Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fallout from Chicago's 'Turnaround'

Under Vallas, it was called "reconstitution." Under Duncan, it was "turnaround." Firing teachers, closing schools, revolving-door principals, and eliminating Local School Councils and other forms of community engagement. Little done to improve the lives of kids. Results--Harper High same as ever.
Teachers and principals are mad about getting fired, communities are incensed over another reform agenda they feel excluded from and students are confused returning to a group of teachers they don't trust. The program's newness means there's little evidence such efforts have been successful, but that's not stopping Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from touting it. (Chicago Tribune)


  1. The important thing to realize is that many of the teachers from the school prior to "reconstitution/turnaround" were dejected, jaded, and tired. Where the Turnaround process can work is the new batch of passionate and determined educators who deeply care about the school and the kids. The difficult task, however, is to keep these young, new, and passionate teachers in their position long enough to truly recreate the school's culture.

  2. Jonathan,

    If half of that "passionate and determined" new batch leaves after 3 years, what do you mean by "work"?

  3. I respectfully take your point, but with young teachers, and young professionals for that matter, there will always be a higher turnover rate. This extends to the Turnaround Schools, where there are many younger professionals employed. I see this as an inalienable truth. The administration, then, becomes even more important and influential in maintaining the new culture if parts of this batch depart. A strong core of caring educators, as with ANY school, becomes a strong and powerful lot in keeping positive change.

    Everyone works for three years, but the administration must retain this positive environment by replacing the departed with similar-minded educators--a difficult task, no doubt, but so goes reforming struggling urban schools.

  4. Jonathan,

    Thanks for your comments. You make some interesting points. But you should review the recent report by the Consortium on Chicago School Research on the negative affects of high teacher turnover rates in Chicago (highest in the nation).

    If charters would have been included in the study, the turnover rate would have even been higher.

  5. I do heartily agree here. High teacher turnover rates posses the ability to literally slay a working school. But unless the state becomes able to take a stronger role with each individual school OR human behavior changes with young professionals, I can't think of a decent way to alleviate the situation. We all know the status quo isn't working, but even if this endeavor of CPS ultimately fails, I think we all can salute the strenuous effort to enhance society's plight. I only wish the state could take on a greater role, but then again I do believe in the benign power of government!


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.