I quote this from Edweek in full. It’s worth a read:

To the Editor:
With billions of dollars and millions of children’s lives at stake, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s claims about his record in Chicago merit special scrutiny, especially if federal education funds are tied to requirements that districts across the nation rapidly replicate the “Chicago model” of school reform.
Advocates in Chicago have a special vantage point for this effort. We have been comparing Mr. Duncan’s rhetoric with reality for several years, and finding significant factual errors and misstatements. His remarks in his Commentary “Start Over” (June 17, 2009) fit this pattern.
For example, Mr. Duncan says that “Chicago’s success proves that we as a nation can expect dramatic and quick turnarounds in our lowest-performing schools.” Yet the RAND Corp. (2008) and SRI International (2009) found that Chicago’s new schools perform only on par with traditional neighborhood schools. Further, the traditional schools serve more low-income, special education, and limited-English-proficient students.
Mr. Duncan also writes that “in every elementary and middle school we turned around, attendance rates improved.” But state data for the 2006-07 “turnaround model,” Sherman Elementary School, show that attendance dropped from 91.4 percent the year before the takeover to 90.6 percent in the first year of the takeover. Attendance nearly recovered its pre-takeover rate, at 91.3 percent, in 2008. That’s not a terrible record, but it’s not an improvement.
Other post-turnaround data for Sherman Elementary are even more troubling. The numbers show a 20 percent drop in enrollment, a 10 percent decline in the number of low-income children, and a 17 percent increase in the mobility rate by 2008.
Reality, not hype, should provide the context for considering Mr. Duncan’s urgent call for bold and rapid change. Yes, our children need better schools, ones with more resources, more time, smaller classes, better-supported teachers, safer buildings, more participation of parents and the community, and programs with a real track record of success. But we fear that following Mr. Duncan’s lead will send us at a breakneck speed down a $5 billion path to privatization, national standardized tests, and loss of local control over schools, leaving our children even farther behind.
Julie Woestehoff
Executive Director
Parents United for Responsible Education
Chicago, Ill.

 

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