Not so fast. Hold off on Crane H.S. phase-out, hearing officer urges
BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter email@example.com February 8, 2012 3:06PM
Crane High School.File Photo | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: March 11, 2012 8:35AM
No decision on the phase-out of Crane High School should be made until school district officials analyze a “well-thought-out’’ Crane-proposed plan for the school’s rejuvenation, an independent hearing officer has recommended.
The recommendation, a vindication for Crane faculty, came after a battery of elected officials — including Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and state Sen. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago) — showed up at public hearings to oppose the CPS plan to gradually turn over the Crane building at 2245 W. Jackson to Talent Development Charter High School.
Despite its academic struggles, over the years, Crane has been an athletic powerhouse, producing pro basketball players, Harlem Globetrotters and Olympic track team members. Bears founder George Halas is among its alums.
With only 5 percent of Crane juniors passing state tests and a 48 percent graduation rate, Crane definitely fits the criteria for closure or phase-out recommended for Crane and six other CPS schools, hearing officer David Coar ruled in a decision released Wednesday.
However, the high schools that would-be Crane freshmen would be routed to are “only marginally better.” Coar found. Meanwhile, Crane faculty and supporters have “put forth a well thought-out plan” that includes support from Strategic Learning Initiatives, “an organization with a track record of school turnarounds,” Coar wrote.
Given the “disruption” a phase-out would cause, Core wrote in a 27-page opinion, “it makes sense to at least explore the feasibility of the proposed turnaround plan. For those reasons, I would respectfully recommend that the Board order an analysis of the Crane Coalition Improvement Plan before acting on the CEO’s proposals.”
Chicago Teachers Union officials and Strategic Learning Initiatives president John Simmons have repeatedly contended that Strategic Learning has produced success in failing schools with far less disruption to staff and at one fifth the cost of current CPS turnaround models. Simmons says that, starting in 2006, he ran a “demonstration project” that produced large gains at eight failing CPS schools and his model has been validated by the American Institutes for Research.
CPS Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso said Wednesday she was not familiar with Strategic Learning Initiatives, but “I’d love to get a copy” of any study on their results.
Concerning Coar’s recommendations, Donoso said, “that’s the purpose of community hearings — to be able to see what the community has to say. We just got the report yesterday. We will definitely be looking into it.”
Chicago School Board members are scheduled to vote on Crane’s fate and other school-action proposals on Feb. 22.