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WBEZ: CPS wants to close Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010 schools

by Becky Vevea - WBEZ  |  05/08/2013

Chicago has been opening and closing public schools every year for the past decade.

It’s a controversial strategy that former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan believed was the answer to improving public education.

But in the most recent round of proposed school closings, CPS is shutting down the very schools Duncan created.

Eleven years ago, on April 10, 2002, Duncan announced he would shut down three elementary schools—Williams, Dodge and Terrell—for chronic low performance. The idea was to start over from scratch in order to create something better.

Five years later—it seemed to have worked.

In 2008, Dodge was where then president-elect Barack Obama announced Duncan as his pick for Secretary of Education.

“He’s shut down failing schools and replaced their entire staffs, even when it was unpopular,” Obama said at the time. “This school right here, Dodge Renaissance Academy, is a perfect example. Since this school was revamped and reopened in 2003, the number of students meeting state standards has more than tripled.”

But fast forward another five years, Dodge is closing its doors.

In fact, all three of the schools that helped launched Duncan’s signature Renaissance 2010 initiative are getting shaken up by the current CPS administration.

Williams Elementary and Middle School will close and Drake Elementary will take over the building; Dodge will continue to operate but will move a mile away to share a building with Morton Elementary; and the school that now operates in the old Terrell building, ACE Tech Charter School, was just placed on an academic warning list, meaning if it doesn’t  improve, district officials might close it down.

And for the first time, CPS is pulling the plug on its first “turnaround” school—Bethune Elementary, where in 2009, all the staff was fired and the privately run, non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership took over. AUSL also operates Dodge and Morton. 

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