Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rahm shifts gears on Jones H.S. Makes it bigger and more selective

The Sun-Times reports:
Ignoring the wishes of many South Loop parents and their alderman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that the old Jones College Prep High School building will not be converted to a neighborhood school but instead will double the number of students allowed to test in...Neither the mayor nor the schools chief would answer any questions, including why they chose to ignore the community’s desires for an open-enrollment, neighborhood school.
Rahm seems to be looking over his shoulder at Ald. Fioretti (2nd), a leader of the Progressive Caucus in the City Council, as a possibly viable opponent in the next election. It was Fioretti who had been pushing turning the old Jones H.S. building into a neighborhood school while Rahm initially contemplated turning it over to developers for condos. Jones was already getting a new $115 million building just down the block from its current home in the South Loop, to open in the fall.

But yesterday Rahm pulled a fast one which had nothing to do with best educational practices and everything to do with trying to out-maneuver Fioretti. At a hastily-called press conference, the mayor announced that Jones, one of CPS' 10 selective-enrollment high schools will maintain its current building, at 606 S. State St., while adding its facility to the new one. The net result is that Jones will almost double in size to 1,700 students while remaining essentially a selective enrollment school rather than adding a neighborhood school. Eventually, 300 of the spots will be set aside for local residents, but they will have to test in, too.

So here we have reason #597 to replace mayoral control of the schools with an elected school board. Turning CPS into a wing of City Hall has meant bigger and more selective high schools. That's just the opposite of what the research tells us about good schooling -- make high schools smaller and more community-based. Rahm's politically-driven, real estate-driven, strategy of turning CPS into a two-tier school system is devastating isolated black and Latino neighborhoods, leading to more street violence and widening the so-called "achievement gap."

For more on this concept, see our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society.

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