Interim Rochester Supt. says Brizard not telling the truth about raising grad rate

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Folks, I’ve been fact-checking the “ed reformers” even before Arne Duncan was crowned Fed Ed Head based on his mythical “dramatically better” school turnarounds, but here’s one we all need to jump on.

Apparently Rahm Emanuel’s most compelling reason for choosing Jean-Claude Brizard for the new Chicago Public Schools CEO was that he “increased the graduation rate.”

Who doesn’t want a higher graduation rate, right? And so, hiring someone who was able to get it done sounds really smart. In fact, Brizard claims that there has been a 12% increase in three years in the graduation rate under his tenure.

The problem is, people in Rochester don’t think he did it.

Not just regular folks, not just angry teachers, not just disgruntled parents.

No, Brizard’s claim has even been called into question by his predecessor, former Interim Superintendent of the Rochester schools, Dr. William Cala.

Here’s what Dr. Cala had to say about the graduation rates, in a series of e-mails with Brizard which were obtained by a Rochester reporter using the Freedom of Information Act:

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Brizard had nothing to do with a 12 point graduation increase. Here are the facts. In 2007 the graduation results were announced by SED for 2006 graduates at 39%. In 2008 the results for the 2007 year were announced at 51%. 2008 was Brizard’s first year. The 12% increase came before he stepped in the door. The real facts are that graduation rates dipped below 51% during his tenure, thus actually losing ground.

The 2010 state report card for Rochester shows a 46% high school graduation rate for the federal NCLB accountability figure. The same figure for CPS is 71.8% (go to this page on the ISBE web site, scroll down to the bottom, click on “City of Chicago SD 299” under District and then go to p. 31 in the pdf document).

Brizard started the Rochester job in 2008. The state report card for that year shows a graduation rate of 49%.

So, what’s the truth?

It’s at least clear that Brizard is no miracle worker. What we need to worry about now is whether he’s actually a liar.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.