New report: LSCs and democracy outperform turnarounds

On the eve of a potentially catastrophic Board of Education vote to turnaround ten more Chicago schools, the school reform research group Designs for Change has released a report showing that school turnarounds are not worth the extra expense, and that the unheralded reforms brought about under the authority of parent-led, democratically-elected local school councils have been far more effective.

9 key conclusions of the report, titled “Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s ‘Turnaround Schools’ Yet Turnaround Schools Receive Lavish Extra Resources”:

Conclusion 1. The study’s evidence does not justify the continuation of the School Turnaround Strategy in Chicago schools with a concentration of high-poverty students, including the establishment of more Turnaround Schools through February 2012 Chicago School Board Action.

Conclusion 2. Each phase of the School Turnaround effort in Chicago has
been generously supported with extra resources, including teacher pre-
service preparation, school facilities improvement, staff selection, school
leadership, and staff support.

Conclusion 3. School communities have repeatedly sought these same resources
that have been given to the Turnaround Schools, but have been denied. Chicago
must have an equitable transparent process for allocating desperately-needed resources.

Conclusion 4. Given the meager academic progress of Elementary Turnaround
Schools and their high teacher turnover rate, which undermines the basic
culture of the school, the researchers conclude that the resources devoted to
Turnaround Schools can be better spent by supporting alternative research-
based strategies.

Conclusion 5. This study indicated that the high-poverty schools achieving the
highest reading scores were governed by active Local School Councils who chose
their principals, and had experienced unionized teachers. effective elementary schools have dedicated strong Local School Councils, strong but inclusive principal leadership, effective teachers who are engaged in school-wide improvement, active
parents, active community members, and students deeply engaged in learning
and school improvement.

Conclusion 6. Related research indicates that high-poverty schools with
sustained test score improvements tend to carry out a specific set of practices
and methods of organization. These effective elementary schools have dedicated strong Local School Councils, strong but inclusive principal leadership,
effective teachers who are engaged in school-wide improvement, active
parents, active community members, and students deeply engaged in learning
and school improvement.

Conclusion 7. A basic distinction between high-scoring and low-scoring schools
is that high-scoring schools carry out engaging instructional activities
that help students master demanding standards, while low-scoring schools focus on various form of test preparation.

Conclusion 8. In their practice of School-Based Democracy, the school
community functions as a unified team and understands and acts on the close
relationship between the issues facing the school and the community.

Conclusion 9. While even the highest-scoring schools, based on existing
measures, need to improve, the practices and methods of collaboration that
characterize the high-poverty schools that show sustained improvement
are clear. The resources now used for Turnaround Schools need to be shifted
to helping these effective schools become resources for other schools and
to support their own mutual continued improvement.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.

Support PURE!
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.
@pureparents