Arne Duncan rode the myth of Chicago's school "Renaissance" all the way to Washington. Designed in the office of the Civic Committee and embedded into Daley's last mayoral campaign, Renaissance 2010 was touted as the reform model for the whole country.
But now that Duncan departed for D.C., there seems to have been a deRenaissance-ing campaign in Chicago and the phrase Ren10 is hardly ever mentioned--shades of No Child Left Behind. A string of research reports (some initially suppressed), including one from the Civic Committee itself, found the Duncan/Daley reform initiative to be "an abysmal failure."
In the past few months, Ren10's school-closing policies have been met with sharp resistance from parents, especially in reaction to the surge in violence at schools like Fenger High School, that occurred as a result. In November, CEO Ron Huberman promised fewer new charter schools for Chicago and at last week's board meeting, Huberman backed away from several other Ren10 policies, even promising angry parents that no more high schools would be closed in the coming year. It doesn't appear that Huberman has even uttered the words "Renaissance 2010" in more than six months.
Who can blame him?
It was one year ago this week that Duncan was named by president-elect Obama to be his Secretary of Education. Fox News ran this story, calling Duncan a "bona fide reformer" and then recounted this exchange between Duncan, Bill Ayers and myself, about Renaissance 2010:
As it turns out, everything we said about Ren10 back in 2006 turned out to be true, if anything, understated, and Duncan's model is no longer taken seriously, even by its authors, the Civic Committee, or Duncan successor.
Duncan is also a fervent supporter of "Renaissance 2010," a plan started by Daley in 2004 to close 500 failing schools permanently or to reopen them as reformed schools within six years. In 2006, Duncan went on the offensive about the plan, accusing former domestic terrorist Williams Ayers -- now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an Obama supporter -- for "failing to embrace" the program.
Ayers and his co-author Michael Klonsky responded to Duncan in an article published in Phi Delta Kappan -- a professional journal for education -- describing him as "the brightest and most dedicated schools leader Chicago has had in memory," but one who began his article by "admonishing us for failing to 'embrace' the board's Renaissance 2010 policy and instructs us on our responsibility to be 'impartial.'"
"People in power desire nothing more than obedience and easy agreement, but this is not the proper role for either reformers or scholars," they wrote.
Duncan then responded to Ayers and Klonsky in a rebuttal article, writing, "Rather than embrace Chicago's ambitious Renaissance 2010 program as a vehicle to advance school reform and the small schools movement while integrating greater accountability into the system, William Ayers and Michael Klonsky, pioneers in small school development, attack the initiative with inaccurate, misleading statements.