Thursday, May 16, 2013

SLI Model Recognized by CTU

The Chicago Teachers' Union issued the following press release today:

Parents and Community to blast CPS’ “turnaround model” at AUSL headquarters as school closings loom

Group to release proven alternative can save CPS and taxpayers millions while improving schools and scores


CHICAGO – On Thursday, May 16, parents and community members from the schools slated for ‘Turnaround’ by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are going to Chicago Academy High School/Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) Headquarters, 3400 N. Austin, at 12:45 p.m. to question why the district uses a program that causes instability for their children and costs millions for taxpayers is better than a less expensive, research-proven transformation with the teachers they know and trust. 


In the past month, four CPS Schools slated for “Turnaround” at the estimated cost of more than $1 million dollars per campus/per year have voted to ask the CPS to use an alternative model proven to be highly effective, research based, and costing only one-fifth as much as AUSL, the most frequently used option.  The turnaround strategy that the four schools are asked CPS to approve is called the CPS-SLI School Transformation Process.  It can be used as an alternative to an approach used in recent years by AUSL in which the entire faculty and leadership of a school is terminated and a new staff hired.  It costs approximately $1 million to implement the AUSL approach.


“Research has demonstrated the qualities that schools need to succeed,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teacher’s Union.  “CPS has already invested in a transformation plan developed by Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) that embraces that research.  It is highly effective, already proven in CPS schools, and can save an enormous amount of money.  We urge CPS to embrace this option.  It will be excellent for the children, their families, their schools and their neighborhoods.”


CPS itself – with the help of the Chicago non-profit Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) – developed, funded, and demonstrated a viable alternative to the CPS-AUSL model during an eight-school, four-year demonstration project, over 2006-2010, with  high-poverty, low-performing schools.  These scores demonstrated significant turn around and showed sustained improvement.


One of these schools, Willa Cather Elementary on Chicago’s west side, was recognized as CPS’s most improved school out of 473 elementary schools based on ISAT Composite Score.   Cather received national attention when the US House of Representatives held a “Congressional Hearing on Turnaround Schools” in May, 2010. The Lead Witness featured the results of Cather and seven other schools that were part of the CPS-SLI Demonstration Project.


Schools chief executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett recently visited Willa Cather School Elementary in Garfield Park.  She cited Cather as an example of a high-performing school that had been chosen to become a “welcoming school” for some of the 51 schools CPS was closing because of excess capacity.


The six schools facing CPS-AUSL turnaround for next year are Barton, Carter, Dewey and O’Keeffe on the South Side and Chalmers and Lewis on the West Side.   The faculties at Barton, Carter, Dewey and Lewis have voted overwhelmingly use the CPS-Strategic Learning Initiatives rather than doing a AUSL turnaround plan.


Financially, the CPS-SLI model costs just one-fifth of the cost of the CPS-AUSL model and has shown as good or better results.  Additionally, this model provides children with continuity and stability at school by keeping the teachers who are often like second parents, especially to young children. It also produces creates more school leaders and is not disruptive for communities, students and families.  It empowers school staffs to improve instruction and to involve and engage parents.  It requires buy-in to the process from the bottom to the top of the CPS, from the teachers to the CPS leadership.  School staff become empowered to continuously improve their core processes, from classroom instruction to parent engagement to the leadership provided by the principal and leadership team.


For the cost of one CPS-AUSL school, CPS can fund five CPS-SLI schools. That would be five high-poverty, low-performing schools which could be leading their own turnaround strategy, and gaining all the related skills, rather than being fired and their valuable experience lost. 


The annual cost for the CPS-AUSL model is more than $1 million per school. (Designs for Change,“ Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out Perform Chicago ‘Turnaround Schools,’” 2012  page 20. (  For Six Turnaround schools over three years the cost  totals $18 million. The CPS-SLI model is less than $200,000 a year. For six schools over three years the cost totals $3.6 million (  Board Reports, 2006-08). Over three years, the CPS-SLI model would save the CPS and taxpayers $14.4 million.