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Daley School Plan Falls Short of Its Goal

By Anthonia Akitunde in News on Jan 16, 2010 6:45PM

Photo by mmmmarshall
Renaissance 2010, Mayor Daley's controversial school reform plan which includes shutting down low-performing schools, has failed to meet the mark, according to the Tribune's analysis of 2009 state test scores.

According to the report, Renaissance 2010, or Ren10, elementary schools performed at the same level as district schools. An average of 66.7 percent elementary students passed the 2009 Illinois Standards Achievement Test. Yet its high schools tested well under the dishearteningly low district scores, averaging 20.5 percent compared to the district's 22.8 percent. However both district and Ren2010 schools had an average of 17.6 percent when selective enrollment schools were not taken into consideration.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman cautioned against getting rid of the entire strategy, saying he planned to take the parts of the program that worked while doing away with those that didn't. This would include closing down under performing Ren10 schools as well, the report said. This month Mayor Daley promised to expand the program despite "the program's mixed reviews."

Since it's inception six years ago, Ren10 schools have faced its share of difficulties. Daley and Arne Duncan, former schools CEO and current U.S. Secretary of Education, engineered the program. The crux of the plan is "turn around" chronically low-performing schools and open 100 new ones "that would rely heavily on the private sector for ideas, funding and management," the report said. But at times shuttering old schools created new problems, such as increased school violence as students from rival gang areas were placed in the same school.

But supporters point to other measurements of success at Ren10 schools, noting an increase in parental involvement, attendance rates and student engagement. Stars in the program include the Academy of Urban School Leadership, which is outperforming its former self, and Noble Street Charter Schools that have students continue on to college at rates that rival suburban schools, the report said. Also students who were transferred to higher performing schools made more academic gains.

Even with these conflicting tales of success and failure, how Renaissance 2010 performs will affect national education reform, the report said. Duncan has created a funding program called Race to the Top to distribute $4.35 billion in education funds. But states have to incorporate Ren10 strategies to get their share of the billions.