deck

I'd like to know if any progress has been made with Orr H.S.?

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