Why Isn't 60% Success Enough?

Here's a CPS/City Hall created video that features the Mayor's visit to the turnaround effort at Morton Academy. I'm not sure who the women behind him are (but would love to know) and am wondering, slick videos aside, if anyone has firsthand information on whether the improvement (it's rated Level I) is legit?

What makes the video particularly timely is that today Catalyst and WBEZ reported that 40 percent of the schools put in to replace low-performing ones remain low-performing, which depending on the way you look at it is either a great success or a complete failure. I know the proficiency rates are low and most of the turnarounds are in Level 2 rather than Level 1 like Morton, but still:  Not. In. Level 3. Anymore.



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  • The article in Catalyst or WBEZ , with its interactive chart / map , is fantastic! So , it's ok that AUSL has schools in Performance Level 3 , even after years , but it's not ok for the schools on this year's list to be Level 3 ? Sherman School, for instance, was turned around back in 2005. That's over 6 school years, and AUSL can't get it out of Level 3 ? But that's ok , of course, because there's no conflict of interest at the Board of Ed. !

    Also interesting how many turnaround schools eventually became selective enrollment or charters. Regardless of what they promise the neighborhood at first, that's where it ends up !

  • In reply to 30-Yr. Vet:

    What turnaround became a selective enrollment school? Do you know what you are talking about or are you just creating false rumors.

  • BTW .... is Emanuel getting a little desperate in trying to find some "good" educational news lately ? Nothing is quite going his or Brizard's way lately!

  • Is this a Steven Spielberg production?

  • How much money did CPS spend for this commercial?
    Who did the musical score?

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    Wow, it was so hogwash and misleading the first time, now it's a lead story.

    They took more money and made more selective schools and are still near the bottom of the pile. They have some moderately successful schools w/ low exceeds ratings, they have some that didn't improve with that many resources and those that when calculating for selectivity are total trainwrecks.

  • Who are the women in the video? Alex! Of course they are none other than Kathy Davies and Julia Bolino!

    Rahm singing to Brizard:
    "Your lights are on, but your not home
    Your mind, is not your own…."

  • So when AUSL came in, suddenly there was money for science, art and music. Hmm...

    Why again did everyone in the building, including even the lunchroom staff, need to be fired in order for this to happen?? Mayor Emanuel calls it the "secret sauce." It is no secret at all that students will do better and be more happily engaged in school when there is a well-rounded curriculum offered to them.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    The theory of turnarounds is that the school has a diseased culture and that you need to start from scratch in order to create a new culture. That means all adults have to leave regardless of fault. It's harsh but there no question it provides a clean slate that makes for lots of opportunities to build a better teaching and learning environment.

    And I think it's grossly misleading to suggest that there was no money for science, art and music before a turnaround. All of these schools are high poverty with Title I money that has not been spent intelligently or in strategic ways to create school and community climates necessary for high student achievement.

  • Is this satire, or are they serious?

  • Alex, 60% success isn't so bad, I agree, though that number alone doesn't take into account 1) The number of schools in that 60% that have improved due to explicit selective status, implicit selective status, or culling of the most underperforming students or 2) The number of schools that weren't "turned around" that moved from Level 3 to Level 2 or Level 1. What's so offensive about the propaganda promoting turn arounds is that it implies that Rahm and JC have found a "magic bullet" when we all know full well that not every turn around succeeds (by any measure) and that success at a school like Morton did not come easily. It required more resources, a dedicated vision, and time (and, for all I know, a shuffling of the student population). Instead of claiming the best model for school improvement is chaos and punishment, why not implement a more level-headed, gradual approach (not an approach that lacks urgency- an approach that is based on best practices, development of best practices, organization building, and strong, consistent leadership). I never understood why "urgency" is used as an excuse to be disruptive, inconsistent, and shallow in thinking. What made Morton a better school? Parent involvement and good teachers? OK- so why not think seriously about system-wide policies that can get us those things instead of bragging about how many schools you flipped?

  • If 60% of the students at a school meet or exceed on ISAT it is considered a failure and eligible for turnaround. So why should the turnarounds themselves be held to a lower standard?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    the numbers here refer to schools not ISAT pass rates. 100 percent of the schools were doing poorly -- at least according to the board at the time. now 60 percent of them are doing ok or even well by CPS standards.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Yeah, and the district has claimed all sorts of wild successes since the mayor was given control of schools. The recent Chicago Consortium report on the last 20 years blew those claims out of the water.

    Nothing new here. There is so little consistency in and such tremendous manipulation of the data it's damn near meaningless.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    I know what the numbers referred to and I stand by my comment. In no other discussion regarding CPS is a 60% success rate considered acceptable and this is no exception. Moreover,when you look at the resources,support,and leeway that turnarounds have the 60% success rate is even less impressive.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    "According to the board" translation: caveat emptor

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    Dizzy yet? I hope this is sarcasm, not shilling.

  • Morton is an interesting school and I looked today at special education data for the school. If you look at this school's report card you will see virtually nothing because all the special education data is suppressed because of ISBE rules on minimum public reporting standards. Also students with disabilities are not reported in the AYP data because of the fact that there are fewer than 45 such students in the testing grades at the school.

    But I have access to this restricted data and here is what I found. In 2011, Morton over posted very impressive ISAT scores in reading, which I think were referenced in the video clip that Alexander linked to the blog. Clearly students with disabilities benefited from improvements made at the school, but not nearly as much as their non-disabled peers. In 2006 there were no grade 8 students with IEPs reading at/above state standards and in 2011 about 33% were reading at/above state standards. In 2006 only 33% on non-disabled students in grade 8 were reading at state standards, but by 2011 92% of these non-dsiabled students were reading at/above state standards.

    In 2011 14% of Morton's third grade students with IEPs were reading at/above state standards, whereas 67% of non-disabled students were reading at/above state standards. The distance between these two percentages is called the gap and that gap was 53 percentage points. We can compare this gap for Morton to the city wide special education non-disabled gap at grade 3 which was 41 percentage points. In 2011 at grade 8 33% of the Morton's disabled 8th graders were reading at/above standards and 92% of nondisabled students in Morton's 8th grade were reading at/above standards. The gap at this grade level is 59 percentage points which compares to the citywide gap of 51.2%.

    I could go into greater detail on this data, but the long and short of it is that I find it somewhat disturbing to see a larger gap at Morton than for the city as a whole, while it is good to see more disabled students reading at higher levels. The expansion of the gap at Morton as one goes up grades may reflect the possibility that the school's reading intervention programs are less effective for students with organic reading problems due to learning disabilities than they are for non-disabled students whose reading problems may be driven by non-organic issues unrelated to brain function issues. It could also be due to greater effort being exerted on behalf of students who do not have disabilities and whose reading remediation process take less time and effort on the part of AUSL and the school. We need to realize that despite the claims of success made by CPS in relation to Morton, 67% of disabled grade 8 students in 2011 were reading nowhere near where they needed to be in order to function in high school. In fact Morton was behind the city wide average for students with IEPs in reading where 63% overall were reading below standards.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Way to find the dark cloud, Rod. Knock 'em down a few pegs. Don't let them celebrate any success.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Honey, please. Let the data tell the story, and THANKS to Rod for shining a light on it. Or, "let them celebrate" on the backs of students with disabilities. Sheesh.

  • Alex,
    Just a note of praise for Morton's leadership. Our company has been working with the school for the last year, a relationship put together through the CPS External Affairs & Partnerships Office (http://www.helpCPS.org), and we've been very impressed with the students, teachers and administration. When you walk into the building, you know you're in an environment that cares about its students. Principal Turner and AP Ms. Green have a plan in place and they are working it. (Former AP Ms. Melendez is now a principal at another school; however, she was a great part of the Morton team and recent success.)

    In my opinion, Morton's success over the last few years is just the beginning. They're pleased to be making gains, but no one there thinks they've crossed the finish line. It is definitely a work-in-progress and they are committed to following through.

    (Full disclosure - I am a former member of the CPS Ex. Affairs and Partnerships Office).

    Brad Harbaugh

  • Before all these commenters bash AUSL and the schools they run I wish they would take some time to step foot in one. It's easy to sit on the sidelines and say that AUSL is evil. But before you go and bash the hard (usually successful) work of the CPS employees working in AUSL schools you should walk the halls, visit classrooms, and speak with teachers, students, and parents. AUSL and their schools are not without fault or need of improvement but don't bash them just because.

  • In reply to noodles:

    How do City Year participants wind up helping at schools like Bethune? They're extra staff, really. Have they helped improve the education?

  • In reply to noodles and Anonymous "The theory of turnarounds…"

    What is really really grossly misleading is to compare a 'Teacher-Training Center' to any general public school and hold it against the norm.

    Comparing AUSL Morton 'after' becoming a Teaching Training Center scores to Morton 'before' becoming a Teaching Training Center scores and then pretending that it was just creative Title 1 budget financing is really misleading.

    Visit Morton or AUSL NTA, and on any given instructional day, the quantity of adults in the classroom is significantly higher than in a typical Chicago Public School. Teacher trainees man the hallways to ensure that transitions run smoothly. If a kid is causing a disruption, he or she is temporarily pulled for a sidebar-timeout and the disruption is minimized or completely neutralized. Two or three trainees at a time may be positioned within one single classroom assisting the instructor to ensure that students receive personal attention. Small group and individual instruction is streamlined because of the manpower, not because of the 'secret sauce' that Rahm blubbers about in his video.

    Comparing this enriching school environment to the typically under-resourced public school, and then using the model as a leverage for mass-teacher terminations is misleading, socially irresponsible, and a disservice to all Chicago communities.

  • Plus AUSL fund raises for lots of additional resources that the typical public school doesn't have . . . sports, music. So more per pupil dollars are invested. If we supported public schools to that level through our taxes, conceivably they would all be doing better. The wonder is that AUSL isn't doing even better at places like Sherman and Orr.

  • They can only spread the miracle so far -in this town miracles seem to have geographic boundaries…

    I guess the wizard briz didn't brew enough 'secret sauce' to feed the entire party

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