And despite the characterizations today by the Prez-Elect that Arne Duncan's reign in Chicago represents the kind of bottom up reform that grows from local decisions by citizens, the Renaiissance Schools agenda was driven down the throats of parents, teachers, and students by Duncan and the Paul Vallas dead-enders who stayed on when Vallas exited for Philadelphia.
Below is the press release of a study published by FairTest and PURE in early 2007.
"Reforms" Touted in "Chicago Miracle" Lack Success; Schools with Locally-initiated Strategies Produce More Learning
A report released today challenges key strategies of the federal No Child Left Behind law by demonstrating that similar initiatives in Chicago failed to improve student learning. At the same time, significant academic progress was made in many Chicago Public Schools (CPS) which relied on locally-initiated reform strategies focused less on high-stakes standardized exams.
Local political and business leaders have long claimed that top-down CPS initiatives have been successful and applauded their incorporation in the federal "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law. But the new report, Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation, found more progress in Chicago schools that developed strong curriculums, ensured professional development of classroom educators, and shared leadership among parent councils, the principal and teachers independent of the CPS central office.
The report is based on a review of academic studies of Chicago schools, which show, for example, that Chicago's retention program harmed rather than helped students, CPS test scores flat-lined in schools where central office controls replaced local decision making, and top-down interventions over 10 years did not work. The report was sponsored by Designs for Change and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) along with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).
"The failure of test-driven school reform in Chicago should provide a warning for the country," said FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill. "The Chicago schools most affected by test-based grade retention and takeovers continue to fare poorly. No wonder NCLB has not been successful in significantly improving academic performance nationally: it is based on a failed model."
"The city's most recent 'reform' effort, 'Renaissance 2010' is NCLB Chicago-style," explained PURE Executive Director Julie Woestehoff. "There is no evidence it will help the thousands of low-income children in our city who desperately need high quality schooling. Instead 'Renaissance 2010' reduces parent involvement, promotes privatized school management, and reinforces an extreme focus on testing."
Don Moore, Executive Director of Designs for Change, added, "The nearly 150 steadily improving elementary schools in Chicago prove that decentralized reforms can work. The next step is for those successful schools, which are overwhelmingly low-income, to help others. Central CPS interventions have not succeeded." A Designs for Change study, The Big Picture, contrasted 144 initially low-achieving schools that now have steadily rising test scores with more than 100 other initially similar schools that have not shown sustained improvement despite central office intervention.
The recommendations for reforms in Chicago are consistent with those found in the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, endorsed by more than 100 national education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic organizations.
See the Executive Summary in html.
Download a print formated PDF of this executive summary.
Download a print formated PDF of the complete report.