A new report from the University of Illinois, Chicago, calls for a moratorium on school closures, turnarounds, and the expansion of charter schools in the city, citing the disruptive nature and harm those actions cause families and the lack of evidence that they have improved education.
The report, "Root Shock: Parents' Perspective on School Closings In Chicago," looked at parents' view on the massive school closures of a year ago, when the Chicago Board of Education voted to close nearly 50 schools, turn around another five and co-locate 17 elementary schools in other school buildings—the largest single action on school closures in the country at the time.
Researchers Pauline Lipman and Kelly Vaughan found that parents felt the closures negatively impacted their children and the new schools to which they were sent were not an improvement; they felt excluded from the decisions to close the schools; and the closures left a deep distrust between parents and the Chicago Public Schools.
The decision to close the schools last year set of strong reactions and protests in the affected communities, so it's not surprising that parents surveyed and interviewed would have a negative view of the closings.
School closures—or even plans to do so— are hot topics in urban school districts, from Philadelphia to Newark, as they struggle to address the problems confronting them: the ballooning costs, and the acute needs of a shrinking population of predominantly minority and low-income students.
The report by the University of Illinois, Chicago's Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education was based on in-depth surveys with Chicago Public Schools parents in the South, West and near-West sides of the city, public data, and testimonies at public hearings on the topic.
Among the other findings:
- Parents and communities experienced emotional losses tied to the school closures;
- Parents felt excluded from the process and from the new schools; and
- Parents desire a voice in decisions made by CPS and the Board of Education;
In addition to a moratorium on closures, charter expansion, and turnarounds, the report recommends:
- A holistic approach to education district-wide that involves fully staffing all schools with art, physical education activities, extracurricular activities, wraparound services and a culturally rich curriculum;
- Developing school transformation plans in conjunction with school-based educators, parents, and educational experts. Those plans should also draw on the knowledge of the community;
- Democratization of the Chicago Public Schools decision-making process to include the input of the relevant local school council—an elected body of teachers, parents, and school staff which are part of every school.