Saturday, October 30, 2010



Liz Dwyer

by Liz Dwyer - Education Ambassador for the Pepsi Refresh Project in Good Education|


October 28, 2010 • 4:30 am PDT - Does Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's "turnaround" school-reform model work? News from one of Duncan's first turnaround schools, William T. Sherman Elementary in Chicago, is mixed. Yes, test scores are up, and that's a good thing for the 591-student elementary in the city's violence-plagued Englewood neighborhood. The bad news? It took five years to see results, and the scores still aren't as high as the average Chicago public school.

Duncan ordered a turnaround plan for Sherman back in 2006 when he was still Chicago's superintendent of schools. Sherman was the first campus placed under the jurisdiction of what was at the time a new non-profit turnaround organization, the Academy for Urban School Leadership.  [Funding: Gates+Dell Foundations, New School Venture Fund |]  As an AUSL turnaround school, Sherman gave students renovated facilities, a new curriculum, and an entirely new staff—new principals, new teachers, even new custodians.

A year after the turnaround, the Chicago parent organization Parents United for Responsible Education researched Sherman's data and found, "during its first turnaround year, Sherman had a 20 percent drop in enrollment, a 10 percent drop in the number of low-income children, a 17 percent increase in the mobility rate, a lower parent involvement rate and lower science test scores."

Even though more critics said AUSL's efforts were unproven, Duncan handed over a dozen more schools to the organization.

After Duncan accepted President Obama's offer of the Secretary of Education job, he touted Sherman and the turnaround method as central to education reform. Indeed, turning around schools is one of the key pieces of Duncan and Obama''s national Race to the Top initiative. Duncan regularly refers to the school as a success, even though Sherman's 68-percent average in math last year is lower than non-turnaround regular public schools, and is below the Illinois state average.

Taking the turnaround method of reform national has another problem beyond effectiveness. It could lead to lawsuits. A group of mostly black, female teachers fired from dozens of Chicago turnaround schools just won a discrimination suit against Duncan. In the suit, the teachers said they were being replaced with, "less experienced, younger, whiter teachers at lower salaries." According to the judge's ruling, Chicago has 30 days to rehire the teachers axed through the turnaround process.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user US_Air_Force

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2cents smf

 ●●smf”s 2¢:

  • In addition to the efficacy and legal questions there’s the outstanding unresolved and unanswered question of the Chicago school board president who committed suicide while under federal investigation regarding improper preferential admissions to the city’s top public schools | +
  • And 4LAKids isn’t about to ignore the irony that W.T. Sherman Elementary is named for the creator of the scorched earth policy as an attacking strategy rather than a retreating tactic in modern warfare.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

The whole article is on Ed Week http://www¬.edweek.or¬g/ew/artic¬les/2010/1¬0/27/10chi¬cago_ep.h3-0.html?tkn¬=WRUFBsSdS¬1aWTeKO583¬q2SMqbzSX2¬7PtLyZa&cm¬p=clp-edwe¬ek

The blog linked here is reporting inaccurate data. Sherman's enrollment is up and the percentage of students on free/reduced lunch (a measure of poverty) is the same as before the turnaround. When the comparison (referenced above) was made between Sherman and Holmes two years ago they reported that the two schools had similar numbers of students meeting or exceeding the state standard. What they neglected to mention is that Sherman had increased from 29% (one of the 10 worst schools in the state) to 40% while Holmes went from 38 to 41%. Sherman now has 56% of students meeting state standards compared to 46% for Holmes. Student and teacher attendance have also improved since AUSL began the turnaround in 2006. Prior to the turnaround the police visited the school daily due to fighting. Today they rarely visit. Yes, there is more work to do at Sherman, but anyone who has visited the school will agree that it is on the right track. While the school is still below the city average, doubling the number of students meeting standards after years of stagnation is a significant achievement.