No school district in the nation has yet managed what Chicago officials proposed last week: a sweeping, simultaneous overhaul of a cluster of failing schools.
Experts say the plan to fire the staffs of eight schools and replace them with better qualified educators is somewhat of a gamble, one that will require an almost perfect alignment of stellar principals, committed teachers and re-invigorated curriculum and programs to succeed.
But that’s no guarantee.
“No one knows if turnarounds work,” said Andrew Calkins of the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute. “We spent two years looking at turnarounds and could not find a single example of turnaround work that was successful and sustained and done on scale, not just one school.”
As Chicago parents began to digest the proposal first reported in the Tribune on Thursday, many seemed willing to roll the dice — in part, an acknowledgment that even partial success is better than what their children face now.
Fara Bell, a Morton Career Academy parent, said turning around both Orr High School and Morton, an elementary school that feeds into it, is the only way to guarantee wholesale change.