One ViewA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that the Chicago Board of Education has, for all practical purposes, abandoned many if not most of the high school students who reside within the Austin community. I have been searching for a motive for such draconian actions. Is it because the decision makers lack experience? Are they incompetent? Is it, as some people fear, part of a gentrification scheme? Is it old fashioned racism? Perhaps it is some of all of the above.
Whatever the motivation, it has had a deleterious effect on high school students in Austin who desire to continue their education. One student discussed the problems that he is having in an article that appeared in the Austin Weekly News. He talked of having to arise each morning at a very early hour to travel a long distance outside his community to attend high school. This was not his or his parent’s choice for a high school. This hardship has been forced upon him by the Chicago Public Schools decision to close his community high school in Austin.
As I have stated before, the closing of Austin High School followed an established CPS pattern in the black community: Close a school, privatize it and hand it over to white operators. In the process, not enough classroom seats are available to serve all of the high school students who live in the Austin community.
The primary explanation that I have heard from CPS officials as to why they have not provided enough space for all of the high school students in Austin, is that only about 30 percent of the eligible students were attending Austin High School before it was closed.
Clearly, many parents did not send their children to Austin because of negative perceptions regarding the school. There was a problem with Austin High School. I thought it was the job of the Chicago Public Schools officials to analyze the situation, diagnose the problem and prescribe a solution.
I should have known better because of what happened at Martin Luther King High School a few years ago. Headlines in the major newspapers reported that King was the worst performing school in the system. I thought that with a school full of low-performing students, Mayor Daley’s miracle workers would spring into action and … Sha-Zam! … the low-performing students would be transformed into model students.
CPS solution for transforming a low-performing school into a high-performing school was to kick the low students out and bring in high-performance students. Sha-Zam! The King High School problem was solved.
No one in the major media who broke the story ever asked what happened to the low-performing students who were aced out. After all, who is really concerned about low-performing students? It is the school that matters.
So the CPS solution to the problem of only 30 percent of eligible student attending Austin was to cut back on the available space for high school students in Austin, since they were not using it. Imagine if you were in an accident and one of your arms were broken. You walk into the doctor’s office with your arm dangling useless by your side. You, of course, expect the doctor to fix it and soon it will be as good as new.
Instead, since you are not using that arm, the doctor cuts if off. You, of course, would have the mother of all medical malpractice suits. The more I learn about the high school debacle in Austin the more convinced I become that there has been education malpractice. Again, where were/are our community leaders?
Grady C. Jordan was a Chicago Public Schools district superintendent from 1985-95.