On Friday, the Chicago Public Schools announced its plan to “turn around” three more underperforming schools on the South and West Sides of the city. If the plan goes through, McNair Elementary, Dvorak Technology Academy and Gresham Elementary will be the next schools handed over to the private nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which currently manages 29 Chicago Public Schools attended by 17,000 students. The turn-around process will involve firing all staff at the end of the school year. Students will return normally in the fall, albeit under the tutelage of mostly new staff. Under the model, AUSL must hire CTU teachers, and fired teachers are allowed to reapply for their jobs, but historically, most are not rehired. Proponents of the turnaround model say it can have a profound positive impact on underperforming schools. The Obama administration has endorsed the strategy. But not everyone is so hot on the turnovers and “not-for-profitization” of public schools. Opponents, such as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), claim that any improvement in turned-around schools is the result of millions of dollars of grant money pumped into the schools, not staff turnover. According to WBEZ: The Chicago Teachers Union immediately called the move “school closings by another name." It comes 10 months after Chicago voted to close 49 grammar schools, the largest single round of school closings in the U.S. “They’re picking up where Rahm Emanuel left off last year, by destabilizing schools on the South and West Sides,” said vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union Jesse Sharkey. “We don’t think that the schools that are in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city with incredibly dedicated faculty should be punished by having all those staffs fired. “ Sharkey said improvements in turnarounds are due to additional millions of dollars the schools get over their first five years, not the new staff. CTU also claims that the turnaround model results in racial inequities. A University of Chicago study confirms that turnarounds, which are predominately imposed on schools in black and poor neighborhoods, “do result in a younger, whiter teaching force,” WBEZ reports.
Andrew Mortazavi is a Spring 2014 editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewmortazavi.