Photo credit: Fred Klonsky. May 2013.
Previous research warned Rahm and CPS that closings would hurt Chicago’s students.
Parents and teachers said the same thing.
Thousands marched in the streets in opposition to Rahm’s plan to shutter 300 and then finally 50 schools.
But Rahm and CPS would not be deterred.
Five years later a ground-breaking study by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research again said what we all knew.
Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union said the report validates that the closures were marred by chaos, a desperate lack of resources, lost libraries and labs, grief, trauma, damaging disruption, and a profound disrespect for the needs of low-income black students and the educators who teach them.
Interviews (by the researchers) paint a damning picture of a chaotic process where even fundamental tasks were flubbed as CPS rushed to close and merge schools in just three months. CPS voted to close the schools in late May, 2013. Principals and staff told researchers that textbooks and instructional materials were lost in the move. And, when staff arrived in August to open the school year, some of the receiving schools were unclean and upgrades were unfinished.
“Ultimately, teachers and staff in the six schools interpreted these losses as a sign that the district did not respect staff or care about the students in these schools. As one teacher explained, ‘CPS doesn’t care. They just don’t care, and it shows,’” according to the report.
As for the technology and new programming, staff appreciated the investment, but many of the schools were not able to sustain them because of budget cuts. Schools got new iPads, which were a hit with students and staff, but there was little training on how to use them for instructional purposes.
The year after the merger, teachers also reported a spike in “conflict and disorder,” and students said there was more bullying and fights. Over time, it lessened but did not return to the levels before the the closing, according to the study.
It was not just staff and students from closed schools that were affected. The study found that students in the receiving schools also suffered. More than expected transferred out of the receiving schools in the year of the school mergers.
Not a chance.
The latest CPS CEO, Janice Jackson, called what happened “unacceptable.”
But said the outcome will not deter her from closing schools in the future.