Posts Tagged ‘AUSL’

PSAT for 4-2-14: Speak out, sign up, pencil in

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

psat_logoI know it’s Wednesday – springing ahead can do crazy things to the schedule, especially when it’s barely spring, right?

1) Speak out about the AUSL turnaround proposals at three schools. Please share this quick fact sheet about AUSL’s lackluster contributions to student success.

Also, if you can, take time to review these charts from Catalyst showing pretty much the same story. Details about the three hearings this afternoon here.

2) Sign up for the April 9th Parents4Teachers dinner fundraiser honoring the opt out students, parents and teachers. More info here.

3) Pencil in the many excellent forums and events that are coming up:

April 7: Forum at DePaul 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Why our Schools are Still Segregated and What We Can Do About It:  DePaul College of Education hosts a presentation by Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute Education Policy expert.
Schmitt Academic Center, 2320 N. Kenmore, RM 161

April 24: Forum at DePaul, 6 – 9 PM

Promoting Progressive, Democratic Education in an era of Standardization: A Visit from Mission Hill Public School in Boston
DePaul Student Center,  RM 120
So much discussion of education practice and policy today is centered on critique – of high stakes testing, value-added measures for teacher evaluation, growth of charters, deprofessionalization of teaching through short alternative programs and other “reforms.” We find that our students are looking for alternatives to today’s current “reform” prescriptions. Mission Hill offers one such example.

April 26th, 10am –Noon

Quality Education for Every Child; How do we get there? Finnish scholar and educator Pasi Sahlberg joins Raise Your Hand for a talk.
You must register for this event on the RYH website. Seats are limited and filling up fast.

PSAT for 5-28-13: Fight for democracy

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

psat_logoI know I’m a day late for Memorial Day but I have been reading several excellent pieces over the weekend and the question is still on my mind – what did these soldiers die for?

Was it to guarantee that the Walton family’s income grows larger every year? Was it to assure a bright future for test publishing companies? Or to make the world safer for Rupert Murdoch to steal and use our children’s school information so that they can market more stuff no one needs?

Did they die for our democracy only to have it replaced by consumerism?

First, I read the excellent, extremely well-researched and quite depressing Curtis Black article in NewsTips, “AUSL turnarounds called ineffective, expensive.” Here’s just some of what Curtis laid out.

  • AUSL schools are too expensive. AUSL schools receive over $1 million per year above their per-pupil allotment. This year CPS will pay $11 million for improvements to schools about to be taken over by AUSL. CPS gives AUSL schools an extra assistant principal and a full-time social worker, rare in CPS schools. Curtis wrote, “A couple years ago, annual spending on turnarounds was $20 million. It’s growing steadily.” Thought we had a budget crisis?
  • AUSL schools have poor academic track records. State test results for all but one AUSL school are well below district averages. North Lawndale’s brilliant activist Valerie Leonard pointed out to Curtis that AUSL will control all of the feeder schools to Collins HS after this year’s closings, yet AUSL schools underperform neighborhood schools by 51.7% average ISAT reading for AUSL to 65.6% for neighborhood schools. That’s a turndown, not a turnaround.
  • AUSL schools push out students they don’t want. Curtis shared stories from several people about students being told by AUSL to “find another school.” The percentage of students with disabilities has also dropped at AUSL schools, including a one-third drop at Morton, AUSL’s top scoring school. That’s called turning away, right?
  • AUSL teachers have a “huge” turnover rate, and the percentage of African-American teachers drops significantly in many AUSL schools. Keep in mind that AUSL touts itself as a top-flight teacher training institution.

Okay, I try to share the truth about these schools day in and day out. This is just one more example of the facts that prove that the corporate reform agenda is not about educating children but about power mongers grabbing more power. Don’t forget that Mayor Emanuel’s appointed school board president, David Vitale, was the Chairman of AUSL, a fact conveniently left out of his Board biography.

So, does it help? Does it matter? CPS closed 50 schools despite everything. Why bother?Arlington

Because they died for democracy, not for this $#!+. And our public education system was built to foster democracy, not “choice and competition.”

On the positive side, Curtis’s article highlights Strategic Learning Initiatives, a local program that does work and actually builds on democratic participation. I have written about SLI a few times.

That reference resonated with the other piece I read this weekend – the wonderful report by my heroes at the National Education Policy Center, “Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Action.”

I read the executive summary when it came out last fall, and that’s well worth looking at if you can’t read the full report.

But the full report shows the importance of embedding democracy into education, and how democracy is destroyed when people become “passive bystanders” in education through privatization, top-down control, and narrowing of the curriculum using punishments linked to test-based accountability.

The report warns that we must not fail to provide all of our children with an education in democratic participation that will equip them to be active and involved citizens. This is the gift we must pass down and not throw away.

That’s why the fight against the corporate reform agenda is so important – it’s about saving democracy.


New report: LSCs and democracy outperform turnarounds

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

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.

Press release from community group on Piccolo win

Monday, February 20th, 2012

From: BT Youth
Sent: 2/19/2012 12:24 PM
Subject: Press Release

For More Information, Contact: Cecile Carrol, 773-426-0842; Ana Mercado, 312-498-6479,
twitter handle @tbourschoolschi | twitter hashtag #piccolo

        Parents end Piccolo Elementary School occupation after CPS Board agrees to meet in run-up to Wednesday board meeting

     Students, parents demand removal of Piccolo and Casals from “Turnaround” list

Parents ended the Piccolo Elementary School occupation at 3:30pm yesterday after Vice President of CPS Board of Education, Jesse Ruiz, met with them at Piccolo and committed the rest of the Board members to meet with the parents regarding their demands that the board reverse its decision to “Turnaround” Piccolo and Casals and engage with them meaningfully on a community proposal to promote educational excellence at the school.

“Thank you to the hundreds that came out in the cold to support us and show that they care about our kids,” said Piccolo parent and Local School Council Chair Latrice Watkins.

        The Board of Education plans to vote on Wednesday, February 22 to hand over management to AUSL, the Academy for Urban School Leadership. The private ‘non-profit’ firm has close political ties to City Hall <> .

Despite receiving millions in additional funds from CPS and private entities that regular public schools do not get access to, AUSL ‘results’ are little better than – and in some cases lag behind – district averages.

The protest and occupation to resist takeover by AUSL was led by a core group of committed Piccolo parents who were acting on behalf of 288 parents who had voted ‘No’ to the Turnaround of their school in January but were ignored by CPS.  They are asking that CPS – the Chicago Public Schools administration – instead invest in the current school and provide current staff with the types of resources and funding that the district currently plans to funnel to AUSL. Their core appeal: Education should be about what parents want for their children – not what’s good for politically connected private school operations.

Parents were also critical of the way authorities handled the occupation. They blocked a group of Piccolo parents from getting back in the building to relieve other parents and did not let food or supplies in the building; including for one diabetic parent, the right of use to her medications. That treatment has, nonetheless, left parents undeterred.

“I got the strength to stay [in the school] through the pain, because I knew I was on the side of justice, and this will inspire other schools to stand up to privatization,” said Elisa Nigaglioni, parent occupier and member of the West Humboldt Park Community Action Council, who met for a year to draft a proposal for improving Piccolo, Casals and Cameron Elementary Schools.

Parents and their supporters have vowed to defend their children’s school – and the public’s right to neighborhood public education – in their scheduled meetings with board members. Parents are guardedly optimistic as they wait for a call from CPS to confirm the times for the hour-long meetings on Monday and Tuesday with individual Board members to inform them of their concerns with AUSL, and have a real conversation about their community counter proposal.

“It’s shameful that it had to come to this for CPS to engage meaningfully with the parents’ proposal,” said Cecile Carroll of the community group Blocks Together, which supported the parents’ occupation.

Blocks Together, the parents and their allies have vowed to step up efforts to prevent what they see as a wholesale assault on accountable public education in the city.

Occupy Piccolo

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Follow Occupy Piccolo here:

More from Jackie Leavy:

Dear Friends of Great Schools For All Students:

Piccolo School’s parents and community report they have occupied their school – 1040 N. Keeler.- tasking MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL to meet with them, and embrace the community/parent-led plan for Piccolo.

Piccolo parents rejected CPS’ proposal to turn over their children and school to AUSL.

Piccolo has a brand new Principal who’s inspired the whole school to  come together around their own improvement strategies.

MAYOR EMANUEL was given the Piccolo plan nearly a month ago, but so far, hasn’t responded to it or parents’ request for a meeting.

FOOD, WATER & MEDICINE (some students are in the building and need medicine) ARE NOT BEING ALLOWED INTO PICCOLO SCHOOL BY THE CHICAGO POLICE.

THE POLICE will not let any other Piccolo parents/school community members join the peaceful protest, to relieve parents who want their neighbors and fellow parents to take their place.





Declaration #1 from Piccolo occupation

11:49pm – February 17th, 2012

We, the Piccolo Occupation, are putting our childrens’ education first. Piccolo has failed because CPS has refused to invest in public education. The school has struggled for years but you have taken out all the programs, classes and opportunities to learn. We have had 3 principals in the last five years.We have not been able to work with anyone on a long-term basis to address the chronic disinvestment in our school. CPS and City Hall have failed us and our children. Your goal is to privatize the education system by giving it to corporations that support the mayor. We have been ignored, you have ignored our children and now you are trying to make money off of them.

The Chicago Public Schools is in violation of its own remediation and probation policy. CPS is in violation of the Illinois School Code and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. CPS is in violation of Illinois Senate Bill 630. Because of this, a moratorium has been introduced in the Illinois Legislative Assembly by the School Facilities Taskforce. We are enacting our moratorium for ourselves with this sit-in do to the fact that CPS not once has laid out the necessary corrective action for Brian Piccolo or Paolo Cassals along with the Local School Councils for getting them off of probation during the last five years.

The School Improvement Plans for Academic Achievement (SIPAA) at these two schools have lacked the budgetary resources to bridge the achievement gap of our student populations. Further, the SIPAAs along with the budgets at the time of their signings have not had real community input. Therefor,e these actions could very well be civil rights violations. At the recent CPS hearings, the former principal of Casals testified that not once in the last five years had CPS met with her nor with the LSC about any of the necessary corrective action for Pablo Casals to be removed off of probation.

Because CPS has been not willing to meet with or listen to us, this is what we want:

1) A meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel

2) A meeting with at least five of the Chicago School Board members present

3) The removal of Piccolo and Casals from the turnaround list

A little more light on AUSL

Monday, February 6th, 2012

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?

Update on SFC phone blitz

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

We were using the phone last night sometime after 7 pm when our SFC call came in. The voice mail message that “Jackie” left for us said she was sorry she missed us but that she was with Stand for Children and that if we, like them, want better education for children, we should look at their web site.

While local SFC leaders are claiming that they “just want to have an open conversation” about ways to improve schools, they seem pretty fixated on the turnaround model. It’s certainly front and center on their web site, and they make it sound so reasonable:

“We need to create quality neighborhood schools where we can continue to keep our students in the same classroom while improving the conditions around them, from better facilities to specially trained principals and teachers to updated curriculum.  This is where public turnaround schools come into play.

“The idea of a ‘turnaround’ school has a lot of misconceptions, but has seen success in many Chicago public schools and has firm roots on what is in the best interest of children. A public turnaround school keeps children in their neighborhood school but changes the culture in the school to create high expectations and proven best practices for learning.

“Staying in his or her neighborhood school and investing in the neighborhood school is good for the child and good for the neighborhood. Do you agree? Join us as we fight for quality public school options. We need parents and community members coming together to say, “YES! My child deserves a great school!”

Here’s what they don’t mention about turnarounds in this pitch:

Oh, and they don’t mention that ALL THE SCHOOL STAFF gets fired when a turnaround comes in.

That kind of takes the fuzz off of their warm and fuzzy vision, doesn’t it?

We trust parents to see wade through the hype, but with all the money that’s being thrown at this project, we’re going to have to pull on our hip boots.

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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.