Chicago's High School Transformation Plan, DOA:
"Mid-South" By Another Name?

On Monday, Chicago Board of Education officials gathered at Farragut High School in Little Village to unveil their Big Plan to transform high schools over the next 10 years. Two days later, the school had to be "locked down" because of violence within the school.

Even without that unfortunate sequence of events, I can't help but thinking that the New Plan is the doomed product of too many smart people sitting in rooms coming up with Plans.

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It won't be rolled back like Mid-South was in the face of strong community activity and the threat of schools being closed. But it resembles Mid-South in that it is the inorganic result of Planners, working largely in private -- totally unlike, say, the 9/11 Commission with its hearings and subpoena powers.

There's no oomph behind it, no clear imperative (beyond a Gates Foundation requirement that CPS engage in a Planning Process with outside consultants), no political juice beyond that of a foundation broadenings its small schools strategy and a mayor and Board of Education trying to maintain some sense of -- or at least appearance of -- momentum.

Another key flaw of this Plan is that it has no hard edges -- no real shape. It talks a lot about "instructional support packages." It's conceptual. It's not like Ren10, last year's Big Plan, which for better or worse sets a clear and concrete goal and a timeframe. Board spokesman Peter Cunningham says that the Board is trying to avoid unveiling new Plans every year -- the policy churn that was part of what hobbled the last years of the Vallas administration.

But you can't have it both ways. You can't put out a non-Plan and hope that it has the effect of a Plan and any chances of being implemented. (For more on this, see Cornelia Grumman's Tribune editorial about too many plans and too little funding.)

Some plans have decent chances of being implemented. Some don't. Sadly, this one has all the signs of being one of the latter. Though I'd be happy to be wrong wrong wrong.

Big--and double--vision at CPS Tribune
High schools to get overhaul Sun Times
Reform on horizon for city high schools Tribune
Schools much improved, but more must be done
(Mayor Daley) Sun Times

Making the changes that matter WestEd

Schools left alone, to shine Tribune
Leave Us Alone, We're Doing Fine Chicagoist

Norfolk wins $500K Broad prize for achievement NYT


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