Nine Austin schools meet CPS criteria for shutdown

November 22, 2011
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Chicago Public Schools plans to shut down low-performing schools next year, and nine of the Austin-area schools could be on the chopping block.

Across Chicago, more than 140 schools meet the district’s proposed criteria for shutdown. A majority of those schools are located on the South and West sides.

It’s not clear how many schools in the city will close, as CPS has not yet released that information. State law requires CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to announce which schools are slated to close no later than Dec. 1.

Schools rated Level 3 based on CPS’ performance policy — which is used to determine a school’s probation status – for two consecutive years would be candidates for closing, according to CPS’ Draft Guidelines for School Actions released Oct. 31.

A Level 3 rating is the district’s lowest level based on Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) performance.

The nine Austin schools at Level 3 and on probation are: Brunson Math and Science Specialty, Leslie Lewis Elementary, Henry H. Nash Elementary, Louis Armstrong Math and Science Elementary, George Leland Elementary, Ronald E. McNair Elementary, May Elementary Academy, Frederick A. Douglass Academy High School and  Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School.

The district has until Nov. 30 to finalize the school-action guidelines.

Elementary schools with test results higher than surrounding schools and high schools with higher graduation rates than other schools in the neighborhood will most likely be in the clear and not shut down, according to the guidelines.

Dwayne Truss, vice-chair of the Austin Community Action Council, said it would be unfair of the district to close down Austin schools, as the overall test scores in the community are on the rise.

“We keep preaching to CPS,” Truss said. “Austin school test scores are turning up.”

Two schools on probation, Brunson and May, received Illinois’ Academic Improvement Awards earlier this month.

The schools, along with three others in Austin, received the award for having an upward trend in test scores for at least three years, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card’s web site.

Nash is also on probation but agreed to extend the school day in September and awarded financial incentives from CPS for doing so.

Truss said it’s unlikely CPS would close down a school that has already agreed to extend the day.

“CPS may knock it off the list,” he said.

CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus could not say at last Wednesday’s board meeting whether the list of proposed school closings would be released earlier than Dec. 1.

Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat told school board members last week that CPS will hold community meetings after the list is released to discuss the transition process for students and parents. The date and location of those meetings are still to be determined.

Carol Johnson, CPS parent and chairwoman of Spencer Elementary’s Local School Council, said Austin schools are improving academically, but CPS keeps raising the bar. It’s hard for the neighborhood schools to keep up, she said.

“It’s like a football game,” Johnson said. “As soon as we get to get the goal post, CPS moves it back five more yards.”

Johnson said she is upset with CPS’ lack of communication with parents and community members about the possible closings.

“(CPS) has been very closed-mouth,” she said.

Johnson attended a CPS community meeting Nov. 14 at George Westinghouse College Prep in East Garfield Park for a discussion on the possible closings and CPS’ school-action guidelines.

“They gave us no clear answer and danced around the issues,” she said.

Johnson said she doesn’t understand why CPS won’t provide resources to the struggling schools instead of shutting them down.

“If we fail, then come back and close our schools,” she said. “At least give us the resources first.”

She said CPS plans to close schools and then provide resources to those that remain open.

“If you are going to close a school, then give resources – it’s by design,” Johnson said.

Truss said community members and parents concerned that Austin schools may close should contact CPS. Feedback to CPS can be submitted here.

Johnson added parents have to be “proactive versus reactive.”

Parents need to come together to fight for their children’s schools, she said.

“That’s the only thing we can do.”

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8 thoughts on “Nine Austin schools meet CPS criteria for shutdown

  1. Pingback: Brizard's First School Closing Season | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS

  2. I am so disappointed to hear this news. Everytime I hear about underperformance at CPS schools, the schools targetted for shutdown are always in areas where there are predominantly minority populations. I am even more depressed to hear that Frederick Douglass Academy High School is on the list to possibly be closed. I went to this school when it was a middle school and to me, they should have never consolidated a high school onto the middle school…

    What is even more puzzling to me is that a few of the schools on the list are Math and Science based, which should set high standards in those areas, anyway. Math and science are 2 subjects that kids in our area historically do not perform well in. It just boggles my mind why schools with core academic foundations may have to close for low performance. What in the world happened here?

  3. I just recently read an article about Brizard’s comments on school closings under the auspices of former Mayor Daley being undesirable, and premature. What is he doing that’s different. Besides, how can you trust anyone who would breach a contract. Where were his loyalties in New York? It couldn’t have been the kids. Sounds like a strategy to implement/institute more charter schools.

  4. my 2 cents: throwing more money at our schools won’t help. lengthening the school day won’t help. i’m not saying it’s a loss cause and that all the schools in austin should be closed, but we can’t keep complaining that cps is sabotaging us by giving limited resources (even if it’s true); the reality (probably) is that they’re never gonna give our schools the same $$ as they do other schools and our schools probably won’t attract the same teachers as other schools do… so we can either keep complaining about it or just resolve to make things better ourselves.

    you know there used to be a separate black pta and white pta? and the difference between the black and white pta was that the white teachers and parents were often in opposition with each other while the black parents and teachers worked together because they HAD to… and it’s sad that we’re still in this predicament, but we are…so let’s roll up our sleeves and get something done. cps has showed us time and time again that they’re not invested in the success of our schools. it is up to US to do it! the first step (in my opinion) is to get involved in the community. we don’t all have to be education experts, but we do all have to help create a culture of support and success…let kids know that school is important and that it matters.

    ok i have a lot to say about this and i’m going to stop before i really go all over the place…but really, we can do this y’all. it’s unfair, but it’s up to us to do this.

  5. “Johnson added parents have to be “proactive versus reactive.”
    Parents need to come together to fight for their children’s schools, she said.
    “That’s the only thing we can do.””

    I agree that parents have to be “proactive versus reactive”, but they need to be “proactive” about creating a context for their kids to value education, be disciplined, have respect and learn positive values… It’s too little too late when you’re fighting for a school to stay open.

    I always hear about issues with the teachers, or principles, or CPS, or the school structure… and some maybe true, but accountability is a 2 way streak. It’s close to impossible to teach a large portion of kids that don’t want to learn, or have been ill prepared by parents to function in school, let alone society. So many parents spend their time partying, watching TV, letting their kids do whatever they want with whom every they want… basically neglecting their kids, their kid’s educational, emotional and ethical upbringing, and then they expect teachers to basically raise their kids to a functional teachable level and behave with respect to their peers and faculty…

    This whole issue is so backwards that so many parents will defend their kids all the way through school, and then through prison, placing all the blame on “society”, “the system”, “the institution”, before they will acknowledge ANY responsibility… and still many won’t. Very few will even try to change the course their children are on, because they fail to see it as a downward spiral.

    It’s not just CPS we should be trying to fix, it’s also the parents, but we’re sadly failing miserably at that. There IS no test for parents to judge how well they’re raising their kids. So long as they don’t beat/neglect them, or get caught doing it, we let them pass through society with no accountability.

  6. One issue that I see is the discipline of everyone involved. Kids should come to school prepared everyday to learn. Parents should be on the side of the teachers more often than their child. Parents should not run up in the teachers face if lil Johnny is cutting up in the class. They need to get on their child. Teachers need to reset…. They need to understand why they got into this career. I understand that a teacher who has been teaching for over 10 years can just fall into a routine. Every school should have the same resources. No one better than the other. All should have the same text books, and same setup. It is up to every school admin, to make sure every class has the same so that they are competing with schools all over the world.

    What I see in Austin is different. Schools do not have the resources they need, and is the admin doing what they can to make their schools better, or just doing the status quo. Plus, stop lowering the bar on these kids. If you let a kid pass with a 64% on a subject, and have him to believe that is ok, you are stunting his growth. Bring those marks back up to what they should be. Getting a 70 or lower should not be a C in anyone’s school. I find it crazy that if you ask a high school student about the ACTs they are happy with getting a 17. I tell my kids get that 36. They look at me and try to give me excuses. I tell them, why give me the excuse when you haven’t tried. What’s the worse that could happen, you get the 36, whats the best that could happen, you get the 36

  7. After slavery, most Black parents didn’t have much money or much education. Our makeshift school houses were substandard and underfunded compared to the ‘white’ schools. To read this article and many on the same topic, it’s clear that in some ways, not much has changed in this respect over the past 145 years. But what HAS changed over time was ATTITUDE. Back then, compared to today, parents worked so hard and endured so much so that their children could make progress, move forward and enjoy a better quality of life. They didn’t make nor accept excuses about their children’s behavior, and instilled in their children discipline , respect for education and the value for hardwork. Honestly, I don’t see this attitude in nearly half of young people in high school. Many of them believe things should be easy, given to them just because, and they should receive accolades for mediocre efforts. And where do they learn these attitudes from? Well, as my mama always says, the apples don’t fall far from the trees.

    What people who are not TRAINED professional educators may not realize is so-called failing schools are suffering for many reasons. First, with laws like No Child Left Behind and Corey H, we will continue to see a rise in poorly prepared students being pushed through the system regardless of the whether or not they can read and perform academically at grade level. Until you hold the families as accountable for their children’s education as the school, talented, dedicated teachers continue to burn out and be overwhelmed because we are held accountable for EVERYTHING the kids do, whether or not their support for their education at home. Feeling voiceless, unsupported and unappreciated, they leave the profession or take their talents to school districts where they will feel respected and motivated to make a difference.

    So you see, funding is only a small part of the problem. Politics and community play a larger role in the current condition of our public schools. Everyone is accountable, from parents and students to teachers and school administrations to our legislators and policy makers. It takes a village to raise a child, but many of these kids are raising themselves.

  8. Tommy,

    I agree with you. Some parents make it very difficult for teachers to teach their kids. Some parents hold the teachers accountable for their child’s failure, but do not see or take responsibility for their lack of involvement in their kids lives that ultimately set their kids up for failure. These parents have no expectations of their kids other than the expectation that they will pass regardless of how hard, or little they try.

    I am concerned for their children, not only because they are being short changed for life, but because the majority will go on to be the same types of parents their parents were, possibly even stronger drains on societies entitlements and resources, without the balance of giving back to society through hard work.

    I really wish I could have a more positive out look on the future, but unfortunately I have seen no significant signs that the current generation of students/young adults from Austin (and areas like it) are making positive changes that will positively impact their communities in any real way. There are of course the exceptions, but they are fighting tremendous odds, and they will be lucky enough if they can lift themselves above their current situations.

    I really don’t have any answer for this tremendous issue other than something as condescending as a mass-scale cultural education for parents and children alike… but this is obviously not going to happen as I’m sure there will be mass-opposition to such an idea as oppressive.

    If anyone has any REALISTIC solutions, I am all ears.

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