A little more light on AUSL

If you aren’t a subscriber to the print edition of the Chicago Tribune, you may have entirely missed their front-page story on the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL),which was pretty hard to find on the internet edition’s home page.

Just days before CPS is likely to hand them six more schools, the Trib shared numbers  that bear out PURE’s long-standing complaint that AUSL does not produce the results we should expect given their extra resources:

“CPS has paid AUSL millions to take control of its worst-performing schools. In addition to the money the district portions out to each neighborhood school, turnaround high schools receive $500,000 for specialized teacher training and recruitment and an additional $500 per pupil to pay for instructional coaches, student mentors and tutors. Elementary schools receive $300,000 and $420 per student.

“The district also pays to hire one additional assistant principal at each turnaround school for one year and has pumped millions into these schools to repair crumbling walls, fix or modernize equipment, or simply give the school a fresh coat of paint. CPS has pledged $25.7 million to upgrade schools marked for turnaround this year.”

AUSL should have much more to show for all that, but not by this account:

Most of AUSL turnarounds score below CPS averages on the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state benchmarks on standardized testing. Those schools that beat district averages have been accused of pushing out their lowest-performing students or those with discipline problems to artificially inflate their test scores.

Catalyst Magazine ran a similar story yesterday which included this telling comment about an AUSL principal: “Turner does her best to discourage parents whose children won’t fit in.” Yet despite this obvious creaming, Catalyst concludes that “only half of the 10 (AUSL schools) are performing substantially better. And some neighborhood schools that have not gotten the same resources are gaining ground at a similar clip.”

AUSL plans to double its number of campuses from 18 to 39 next year. Can someone explain why we should let them?

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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.