Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch lost the battle to save Dodge, Terrell and Williams, but she won the war to prevent the abrupt closing of academically failing schools for the next two years.
In a unique agreement, Chicago Public Schools will work with the union to select up to 12 schools the first year to receive extra support to boost student performance. Schools will be chosen from among a list of those that fit the district’s criteria to be shut down—specifically, schools that are on the state’s watch list or early warning list, and have spent two consecutive years on probation.
Selected schools will have the option of choosing among several research-based curriculum models—Success for All, Comer School Development Program or Direct Instruction for elementary schools, High Schools that Work or Talent Development for high schools—or using another model.
The teachers union will provide extra support for staff, and the School Board will help offset the additional costs. The selected schools will have a year to improve student performance or risk being closed.
Lynch says she’s confident the model will help schools improve, even though some schools may be closed next spring. “The board had every intention of implementing its program and closing several more schools [this year],” she says. “That was utterly unacceptable.”
The partnership is based on a similar pact between the school district and teachers union in New York City, where 42 elementary schools on a watch list received extra support to implement Success for All, a highly-regarded reading program developed by Johns Hopkins University, Lynch explains. After two years, half of the schools had improved enough to be removed from the watch list.