From WBEZ by Becky Vevea:
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 an 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 U.S. 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 would eventually help to launch Duncan’s signature Renaissance 2010 initiative are getting shaken up by the current CPS administration.

Williams Elementary and Middle School will close. (Drake Elementary will take over the building.) The Dodge building will close. (Dodge will technically continue to operate but will move 1.3 miles west to share a building with Morton Elementary.) The school that now operates in the old Terrell building, ACE Tech Charter School, was placed on an academic warning list in February, and district officials have warned if it doesn't improve they will close it down.

And for the first time, CPS is pulling the plug on its a “turnaround” school, Bethune Elementary. Just four years ago, all all Bethune staff was fired and the privately run, nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership took over--another example of the school reform strategy that says a clean slate can lead to better schools. AUSL also operates Dodge and Morton.

CPS spokeswoman Molly Poppe said no one was available to speak with WBEZ on the record about the proposals to close Williams and the Dodge building. She said CPS is “focusing on the challenges of today” and that the decisions this year are primarily about under-enrollment.

“No school is guaranteed to succeed and no school should have a perpetual license to operate if it’s failing… and you can’t pretend that a school is full if it’s mostly empty,” says Greg Richmond, who led the Office of New Schools at CPS under Duncan until 2005. Richmond now heads up the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Illinois State Charter School Commission.

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