Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another "turnaround" set for Marshall High

Chicago's legacy of failed top-down reform

They're "turning around" Marshall again. In case you're not up on school reform lingo, turnaround (depending on what day it is) means either replacing current students with more middle-class, high test scorers, or more recently, firing entire faculties and staff. Oh, all except for the Commandos' (yes, that's really their team name) renowned basketball coach Dorothy Gaters. Gaters, who has led the Lady Commandos to 8, count 'em, 8 state titles, will be retained while all her colleagues get pink-slipped because she is "part of the fabric'' of Marshall, Schools says CEO Ron Huberman.

Excuse me, but didn't you say that it was this very "fabric" that turnaround was trying to shred?

Sound confusing? It's all part of the latest version of Daley/Duncan's failed Renaissance 2010 initiative, a plan focused on school closings rather than school improvement; on top-down coercion and compliance, rather than community engagement. It's the plan that was hailed as the Chicago Miracle and is now being exported nationally through Arne Duncan's Race-To-The-Top.

The Sun-Times story gives us a clue as to what the likely outcome of Marshall's latest top-down turnaround might be.

Marshall's test scores have continued to dip, despite being "re-engineered" in 2000 and receiving a highly-paid principal-mentor in 2006. "Haven't they tried this before?" Marshall parent Laticia Fields asked of the latest overhaul.

"CPS doesn't know what it's doing, and that's the only reason our kids aren't learning." Past fixes weren't deep or widespread enough, Huberman insisted. The largely black, low-income school has languished on academic probation for 14 years. "This is the biggest dosage [of change] you can get,'' Huberman said.

That says it all, doesn't it. Huberman's metaphor for change is another dose of meds being tested on an ailing patient. If one pill doesn't work, ie. a new super-star principal, give 'em reconstitution or re-engineering. If that won't fix things, fire all the teachers (except the coach).

My favorite Chicago headline on all this--FIXED SCHOOLS FAIL

1 comment:

  1. The opening, closing, and turning-around of schools will continue until we change how "achievement" is defined. As long as high "standardized test scores" is synonymous with "high achievement", this model will continue. The question remains: How do we redefine what "achievement" means?


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