Monday, January 18, 2010

Daley/Duncan's reform failed says Trib

They owe us all an apology

A report in Sunday's Chicago Tribune confirms what I and others have been saying and writing about since 2006. Daley/Duncan's Renaissance 2010 plan is an ill-conceived, mismanaged, and expensive bust. Its focus on school closings and privately-managed charter schools has produced little besides "moribund test scores," the displacement of thousands of students "into other low-performing schools," and "youth violence." The plan also reproduced inequality in its exclusionary policies towards special-needs students and English language learners.

The Tribune adds:
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.
The Tribune study also confirms that:
  • "In Renaissance 2010 elementary schools, an average of 66.7 percent of students passed the 2009 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, identical to the district rate."
  • "The Ren10 high school passing rate was slightly lower on state tests than the district as a whole -- 20.5 percent compared with 22.8 percent."
  • "Only a quarter of Renaissance 2010 schools had test scores high enough to meet the federal goals set by No Child Left Behind."
  • "Nothing created more disruption to the city's educational landscape."
  • "Chicago students as a whole still post some of the lowest test scores on national math and reading exams."
  • "Even in schools with single-digit pass rates, violence-filled hallways and embarrassing absentee patterns, parents picketed the streets and filled the school board chambers, begging that their schools be left alone."
  • "The new schools mirror the district demographically, except they enroll fewer special education students and those who speak English as a second language."
Don't confuse us with facts

Like those wishing funeral mourners happy returns of the day, Ren10 leaders still claim Ren10 is a "great success" and are planning more of the same.
"We haven't looked at all the data, but our belief is that Renaissance 2010 dramatically improved the educational options in communities across Chicago," said Peter Cunningham, Duncan's spokesman, who followed him from Chicago to Washington. "We believe that it is contributing to Chicago's overall success. Renaissance 2010 and Race to the Top both reflect a willingness to be bold, hold yourself to higher standards and push for dramatic change, not incremental change."
Phyllis Lockett, president of the Renaissance School Fund, claims she has a secret, not-yet published study that shows Ren10 schools outperforming comparable neighborhood schools by 4 points.
"It's not like we are ready to cheer and scream success," Lockett said. "Our schools are doing very well but we've got to raise the bar. It's not good enough to 'just be better than the neighborhood schools.'
Promising more of the same during the rest of his term in office, Daley's appointed schools CEO Ron Huberman referred to the past 6 years as, "the first phase of Renaissance 2010" which he called "the organic part of a brand-new reform."
"In the second phase, we need to put our energy behind the proven factors that work and drive them hard. If we had not gone through stage one -- as painful as it might have been -- we could not get to stage two."
Duncan should apologize

I can't help but look back to 2006, when in response to our early critical assessment of Ren10, Arne Duncan wrote:
Academics are supposed to stick to the facts and remain impartial, but Ayers and Klonsky have clearly failed the test...Closing and reopening a failing school is an absolute last resort, intended only for the small handful of schools that have consistently underperformed while the rest of the system has made steady and dramatic gains...All of us in Chicago are grateful to Ayers and Klonsky for their work with small schools in our city and their continuing commitment to education, but they need to get their facts straight.
Duncan's response was at best misleading. He is calling for the closing of thousands of schools, not as a "last resort" but as the mainstay of his mandated Race-To-The-Top strategy and threatening the losses of badly needed school funding if states and districts fail to comply.

He owes us and more importantly, the children and parents of Chicago Public Schools an apology for what they've been put through. He also needs to get HIS OWN facts straight. Reading the recent studies from the Civic Committee, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Washington Post, or even the Sunday Trib would be a good start. The verdict is in on Renaissance 2010 and on the myth of the Chicago Miracle.

Finally, he needs to stop reproducing, on a national level, his now obviously failed Ren10 strategy.


  1. Amen.

    I remember as a child marveling at "The Emperor's New Clothes," wondering how the grown-ups around me could ever be so fooled.

    Arne gets me sputtering mad for so many reasons. Keep up the great work here.

  2. Who says (besides Duncan) that academics are supposed to be impartial? Is that what they taught him at Harvard? Thank God for the partial Harvard academics like the late Ted Sizer.


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