Schools and Education Research findings by The University
of Chicago Consortium for School Research, Urban Education Institute and partners

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Schools Committee (chair Nancy Baum) and its website and Preservation and Development/Zoning task force. Join the Conference: your dues support our work.

Return to University of Chicago and Schools. Schools home. Schools Hot Topics. Charters and UC Charters
Consortium website:

Some UC key research activity and results about schools and students' prospects, including determinants of dropping out.

CPS closing of schools did not lead to improvement overall- and follow up on the 2013 closings--too many kids went or were sent to equally underperforming schools. Wider studies say there is some emerging evidence that keeping the kids in place but changing both adults and culture/expectations can work.
(A NY Times update on controversies over closings and efforts to reform this in light of the CCSR findings. Direct to Tim Knowles comments)
Intensive prepping is counterproductive
Adolescent intervention followup is as important as early investment in youth
Aspire to the school worthy of and appropriate to you, then seek the funds and supports
US kids still left badly behind in science, math
Interaction of class size and grade retention
Cause/effect of high teacher turnover
Why has black-white skills convergence stopped?
Affectors of drop out rates, potholes on road to college success and some models that help
Causes of reform failure, need of strong standards
Youth and Violence: Crime Lab project and studies
Organizing Schools for Improvement- Lessons from Chicago REALLY IMPORTANT (Visit Defining School Excellence- 5 fundamental supports to see how CPS has adapted this for school improvement (SIPAAA) planning.)
(Their site:
(To video:
Tim Knowles of Urban Education Institute tells what research says about developing effective education and great schools
The survey of Chicago CPS schools on the 5 Essentials
CPS experience with more science requirement for all high school students fails to deliver
UEI says replace tenure with professional careers
For schools to be safer, make teachers visible and involved in strong relationships with students
Sept. 2011 the Consortium issued a report saying that all the reforms of the past 25 years didn't do much for elementary school students reading and math. Cites high school improvements esp. in graduation rates.

in November 2014 the Consortium on Chicago School Research of UEI UC issued a report showing the the two strongest indicators of a student being on track to graduate high school and succeed later are grades and attendance, not standardized test scores. Preparation for success has to start in the middle grades and continue with being on track as freshmen.

Chapin Hall studies on youth physical activity and of After School Matters programs.

Debates continue over whether and what reform works, vouchers, charters

From the Harris School:
Teen life reality check: scores decline for kids from low income families when they start to study on home computers- Ofer Malamud

UC Urban Schools Consortium head John. Q. Easton was appointed by US Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan as Director of the Institute of Education Sciences. USC has had a long, productive collaboration with CPS.

University Consortium research shows that CPS students went up only from 8 percent in 2006 likely to get a college degree in 6 years to 14, still below national average and with great discrepancies between ethnic groups. Worse, there ate certain colleges in Illinois often selected by CPS students that have a dismal graduation rate that also applies to CPS grads enrolled there, but some that have much higher graduation rates where CPS students do well.

Note: Urban Education Institute continues to put effort where research shows it's needed-- taking ownership of new teachers and principals through their early career years and directing student to knowledge about college and college aid that will make a difference in college success.

The University of Chicago Consortium for School Research came out September 12 2011 with results of a survey ranking the over 600 CPS schools (145,000+ students and 13,000+ teachers) on perceptions of their school re the "5 Essential elements" that matter most-
Instructional leadership, how teachers work together, support from families and community, learning climate, and challenging curriculum. Success in at least 3 correlates with schools being 10 times more likely to make progress over time. The report is in http://www.ccsrsurvey.uchicago. edu. To find out about the Elements and the research behind them, visit Organizing Schools for Excellence.

Just closing schools didn't work-- too many students sent to schools performing as badly. By GMO

Follow up: January 21, 2015 the Consortium issued a report showing what appears to be a mixed bag on the 2014 closure of 50 schools. This would be presented publicly in a program at the Logan Center January 22 that includes presentation, part of a series of documentaries of the Schools Project, followed by a panel discussion. Link will be shared when available- check; meanwhile articles were published in the dailies including more positive responses from CPS spokespersons. The good news is that c93% went to a better school whether the designated welcoming school or not, although a high proportion of the welcoming schools were only somewhat better-- and research shows that they have to be much better (when students are from poor schools, an to overcome the trauma and the mixing of unfamiliar populations) in order get significant improvement in the students. Few went to substantially better schools, and there seem to be both to few good schools in the areas most of the closures were in, and the students there are disproportionally low income, minority, and low-performing. Many students did not go to the designated school-- families opting their school choice based on issues other than "better performing" such as closer, a specialized option in which the students were engaged, or their friends going to a certain school-- abetted by designated school being not much better, safety concerns, or again too far or not in the comfortable neighborhood. Did the welcoming school being "better", pumped up resources there (enough?) or any other factors actually result in substantially better scores-- how much improvement was there in pupil performance? CPS says a lot, but full-year results were not available, the Consortium says not so much and they would like to do a deep-study of the matter.

by Gary Ossewaarde

A Consortium study released October 27, 2009 said that the policy in effect through 2006 of just closing non performing schools hurt student performance, then did not help it except for those switched to high performing schools and others in which there was a high level of teacher-student trust and personal attention. But only 6% of students from closed schools were sent to such schools (reasons were not discerned).
( It remains controversial whether the successor policy of turnaround, including totally new staffs, worked better. CPS is now starting to address on a spot basis where closures and boundary changes may have promoted conflict and violence between groups of students from different areas and demographics, partic. across gang boundaries. Also, CPS seeks a balance with the criminal justice system between branding kids and telling schools "what they need to know" about individual students.- GO)

Studies by John Heckman were drawn upon for Search-Institutes' American Promises and Building Assets studies -- find summaries and links in Education Resources.

Updates: a NY Times February 26 2010 article on what's happening in Chicago in light of Pres. Obama's offer of 900 m. for more school closings. [GO DIRECTLY TO COMMENTS ON THE PROCESS AND RESEARCH ON IT BY TIM KNOWLES OF CCSR/URBAN EDUCATION INSTITUTE]

Chicago News Cooperative
Protests and Promises of Improvements at Schools

Published: February 26, 2010

If this process could guarantee the child the best and they would benefit from the school closing, then maybe it is a positive thing,” Mrs. Norwood said. But she spoke out last week, along with many others, about the need for more transparency and proof that the disruptions are warranted.

As the public schools system entered its annual process of selecting schools for closing or turnarounds, parents, teachers and community groups leveled criticism at school officials for the lack of communication with the communities involved and questioned data from the central office that does not match the reality in the schools. Some also pleaded for the district to delay any action until the corrective measures taken at the lowest-performing schools — the wholesale turnover of administrators and teachers — could be better evaluated and a comprehensive plan for school facilities could be developed by a new task force.

In the end, few seemed satisfied. Parents, reform organizations and others expressed concerns that the school district has embarked on yet another failed reform effort. But school officials remained committed to the district’s turnaround strategy.

Ron Huberman, the public schools chief executive, acknowledged that the process was imperfect, but remained committed to it. He said the alternative — tolerating schools that clearly have failed both the system and the children in it — was not acceptable either.

“Turnaround is not for average performing schools or for poor performing schools; turnaround is really about failing schools,” Mr. Huberman told the Chicago News Cooperative in an interview Thursday. In a turnaround, the students stay in place, but the teachers and the principal are replaced to radically alter the school’s culture of teaching and learning.

Mr. Huberman added that some schools recommended for turnaround had just 2 percent to 3 percent of their students meeting state standards. Ten of the district’s 12 turnaround schools show gains that are “much more promising results than I believe we could have achieved through any other methodology,” he said.

The debate is drawing attention because a national program to restructure the worst-performing schools encourages states to use the same strategies that Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary, introduced as chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools.

“Duncan is using Chicago as an example of how this can be done successfully, and people are looking to Chicago to see whether, in fact, it is successful,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy in Washington.

This was the first round of closings and turnover proposals that Mr. Duncan’s successor, Mr. Huberman, owned from beginning to end. He was appointed after the process began last year.

Mr. Huberman made a change to require that every child displaced in a closing be assigned to a higher performing school — something that did not always happen in the past.

The action came in response to an October study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research showing that most students affected by closings were transferred into schools that also were academically weak. Mr. Huberman promised that a transferred student’s new school would rank 20 percent higher than the old one on a list of performance criteria, and promised extra resources to help the students’ transition.

The district works with the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership to manage some turnarounds. (Martin Koldyke, founder of the academy, also serves on an advisory board of the Chicago News Cooperative.)

The involvement of an outside agency has been criticized by union teachers and some parents and aldermen, who say the district is outsourcing education.

Mr. Huberman said Thursday that he wanted to bring in more outside organizations to manage turnarounds. “We want the turnaround space to be a competitive landscape,” he said.

People began lining up at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday to get on a list to speak at the daylong school board meeting, which concluded with a decision to use the turnaround approach at Curtis, Bradwell and Deneen Elementary Schools and at Phillips and Marshall High Schools because of low academic performance. The Academy for Urban School Leadership will manage the turnaround for the first four schools, while the public schools administration will lead it at Marshall.

Before the meeting opened, Mr. Huberman announced reprieves from closing or consolidation at six schools, saying community members had convinced him they were warranted.

In addition to protests at the meeting of the school board — whose members are appointed — parents, teachers and community groups vented their frustration at elected officials.

Though it has no direct authority in the matter, the City Council’s Education Committee held a hearing last week on the school system’s reform process and on a proposed resolution for a one-year moratorium on any further action by the Chicago Public Schools administration. Aldermen scolded officials for the lack of community involvement, but did not vote on the resolution.

The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, established last spring by the state legislature, will meet next week to scrutinize the system’s policies.

“School closing is not a state issue, but because no one is responding to these parents, they came to me,” said State Representative Cynthia Soto, Democrat of Chicago, a sponsor of the bill establishing the task force.

In response to the outcry over community involvement, Mr. Huberman promised last week to hold hearings on the process of closings and turnarounds, and to give parents earlier notification and to help them understand how a particular school is failing to educate their children.

“Very often, we’ve not done the legwork on the front end to inform parents,” he said.

Timothy Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, said the research on the turnaround approach was mixed so far. The Consortium on Chicago School Research is working on a turnaround study to be released later this year. Work done by the Academy for Urban School Leadership shows promise, but it is still early, Mr. Knowles said.

For substantial progress to be made, he said, the strategy must involve bringing in high-quality teachers and leaders, improving the school culture — including investments in academic and social supports for students — and engaging parents.

“If we stop this reform at flipping the adults and hiring a bunch of new teachers and leaders and that’s the extent of the new support,” Mr. Knowles said, “the likelihood is this will repeat failed experiments of the past.”


Funds for study of after-school media literacy programs received by Center for Urban School Improvement: to understand how to use technology to catalyze deeper student learning in school, community or home.

Chronicle, Dec. 7 206. William Harms. The $1.6 million from the MacArthur Foundation is learn how youths in the digital world can learn better by using technology. The study will be at the charter schools. Under Nichole Pinkard, students will learn the skills of the video, film, music and graphic designers. Is it true that the digitally-immersed generation learns differently? If so, how can the learning be made most efficient and effective?

Study indicates that intensive prepping for school standardized tests is counterproductive.

Childhood-learning research results suggest the importance not just of investing early but of intervening through adolescence--early investment leads into later, skill begets skill, learning learning. This is the finding of longitudinal studies and simulations examined by James Heckman, economist at U of C, and Flavio Cunha: Every Child, Every Promise: Turning failure into Action. The longer the combined interventions continued, the better the success rate. Yet, we must concentrate on using the whole skills set through high school and college--it's being cut short for far too many, they say. Those who don't get the skills are dramatically more likely to end in prison.

Study by the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education shows that by grade 8 US kids are not even in the top 10 of countries in science, and by age 15 rank only 28th in math. An Illinois Bd Higher Ed grant is helping the CEMS and Center or Urban School Improvement to come up with strategies. Outreach is also important.

Consortium says aspire to the school worthy of and appropriate for you, then get the funds and supports so you will graduate from a 4-year. - Think "pipeline" from jr. high through "grade 16." CPS is starting to take this seriously.
As in The Economist April 2010: Though some students are ill-prepared for university, many go to colleges that are not demanding enough. This makes them more likely to drop out, explains William Bowen, a former president of Princeton, who co-wrote a book on completion rates. Black boys who go to rigorous colleges graduate at higher rates than do similar peers at easier ones.

In Chicago only a third of local students who aspire to college enroll in ones that match their skills. Parents worry about cost, but know little about loans. Clever students often fail even to apply to four-year universities.

The city, responding to data from the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, is tackling this problem. Measures include workshops for parents, better counseling and a system to make sure students meet loan deadlines. The University of Chicago is supporting a network of principals and counselors, including those at Hancock. A new “pipeline” project links good students with private Midwestern colleges. Osbaldo’s Monmouth College is one of these. And what is good for Osbaldo is good for America, too.

Class size and grade retention

Diane Whitmore of UC's Harris School has amassed strong evidence based on longitudinal studies from Tennessee that small class size can be a decisive factor in narrowing achievement gaps between races and other groupings. "We found that black students in small classes from K to 3 had a dramatically increased probability of subsequently taking the ACT or SAT....The black-white gap is reduced by 60 percent." Now the need is to learn how and why (and realize how much federal policies and ideologies affect the lives of kids).

A major study by the University of Chicago Consortium for Chicago School Research, Ending Social Promotion: The Effects of Retention, released in April, 2004, shows that Chicago public school retention policy (in effect since 1996) has not helped low-performing students. 7-10,000 students a year are retained based on 3rd, 6th, and 8th grade Iowa Test scores. Using multiply comparisons of 3rd and 6th grade students scoring slightly or significantly below the low-score cutoff, not only did being retained not help but retention itself had negative effects that showed up by 6th grade. Achievement gains were actually 6 percent lower that for similarly-scoring cohorts promoted. And 20 percent of the retained 3rd and 6th graders retained ended up in special education within two years--three times the rate for other low-achievers. How? After-school and summer programs helped mainly kids who avoided retention but few supports were offered to retained students.

"What do teachers do with a student who is struggling, has been consistently behind, but needs to make substantial progress in a short period of time? The Chicago administration gave little guidance or support to teachers in addressing that problem. It it's not surprising that teachers and schools increasingly turned to special education as the answer," said co-author Melissa Roderick as reported in the UC Chronicle. April 15. She added, "...there is little research support for the idea that special education effectively helps with students' reading problems." Looking further, Jenny Nagaoka said "These students were falling substantially behind their peers even before they reached the third and sixth grad, and once they entered these grades, neither social promotion nor retention closed the achievement gap....waiting until third or sixth grade to intervene is too late and not a judicious use of resources."

Elaine Allensworth wrote the report on 8th graders, which shows that the costs of the policy outweigh the benefit also for very low-achieving 8th graders. In fact drop-out rates for these increased while they went down for higher achievers. "Students who have been retained previously in school are especially vulnerable for being retained again into the eighth grade. And over-age students who fail the eighth-grade test drop out of school at exceptionally high rates...Racial disparities in dropout rates also grew [since African-American students] were disproportionately more likely than students of other races to be retained and thus drop out."

Roderick concluded: "The bottom line is that, without substantial supports, neither promotion nor retention will improve low-performing students' learning gains. But retention puts these students at risk for other problems....The school system needs to provide early interventions to these students before they reach the third grade. And we need to provide more support for teachers ....


Consortium looks at why the rate of teacher turnover (districtwide resulting a lot of disruption and effort on part of principals) is much higher in some schools-- the ones with the most other problems.

"The Schools Teachers Leave: Teacher Mobility Rates in Chicago Public Schools," Elaine Allensworth, who is now the consortium's interim executive director.

The key characteristics seem to be a strong sense of collective responsibility and innovation. Teachers in those schools are also more likely to report that they trust their principal and view him or her as an instructional leader. In contrast, high rates of student misbehavior, for example, correspond to higher teacher-exodus rates in high schools. Curiously, the small schools also had higher teacher-mobility rates than the city's larger schools.

UC prof. Derek Neal, Economics has compiled a study, "Why has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?" (To appear in Handbook of Economics of Education in the fall) The halt or decline starting in the late 1980s is in standardized school test scores, high school graduation rates and college graduation rates. This is especially ominous because less than half of black drop-outs are employed while 3/4 of white drop-outs are. Turning around early and elementary learning environments, including funding and governance change since the burdens and time constraints on parents is so high, is one essential element in any turnaround, Neal says. Without preschool help, these youngsters are predicted to do poorly indeed in income as they become adults. Neal thinks, "The first generation of black children who enter kindergarten with the same basic language and arithmetic skills as white children may well be the first generation of black adults to enter the labor market on equal footing with their white peers."

Chicago Workshop on Black-White Inequality will examine in detail the achievement gap

Leading national scholars assembled by Derek Neal, Chairman and Professor of Economics will meet bi-annually. They will examine factors in the stall-out of century-long relative educational gap reduction. Special focus will be on families, pre-school experience, labor-market outcomes of achievement of all kinds of skills, family income on achievement, and of earlier disruptive impacts, such as the crack cocaine epidemic and riots (also depopulation and disinvestments?).

Recent UC study shows only 6 in 100 CPS freshmen will earn a full college degree, 3 percent for African American and Latino males (15% for whites is dismal also).

(The rates for high school graduates are Asian m 46, f 49; White m 46, f 45; Latino m 28, f 34, Afr. Am. m 22, f 31.)

The study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, tracked high school graduates in the 1998 and 1999 classes to age 25. Making it college doesn't ensure success--just 35% of the four-year college entrants earned a bachelors--little over half that nationally (64%). No clear reasons for these findings were given, although poor preparation in high school and few compensatory resources in college likely sum up much of the causation. Data was collected from the non-profit National Student Clearinghouse, in which 2,800 colleges participate but which leaves many colleges out, including in Illinois--DePaul, Northern Illinois, Robert Morris.

Author Elaine Allensworth said, "Just focusing on getting kids to survive in high school isn't going to be enough. This report raises a lot of issues that the colleges need to struggle with."

Anne Duncan, CPS CEO, said the grim realities are well known to those pouring resources into the schools and reorganizing schools. "When students here are unprepared for college or the workforce, they are condemned to social failure. We're doing everything we can to dramatically change the high school experience for our teenagers." Findings:

What's happening to CPS graduates- while in high school and in college

UC-led Consortium for School Research has received a grant to study what happens to CPS grads and how this relates to the CPS experience and product. The Bill and Linda Gates Foundation granted the Consortium and CPS's Office of Post-Secondary Education (newly formed in fall, 2003). $1.2 million to track post-secondary CPS students in college and the workforce, including a system that will allow such tracking and for research to guide new post-secondary efforts in the schools. Melissa Roderick, Consortium co-director and School of Social Service Administration professor will lead the research. Developing means to track is first, then to find out what secondary school experiences are holding grads back and how to fix this. What prompted this? the finding of a widening gap for minority students aspirations after school and the outcomes/achievements. The proportions wanting to go and going to college is up dramatically, but those actually getting 4-year degrees is not. (Note, CPS has 51% African Americans and 37% Latino.

It gets worse, Roderick told the UC Chronicle: "many of the problems that national research highlighted as issues for urban and minority students are amplified in CPS..Too many students enter college and get placed in remedial courses.. few CPS students graduate with ACT test scores high enough to make them competitive for college, few said they were attending a selective college...and few students were looking at colleges outside the state system and the Chicago area."

Some of the problems include curricula, level of support (and requirements?) in preparation for college and college selection. One aim of the study is to see how these carry over (shape) for better or worse in college performance and success.


Consortium study shows graduation rates over represented

According to a report in the February 3, 2005 (University of) Chicago Chronicle, Graduation rates, "one of the most important indicators of students' success in later life) the actual graduation rate is measurably lower than reported, although slowly improving. This is from a study led by Elaine Allensworth of the Consortium on Chicago School Research. 54 percent of those entering as freshmen graduating (vs 48 percent in 1991) is more significant than 71 percent of senior class. Internal discrepancies also abound, not just between but in groups similar in makeup, in different schools and different similar neighborhoods. The overall rate is only 30 percent among African American boys. And the overall rate is 9 percent higher at Morgan Park than at Kenwood serving similar constituencies. Doing especially well nearby? new school Chicago Military Academy Bronzeville.

UC study shows the small high school model brings less dropout, better attend. and concentr. on college but not higher scores--using same poor achieving student pool, many of same teachers and principals, no increased prof. development.

Dexter Voisin shows teacher connectedness to students and behavior

Dexter Voisin of SSSA finds such an association, especially for delinquent students, in "Teacher Connectedness and Health-Related Outcomes Among Detained Adolescent" in Journal of Adolescent Health. Those without the connectedness were twice as likely to use marijuana and amphetamines or be sexually active-especially when high, and have multiple partners. It matters to encourage teaches to have high expectations and schools to ensure each student feels close to a supportive adult as school. Teachers should be involved in coaching and after school programs; perhaps there could be cooperative learning opportunities where a few students are learning with one or more teachers.

Economist James Heckman has shown that investments made in children's skills create a compound interest- exponentially larger return with long-term effects. At risk boys were most successful when investment was sustained into the teen years. And it can be in small things- reading to kids, encouraging schoolwork, setting examples through community service and healthy lifestyle choices.

Consortium study shows what factors are make or break on dropping out.

The Consortium on Chicago School Reform says "What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating CPS Schools" that the 9th grade is critical. Those who get Bs or better in 9th grade and who miss less than a week of school that year have a 90 percent or better chance of graduating. Under a C or missing 4 weeks or more (which 40 percent do) spirals into a less than even chance of graduating. Note that attendance is eight times more predictive than test scores. Also playing a role are trust in teachers and teachers giving personal support.


Extension of above studies shows potholes for CPS students on road to college.

In fact, much of the information resources and counselors are missing and the navigation itself is formidable. So many Onl6 59% applied to 4-year college goers, 41% successfully navigating the process. students go to schools below their ability. And only a third go to schools that match their qualifications. CPS has instituted many reforms. Also: Teachers matter more than parents in appropriate steering, applying to many schools increases chances, college planning helps in choice, college-going culture had to be strengthened, colleges have to reach out better into schools.

Research of Charles M. Payne, of SSA and Committee on Education, points out causes for school reform setbacks, weak effects, says success requires a set of standards for implementation.

The research, published in "So Much Reform, So Little Change," shows a strong correlation to classroom and student performance success between trust between teachers, teachers and principals/administrators and between these and parents and students. The lack of trust leads to dysfunction. Other impediments come from organizational infrastructure and lack of supports for high-quality instruction and teacher-student relationships. And there is tension over reform between business oriented to good management and accountability and those working for a student-centered agenda.

Payne noted the unique degree of scrutiny the UC Consortium on Chicago School Research places on both changes and education practices in schools, combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. The recommendations are taken seriously and implemented by CPS, including a new emphasis on reducing drop-out rates and increasing college-going rates. Payne also points to an active, high-quality education journalism, particularly Catalyst.

Again, Payne finds that good social relations in the school trumps curricular change, and especially abstracted standards without the necessary time, money, and other supports including professional development. Change, when appropriate and implemented, requires commitment from the top down. And, the business and child-centered can and should listen to each other.

Youth and Violence
Study to determine if such studies as Youth Guidance's B.A.M. boy redirection ("cognitive intervention") /anti violence programs work, and which parts for which kids.

University News Release:

University of Chicago and non-profit organizations team up to reduce youth gun violence, improve school outcomes in Chicago. November 18, 2009

In an effort to combat violence involving Chicago public school students, the University of Chicago Crime Lab and community partners will launch a new program designed to help hundreds of boys avoid conflict and succeed in school and life.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab was established to find ways to reduce crime and violence by helping government agencies and non-profit organizations rigorously evaluate pilot programs designed to curb violence.

Beginning this month in 15 schools, the initiative, Becoming A Man (BAM)—Sports Edition, will provide hundreds of adolescent boys around Chicago with a combination of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and access to sports, with the hope of identifying an effective strategy for addressing the unique challenges facing many of the city’s male youth. It is the first effort designed to help scholars scientifically measure the effectiveness of these two interventions. The MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, McCormick Foundation, Polk Brothers Foundation, National Institute of Health, Spencer Foundation, and ComEd are among the organizations that provided funding for the $1 million program.

The first component is a group-based youth intervention designed by Youth Guidance, one of Chicago’s oldest and most established social service agencies offering counseling and life-preparedness programs to at-risk Chicago public school students. “Becoming A Man (BAM)” uses cognitive behavior therapy to teach students, most of whom lack positive male role models, emotional self-regulation and social skill development to help them avoid potential conflicts. Youth Guidance has successfully implemented BAM in one Chicago high school and several elementary schools and plans to expand it to 14 other Chicago schools, where it will be available for seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade students.

“Sports Edition,” the second intervention component, is a package of Olympic sports?including archery, boxing, judo, team handball, wrestling and weight lifting?developed by World Sport Chicago, a non-profit organization that serves as the “living legacy” of Chicago 2016.

World Sport Chicago works to increase the awareness of and involvement in Olympic and Paralympic sports among the city’s youth. These after-school sports programs will offer safe and supervised recreational opportunities and be directed by coaches trained in the basics of the BAM program model to support students’ social and emotional development. The sports component will serve as both an opportunity to reinforce the principles and values that students learn through BAM, but also provides a safe, structured environment for students to engage in positive activities during a potentially risk-filled time of the day.

Program akin to clinical trial in medicine
The University of Chicago Crime Lab will evaluate the program using rigorous standards, and scientific protocols akin to a clinical trial in medicine?another area where lives are at stake. If effective and cost-effective, it could become a model for anti-violence interventions that can be implemented across the country, according to Crime Lab co-directors Jens Ludwig and Harold Pollack, both professors at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab was launched in April 2008 in partnership with the City of Chicago, with the goal of developing a portfolio of rigorous experimental evaluations and cost-benefit analyses to identify the most efficient ways of addressing the major social problems facing the nation’s cities.

Among the most important of these problems in Chicago is gun violence, which disproportionately harms low-income, minority youth living in Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. More than 500 Chicago Public School students have been shot since September 2007.

“Gun violence remains the leading cause of death for young people in Chicago and other cities across the United States. The ripple effect of youth gun violence is enormous,” said Ludwig, the McCormick Foundation Professor in the School of Social Service Administration. “It has been shown to negatively impact the mental health, schooling, social and emotional development and even the physical activity level of young people who may not be gunshot victims but who live in neighborhoods with frequent shootings.

“Despite the persistence of the problem, as a society we have learned almost nothing definitive about what causes it or what can reduce it. This is in part because unlike medicine, another area where lives are at stake, we have not taken evidence and rigorous evaluation seriously. This program is an attempt to change that,” said Pollack, Professor in the School of Social Service Administration.

Crime Lab selects program from among 30 applicants
In March 2009, The University of Chicago Crime Lab released a report entitled “Gun Violence Among School Age Youth in Chicago” and launched a design competition to find the most promising intervention ideas from community-based organizations, as well as city, state and federal agencies. An advisory committee made up of youth and community representatives considered more than 30 applications and selected the program developed by Youth Guidance and World Sport Chicago.

For more information visit

By Stephanie Banchero, Tribune

The University of Chicago has partnered with two community groups to launch a $1 million youth anti-violence program that will include a rare component: a rigorous, scientific evaluation to determine whether it's cost-effective.

The program, called Becoming a Man-Sports Edition, aims to help adolescent boys in Chicago public schools curb their impulse to use fists and guns to settle disagreements. It addresses the problem on two fronts, by using character education and counseling as well as training in Olympic sports, such as archery and fencing.

During the 27-week initiative, which begins Wednesday, university evaluators will use a research model akin to clinical trials in medicine to determine whether the program is reducing violent behavior and helping boys stay in school.

Public officials continue to grasp for solutions to youth violence in Chicago. They've launched programs in schools, boosted police patrols and thrown public and private money at the problem. Earlier this year, Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman launched a $30 million violence-prevention effort that targets the most at-risk students and the most troubled schools.

Still, little is known about which programs are effective and worth the expense.

"Unfortunately, the anti-violence field is littered with programs that are not grounded in solid research so we have no idea if they are really working," said Jens Ludwig, a professor at the University of Chicago and the director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. "This program will allow us to generate scientifically credible evidence about a program and show whether it works, and why."

The lab was created in 2008 in partnership with the city of Chicago to gather crime data and research and identify solutions. It garnered $1 million in grant money and then selected B.A.M.-Sports Edition from among 30 anti-violence programs that applied.

The program is a joint venture between Youth Guidance, a private group that has provided counseling to troubled teens for decades, and World Sports Chicago, a legacy of Chicago 2016 that brings Olympic sports to Chicago's youth.

The program will operate in 15 Chicago elementary and high schools. It will be offered to an estimated 550 boys at risk of dropping out or landing in the criminal justice system. These are not the most at-risk students, but rather the ones just beginning to get into trouble.

The lab will analyze the students' academic achievement, attendance, school discipline and juvenile court records during the 27 weeks and compare the information with data from a control group of 550 similar students who did not participate. They hope to determine which parts of the programs worked, for which students.

Scott Myers, executive director of World Sports Chicago, sits on the Youth Guidance board of directors and helped marry the two programs. He said after-school sports help students develop self-discipline, respect for authority and responsibility.

"There's a lot of anecdotal evidence about sports being a social development tool, but we realize there is not a lot of real empirical research to prove it," Myers said. "We are hoping this study will help define a model that can become a 'best practice' so other cities who want to use sports as a tool to help kids can understand the maximum benefit."

During school, the selected students will work with counselors in the Youth Guidance program.

Tony Di Vittorio, the Youth Guidance counselor who developed B.A.M. a decade ago, said the program provides one-on-one counseling and behavior strategies for boys in junior high and high school. It's not an anti-violence program, per se, he said, but rather a character education course.

Learning to control impulses, channel anger and develop coping skills are all part of the package, he said.

"I started challenging these young men and forcing them to think about their lack of responsibility and their own integrity," he said. "I challenged their tendency to project the blame outward, instead of looking inward. We talk about ways of expressing anger and leaving a situation with your self dignity."

Bruce Moore, a senior at Clemente High School in Chicago, spent three years in the B.A.M. program. He credits it with helping to improve his grades and keep him out of trouble.

"I was bad and couldn't get along," he said. "But Tony taught me integrity and how to keep my word and act like a man. I used to blame my teachers for my bad grades. Now I know I have to put effort into it and it's up to me to earn the good grade."


Landmark University Study Points to Five Essential Supports for School Reform. Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago.

(Their site:
(To video:

(Visit Defining School Excellence to see how CPS has adapted this program for school improvement plan (SIPAAA) planning.)

(First, The Five Essential Supports are also known as the "School Organization System":

Nancy Baum went to the introductory presentation of the study and book and writes (January 16, 2010):

There is an e-mail address: organizing where we can write to the authors about this study.
ccsr is Consortium for Chicago School Research.

There is a web site: And another one:


On January 14, 2010 the Consortium on Chicago School Research hosted a symposium and live webcast at the Gleacher Center in Chicago to celebrate the release of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago by Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton. Watch the video of the symposium, where four of the book’s authors discuss prominent findings from their detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a seven-year period, while students in another 100 schools were not.

Linda Lutton, Education Reporter for Chicago Public Radio, facilitates a discussion about the implications of the book with featured panelists Barbara Eason-Watkins (Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public Schools), Joseph McDonald (Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University), and Charles M. Payne (Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago).

And here is breakout of neighborhood median income in which the schools measured fall:

1) Truly disadvantaged: (100% African-American), Median income $9480
2) African American Low SES (99% Afr-Amer) , Median income 19,385(
3)Afr. Amer Mod SES (99% Afr Amer) Median income $33,313
4)Predom. minority mixed (34% Afr Amer, 61% latino, 4% white) Med. inc. 23, 293
5) Pred. Latino (mixed) (3% Afr. Amer, 93 latino, 4% white), med inc. $23,381
6) racially diverse (21% Afr. Amer, 56% latino, 17% white) $33,106
7) Racially Integrated (14% Afr. Amer, 35% latino, 40% white) $37, 350

$37,350, by the way, is the median income for the country, or at least was.

One of the speakers was Charles Payne [Professor, School of Social Services Administration and lead liaison in the Woodlawn Children's Promise Zone initiative]
: he said, I think, that starting in the 1980s billions of dollars were put into reading programs by the Federal Gov't, but this did not produce improved reading comprehension. But by improving the community better results can be obtained. That's what the research shows. Community and parent engagement are key. Communities need to force their way in.

There was a whole lot said on teacher training and development of trust between the principal and the teachers

From the Press Release: January 12, 2010
Landmark University Study Points to Five Essential Supports for School Reform. Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago.

Leaders looking for ways to improve learning in urban schools can depend on Five key factors which, when working together, have proven to boost student achievement, according to a landmark study that led to a new book, Organizing Schools for Improvement, Lessons from Chicago.

The results emerged from a study of 390 Chicago public elementary schools over a seven-year period following the implementation of a 1988 law that increased decision-making at the local school level.

The authors of the study, current and former researchers with the Consortium on Chicago School Research, part of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, said those five essential supports are school leadership, parent and community ties, professional capacity of the faculty, a student-centered learning climate and a coherent instructional plan. They were effective in a wide variety of schools, including especially troubled ones. By looking closely at the social context in which schools are embedded, the book provides new insight into why schools in communities with high rates of crime and poverty struggle with improving student outcomes.

These findings are helpful as states vie for billions in federal “Race to the Top” funds designed to spur school reform. They are drawn from the kinds of robust data that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has encouraged states to use in developing their reform plans.

The authors suggest that when looking for ways to improve learning in urban schools, leaders should resist the temptation to look for “silver bullets” and think instead about “baking a cake.” Just as several ingredients are needed in the right proportions to bake a cake, so too are several ingredients - the “five essential supports” - required to boost student achievement.

The research team will present their findings to educators on Thursday, Jan. 14 at a symposium at the University’s Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive.

The study team found some improvements since Chicago decentralized its public school system in 1988. More than 80 percent of the system’s elementary schools showed at least some gains in mathematics, and close to 70 percent gained in reading. More importantly, schools that were strong in all five essential supports were at least 10 times more likely to show substantial improvement in reading and mathematics than schools that were strong in only one or two of the essential supports. Follow-up studies conducted from 1997 to 2005 validated the findings of the first round of research.

The book, published by the University of Chicago Press, was written by Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and founding senior director of CCSR; Penny Bender Sebring and Elaine Allensworth, interim co-executive directors at CCSR; Stuart Luppescu, chief psychometrician at CCSR; and John Q. Easton, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, and former executive director of CCSR.

For nearly 20 years, CCSR has built a massive, one-of-a-kind longitudinal data archive on Chicago public schools, and that archive made the research possible. The CCSR team visited schools, interviewed principals and did extensive surveys of principals, teachers and students to get behind what was leading some schools to progress and others to remain stagnant.

In addition to measuring local demographic characteristics, CCSR investigated community characteristics like community cohesiveness and crime rates to uncover reasons for success or failure. In taking this approach, which looks at neighborhood effects and the influence of parents, the book draws heavily on the work of other scholars currently or formerly at the University of Chicago. Sociologist William Julius Wilson, now at Harvard University, did seminal work on poverty at the University of Chicago and coined the expression “the truly disadvantaged” in a book by the same name. James Colemen contributed definitive thinking on the role of social capital in schools to show the value of parents working with teachers to improve learning. Sociologist Robert Sampson, now at Harvard, and Steven Raudenbush, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Sociology and chair of the University of Chicago's Committee on Education, studied the dynamics of Chicago neighborhood interactions to identify differences in dealing with crime and other issues.

In assessing student performance, the team devised a “value-added” approach. Rather than simply looking at the percentage of students in each class who met or failed to meet state standards, the team looked at the progress of each student.

The authors also identified 46 very low-performing schools, serving more than 40,000 students, which they labeled “truly disadvantaged schools.” Even in a school district where disadvantage is the norm, these schools stood apart, serving neighborhoods characterized by extreme poverty and extreme racial segregation. On average, 70 percent of residents living in these neighborhoods had incomes below the poverty line. The schools had virtually no racial integration.

But demographics tell just part of the story. Moving beyond an analysis of racial and economic descriptors, the authors examined these communities against other social indicators. They found the communities of truly disadvantaged schools had the highest crime rates and the highest percentages of children who were abused, neglected or living in foster care. Residents of these communities were the most likely to live in public housing and the least likely to attend church regularly or believe they could bring about positive change in their community.

A small number of these schools improved in reading and math, primarily because they were strong in the essential supports. But nearly half of them proved nearly impervious to systemic reform and had a lack of progress that contrasted sharply with many other schools. These schools were seven times more likely than racially integrated schools, for instance, to stagnate in math and two times more likely to stagnate in reading.


Tim Knowles, John Dewey Director of the Urban Education Institute tells Graham School/Civic Knowledge "Great Conversations" what research suggest make a great education program and excellent schools for youth in urban America

February 11, 2010.

Three domains that have to be addressed for schools to get better: Human Capital, Evidence, Schools themselves.

Education is a $700 billion enterprise. Cf $100 billion stimulus for schools. It would seem there is a consensus that education is critical to our economy, social fabric, and democracy.

Studies confirm that more education, particularly attainment of higher education, correlates to good outcomes for employment and employment level, income, longevity, having children who succeed in education and live, and much more.

Significant changes are occurring in the workplace-- expert thinking and complex communication are what are valued now.

In light of that, there is a brick wall for a huge number of Chicago young people and the future of the region: Of 100 CPS on-track freshmen, only 6 get a college degree by age 25. For African Americans and Latinos that number is 2.5, and for all African-American freshmen about 1 in 100.

Three domains that have to be addressed for schools to get better: Human Capital, Evidence, Schools themselves. If we are to radically rethink how to prepare and support the delivery and deliverers of education. Especially when it's considered that 50 of 100 teachers leave the profession (in some places 80%) within five years.

Partly responsible is the preparer-- the higher education in teaching industry. It has a monopoly, has no transparency, and no responsibility.
And there is no credible teacher supervision either in the preparation phase for teachers or for teachers new in the classroom. In many districts 90 to 99% percent of teachers are passed as "satisfactory"- in what world can that evaluation reflect reality?

There are places where there is a new structure for training and supporting teachers-- Boston, Denver, New York City, University of Chicago UTEP.
In UTEP there is a year long training residency in a good school setting-- they need to see what a good school is like, including a good work environment and working conditions, and learn how to participate in creating a good school environment.
Then there is a 3-year support as the teachers start their career. As a result they have 96% retention over 3 years, 90% over 6 years.

In other words, INVEST IN THE HUMAN CAPITAL. At UTEP this includes giving them laptops, access to electronic resources, desk space, time to work on lessons and with kids ... Find out the needs that good teachers have and supply them. In too many places both management and unions fail to address these.
Teachers need to see a TRAJECTORY AND TIMELINE FOR GROWTH AND INFLUENCE THROUGH THEIR CAREER-- why should they see themselves doing the same thing for 35 years and having no more say and responsibility in the school than when they walk in the door?
And of course they won't stay if they don't see A PLACE THAT'S INTERESTING FOR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS.


Evidence of education best practice is skin-deep, and its sincere application even more thin. And too much of both teaching and measurement/evaluation is from and to testing, which at best give a occasional snapshot. And there is too much teaching to the whole class. TEACHERS AND PARENTS NEED ONGOING INFORMATION AS TO WHERE THE CHILD IS, WHAT THEY ARE MISSING OR LACKING based on where they should be, INFORMATION THAT THEY CAN USE TO HELP THE CHILD.
And other data is needed about how the child is developing resiliency-- which correlates directly to entry and success in college and the workplace. This includes willingness to seek timely help, social skills, persistence and more.


We now some of the ingredients- they are or have these five essentials and seek reliable ways to implement them:

What else do we know about schools that are working? (It's not one thing or a magic bullet but a confluence.)

Note that autonomy in itself does not correlate.
Nor does having "good managers" equate, especially if the management experience is outside of education! HAVING THE TECHNICAL CORE IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

THE SCHOOL DAY IS TOO SHORT ever to catch up in 4 years with a short day for kids coming into 9th grade with 4th grade reading skills.

Looking at graduation rates- 50% of CPS African Americans are graduating. Vs UC at 90%. How? Few CPS enrolling in college, and a frightful proportion drop out of college, lacking the resiliency. Vs UC 88-90% at least entering college-- and without great scores-- THEY BRING OTHER SKILLS THAT GET THEM SELECTED IN EVEN TOP SCHOOLS.

SO CONSISTENT GOOD OUTCOMES DO HAPPEN-- AND NOT JUST BY "HOLLYWOOD" HERO TEACHERS. The problem is how to get more schools and districts to do it. It is of course expensive. More on this in the question section.

Parental involvement seems a key... including ways to bring them into the schoolhouse doing things. One way is to dedicate staff to building parent and community engagement. You have to bring them into everything, including safe routes, get a mutual trust in which they take ownership. That requires giving parents good information they can use-- including "lesson plans for parents" they can use in reading with kids or doing lessons with them.
Be aware-- middle class parents generally know the "codes" and "routes" to being heard by the school--their families grew up in it. Poorer families seem to need help to get the information and confidence and constructive ways.

What about "class size"? The data gives mixed signals. Obviously 40 6 year olds in one classroom even with more than one teacher wont work too well. You have to bring class size down to 14 or lower before the change in practice and favorable evidence are clear. That's not going to happen in public schools-- or many private. UC had to sacrifice many things to get size for the youngest grades down to the mid-low twenties. Many helpers and extended day are the only practical ways around this.

Schools seem to have no system, and no consistency, going from one latest fad to the next. Too much churn. 19 different math curricula for Chicago Schools, sometimes just so parties can think they are empowered because they can "choose" which curriculum... Yes, and decisions go through too many filters so that the applications lose focus by the time they get into the classroom. Need commitment to the Five Essentials and to create a culture where the kids can own their school experience and spaces in the structure.
Related is gimmickry such as the state cutting benchmarks so schools will "pass." On the other hand, federal money is moving in to underwrite intense and lengthened teacher education and support and in some places teachers are given the space to organize their classrooms --and staying longer.

What is leadership excellence in schools, and how do you measure it? It seems to be ties to division and sharing of leadership responsibility-- creating a team (harder in elementary where the principal is lucky to have one assistance-- have to bring in teachers, and there is often reluctance, barriers, union/worker mentality, not wanting to be accountable, etc. One person can't hold the key to or have the competencies all aspects. You must not separate support from accountability. And it's essential that teachers be responsible for their school.

How do you measure a teacher. Tests and scores are not the measure, just as for students. Effective testing is only done in 4th and 8th grade. And for high schools, there is no way to compare test improvement year to year. You need to use comprehensive and moving diagnostics, student work, and expert observers in classrooms (three times). (There is little agreement between what the experts and the principal thinks about a teacher!!!-unless the teacher is really bad).

What is a successful early childhood learning that feeds into school success? Read research of John HECKMAN. Consult HARLEM CHILDREN'S ZONE-- conveyor from birth. Economists are evaluating the later, since it is expensive. It looks promising, but is it scalable?
Funding. It's clear that spending $7,000 a year on a child is not enough-- wealthier suburbs spend up to $30,000. But CPS with such realities as spending 30% on administration, is not in a position to appeal for more, or to show evidence it would use it well and that the investment would pay off.
OUNCE OF PREVENTION has another pipeline approach furnishing real evidence: it lines up best providers with schools that show evidence they can educate.

Data measurement and management are improving (such as UIC Oliver Ctrip (?)) but data integration is really hard. You need very robust interpretation and use of the data-- still, that doesn't need a guru.

What about "mission is college"? That doesn't have to be the only option offered--while UC Woodlawn gets families that buy into expectation of college (which may introduce a selection bias despite lottery, but still the kids' entering scores are quite low), but they maintain a big database on trade schools and other options. Sad is industrial schools that let the kids down by bringing in lots then kicking out those that don't excel or fit the culture-- they graduate and put into college 100% of 50, having started with maybe 600. It's hard to tell a 9th grader "you must go to college." Every kid should have the option of some post-secondary-- multiple entries. There is a problem with teaching "marketable skills" vs thinking and coping skills-- the practical skills change constantly in the marketplace-- vocational education has to be rethought. The key is to have expectations and attainable goals.

Teaching through technology. A lot of it is garbage-- sitting before a rote machine. You aren't being socialized over a laptop. But social networking is a key part of learning and growing up, and every kid should have a laptop. Part of the problem isn't that the interactive mutual learning of electronic games is not applied to "computer learning," which is just animated workbooks. Use the electronics for team or individual PROJECTS.


Consortium Survey ranking of CPS schools on the 5 Essentials

The University of Chicago Consortium for School Research came out September 12 2011 with results of a survey ranking the over 600 CPS schools (145,000+ students and 13,000+ teachers) on perceptions of their school re the "5 Essential elements" that matter most-
Instructional leadership, how teachers work together, support from families and community, learning climate, and challenging curriculum. Success in at least 3 correlates with schools being 10 times more likely to make progress over time. The report is in http://www.ccsrsurvey.uchicago. edu. To find out about the Elements and the research behind them, visit Organizing Schools for Excellence and UC Education/Schools Research Findings.

CPS enacted requirement in 1997 that all high school students take 3 or more years of science. No improvement in grades, graduation, or entry and staying in college resulted, Consortium says in 2010-published study.

Research concludes that students don't learn more science under Chicago Public Schools College-Prep-for-All Policy

U of CNews Office Homepage
Research concludes that students don't learn more science under Chicago Public Schools College-Prep-for-All Policy. March 15, 2010

A Chicago Public Schools policy that dramatically increased science requirements did not help students learn more science and actually may have hurt their college prospects, according to a new report from the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

The science policy was part of a larger CPS initiative to expose all students to a college–preparatory curriculum by increasing course requirements across a range of subjects.

Though CPS high school students took and passed more college–prep science courses under the new policy, overall performance in science classes did not improve, with five of every six students earning Cs or lower. College-going rates declined significantly among graduates with a B average or better in science, and they dipped for all students when researchers controlled for changes in student characteristics over time.

The report, “Passing Through Science: The Effects of Raising Graduation Requirements in Science on Course–taking and Academic Achievement in Chicago,” has significant implications for districts across the country considering requiring a college–preparatory curriculum for all students. In 2009, 21 states required all students to take four years of math and a minimum of three years of science to graduate high school. These policies were a response to long–running concerns that American students are falling behind their peers on international tests, particularly in math and science. Most recently, President Obama announced a major new public–private initiative designed to increase student engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

CPS was at the forefront of the movement to require a college–preparatory science curriculum for all. In 1997, CPS mandated that all incoming ninth–graders take three years of college–preparatory science coursework. This policy change occurred several years before many states raised their science requirements and eight years before the state of Illinois instituted a more modest increase.

To examine the effect of the policy change, the CCSR report compares academic outcomes for cohorts of students in Chicago before and after the 1997 policy switch. Key findings from the report include:

The new curriculum policy ended low expectations for science coursework. Two years before the policy change, less than half of CPS graduates passed three or more college–prep science courses; most did not complete more than one. Immediately after the change, almost all graduates passed at least three full–year science classes.
Most graduates received a C average or lower in science, which was similar to the performance of graduates before the policy change.
Because of policy’s structure, students were less likely after the policy to take both physics and chemistry, a combination that is common for students aspiring to college nationally.
Graduation rates declined by four percentage points in the first year of the policy and another percentage point in the next year, after accounting for changes in the backgrounds and prior achievement of students entering CPS high schools.
College enrollment did not increase under the new policy; nor did college persistence (students were no more likely to stay in college for at least two years).

“Expanding and improving science education is a worthy goal, and adopting a universal college–preparatory curriculum that includes rigorous science requirements is an important first step,” the report’s authors write. “However, policymakers must pay attention to the lessons learned by CPS: Simply exposing more students to more science may not by itself produce a single extra science major—much less the influx of new scientists envisioned nationally.”

The Consortium on Chicago School Research is part of the Urban Education Institute.

About the authors:

Nicholas Montgomery is a Senior Research Analyst at CCSR. Nicholas studies changes in high school curriculum policy in the Chicago Public Schools. He also leads the Data and Practice Collaborative, a new effort to deliver data reports to schools based on CCSR research and to work with networks of schools to improve the reports and their usage.

Elaine Allensworth is the Interim Co–Executive Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research. She has published widely on the structural factors that affect high school students’ educational attainment, particularly the factors that affect graduation and dropout rates. Elaine is currently leading a mixed–methods study of the transition to high school, as well as several studies on the effects of rigorous curricular reforms on instruction, grades, test scores, high school graduation and college attendance.



Chapin Hall studies of youth physical activity and of After School Matters programs

Chapin Hall studies show factors behind student physical inactivity require discerning and subtle interventions differing by student categories and communities and programs for involvement -- as well as afterschool programs-- work best when they are hooks (increasing inter alia attendance), involve parents and families, and are in settings felt as structured, secure, and building confidence.

Two 2009 studies at Chapin Hall Center for Children show that quality out of school activities can make a real difference in kids development and school performance and graduation. One key is parents being involved with their kids' activities.

Recent studies by Robert M. George and Ruth Cusick include How Active are Teens Out of School (3/4 are inactive to mildly active (esp. female black in the upper grades with low self esteem), and it's often tied to the safety and variables in the neighborhoods (esp. "chaotic" and unsafe, but high-poverty correlates just for girls) but in surprising ways. Parental connection with adolescents is a key. High abundance of programs does not correlate to activity, although their quality and level of organization of experiences does--"opening the gym" not enough. Highest activity matches where there are diverse experiences for kids. Appealing (esp. to girls and to the least active) by including responsibility, leadership and other means that promote self esteem. Invest resources in enough quality, targeted and appealing programs and facilities (including in schools) that youth do not have to cross boundaries to reach!

Their study, After School Programs and Academics (a study of After School Matters) finds a relationship between participation in after school activities and higher school attendance, a lower rate of class failures, and higher graduation rates. It may be as much that the activities hook them on being in school as that the activities directly carry over into studies. How kids are being hooked and the feedback loops need further research.


Debates continue over whether, what reform works, vouchers, charters...

From the Tribune's Opinion page, April 29

The value of education competition

Tribune columnist Steve Chapman dismisses the past 20 years of school-voucher competition in Milwaukee as ineffective because children in voucher schools currently don't do any better than children in Milwaukee's public schools ("Education reforms get a failing grade," Commentary, April 15). That's like dismissing the past 20 years of telecommunication deregulation as ineffective because AT&T's competitors currently don't provide any better service than AT&T, ignoring the fact that everyone today has lots of other options to choose from that weren't even imagined before deregulation. Sure telephone services today are all about on the same level, but that level keeps on rising because of competition. Competition really is a tide that lifts all boats.

The same is true with voucher competition in Milwaukee, which has raised the overall level of education so that all students in the city, in both public schools and voucher schools, are doing better than without vouchers. This was reported last year by the same University of Arkansas research group that published the results cited by Chapman. Other research shows voucher students have significantly higher graduation rates than their peers in Milwaukee's public schools. And all this is achieved by voucher schools at roughly half the $14,000 per student spent in the city's public schools.

Why haven't vouchers produced the educational equivalent of the iPhone in Milwaukee? Because those vouchers are what Milton Friedman called "charity" vouchers, pale reflections of the universal vouchers he proposed in 1955. You can't expect to get the results Friedman predicted if you water down his recipe.

— George A. Clowes, senior fellow for education policy, The Heartland Institute, Chicago

Effective school reform

Tribune editorial board member Steve Chapman took an important step away from the paper's traditional drum-beating for charters, vouchers and other forms of school privatization by openly acknowledging the solid evidence that these strategies aren't working. We strongly agree that imposing one-size-fits-all solutions such as those mandated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program is the wrong approach. We hope that Chapman's thoughtful analysis will migrate across the page and that the full editorial board will retract its support for the pending state voucher bill, unlimited charter schools and test-driven teacher evaluation. It would be even better if the Tribune put its weight behind education reforms with real track records of success.

Effective school reform is tedious, time-consuming and rarely "newsy." Are you ready to get behind it?

— Julie Woestehoff, executive director, Parents United for Responsible Education, Chicago

Improvement is possible

We and our colleagues at the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago read with interest Steve Chapman's April 15 column. While we share Chapman's skepticism toward broad one-size-fits-all fixes, we respectfully disagree with his conclusion that "the main thing we know about improving schools is that we don't know very much."

In fact we know a great deal about school improvement, particularly in our own back yard. We know, for example, that many Chicago schools in very disadvantaged neighborhoods have made significant, sustained achievement gains during the past two decades of reform. More important, we know why.

Consortium researchers have spent more than 20 years analyzing school, student and census data from the Chicago Public Schools. These analyses have revealed that while there is no "silver bullet" for school reform, there is a reliable recipe.

Improving schools look alike: They have strong principals who reach out to teachers and parents as partners in school improvement; close working relationships with parents and other community institutions; committed staff members eager to collaborate and innovate; safe, orderly and nurturing environments; and well-structured curriculums.

We call these key ingredients the "essential supports for school improvement." Schools that measure strong in all five essential supports are at least 10 times as likely as schools with just one or two strengths to achieve substantial gains in reading and math.

A sustained weakness in just one essential support undermines virtually all attempts at improving learning.

To be sure achieving strength in all five essential supports is a daunting task, and much more difficult in some schools than others. But our analysis shows that improvement is possible, even in schools surrounded by crushing levels of poverty and violence.

— Penny Bender Sebring and Elaine Allensworth, interim co-executive directors, Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute

In a teacher's shoes

I profoundly disagree with the Tribune's misguided calls to turn primary and secondary education into a private business. Rather than engaging in a war of words, however, I would like to propose a challenge instead: Try it.

If you are so sure that tenured, unionized teachers are the root cause of all the problems with education, I invite the members of your editorial board to make themselves available as substitute teachers in a local school district for a few weeks or even a month.

Surely they will have no problem finding many opportunities to observe real teachers in action or to teach students at all levels.

Perhaps their time as substitutes will confirm their arguments, but I suspect instead that it will show them all of the challenges that teachers in a public school system face that make their work so demanding and thankless, tenure or no tenure.

In addition I also trust that it would allow them to see how teachers can help and improve the lives of students from difficult backgrounds in ways that no standardized test can possibly ever show.

Two years ago I served as a substitute teacher for four months in the Waukegan public school district, and this experience, not my time as a student, showed me what the education system was truly like, warts and all.

I encourage the editorial board members to pursue a similar experience, as perhaps then they may produce a useful opinion on education reform that is grounded in reality.

The board may cite as many statistics, blue-ribbon panels and stump speeches as it likes, but until it has actually walked a mile in a teacher's shoes, its vision of education reform remains little more than a naive fantasy.

— Christopher Fletcher, Chicago


The Trouble With Teacher Tenure. By TIMOTHY KNOWLES
We can't make progress if bad teachers have jobs for life.WSJ, Jun 18, 2010

Colorado did right by its kids recently when Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law groundbreaking education reform to overhaul teacher tenure and evaluation. The bill elicited an outcry from many teachers. But the many states now considering similar measures must not be cowed by the firestorm.

As a former teacher, principal and district leader, I've devoted my life to providing children with the excellent education they deserve. And in my 23 years on the job, there are two things I've learned for certain.

First, teachers have a greater impact on student learning than any other school-based factor. Second, we will not produce excellent schools without eliminating laws and practices that guarantee teachers—regardless of their performance—jobs for life.

Nearly everyone in public education has a story that illustrates the Kafkaesque process of trying to remove a tenured teacher. Mine involves a teacher in Boston who napped each day in the back of the room while students copied from the board. Despite repeated efforts, the district failed to fire him.

Such anecdotes are reinforced by hard data. An award-winning study of Illinois school districts over an 18-year period found an average of two tenured teachers out of 95,000 were dismissed for underperformance each year. Nationally, between 0.1% and 1% of tenured teachers are dismissed annually, according to the Center for American Progress.

It's not news that students suffer when very low-performing teachers are allowed to remain in the classroom. But teachers suffer too. In a forthcoming article, my colleague Sara Ray Stoelinga of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute illustrates how teacher tenure creates perverse practices in schools across Chicago. In interviews with 40 principals, 37 admitted to using some type of harassing supervision—cajoling, pressuring or threatening—to get teachers to leave in order to circumvent the byzantine removal process mandated by the union contract. One principal plotted to remove a teacher who had trouble climbing stairs by assigning her to a fourth-floor classroom. Another reassigned a teacher who had been teaching eighth-graders for 14 years to a first-grade classroom.

This pathological status quo feeds upon itself: The more difficult it is for principals to address underperformance, the more likely they are to use informal methods to do so. This fuels labor's argument that management is capricious, strengthening their case for increased employment protection.

This cycle leads to what educators call "the dance of the lemons"—the practice of shuffling underperforming teachers from school to school. It's easier to push a teacher to a school down the street than it is to push them out of the profession.

The effect that bad teachers have on relationships among teachers and principals might be the most corrosive aspect of tenure laws. In the book "Organizing Schools for Improvement," University of Chicago researchers showed that the quality of adult relationships in a school profoundly affects student achievement. Analyzing more than a decade's worth of data from Chicago Public Schools, they found that schools where adults demonstrate a shared sense of responsibility for student learning are four times more likely to make substantial gains in reading than schools without strong professional ties. Schools where principals set high standards and involve teachers in decision making are seven times more likely to make substantial improvements in math than schools weak on such measures. But cooperative relationships are difficult to maintain when principals must use underhanded methods to remove ineffective teachers, and when bad teachers undermine staff morale.

The good news is that the majority of teachers are not interested in protecting colleagues who don't belong in the classroom. Last summer the American Federation of Teachers surveyed its members, asking: "Which of these should be the higher priority: working for professional teaching standards and good teaching, or defending the job rights of teachers who face disciplinary action?" According to Randi Weingarten, the union's president, "by a ratio of 4 to 1 (69% to 16%), AFT members chose working for professional standards and good teaching as the higher priority." She elaborated: "Teachers have zero tolerance for people who . . . demonstrate they are unfit for our profession."

The time has come to eliminate tenure. We are facing monumental challenges in our quest to provide all students with an education that will prepare them to compete in a globalized economy. By removing one of the main sources of friction between labor and management, we can focus on the substantive issues: training, evaluating and rewarding teachers to make teaching a true profession.


For schools to be safer, make teachers visible and involved in strong relationships with students

This indirectly support the benefits of such initiatives as Culture of Calm (Supt. Huberman), which uses statistics for ID the most at risk students and pair them with a mentor.
Students feel safer in (CPS) schools than in areas without adult supervision.
It concludes that schools with higher suspension rates are the less safe one- which way the arrow goes is yet to be determined.
Teachers in more than half the schools reported problems with robberies, 60% with gang activity. Teachers often find that little things like more monitoring in the hallways make a difference.