New research supports PAA LSC model

Last week PAA celebrated alongside Florida parents with the defeat of so-called “parent trigger” legislation, which would have allowed parents in “low-performing” schools to vote to close it, fire all the staff, or turn it into a charter school. But that doesn’t mean that we are completely satisfied with our schools and see no need for improvement.

In fact, we are very concerned about our schools. We’re especially upset about who is running many of the school systems right now – corporate reformers, hedge funders, Broadies, and others who know little about what really works in education. We believe that these folks are not making decisions that are in the best interests of our children.

PAA has proposed a better way. Our position paper, “The Empowerment Parents Want,” describes Chicago’s Local School Council (LSC) model as a research-backed alternative to the top-down strategies of Race to the Top and other federal competitive programs.

We seem to be on the right track, because a new research report confirms that local control under LSCs has been more effective in improving high-poverty schools than turnarounds.

A 2012 report by the Chicago Research and advocacy group Designs for Change found that high-poverty schools achieving the highest reading scores were governed by active Local School Councils.

Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s ‘Turnaround Schools’ Yet Turnaround Schools Receive Lavish Extra Resources,” found:

  • About 33 neighborhood schools with at least 95 percent low-income students not only outscored equally poor schools cleared out of all staff and “turned around’’ by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, but even beat the city test score average, the study by Designs for Change indicated.
  • The neighborhood schools did so without the average $7 million per school in funds and facility improvements over five years given the typical AUSL school — and with far less teacher turnover.
  • The analysis ranked 210 city neighborhood schools with at least 95 percent low-income students, based on the percent of students passing their 2011 state reading tests. It found that AUSL placed only three schools among the top 100 — Howe (53rd), Morton (84th) and Johnson (88th). AUSL’s lowest scorer was Bethune, at 199th. Two CPS-run turnaround schools — Langford and Fulton — came in 150 and 206th, respectively.
  • Often, the study found, neighborhood schools outperformed equally-poor AUSL turnaround schools located only a few miles away. For example, in the South Shore neighborhood, Powell came in No. 14, while AUSL’s Bradwell was No. 194. (R. Rossi, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/22/12)

What do parents want? Most parents want what the parents in these successful schools have – a real voice in making decisions that turn a lackluster school into a true learning community, along with the opportunity to work together with the teachers, staff, and community to make their schools the best they can be. We just want school improvement strategies that work.

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