Turnaround Debate Continues, Goes National


What next for Chicago's turnaround program?  Well, the Chicago News Cooperative reports that the
Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force will meet next week to scrutinize the system's
policies (Protests and Promises
Improvements at Schools
), and a potentially critical Consortium study is coming out, too. 

The debate is likely to continue despite the concessions and adjustments that Huberman has made which have pleased some observers (Hinz) and failed to satisfy others who want a moratorium on the whole process.

Meanwhile, EdSec Duncan is likely to get some hard questions about turnarounds at a House education committee hearing on Wednesday, not only because of Chicago but also because of the much-publicized firing of teachers in a small poor Rhode Island town last week, undertaken as part of a turnaround and praised by Duncan.


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  • Duncan and Huberman Amateur Hour on display! Hopefully, the nation, little by little, will understand that Duncan has no clue about school reform since he never lived it nor saw it through. Ren 2010 is a failure and costing the taxpayer big bucks.

  • How does this poster come to the conclusion that turn-arounds are a failure?

    Judged by test scores, Huberman is right that 10 of 12 have substantially improved.

    Anecdotal evidence indicates that attendance is improved and students are more engaged.

    Testimony from parents at turn-arounds appear to indicate high levels of satisfaction.

    So who's not happy?

    The only responsible criticism is from teachers who have been replaced and who resent that they did not have the opportunity or the resources to make a difference in the school. I empathize with that perspective. But the theory underlying turnaround is not that individual teachers have failed but that there has been a systemic failure at the school level and the only way to successfully reverse that failure is to start with a clean slate, which means evicting all of the adults, be they good, bad and indifferent. Is that unfair to the good ones who are lost? Sure. But parsing out the good from the bad incrementally, the theory goes, will not work.

    The other responsible criticism is that, once "turned around", there is high teacher attrition within a few years. I am not convinced that high teacher turn-over is such a negative in any context, much less in this one where the job is daunting and the potential for burnout is very high.

    There is a lot of irresponsible criticism out there too by people who don't know what they are talking about . . . mostly from the would-be radicals of CORE and the tired radicals at Substance who are intellectually dishonest about it. (Your first interest is not students - it's teachers. AUSL is a non-profit; this is not about corporate greed. It employs a lot of former CTU members in administration. The new teachers are union teachers employed by CPS. So turn-around has nothing to do with some imagined anti-Union initiative.)

    It is okay -- and would be refreshingly honest -- to argue that your true interest is in saving teachers' jobs and that CPS should not throw the baby out with the bath water. But that would require a discussion on how to cure the scandal surrounding how truly terrrible teachers have more rights than students in the school (and often blame students for their failures). So rather than have real debate, the apostles of CORE and Substance resort to dishonest demagogery, whereby they demonize hard-working people who are trying to, and often succeeding at, making positive differences in students' lives. Even Darion Albert's grieving aunt, who bravely called on them to stop lying about the causes of his death, does not shame them. But, hey, that's why they have the credibility they have among responsible people.

    There is a theory to turnarounds and it is that the school must have a clean slate, that a new culture must be created, incrementally, at the school and that the new school must deal with the students' entire needs - intellectual, social and emotional.

    The jury is still out on turnarounds. Preliminary evidence is promising. But we need productive debate among resonsible people on this issue - not the nonsense that been thrown out to date.

  • In reply to DebateMan:

    As you say, the jury is still out on turnarounds. Personally, I can't wait to find out why turnaround schools' enrollments dropped so drastically after they took over. Those numbers will be included, won't they? It would only be the responsible thing to do. Right?

  • In reply to DebateMan:

    Here's a documentary produced by alternative school students in Chicago about their experiences at Truman Middle College:


  • In reply to DebateMan:

    The technical study from Stanford U and the National Staff Development Council, United States Is Substantially Behind Other Nations in Providing Teacher Professional Development That Improves Student Learning; Report Identifies Practices that Work provides what is needed to serve all schools, provides benchmarks on how to judge Huberman and CPS Administrators. One doesn't follow the Pied Piper of CPS, Mr. Huberman and his non "innovation" that is passed off as singular in education. That is BS. The technical report highlights what works in high performing school schools and the support they get from their district. Ren 2010 is not proven to work. Good to see that the U of C chicago consortium on school research is finally criticizing CPS for thinking it has done it's job by swapping out teachers and calling it Turn Around.

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    Download the study.. and enjoy unless your Mr. Huberman and his apoligists!

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    If I understand correctly, CPS has been advocating for professional learning communities, including induction and mentoring of new teachers, at the local level for many years. Huberman, if I understand him correctly, does as well but his spin is to prod the conversation of the teachers through performance management, by having outcomes inform teachers on what is working, what is not and what new needs to happen. I also understand that he an advocate of locally driven PD.

    So I don't think there is much to disagree on here.

    But what this study does not adequately address are the structural obstacles that urban school systems like CPS face in creating professional learning communities. The teacher's work day and work year are too short. There is too few support staff at many schools to give elementary teachers needed administrative time. What non-instructional time there is for common planning time during the teachers' scheduled day is often jealously guarded "self directed" time, during which some (most?) teachers will not tolerate being scheduled for things like common planning.

    CPS turnarounds have mandated two or more weeks of summer planning for the entire new staff and on-going planning time during the school year. I believe that they have also sought waivers of the CTU contract to create more opportunities for PD and common planning before, during and after the teachers' regular school day.

    Again, I don't think there's alot of disagreement on this issue.

  • Dear No BS,
    What on earth are you talking about?? You admit that it is "not that individual teachers have failed but that there has been a systemic failure at the school level" and still think it is okay to fire every adult in the building? How does that make any sense. You admit that the teachers and staffs have been mismanaged and not given the resources they need, but yet think that they are the culture that needs to be changed? I would think that those that stay despite the adversity are the ones that prove their commitment to the students. These are the people that keep fighting for the students despite the abuses the folks at Clark St. have imposed on them. Why are we trusting those that caused this "systematic failure" to make the changes required to help the schools? They have failed at their responsibilties to the students of Chicago and are blaming it on those on the ground, doing the hard job day to day.

    There is NO evidence that Turnarounds work. If they did, why would Orr and Harper need to be turned around multiple times? What there IS evidence of though, is that AUSL has kicked out students with disabilities, students with poor attendance, students with behavior problems. One would think that given their ability to pick and choose "the best" students, they would be able to substantiate their claims of success. But they haven't, because they can't, there is no success to subtantiate.

    Stop believing the propaganda and do your own research about the effectiveness about turnarounds (or "reconstitutions" as they were called before). Check out the income levels of the students at Sherman and Howe pre- and post-turnaround. Check out the numbers of students enrolled in Orr pre- and post-turnaround. Where did all of those students go???

    I really love your quote "But we need productive debate among resonsible people on this issue - not the nonsense that been thrown out to date." Are you saying that namecalling and bashing CORE and Substance is part of the "productive debate?" Doesn't sound very productive to me. Or too concerned about the students either...

  • I am not sure how you come to the conclusion that the undercurrent of my post says anything about parents - it doesn't.

    And contrary to your suggestion, what I have observed from parents is that they are generally wary of change but recognize when it needs to happen. They generally take a wait and see approach unless the proposal is really obnoxious to them (like closing a school and moving their kids).

    There's been a relative lack of anti-turnaround feeling among parents. Go back to the hearings on Sherman, Harvard, Morton, Howe, Fulton, Copernicus, Orr and even Fenger. You will find that parents were relatively silent or acknowledged the problems at the school but were wary about "turnaround." Those who spoke against turnaround were teachers (and their supporters -- the Union, CORE and even Substance "reporters" for heaven's sake) and their students. Though there were occassional parents who spoke against those turnarounds, their concerns were mostly for the teachers. Even this year, it was largely teachers and their students speaking at public meetings on turnarounds - not parents - with the exception of the occassional LSC member.

    The students message was "we love our teachers, don't blame them, it's the students' fault that things are so bad" (and shame to all who helped them craft that message). The teachers' message too often was that it was the kids' fault.

    CPS parents - and I am one - aren't stupid. They want positive things for their kids. But they also want to see the proof of it.

    And I am sure that students love their CORE teachers. I love them too -- as teachers -- just not as makers of public policy or as role models for civil debate (just because I don't agree with you does not mean I am out to harm children).

  • Yup, Daley and what I figure are the dumbest business folk of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, who wrote Ren 2010, don't give a hoot for you or the neighborhood schools of Chicago. Daley has no heart nor soul! Evil!

  • Yes, that's supposed to be the point, but it's not the reality. It's another example of the public relations spin being different from what actually occurs like, "These schools were closed for failing" (most of the schools are closed for relatively high performance/low enrollment (but higher than most comparable charters/turnarounds)) or "charter schools are non-selective" (charter schools don't use test-based entry, but they have a process which excluded some students or you might say, "selects" them).

    If schools are going to be compared, we must view them honestly and critically.

  • Oh? Is there still a collective eye to blink? I thought with all the lay off's that CO would be lidless.

  • The jury is not still out on "Turnaround"! There is no such thing as "Turnaround", what it really is "Reconstitution". We all know that "Reconstitution" has all ready failed! P.S.- Those who do not know their history, are doomed to repeat it!

  • complaints and suggestions from the 3rd ward alderman, in chicago journal


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