Updated 11/30/2011 6:30 p.m.
Chicago Public Schools plans to shut down low-performing schools next year, and nine Austin-area schools could be on the chopping block.
Across Chicago, more than 140 schools meet the district’s proposed criteria for shutdown. As reported by AustinTalks.org last week, a majority of those schools are located on the south and west sides.
State law requires CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to announce which schools are slated to close no later than Dec. 1. According to CPS’ “Draft Guidelines for School Actions,” schools rated “Level 3” for two consecutive years would be candidates for closing. The guidelines were released publicly on Oct. 31.
The nine Austin schools at Level 3 and on probation are: Brunson Math and Science Specialty, Leslie Lewis Elementary, Henry H. Nash Elementary, Louis Armstrong Math and Science Elementary, George Leland Elementary, Ronald E. McNair Elementary, May Elementary Academy, Frederick A. Douglass Academy High School and Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School.
The rating is based on CPS’ performance policy, which is used to determine a school’s probation status. A Level 3 rating is the district’s lowest level based on Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) performance.
Nov. 30 was the deadline for the district to finalize the school-action guidelines.
Elementary schools with test results higher than surrounding schools, and high schools with higher graduation rates than other schools in the neighborhood, will most likely be in the clear, according to the guidelines.
But West Side community residents and activists are up in arms.
Dwayne Truss, vice-chair of the Austin Community Action Council, said it would be unfair of the district to close down Austin schools, as the overall test scores in the community are on the rise.
“We keep preaching to CPS,” Truss said. “Austin school test scores are turning up.”
Two schools on probation, Brunson and May, received Illinois’ Academic Improvement Awards earlier this month. The schools, along with three others in Austin, received the award for having an upward trend in test scores for at least three years, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card’s website.
Nash is also on probation but agreed to extend the school day in September after receiving financial incentives from CPS.
Truss said it’s unlikely CPS would close down a school that has already agreed to extend the day.
“CPS may knock it off the list,” he said.
CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus could not say at month’s Chicago Board of Education meeting whether the proposed closings list would be released earlier than Dec. 1.
Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat told school board members that CPS will hold community meetings after the list is released. Those sessions are expected to divulge the transition process for students and parents. Date and locations for the meetings are still to be determined.
Carol Johnson, a CPS parent and chair of Spencer Elementary’s LSC (local school council), insist Austin schools are improving academically. But CPS, she says, keeps raising the bar, making it hard for the neighborhood schools to keep up.
“It’s like a football game,” Johnson said. “As soon as we get to get the goal post, CPS moves it back five more yards.”