Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chicago's legacy of top-down school reform

Looking back... You could trace the beginnings of what now passes for Chicago's so-called school reform, marked by mass school closings and privatization, to 1987 when Reagan's Education Secretary William J. Bennett called Chicago's public schools the "worst in the nation" and suggested that parents send their kids to private school.

Mayor Daley went and hired Paul Vallas, and then Arne Duncan, to steer what he called his "national model of urban school reform"-- Renaissance 2010.

It only took a decade after Bennett's proclamation before politicians and the media were talking about the "Chicago Miracle" in education. In his 1999 State of the Union address, President Clinton took personal credit for Chicago's rise to the top.
So my balanced budget triples the funding for summer school and after-school programs to keep a million children learning. Now, if – if you doubt this will work, just look at Chicago, which ended social promotion and made summer school mandatory for those who don't master the basics. Math and reading scores are up three years running with some of the biggest gains in some of the poorest neighborhoods. It will work, and we should do it.
But a decade later, Chicago test scores were flat as a pancake and departing schools chief  Arne Duncan's "miracle" was being debunked by critics from right to left. The Chicago Tribune was reporting that
Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city's school system.
 The architect of Renaissance 2010, former schools CEO Arne Duncan, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education -- and he's taking the Daley-Duncan model national as part of his Race to the Top reform plan.
From Renaissance to Dark Ages...The Rahm Emanuel era has brought new charges that Daley/Duncan school reform was a flop and that the new mayor would re-invent school reform with more seat time, mass teacher firings, the biggest school-closing move ever, and by one-upping the previous mayor on privatization.

My prediction is, that within the next few -- hopefully, post-Emanuel -- years, Rahm's top-down "reforms" will end up in the same waste bin of history as Duncan's.

The decision to turn Hancock into a selective-enrollment school was made "without any public hearings." -- Sun-Times
Here's my recommendation for one of the first to go. 

It's Rahm's fascination with selective-enrollment schools as a driver of neighborhood gentrification. In this case it's his plan to turn around Hancock High School on Southwest Side, which now is home to mostly poor Hispanic students, by getting rid of all the teachers and students and calling it a selective-enrollment school. The school will no longer guarantee any of its seats to neighborhood children, about 95% of whom are Hispanic and 97% low-income, according to CPS.

According to the Sun-Times,
Hancock is projected to need $10 million for the transformation, and that will be funded with state money. Five months ago, Emanuel announced plans to use $60 million in tax-increment financing money to build Chicago’s 11th selective enrollment high school and name it after President Barack Obama. 
That solves a political problem for Emanuel and could strengthen the mayor’s appeal to Southwest Side voters. The 13th Ward is home to scores of police officers and firefighters, who do not like Emanuel.
Hancock students speak out 

Jesse Delgado, a 16-year-old junior, said he feels bad for kids who counted on going to Hancock, but now won’t be able to. Other schools in the area are overcrowded, he said. “Some of them might not have the same chances they would have had.” | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times
Jesus Patino, a senior, said the selective-enrollment status will create haves and have-nots at an already good school. He said Hancock should be open to everyone in the neighborhood.
“I think all kids deserve the same opportunity as someone who goes to [a] select enrollment” school, said Patino, 17. “It won’t affect me, but it will affect the community. They will get more money and better things just because they are ‘smarter’ students.”


  1. As a Chicago parent and educator who lived through much of this mismanaged, unwieldy and child-damaging system, it's hard to comprehend how these dysfunctional policies still exist and persist....generated by dysfunctional leaders with seemingly no understanding of child development and urban education. It's very disheartening.

  2. So-called education reform:smash and grab, smash and grab...

  3. Jesus summed it up perfectly- smart kid. It looks like Hancock, a neighborhood school, produces critical thinkers.


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