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Turning Around a Chicago High School

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More on the business of turning around those big, unwieldy ships we call high schools: The Chicago Tribune offers an interesting glimpse into the work under way at Harper High. It's part of a project that has already brought a good deal of attention to Orr High School (here, here and here, for instance), and is about to spread to a third school, Fenger.

There is no shortage of skepticism in Chicago about these high school turnarounds. And we've sprinkled this blog with other profiles of the messy job ahead with high schools as EdSec Duncan pushes the turnaround idea.

The folks I've talked to about high school improvement always tell me there is no such thing as a quick fix. Yes, you can do some stuff right away that can improve attendance, culture, SAT participation. But the true, deep academic improvement takes time. Stockton, Calif., superintendent Anthony Amato, who has headed a few urban systems, including the one in New Orleans, recently told me that making lasting improvement in high schools is like "turning a battleship."

So those of you interested in outcomes of this work had better keep fit and healthy. This could take a while.

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OK, Supt. Amato. If we're really into more military metaphors for school reform (a sign of the times, I guess), it's like "turning a battleship" with a captain who's never sailed before (ran the PX), while pushing lots of crew members overboard, ignoring the conditions at sea (data shows its always better to turn right), and running low on fuel.

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  • Mike Klonsky: OK, Supt. Amato. If we're really into more military metaphors read more

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