Chicago Public Schools has flagged ten schools for "turnaround" next year, the most ever recommended for this process, which replaces the principal and a majority of staff members in an effort to revitalize low-performing schools.
About 5,800 students attend schools on the list, according to a CPS press release. Schools targeted for turnaround include Tilden High School, which last year received a $6 million federal grant to improve, the Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Marquette Elementary School, one of the district's largest, Catalyst Chicago reports. Seven other elementary schools made the list. All of the turnaround schools up to this point report a predominantly black student body.
Schools are turned when they are unable to be closed, either because vast numbers of students can't be transferred to nearby schools, or because the alternative options wouldn't represent an improvement, CPS Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat told Catalyst.
The process at six schools will be overseen by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which turned has turned around 12 schools in the past, all of which saw student performance improve on Illinois State Achievement Tests, in many cases more than doubling district growth, according to CPS. The CPS Office of School Improvement will manage the other four overhauls.
CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard declined to estimate how many employees would be affected by the turnarounds, but told the Chicago Sun-Times that 70 percent of teachers in past school turnarounds found other jobs elsewhere in the district. Brizard said the impact on staff should be secondary to student needs.
"I'm much more concerned about the lives of kids," Brizard told the Sun-Times. "Our focus is on children, not adults."
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis called the move "heart-wrenching," the Chicago News Cooperative reports, and warned that it could foreshadow future efforts to privatize schools, accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel of prioritizing an "agenda" over student success.