Posted tagged ‘AUSL’

What Doesn’t Work: AUSL

March 6, 2010

Over the past decade, turnaround schools have been tried hundreds if not thousands of times across the country.  A turnaround is what just happened in Central Falls where all the teachers are let go, a select few are rehired, and the school brings in a new principal and faculty to work their educational magic.  Sometimes, the school is taken over by a charter and sometimes it’s done under a program like AUSL in Chicago.   Today, in a blog posting entitled What’s Possible: Turning Around America’s Lowest-Achieving Schools, The United States Department of Education put 3 slickly produced videos together and pointed them out as proof that the turnaround model works just great.

Keep in mind that the DOE cherry picked these 3 schools.   They didn’t talk about the Green Dot in Watts where not a single student is meeting or exceeding.  They didn’t talk about the many turnaround failures, or the turnarounds that have had to be turned around again because the first turnaround didn’t work (If you make two 180 degree turns, aren’t you back where you started?).   They picked these three shining stars:

AUSL: This is the program in Chicago that over a thousand parents came out to protest this year.   The idea is that if you take a bunch of first year teachers and put them with a novice administrator somehow there will be educational magic created.  Students who sign on with AUSL agree to work four years at their AUSL school and if they leave early they have to repay part or all of their education.

One of the keys to success for AUSL has been to weed out students.   Yes, schools are supposed to educate everybody, but that doesn’t quite fit the AUSL model where suspensions and expulsions are commonplace.  Those expelled students are sent elsewhere–usually to a lucky public school down the road.  These stats are from PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education):

Drop out rates of course go through the roof at AUSL schools and test scores do go up.  Well, in most cases they do thanks to a large influx of funding.  However, let’s look at the Value Added scores that were developed by University of Wisconsin researchers and compare a student’s year-to-year growth on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test with growth made by demographically similar students from across the district.  These scores are the new buzz in education data:

[Click on the graph to enlarge to full size]

The test scores show Johnson going backwards.  Very few schools in the city appear in the red showing a negative growth, yet despite many resources that public schools don’t have access too and despite getting rid of the bad apples, Johnson is still dropping.   Before the turnaround, the scores at Johnson were actually on the way up.  Now that they go backwards, the Department of Education salutes them.

In exchange for poor test scores, you take students with little stability in their lives and make their school setting unstable.  If they had any close relationships with adults in their building, they’re gone too.   How long do the new AUSL teachers last at their schools?  Out of AUSL’s first graduating class from the program in 2003, six are still in education and one remains at the school they were originally assigned to.

I’ll post about the groundbreaking Green Dot schools next.   Green Dot founder Steve Barr left the organization after a small matter of embezzling $50,000.   If you believe that a school should pay its faculty more than its PR department, I think you’ll enjoy their story as well.