Search results for: "turnaround"

Chicago was the starting place for Arne Duncan’s very bad ideas about school reform. Duncan boasted about how many schools he closed, working on the theory that the students would transfer to a better school or a charter school. As Eve Ewing documented in her book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard, Duncan’s punitive approach wreaked havoc on black and LatinX students, communities, and of course, neighborhood schools. Arne Duncan, the President who appointed him (Obama), and the mayor who followed his failing model (Rahm Emanuel), pushed policies that hurt children and educators. The mainstream media has not yet held them accountable. Perhaps this settlement will. Meanwhile, the thousands of African American teachers who were fired in New Orleans lost their court battle and will never receive either compensation or acknowledgement of the injustice done to them.

Chicago Teachers Union

For Immediate Release|

CONTACT: Chris Geovanis, 312-329-6250312-446-4939 (m)

Mayor’s Board of Ed to vote on compensating Black educators harmed by racially disparate ‘turn-arounds’

CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today in wake of CPS’ statement on the Board of Education’s upcoming consideration this Wednesday of a settlement agreement related to the racially disproportionate layoffs and terminations of Black teachers and paraprofessionals in ‘turned-around’ schools in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Chicago Teachers Union aims to defend public education in the City of Chicago for staff and students—including for the vast majority of Black and LatinX people in the city. 

On Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Education will vote on a settlement between the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, and CPS relating to layoffs and terminations from their positions that had a disparate racial impact on African American teachers and paraprofessionals resulting from the Board’s turnaround policies and in certain CPS schools in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The agreement concludes nearly 10 years of litigation and will result in the creation and distribution of a settlement fund to benefit those staff members affected by the turnarounds. Resolving this matter is in CPS students’ best interest and will allow the District to move forward while the impacted teachers and staff will receive some compensation for the harm that was done to them. As a union, we have fought for increased funding for schools, adequate staffing and fair treatment of all teachers, regardless of race.

The cases settled are Chicago Teachers Union et al. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Case Nos. 12-cv-10311 and 15-cv-8149), both pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The CTU will issue further statements once the final terms of the settlement are documented and submitted to the court for approval.”


The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at via To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from CTU Press, please click here.

Way back in 2004, Chicago’s then-superintendent Arne Duncan announced a bold initiative that he called “Renaissance 2010.” He closed 80 public schools and opened 100 charter schools. He implemented a disruptive strategy called “turnaround,” in which schools were closed and handed over to charter operators, most or all of the teachers fired. When he was appointed Secretary of Education by President Obama, the president saluted him for his courage in closing down “failing” schools. Not long after, some of the turnaround schools failed and were closed.

And now the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to put an end to the turnaround strategy. “Reform,” as defined by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, has failed.

Chalkbeat reports:

Chicago’s Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to end its largest school turnaround program and phase 31 campuses managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership back into the district fold across the next three years. 

The district will continue to pay the nonprofit organization to manage a key teacher residency program at a cost of $9.6 million over the next three years. 

Before voting to curtail the group’s school oversight after 15 years, board members said the recommendation illustrated a broader philosophical shift in Chicago toward sending new resources to neighborhood schools and their existing staffs as opposed to strategies like “turnarounds” that relied on disrupting practice by requiring school staffs to reapply for their jobs. 

“Turnaound is a relic of a previous era of school reform,” said Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and member of the school board.

Board members acknowledged the symbolism of the vote, which came in the same meeting as a discussion over the potentially negative enrollment impact of relocating a charter high school campus (the relocation was not recommended by district leadership).

Interesting turn of phrase: “Turnaround is a relic of a previous era of school reform.” Professor Todd-Breland is correct,

The Bush-Obama-Trump disruptive “reforms” failed. They are relics. It’s past time to invest in improving our public schools, where most students are enrolled, and supporting our teachers.

For a few years, Gary Rubinstein was our nation’s leading debunker of “miracle school” claims. He found that the so-called miracle schools usually had high attrition rates but somehow forgot to mention them or some other manipulation of data.

Probably because of the power of Gary’s pen, corporate reformers stopped making claims about dramatic turnarounds, in which schools zoomed from the bottom 1% to the top 10%, or some such. The Tennessee Achievement District, which Gary covered closely, was an epic example of this kind of failure, on a large scale. Its leader, Chris Barbic, boldly predicted that he would take over the state’s lowest performing schools–those in the bottom 5%–turn them over to charter operators, and within five years, they would be in the top 20% of schools in the state. It didn’t happen. Not even close. After five years, the first cohort of ASD charters were still in the bottom 5%, although one made it to the bottom 6%. The ASD has since announced that it was returning the schools to their districts, but it has not said whether they would return as public schools or charter schools.

Now Gary turns his attention to an announcement by TFA about five schools in Baltimore that were “turned around” by the miracle of having inexperienced and enthusiastic TFA teachers.

He begins:

As an ashamed TFA alum, I receive their quarterly alumni magazine, ‘One Day.’ In the most recent issue, which I also saw on their Twitter feed, was an article called ‘Undefeated: Inside Five Baltimore Turnaround Schools that Refuse to Fail.’

The article is about five Baltimore schools that are run by TFA alumni and were recipients of some of the Obama/Duncan $3 billion school turnaround grant. The most aggressive turnaround strategy is to replace the majority of the staff, which is what these five schools did. The school turnaround grants have generally been considered a failure across the country, even by staunch reformers.

(Actually it was a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education that declared that the $3 billion turnaround program was a failure; it was released quietly in the closing days of the Obama administration.)

Gary reported the boasting about miraculous turnarounds and then he reviewed the state data:

Maryland has the star system where schools can get from one to five stars, kind of like the A to F letter grades. The stars are based on test scores and also on ‘growth’ and other factors. There are 1,300 schools in Maryland and about 10% of them get either one or two stars. So 3 stars is like a ‘C’ and over 60% of the schools in the state are either 4 stars or 5 stars. Of the five schools that have been ‘turned around,’ three are still 2 stars, which is like a ‘D.’ But looking more closely at the data from these five schools, I found some pretty awful numbers.

The Commodore John Rogers Elementary/Middle School that has the test score increases got two different percentile ranks, one for the elementary and one for the middle school. While the middle school is the one bright spot of all the schools , or subschools, in the 100% project, having risen to the bottom 28% of schools the elementary school is ranked in the bottom 8%.

One school, The Academy For College And Career Exploration (ACCE) has a middle and a high school. The middle school is ranked in the bottom 2% while the high school is in the bottom 9%. In the high school they had 9.3% score proficient in math and 3.6% score proficient in ELA. In the middle school they had 2.7% score proficient in ELA and, no this isn’t a typo, 0% score proficient in math.

The lowest rated school of the five is James McHenry Elementary/Middle. While the middle school was ranked in the bottom 15%, the elementary school was only ranked in the bottom 1%. If not for the middle school, the elementary school would be one of the 35 schools out of 1,300 that would have gotten just one star and be slated for possible closure.

I’m not sure why TFA is clinging to a narrative that went out of style about five years ago, when Arne Duncan stepped down as Secretary of Education. These five schools, on average, do not prove that firing most of the teachers in a school is likely to cause an incredible turnaround at a school.


Led by the privatization-mad Mind Trust, Indianapolis is bringing in Sajan George to take over a low-performing school. Sajan George is not an educator. His schools in Detroit and Newark failed. So of course, Indianapolis must hire this proven failure.

Saman George is a management consultant who had a top job with Alvarez & Marsal as they pillaged their way through New Orleans, St. Louis, and New York City, collecting huge fees ($500 an hour) to introduce business practices into education. In St. Louis, A&M installed the retired CEO of Brooks Brothers clothing store as superintendent. $5 Million later, they left town, and the struggling district lost its accreditation (it just now won it back).

In New York City, Sajan George led the A&M effort to revise the city’s complex bus schedule. The plan was rolled out on the coldest day of the year, and thousands of children were stranded by poor planning. A&M collected $15 million in a no-bid contract from Joel Klein for that failure.

Recently Sajan George has re-emerged as a “turnaround specialist,” although he failed in both Detroit and Newark. Chalkbeat tells the story here. 

“When it comes to turning around troubled schools, Matchbook Learning has a troubled history — two schools it took over were closed soon after. But Sajan George, founder of the management group, thinks Indianapolis is his chance to succeed.

“Indianapolis Public Schools leaders have recommended Matchbook as a partner to restart School 63, a school with chronically low test scores. The nonprofit operator has been through layers of vetting from the district and its partners. But the network’s past troubles raise significant questions about whether it is likely to succeed in Indianapolis and highlight the limited pool of partners with the interest and experience in restarting failing schools.”

Mercedes Schneider carefully examined the dismal record of Sajan George and A&M here:

Reformers are never deterred by failure. If at first you fail, try again. If at second time you fail, try again. Never learn from experience. Failure apparently is just another path to profit.

Indianapolis is off to a bad start in their zeal to wipe out public schools.

The Harvard Business School reports a study from Britain that claims to explain how to turnaround a failing school.

Americans, especially experienced educators, are likely to find their recommendations controversial.

The researchers say that reducing class size is not necessary. They say a class of 30 will do as well as a class of 15.

They say not to worry about teacher quality until you have the right leader and governance structure.

They say that the key to success is to exclude students with behavior problems. Pay another school to take them. Now there is a clever idea.

Their study was conducted using academies as their models. Academies are similar to our charter schools.

Imagine: as schools follow their advice, there will be a market for students who are behavior problems. Who will buy them?

Take it another step, and the school could sell students who don’t speak English and students with disabilities.

Now, that’s corporate reform using business thinking!

As we learned in recent weeks, the state of Massachusetts placed Dever Elementary School in receivership, with no benefit to the children. The Boston Globe ran a major story about the state’s failure: the company that took charge of the school had never run a school; it went through five principals in two years; teacher turnover was high. The school was not turned around. The state failed the children of Dever Elementary School.

But that’s no reason not to do it to another school and more children!

Our reader Christine Langhoff in Massachusetts reports on the latest plan to turnaround a struggling school. Please let me know, dear reader, if You are aware of a successful state takeover anywhere. I can’t think of any.

Christine Langhoff writes:

Despite what is obviously an egregious failure, whose casualties are the children used as guinea pigs in this experiment, the state of Massachusetts with its appointed department of education goes merrily on its reformy way.

Holyoke, Springfield and Southbridge are three of our poorest communities, which have very high ratios of English language learners and SWD’s. So it’s no surprise that MA DESE has targeted them for takeover, just as they have in Lawrence and Boston.

MA DESE took over the Holyoke Public Schools last year, so now they’re hiring TFA’s to do the job of all those teachers they turned out, including Gus Morales, president of the Holyoke teachers union.

This “news” article:

includes “Five questions about Teach for America answered:”, helpfully answered by TFA.

And in Springfield, MA, DESE has turned over another school to UP Academy.

On Friday afternoon (well known as a great time for a news dump), DESE issued its turnaround plan for the latest school system targeted for takeover, Southbridge, MA. Here are some of the key recommendations and “solutions”. This comes after many teachers and paraprofessionals have been notified that they have been terminated.

Click to access 1Southbridge%20TAP%206%2023%2016%20FINAL%20ENGLISH.pdf

Merit pay based on the local edition of VAM – Roland “Two-Tier” Fryer is a member of the board, so perhaps he is due credit for this:

5. Revamp compensation approach: The district will revamp its approach to compensation to ensure that individual effectiveness, professional growth, and student academic growth are key factors in a professional compensation system and that employees have opportunities for additional responsibility and leadership. (See also Appendix A, III.)

A major goal is to attract teachers because:

“The most significant school-based factor in students’ learning is the quality of the teaching they receive. Southbridge is committed to attracting and retaining a caring, qualified, and highly competent workforce of teachers and leaders.

Strategy D: Use the Receiver’s authorities to lay the foundation for successful turnaround

1. Limit, Suspend, or Change Provisions in Collective Bargaining Agreements to Support Plan Priorities: The district will limit, suspend, or change provisions in collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts in order to achieve the goals of the Turnaround Plan. Further, the Receiver must have the ability to address issues as they arise, including making additional changes to collective bargaining agreements to maximize the rapid improvement of the academic performance of Southbridge students. Appendix A contains changes will take effect as of July 1, 2016, and must be incorporated into future collective bargaining agreements. The Receiver and/or the Commissioner, at their discretion, will initiate discussions and processes as appropriate pursuant to G.L. c. 69, § 1K. (See also Appendix A.)

2. Change employment contracts: Certain changes to employment contracts between the district and individual employees are necessary to achieve the goals of the Turnaround Plan. The Receiver must have the flexibility to choose and retain principals and other administrative staff who are effective leaders, have the appropriate skills, and bring focus and urgency in implementing the terms of the Turnaround Plan. Consequently, the end date for all employment contracts or agreements entered into with administrative staff members before the declaration of receivership on January 26, 2016, is changed to June 30, 2017. The Receiver may, at her discretion, extend any such employment contract or exercise the termination provisions of any contract. The changed end date supersedes any contrary provisions in any individual employment contract between the district and an individual employee. (See also Appendix A.)”
and because non-turnaround schools are required to provide 990 hours of instruction:

“As of the 2017-2018 school year, there will be a minimum of 1,330 hours of instruction for students K-8. (See also Appendix A, IV.)

The Receiver will establish the school calendar each year. (See also Appendix A, IV.)

All newly-hired teachers may be required to participate in a week-long teacher
orientation/induction program as part of their professional obligation without additional
compensation. (See also Appendix A, IV.)

Explore additional school calendar options to provide additional time for instruction and
enrichment, to reach the required minimum of 1,330 hours of instruction annually for students K-8. This may involve programming options during vacations, extended day, year-long opportunities, and summer school.”

So the plan is to attract the best teachers by taking away any contractual protections, changing the school calendar at will and having them work an extra 340 hours without compensation. I’m sure that’s a great plan.

I’m old enough to remember when educational decisions at the state level were made by educators and informed by research. This triumph of ideology is devastating to our poor communities and the children who live in them.

Parents and educators in Milwaukee have fought against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to take over Milwaukee Public Schools. Walker was relentless, and he persuaded the Republican-dominated legislature to create an “Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program” to begin the state takeover of low-performing schools. No money was appropriated for the program. A leader was hired, Desmond Means, to start the takeover district.

Desmond Means resigned.

Please bear in mind that no state takeover district has ever succeeded in improving schools. This game of changing the governance structure is a shell game. Tennessee did it. Michigan did it. Georgia and North Carolina are starting to do it.

It doesn’t work because it doesn’t improve schools or teaching. And it doesn’t help children.

Reformers try these stunts because they think that democracy is the problem.

When will they ever learn?

EduShyster provides insight and detail on the story of the Boston turnaround school that didn’t get turned around.

Take a low-performing school in an impoverished neighborhood.

Give it to a company that never ran a school before.

Run through five principals in two years.

What could possibly go wrong?

Will anyone be held accountable? Why not Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner who created this fiasco?

Paul Thomas of Furman University in South Carolina knows that elected officials are intrigued with the idea of “turnaround districts,” although they know surprisingly little about the research or experience associated with such districts. The idea is simple: if a school has low test scores for x number of years in a row, or if it ranks in the bottom x% of all schools in the state, fire the principal and the teachers and give the community’s public school to a private charter operator. Kind of like declaring bankruptcy, but forgetting that a school is not a business like a chain store.


Thomas points out that there are good reasons to be wary of turnaround districts. He cites research about what has happened to them.


First, advocacy for takeovers is mostly political cheerleading, and second, a growing body of research has revealed that takeovers have not achieved what advocates claim and often have replicated or even increased the exact problems they were designed to solve, such as race and class segregation and inequitable educational opportunities.


New Orleans is a low-performing district that has become even more segregated and stratified than it was before the takeover.


He writes:


Takeovers in several states—similar to embracing charter schools and Teach For America—have simply shuffled funding, wasted time, and failed to address the root causes of struggling schools: concentrated poverty and social inequity.


Yes, SC must reform our public schools, and we should shift gears to address our vulnerable populations of students first. But charter takeover approaches are yet more political faddism that our state and children cannot afford.


Continuing to double-down on accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing as well as rushing to join the political reform-of-the-moment with clever names is inexcusable since we have decades of evidence about what works, and what hasn’t.


SC must embrace a new way—one committed to social policies addressing food security for the poor, stable work throughout the state, and healthcare for all, and then a new vision for education reform built on equity.


All SC students deserve experienced and certified teachers, access to challenging courses, low class sizes, fully funded schools, safe school buildings and cultures, and equitable disciplinary policies and practices. These are reforms that must be guarantees for every public school student regardless of zip code, and they need not be part of complex but cleverly named programs.


You will want to read the post in full to gain access to its many excellent links to news and research.


Those who continue to advocate for already failed fixes are stalling, delaying the day that we must address the root causes of educational failure. They should be held accountable for their neglect of the real needs of children, families, and communities. And some day, they will.


Angie Sullivan, kindergarten teacher in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada, works in a school that is eligible for “turnaround.” All the teachers were called for interviews. Here is her report on what happened:



The CCSD turnaround school selection process is a nonsensical destructive monster. They claim school turnaround is based on data – and this is a lie. This CCSD “empire” needs to be reviewed and reconsidered.


At a time when 30,000 CCSD students do not have a licensed teacher – the highly qualified fully licensed teachers at my school were “interviewed” yesterday. The main product of the turnaround interview: scaring real teachers who have been under threat of interview since December 15th.


There are plenty of schools in the district to “turnaround” since many places have only long term substitutes as staff. Opportunties for “take-over” are plentiful.


There is no good reason to threaten to implode a fully staffed CCSD school by interviewing us all day.


I was interviewed last year and this year. The strange turnaround interview questions are all about assessment and data driven instruction. I understand from the questioning – someone powerful thinks data is learning.


I will state here – it is not. Kids are more than a score. If the focus is only data – a full education is not obtained. Period. Many, many things are learned by students in my classroom everyday which will never be measured but are essential. Data is a tool – one tool. That is all. And computer data is only one snap-shot in time and measure what computer data can measure. That is all. Data will only measure a small piece of learning.


For those of you who do not know what turnaround is . . .


The district takes a school with low standardized scores and removes the principal and interviews the staff. Some staff are allowed to stay but many teachers have to find a new place to work. It implodes the school. Then “turns the school around” by over-testing and micro-managing the staff and students. It is not proven to be effective. If you study results of turnaround schools across the United States – it has not been a success. It is proven to be scary and disruptive – removing teachers and dispacing them. It is primarily used to re-organize schools with students and parents who cannot effectively advocate for themselves. Children of color re-organized into robotic scary testing scripted education environments. At a time when the teachers were fighting for pay and insurance, “turnaround” CCSD administrators were at the school board asking for another test for African American students. The turnaround focus is not on finding and retaining geat teachers or caring about students – the focus is improving testing scores.


Having gone through the turnaround interview process twice now – I am convinced it is most effective at targeting veteran teachers and harrassing them.


Why do I say this?


My school has not been able to use standardized tests for two years. We were a pilot school for SBAC in 2014 and it didn’t run. Then last year 2015 when SBAC was implemented for all Nevada – SBAC failed across the state. Our last valid standardized testing was three years ago 2013 because that was when the computers could run the test.


My school has no current standardized data.


Turnaround is based on standardized testing – but the testing hasn’t happened.


I was interviewed because of testing my school did three years ago in 2013? Mysterious data qualified my school for turnaround.


Some of the other assessments that could have been used are questionable as far as accuracy – I mentioned this openly to the interviewers. My direct langauage was: They are crap because they are.


There is an current environment in which we are not encouraged to openly question the validity of the tests we are mandated to use – but we should. Just because someone spent a lot of money doesn’t meanwhile it is a worthwhile test.


My school keeps having to interview because my school computers did not run the test in 2014 and 2015?


I kept asking at the interview which data was being used because we haven’t been able to test our kids for two years. We have a lot of data from other types of tests. Which mystery data was driving the turnaround selection process? No one could tell me why my school was selected or which data my school “failed” to be selected for turnaround.


Selection of my school to interview this year was random.


Admin used the words data to justify harrassing my school staff and no one was supposed to question. I am very angry. Being randomly interviewed based on events in 2013 is harrassment. And this was the answer I was given when I asked.


The turnaround interview team who was sent did not know why they were there. I asked them.


The turnaround interview team asks sterile weird questions about data and assessment and evalution. I told them many important things that would be helpful if people cared – but the computerized form did not allow for them to record this input. If it did not fit into the computerized interview slot – it was rejected and not needed. This was not an interview where I could particpate.


Some of the questions were encouraging staff to disparage each other. I don’t appreciate interviews that ask me to talk badly about the people I work with. Schools are a community and teachers should help each other.


Some of the questions were asking me to disparage my administrator. I felt like asking if I needed to invoke Weingarten Rights and get a union representative to help me. My adminstrator is excellent because kids come first.


Some of the questions were encouraging staff to evaluate each other by wandering around other classrooms. Teachers should not be encouraged to “spy” on each other – it destroys a schools environment when this happens. We learn best from each other but not if staff are encourage to report so teachers will be punished.


Some of the questions were degrading and insulting. Yes or No questions with no win-win answers. Totally frustrating because teaching is not black and white.


What are the components of an effective lesson? This old teacher would frankly state there are many effective ways to instruct – which one do you want? What subject are you teaching? What is the goal of the lesson? Again – no one right answer.


I consider the whole turnaround interview process harrassment. It felt like an attack on my due process and like I was set up to fail. The interview people were nice enough but sent to fill in the blanks not to help my school. The scare tactic of interviewing teaching staff with decades of experience is not nice. It is bullying and union-busting. Period.


I think the decision has already been made somewhere far away from my classroom – but they were instructed to torture us anyhow to prove some point or meet a random goal.


None of the questions asked about kids. I offered but it didn’t fit in the blank.


This interview was not about caring or authentic instruction which is essential to real learning. This interview could not provide any real information to anyone about what actually goes on in my classroom.


It was an investigation about my peers, my principal, and my data.


I feel like my union representation should have been there.



In summary:


Turnaround being data driven is a lie. It is random and scary. Any school could be selected at anytime and my school proves this. Current CCSD turnaround interviews are terrible data too – since the computer only allows certain answers to be recorded.


The district has many, many places which are ripe to “turnaround” because they are decimated already. Threatening to destroy my school so someone powerful can check off a box somewhere for money is ridiculous.


The computers not working at my school – this is a problem that is not solved by interviewing my staff. My school does not have the tools to give anyone reliable data.


Everyone needs to be asking frank questions about the turnaround selection process and this empire as a whole. CCSD turnaround grabbing a school like mine to interview makes absolutely zero sense unless something outside of valid data is actually the basis for being considered.


The CCSD turnaround monster is gobbling up real teachers and students. Is it making progress according to its own teribble strict data collection?


Someone needs to be asking questions. Big ones.


And I will state the obvious – we are short licensed highly qualified teachers.


Even on my worst day, I’m better than a long term sub who doesn’t have a college degree. You get rid of people like me and replace me with whom?


What are we doing?


Crazytown. Stressful. Waste of time and money.