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Public Turnaround Schools

Lavinia & Dominique Wright

Katrina tells her story

What is a public turnaround school?

Public turnaround schools are selected from amongst the lowest-performing schools in Chicago to undergo changes in leadership, staffing, and curriculum in order to bring a positive learning culture and improve student outcomes. In this model, the staff undergo in-depth training to support students with a special focus on health, social, and emotional learning. Students who attend public turnaround schools benefit by staying in their neighborhood school, rather than having to travel to a different location.  In Chicago, some turnarounds are managed by CPS’s Office of  School Improvement and others are managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).  Chicago’s turnaround initiatives fit into a larger plan led by President Obama and his Department of Education to provide School Improvement Grants to low-performing schools that undergo this type of bold change to improve student learning.

Have public turnaround schools been successful?

Yes! The University of Chicago’s Consortium of  Chicago School Research recently completed research (due to be released this month) that found “significantly greater” student learning gains in turnaround schools than in comparable non-turnaround schools. Of the 10 elementary schools that AUSL has managed, all showed improvement in composite ISAT scores. In fact, elementary schools that have operated under the turned around structure for three years have doubled the number of students meeting and exceeding standards.  In turnaround high schools, boosted attendance rates show the immediate impact of the high culture of learning that accompanies a turnaround.  At Marshall High School, for example, attendance rates increased 20% in the first year of turnaround. And in all AUSL schools out-of-school suspension rates are significantly decreased. The results are positive, the number of freshman who are on track to graduate in four years has increased in all the turnaround high schools, by 16% at Fenger, 22% at Harper, and 45% at Marshall.

Why does Stand for Children support public turnaround schools?

Quite simply, our focus is building better public schools for every child regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.  Proven results, combined with keeping the children in their local neighborhood school, we believe this model is one that should be replicated and expanded. 

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