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Chicago Plans Turnaround Effort for Ten Low-Performing Schools

The 409,000-student Chicago district plans to turnaround 10 schools by infusing them with new intervention and support services, extracurricular activities, in-house training for teachers, and full-time social workers. Together, the schools serve about 5,800 students.

The schools chosen for the effort have had a long history of low performance: most of them have been on academic probation for five consecutive years, with a few on probation even longer than that.

The Academy for Urban School Leadership will be leading the effort at six of these schools. The group already works with 12 schools in the district, and district leaders say those schools have shown noteworthy academic achievement. The district will manage the turnarounds at the remaining four schools, including both high schools on the list.

In this article by Catalyst Chicago on the turnaround effort, the city's teachers union criticized the turnarounds as expensive and destabilizing. The union has been highly critical of a district effort to institute a longer day at some schools. The school system and the union recently decided to freeze that program at 13 schools rather than expand it, in return for the union dropping its legal action against the district's extended-school-day efforts. Negotiations on that issue are continuing.

In the Catalyst article, however, the Chicago schools chief said the drastic action is necessary:

CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the proposed turnarounds are in the "emergency room and need help." They are being turned around, instead of closed, because other nearby schools could not accommodate their students or were not markedly better, added Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat. One promise made by CPS officials to parents and community activists is that they wouldn't close one school and send its students to a lower-achieving one.

The district will provide $6 million for transition costs at the turnaround schools. The schools will also receive $14 million that can be invested in coaching, tutoring, and other resources for students.

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