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Current Issue

The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

CPS proposes three new school turnarounds

CPS officials announced late Friday afternoon that they are proposing turnarounds for three schools: Dvorak in North Lawndale, McNair in Austin and Gresham in Auburn-Gresham.

Since 2006, CPS has been turning around schools—a process that involves laying off an entire staff. Though they can reapply for their jobs, most principals and teachers don’t stay on. Like most turnarounds in CPS, these schools will be managed by the not-for-profit teacher training program, the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

After a round of public and community hearings in early April, the proposals will likely be voted on at the April board meeting.

Angela Gordon, LSC chairwoman at Dvorak, said at first she didn’t know how to react, but as the afternoon went on, she pledged to fight the turnaround. “The mood at the school is sad and somber,” she said.

Gordon said she thinks Dvorak is a good school. She said she brought her children to Dvorak when she was homeless four years ago and the staff has stepped up and helped her family.

Low test scores are not entirely the fault of the teachers, she said. “It takes a village,” she said. “We need more parent support and more CPS support.”

Performance not stellar

AUSL currently manages 20 elementary turnaround schools and two high schools. CPS operated its own turnarounds at nine additional schools before former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced in 2011 that the district would not undertake them any longer. Brizard said he would recruit other organizations to do so, but so far, no other groups have stepped forward.

CPS also has not turned around any high schools since the 2009-2010 school year. High school turnarounds, whether managed by CPS or AUSL, have had lackluster results.

Even elementary schools have not had stellar performance. Four of the AUSL turnarounds that are more than two years old score in the bottom 10 percent of all elementary schools. Ten of them are Level 3 schools, which is the lowest rating on the performance scale.

Interestingly, Chalmers, a new turnaround this year, moved up from Level 3 to Level 2 based on last year’s test scores and performance--when the pre-turnaround teachers were still in place.

CPS Network and Strategy Implementation Officer Adam Anderson said district officials think AUSL has had impressive results. Thirteen AUSL turnarounds improved at a faster rate than other district schools on the ISAT. AUSL students are also showing higher-than-average growth on the NWEA, the standardized test that CPS is using to determine student promotion and other decisions as it phases out the ISAT.

“These are the most challenging schools and the ones that need the most support,” Anderson said. “They are catching up to the district as a whole.”

Dvorak, McNair and Gresham are in the bottom 10 percent of elementary schools, but are not the lowest-performing.

When deciding which schools to turn around, CPS officials look at more than the ratings under the district's performance policy, Anderson said. They also look at the trajectory of achievement and whether the current staff can put the school on a better path.

Anderson said Dvorak, McNair and Gresham have low attendance compared to the district average and noted that it translates into many missed days of instruction.

Critics speak out

Click for detailed race and experience information on schools proposed for turnaround.Soon after the announcement, the Chicago Teachers Union issued a press release criticizing the proposals. CPS’ Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley and Board President David Vitale were high-level AUSL officials, which CTU leaders see as a conflict of interest.

The CTU also is highly critical of the fact that turnarounds usually result in layoffs of veteran, mostly black teachers who are replaced with less-experienced, mostly white teachers.  

Of the 70 teachers at Dvorak, Gresham and McNair, 64 percent are African American, compared to 25 percent in CPS overall, according to the 2011-2012 teacher service records maintained by the Illinois State Board of Education. Also, teachers at the three schools have an average of 15 years of experience, compared to 12.75  years in CPS.

“This is the mayor’s continued war on our schools and older black educators. This is nothing more than school closings by another name,” said CTU President Karen Lewis in a press release.

Lewis said school turnarounds are akin to school closings.

The CTU and others also criticize AUSL turnarounds because schools end up being run by private entities. And with more charter schools opening every year, CPS is responsible for managing fewer and fewer schools.

North Lawndale has been hit especially hard. If these turnarounds are approved, almost half of North Lawndale’s 18 elementary schools will be under private management: Three will be AUSL turnarounds and five are charter schools.

After watching two schools close last year in North Lawndale, Gordon said she feels as though Dvorak is predestined to either close or become a charter school. “What will happen if the scores don’t move with the turnaround?” she said. “Then what?”

Austin also is home to two other AUSL turnarounds.

Last year, as CPS was in the midst of shuttering 50 elementary schools, officials proposed turning around Barton in Auburn-Gresham, but the school was pulled off the list at the last minute by CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Harvard in Auburn Gresham has been a turnaround school since the 2007-2008 school year.

Click here for detailed information on the race and experience of teachers at the proposed turnaround schools.


Highly qualified wrote 44 weeks 5 days ago

It is never about the kids

It is not test scores, many nearby schools are far lower. It is because CPS renovated these buildings. AUSL only wants updated buildings and they do not deliver higher scores, just lower priced staff. More Chicago BOE games.

Karma wrote 44 weeks 5 days ago

What is CTU going to do?

I am sorry all the personnel at these schools are losing their jobs.

The trend is to push black, older,tenured teachers out of he system.

Union dues have been paid. The REACH evaliation is just window dressing. The end goals: no black middle class, promise the younger and less experienced teachers everything and deliver nothing which guarantees high turnover, give the rehabbed holdings to your friends and take the land these buildings stand on.

When is CT U going to get some serious legal help to go after the people and organizations responsible for the reign of terror and error and pick their bones clean?

P.S. Network Chiefs and Principals - you will not be spared.

Evelyn wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago


The issue is not about teachers losing their jobs, it is about educating children. If schools want to avoid turnarounds, then they should research methods of teaching reading and math as well as completing courses in subjects where they are weak. Poor children can learn if they are taught. Many parents are not qualified to teach their children because they are not educated and may be too busy with employment. The union does not condone schools that fail to educate children. Therefore, if you have chosen a career as an educator, then you must work extremely hard to do a superior job to guide kids to learn or else they will close your school. The party is over!

Amused Veteran wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago

Tell Us More

It's always so much fun when someone who knows nothing about teaching rolls out a soapbox and proceeds to lecture. If you ever pay attention when a TV station does its 2 minutes on how great any school is if it's not a public school, you will notice that the teacher is using all the same tricks of the trade that public school teachers have been using for years. The difference is that the discipline problems never get enrolled or if they slip by they're gone after the first disruption of the class.

Valerie F. Leonard wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago

Chalmers was clearly on an

Chalmers was clearly on an upward trajectory before they were taken over, and the test results bear that out. It's a shame the former principal was never given a chance. He was African American, demonstrated extremely strong leadership abilities, had great relationships with parents and staff, and turned the school around in the three short years he was there.

Valerie F. Leonard wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago

The data show that the

The data show that the citywide AUSL portfolio is just catching up to North Lawndale schools in terms of reading. The AUSL schools based in North Lawndale, as a group, underperform North Lawndale schools in reading and math.

When we look at West Side schools, we see that there are no AUSL schools on the entire West Side that perform as well or better than city averages. Only 1 AUSL school performs as well as the West Side Average. One in six, or 17% performs as well as other West Side schools, while 83% perform worse than West Side averages after several years of intervention. AUSL gets $500 per pupil over and above what other schools get, and their results are lackluster. If the head of AUSL were running a for-profit organization with these results, he'd be fired.

Karma wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago

To Amused Veteran

You said it all. Thank you.

Brandon Giles wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago


Parker was spared because they have a Charter School inside of it. the school is not up to par. The students are off the chain. When it is all over; there will be many schools turned around and chartered in Chicago. And it is a way to clean out veteran black teachers that have tall salaries. This helps the pension problem. Young teachers in Cps will never reach pension. This too will help the pension. This forces teachers to retire.

Beth Jpmes wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago


Evelyn would not stand a chance in many schools in Chicago. Positive speaking teachers and speak that way. Place Evelyn in a tough minority school and she would not last a day. Teaching is a hard job. One of the hardest. A teacher is one person. Students have many personalities. A lot of them do if they WANT to. She need to ride some schools out. Most of it is not the teachers. It's the children. Sit down. Be quiet. Anyone can teach them. Other words. A lot of them won't do that in tough schools. Teachers spend time refereeing.

concerend parent wrote 44 weeks 4 days ago

Rahm's way of removing more African American Chicagoans

Will be able to live in the city long enough to vote Rahm out?

Evelyn wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago


The CPS administrators are trying to improve the educational experience of children so they will be able to qualify for college, etc. Turnarounds are used to force school personnel to get their act together and educate the kids or reap the consequences. Kids act out in schools because they are far behind and cannot complete assignments. Many of them have been given passing grades because of the system. Many of the college grads are currently unemployed because employers prefer applicants from top rated colleges with degrees in stems, business, and finance. Instead of turnarounds, why not include vocational education in addition to college prep to give kids a choice. Give the kids a voice in their career interests. Recruit college student volunteers to tutor failing students. Encourage parents to return to school. In short, don't sit back and talk about how terrible the kids are, help them. They are a different generation who prefer technology in the classroom.

Anonymous wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago

Please stop


Please stop. You clearly have never worked a day in your life in an inner-city Chicago Public School. I would imagine that IF you are a CPS employee, you are one of the new breed of corporate-minded Central Office employees who hasn't a clue what goes on in the schools on a daily basis. Your solutions are simplistic and offensive to those who do actually work in the trenches and who know that educating our most vulnerable children is far more complex than just teaching reading and math and having college students volunteer to tutor. To suggest that teachers and other IN SCHOOL personnel are just sitting back with their feet kicked up and that somehow life inside the classroom is a "party" is short-sighted, insulting and just plain WRONG!

Amused Veteran wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago

Just Help Them, Guffaw

Amen, Anoymous.
Dear Evelyn,
Stop talking. How lazy and preposterous are remarks like "In short, don't sit back and talk about how terrible the kids are, help them." Wow! Why didn't the generations of CPS teachers who gave extra time, spent their own money, and cried over the plight of inner city students think to "help them?"

Karma wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago

I concur

Give it a rest Evelyn.

Anonymous wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago

Turnarounds do work

I've seen first hand the turnarounds that work and the parents that are now thrilled with the results. They weren't happy at first, no one likes change, but after seeing their children improve and thrive they are the biggest supporters of the new atmosphere. Many veteran teachers have been worn down by years of ineffective leadership, dwindling supplies and large class sizes. If experienced teachers are willing to accept the super-human job of working in a turnaround they are going to have to step up, for the kids and not just their job security. I support the union but only when the union demands quality teaching.

northside wrote 44 weeks 3 days ago

I agree

Just spend a year at can't put your feet on your desk..half the time you can't even catch your breath....dodging the principal criticism and keeping your 33 kids calm is a job in the way people act like these kids somehow come in calm and eager to learn like some bad hollywood teacher flick.

in fact ...spend one day at CPS...still waiting for Duncan to take the challenge and teach ONE WEEK at any urban school. love to see it...alone in the class with no help!!

teach wrote 44 weeks 2 days ago

A dice game...

So the data shows that there is little to no real evidence that the turn-around strategy in place now for years has made any significant change. Simpletons still argue that just working harder at these schools will result in improvement. Educational researchers who have over and over linked standardized assessment scores to many factors which exist outside the four walls of a school building go unheard. And, the idea that a school is just bricks and mortar and personal work id numbers still exists. Sad Chicago. Firing all these teachers and replacing them with non-veteran cheaper staff with little to no connection to the community is as much as a dice game as that one on the corner. If you work or live within these communities you know better. Ignore the need, watch them fail and replace with less expensive supports.

Roy Mac wrote 44 weeks 1 day ago

I am not going to say

I am not going to say turnarounds are the answer or even a good idea (sometimes they work sometimes they don't), but the conspiracy theories here about how the Mayor and CPS leadership (and all very rich people too) are actively trying to remove black people from Chicago are out of control. Come on people! Be upset about the school actions, fine, question them, good, but this is no different than Tea Partiers saying our president is a socialist and trying to indoctrinate all US public school students to communism.

Recovering Teacher wrote 44 weeks 1 day ago

Turnaround schools

Amen Karma. CTU seems to be stuck on the "rallying" mode and not on taking CPS to task with strong legislations and legal actions that would be more effective and longer lasting in protecting the same people CPS count on in making them look good and helping all parties concern. Rallies are played out to much and now are not seen as being ineffective.

For whatever reason, African-American teachers are seen as a liability and are only in the classroom for the check. Blacks in education (and else where) are always looked on with suspicion even when the head person in charge is black but, their superior is white. They just "go along to get along" at the expense of hard working professional. Really sad.

Anonymous wrote 44 weeks 1 day ago

Recovering Teacher...your

Recovering Teacher...your grammar is in need of some recovery. At least six errors and one helluva run-on sentence!

Recovering Teacher wrote 44 weeks 1 day ago


Evelyn, what fantasy world are you living in? You are obviously not working in a CPS school and especially in neighborhoods where the student population is 85% or higher in the poverty rate. And no, being poor doesn't negate children from receiving a top notch education but, the differences between CPS schools is like the novel, a "Tale of Two Cities." Schools in predominately middle class neighborhoods, these school are better equip and have more programs to offer. Schools in lower economical neighborhoods get whatever left overs they can from CPS. It's almost on par of what education was back in the "Jim Crow" days when black children got the left overs from the children at the "white schools" when they threw out their old stuff after receiving new materials. The black children were given the old texts and other old materials and expected to do well and be on par with their white counterparts. The same thing is happening within CPS schools. Schools without higher achieving students and without a vast amount of resources are expected to achieve just as high as those schools that have everything they should have and more. Turnarounds is really about getting the older more veteran teachers out on the pretense they are doing it for the benefit of the students. These schools get up to date equipment and texts to upgrade the education for students only after the old staff is shown the door. The questions that need answers are, 1). Why weren't these same assistance given to these schools prior to the turnarounds and 2). What data is there that shows that turnarounds are working? Well the answer to the 2nd question is, the rate of success of the turnaround schools based on the research done by the Consortium of Chicago is that AUSL had a success rate of a little over 20%. And yet, CPS keeps given this ill conceived plan by a "for profit" institution, an annual contract of close to $4 million. But CPS will close a school or turn a school around and label them a failure if the overall composite score is 50%. Turnarounds are not about giving children a better chance of a top notch education. Turnarounds are about cost. CPS wants to eliminate the higher salaries which are well deserved. They also want to eliminate the cost of benefits and pensions. However, BBB will hire a firm she once worked for and give them a no bid contract millions of dollars to do the same thing that principals and/or teachers do every day.

So unless you have the magic pill and you are running for the position of God and know all and can do all, please speak on what you know and not on what you think you know. Obviously, you have drunk the "Kool-Aide" Rham and Co. have been selling.

David Wolfe wrote 44 weeks 21 hours ago

Chalmers School Trunaround

I was on the LSC at Chalmers and participated in the protests when Chalmers was scheduled for turnaround. I personally witnessed the great job the previous administration did improving the school, both academically and the overall atmosphere. I was heartbroken when the staff was dismissed but wanted to continue to serve as an LSC member. I was contacted once by the principal and reached out to him several times. I have not heard from him. It made me feel as if I was "turned around" with the former staff.

Former AUSL teacher wrote 44 weeks 18 hours ago

It's a shame...

It is a shame that more schools are closing and being taken over by AUSL. Firing every staff member and hiring fresh out of school teachers is not the solution. The teachers that are being hired in these urban schools are young, teachers that are not able to relate to the students in these west side & south side schools in any type of way...let's be honest. They are hiring teachers fresh out of schools, from the richest suburbs and throwing them all in a school on Chicago's south & west side. It doesn't work! I personally have nothing against people fresh out of school or that live in richer areas, my point is that teachers have to be able to have some type of an understanding as to what these kids are dealing with on the daily. I also think that keeping some veteran teachers can be a good idea to help these newer teachers get on their feet and off to a good start.
My fear is that eventually all chicago public schools will be taken by AUSL. AUSL is like a cult. You're either married to it or you're running from it! I worked in an AUSL school for 3 years and it was the worst decision of my life. Shady things happen in AUSL schools and if you dare speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in, you will be voted out of the cult. Principals are very smart and sneaky about how they determine who stays and who leaves, students & staff. If they dont like you, please believe that they will get you OUT!

Anonymous wrote 44 weeks 16 hours ago


It doesn't have to be a conspiracy for the policies to produce these politically desirable effects as a by-product.

Anonymous wrote 44 weeks 16 hours ago

turnaround schools

I agree, Recovering Teacher.

bernard watches wrote 43 weeks 5 days ago

Very interesting blog

Very good, I will continue to focus on.

Another former AUSL teacher wrote 42 weeks 6 days ago

AUSL is corrupt!

After working in an AUSL school for three years, I went to another school. AUSL wanted us to do some of the craziest things that never focused on real teaching and learning.

My roommate is still working at an AUSL high school, and he comes home every day to tell me about the insane things going on there. Where do they find these principals? Am I the only one who is amazed that a principal is allowed to owe the City of Chicago about $100,000 because of his slumlord ways? Or how about another who is sending nude pictures of himself to his staff members? Or how about the one who berates her teachers in front of a visiting panel from another AUSL high school? And, why do we never see anything in the Tribune about the principal who was fired for fabricating her numbers on her child's free lunch application, and then AUSL hires her to oversee their high schools? Or how about the AUSL manager who is college buddies with one of the principals that she supposedly oversees?

From what I saw, AUSL had some good people in charge at the beginning, but most of those people have left. I liked the coaches, but they were pushed out after a year or two.

Ditch AUSL! They are not part of the solution in Chicago!

Anonymous wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

For Sale: Education at a Lower price.

I've been teaching for over 13 years at CPS. I am a bit intrigued and very upset that the majority of teachers losing their jobs are African American teachers. What does this data say about African American teachers and the community in which they work in and probably grew up in?

Are we they not worthy of the salary they're making? Or, are they making too much?

I am an African American teacher and am afraid and trying to embrace the possibility of my school being turned around. To see and read the data terrifies me. The salary that I have, I deserve. I've completed my degree and have an advanced degree, taken tests to become certified, I teach to the best of my ability and provide support to students, parents and the community. Oh yeah, I have student loans to pay too. Does that account for anything? Is there a limitation on how much African American teachers can make? Do I need to take another test to prove my intelligence?

I spoke to a teacher whose school was closing. She literally said in tears, "I've been teaching all my life, I'm 58 years old, whose going to hire me?"

Experience is a good teacher!

Anonymous wrote 40 weeks 6 days ago

Exit Strategy

So sad! As a new, young African American teacher (second year), I feel pressured to start planning an exit strategy already. I don't want to get burned when CPS decides they're done with me!

Karma wrote 40 weeks 5 days ago

Have an exit strategy

Teachers and especially African-American ones are not valued in this country. Ask those teachers who have been kicked to the curb. They are the most reliable "data" sources. Take your talent elsewhere.

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