AUSL Myths, Pro & Con

Both Catalyst and the Tribune have stories out looking at AUSL that both say the same basic thing -- AUSL has done some really good work, but its results aren't uniform and it's had some resource advantages over the CPS schools it's replaced.  Who did it better?  I like the school-based reporting in the Catalyst version.  Why the competing stories on the same topic?  Could be coincidence or could be competition.  Editors like to dial up competing stories to prevent opposing outlets from having a story to themselves.

At AUSL, progress but ‘this is not magic’ Catalyst: On average, the AUSL turnaround schools are outperforming neighborhood schools on state tests. However, only half of the 10 are performing substantially better. And some neighborhood schools that have not gotten the same resources are gaining ground at a similar clip.

AUSL's turnaround model of school reform achieves mixed results Tribune:  In addition to the money the district portions out to each neighborhood school, turnaround high schools receive $500,000 for specialized teacher training and recruitment and an additional $500 per pupil to pay for instructional coaches, student mentors and tutors. Elementary schools receive $300,000 and $420 per student.


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  • Just wanted to point out the charts that go with my AUSL story. They can be found here:
    After spending a long time looking at scale scores on the ISAT, I found some interesting things, but didn't want to weigh down the story with all the data.

  • Fascinating debate. I don't really see any myths here, just different ways of looking at numbers.

    It seems clear to me that no matter how you slice and dice the stats, growth at AUSL schools is stronger than at the surrounding schools and, given how bad these schools were before turnaround, far better than what could be expected if the status quo was maintained.

    These schools aren't starting out at the District average, they're starting at the bottom. And the growth has been impressive by any measure. A more apt comparison is the situation for students in these schools now and where they would have been without a turnaround.

  • In reply to CGF12:

    I would hope the results are better than the neighborhood schools they are replacing. AUSL schools receive significantly more funding and resources than the schools they replace. I don't expect to see skyrocketing scores - just ongoing, steady improvement is enough for me.

    But I also wonder, are these really the same students? AUSL student enrollment numbers vary quite a bit compared to the schools they have replaced. Often that student population changes is as high as 20%-25%. Which students are leaving? What do their academic, attendance, and disciplinary records? Where are they going? Why are they leaving?

    Still so many questions...

  • Does anyone else find it disturbing that the principal at Morton does her best to discourage parents whose students "won't fit in"?

    Which students are those? The ones with IEPs? Or poor attendance? Or English Language Learners? Or those with disciplinary records? or ADHD? Or low test scores? Or unsupportive parents? Or the poorest? Or...?

  • Gains in stardardize test are not linear. Easier to go from a 8 score to 9 in the ACT than from 34 to 35. The principal at Morton is kind of strange.

  • Is this kiss-ass piece actually supposed focus a 'critical' lens on AUSL?

    In the entire article, only one little sentance about that 'extra hand'

    Karp writes, "Most classrooms get an extra hand, an AUSL teacher-resident, to help with small-group lessons."

    Sara's writing makes it easy to overlook that little detail...

    I've been to an AUSL school and that 'extra hand' makes all the difference in the world, and deserves much more than one sentence from a report that is nearly 50 paragraphs in length.

    A kid becomes diruptive, out he goes for a 'chat' with the 'extra hand'. A group of kids seem unengaged in the lesson, and over walks the 'extra hand'. A student struggles with the material and over walks the 'extra hand'...

    and sometimes that 'extra hand' is 'extra hands'...

    I've seen two, three, and sometimes four 'extra hands' escoring lines of children from the lunchroom to their classrooms...I've seen two and three 'extra hands' per class, for a total of three or four adults working in one classroom.

    Simply put, more teachers, not less, is their secret...

    On a bad day,the 'teacher-residents' are merely what teacher-aids were supposed to be...they never contradict the teacher, always compliment the lesson, practice excellent manners, never speak when the teacher is instructing, redirect the misdirected, and are frequently given the opportunity to practice their craft by re-teaching lessons that compliment the lead-teachers plan.

    After reading Sara Karp's 'investigative reporting' you'd think they were just ticks on the wall...

    Is this a good model for a school? of course! Can it be done to scale? that depends upon whether or not Chicagoans decide to pull the sleep out from their might help if 'reporters' like Karp set the alarm by emphasizing CPS realities, and de-emphasized the AUSL 'miracles'...

    and yes, it is disturbing that 'superstar' Principal Angel Turner does her best to discourage parents whose children 'won't fit in' But at least she wasn't deceptive about it, unlike the Disneyland fantasy-scape that Karp parades as 'reporting'

  • It would be interesting to have someone with the resources figure out WHY the AUSL schools seem to have so many disappearing students in the first year of turnaround and some even after. PURE ( have data that shows that in 5 AUSL schools, an average of 100 students PER school disappeared in the first year of turnaround. Some schools still have lower enrollment 2 - 3 years after turnaround. For instance, Morton had 395 kids in 2007, only 278 in 2008 ( 1st turnaround year) , and in 2010 rebounded slightly to 320. It makes you wonder , IF AUSL offered so many great things to the community, and kids were allowed to stay like they were promised, WHY would anyone transfer out ? OR is that not the whole story ?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    middle of the road reporters like Karp do have the resources, and they know exactly why AUSL 'seems to have so many disappearing students in the first year'

    but real investigative reporting means pissing people off, making enemies, working harder, and possibily working for a free-press...

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    I wonder how many school-staff initiated reports to DCFS are made at these schools each year. How do the numbers compare to other public schools? What are the outcomes of the investigations of DCFS initiated by each type of schoo? Etc. I would be very interested to see what picture emerges.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    DCFS does little and can't help that-no funds too many cases. We reported a parent who adopted her child and really let him have it at the school. Nothing happened.

  • AUSL has gotten praise for their test scores in elementary schools. Their high-school work needs more scrutiny--especially at Orr. I taught at Solorio Academy, AUSL's Southwest Side teacher-training academy. As I told Brian Sims, their AIO equivalent, when I decided to leave, "I agree with 'what' AUSL is doing but not with the 'how.'" Test scores are important but so is the socialization we provide students. And AUSL does not have the cultural competence to effectively socialize students of color. I wrote about their deficit-based approaches to instruction on my Chicago Now blog, The White Rhino, last summer. Here's a the link to my experience there:

  • Clueless... Rahm picked gang symbol (by an MLD) for Chicago vehicle sticker contest winner

    The design for the first Chicago vehicle sticker with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's name on it was revealed Thursday.

    The new 2012-13 sticker, which will go on sale in late spring or early summer, was designed by Herbert Pulgar, a Lawrence Hall Youth Services freshman. It features a heart enclosing the city skyline and Chicago's flag with outstretched hands, and police, firefighter and paramedic symbols and hats.
    Since submitting this new city sticker design... Little Herbert has had "police & juvenile section contact" and is now a self admitted Maniac Latin Disciple...

    Look at his city sticker design. The HEART is the major MLD Gang Symbol. Look at the hands pointing up to the hats on that sticker... Look closely at the fingers and how they are being held... It's hard to see on this image but those little white streaks around the hats have some in the form of a PITCH FORK.....

    Looks like little MLD Herbert pulled a fast one on the City of Chicago...

    He made a Maniac Latin Disciple Chicago City Sticker....
    He also dug up some of Herbert Pulgar's Facebook photos that include the requisite blunt smoking, gang signs and red bandanas typical of the maniac latin disciples.

    Isn't this the gang we were supposed to have "obliterated" last year after members shot two children? And now they might be designing Chicago city stickers? At the very least, this needs some serious review.

  • Speaking of AUSL and school closings, fromKlonksy's SmallTalk yesterday

    Dear Parents and Community Members,

    As concerned parents we ask that you call Mr. Brizard, Chicago Board of Education CEO, on Tuesday, January 31, and urge him to immediately withdraw plans to close 6 schools and turn around 10 others. It will send a strong message if CPS receives many calls on the same day. Also, please call each Tuesday--February 7, 14, and 21—prior to the February 22 Board meeting when they will vote on the proposed actions. Please forward this email to others, share on facebook, and spread the word!

    School closings and turnarounds are harmful to children, their families, and their communities. These 15-year old policies have failed. When schools are closed students have to walk or be transported out of their neighborhoods. This results in an increase in violence and disruption of students' education. Students lose up to six months of academic achievement for each school change. At turnaround schools administrators and teachers are fired. This disrupts the continuity of students’ relationships and academic instruction in a traumatic way. The affected schools are in low-income African-American and Latino communities. Would the mayor and Board members inflict these policies on their children?

    Call Mr. Brizard at 773-553-1500. Parents, please identify your child’s school when you call.

    Tell him...

    Mr. Brizard, I urge you to immediately withdraw plans to close 6 schools and turn around 10 others. Closing schools and turning them around did not work in the past and will not work now. These 15-year old policies increase violence, disrupt students' education, and have not led to higher academic achievement. That students will attend better schools has proven to be a false promise. CPS should make every neighborhood school a great school.

    Closing schools and turning them around blames teachers, administrators, students, and families. But the root causes of the problems are (1) the effects of racism and poverty (2) CPS’s refusal to invest sufficiently in high poverty schools (3) policies like high stakes tests and large class size.

    Privatization continues. CPS proposes that six of the 10 turnaround schools be run by Academy for Urban School Leadership--a private corporation. AUSL's record shows it has not improved schools, even as they have been paid millions--at taxpayer expense. Chicago Board of Ed Chair David Vitale and CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley are former AUSL employees. In whose interests do these public servants serve?

    Please email us at to let us know CPS heard your voice. We’d like to keep track of how many calls they receive. Parents 4 Teachers is a new group of parents who have come together to stand up for teachers and defend public education.

    Thank you very much,

    Parents 4 Teachers
    Defending Public Education

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