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Way back in 2004, Chicago’s then-superintendent Arne Duncan announced a bold initiative that he called “Renaissance 2010.” He closed 80 public schools and opened 100 charter schools. He implemented a disruptive strategy called “turnaround,” in which schools were closed and handed over to charter operators, most or all of the teachers fired. When he was appointed Secretary of Education by President Obama, the president saluted him for his courage in closing down “failing” schools. Not long after, some of the turnaround schools failed and were closed.
And now the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to put an end to the turnaround strategy. “Reform,” as defined by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, has failed.
Chicago’s Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to end its largest school turnaround program and phase 31 campuses managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership back into the district fold across the next three years.
The district will continue to pay the nonprofit organization to manage a key teacher residency program at a cost of $9.6 million over the next three years.
Before voting to curtail the group’s school oversight after 15 years, board members said the recommendation illustrated a broader philosophical shift in Chicago toward sending new resources to neighborhood schools and their existing staffs as opposed to strategies like “turnarounds” that relied on disrupting practice by requiring school staffs to reapply for their jobs.
“Turnaound is a relic of a previous era of school reform,” said Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and member of the school board.
Board members acknowledged the symbolism of the vote, which came in the same meeting as a discussion over the potentially negative enrollment impact of relocating a charter high school campus (the relocation was not recommended by district leadership).
Interesting turn of phrase: “Turnaround is a relic of a previous era of school reform.” Professor Todd-Breland is correct,
The Bush-Obama-Trump disruptive “reforms” failed. They are relics. It’s past time to invest in improving our public schools, where most students are enrolled, and supporting our teachers.