Chicago closings led most students to higher performing schools, but improvement varied: study

Panelist and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education Jesse Ruiz listens as fellow panel member and education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) Jitu Brown speaks during the School Project panel event at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., on Thursday. -Marc Monaghan

Panelist and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education Jesse Ruiz listens as fellow panel member and education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) Jitu Brown speaks during the School Project panel event at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., on Thursday.

-Marc Monaghan

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

Out of the families whose children were sent to welcoming schools after the mass school closings in 2013, 93 percent of them enrolled in schools with higher performance points but the differences varied from zero to 64 points, according to researchers from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

U. of C. Consortium on Chicago School Research analysts Marisa de la Torre, director and senior researcher; Molly Gordon, senior research analyst, and Elaine Allensworth, Lewis-Sebring director, presented findings from the report “School Closings in Chicago: Understanding Families’ Choices and Constraints for New School Enrollment” Thursday night at the “School Closings in Chicago: Understanding Families’ Choices and Constraints for New School Enrollment” event at the U. of C.’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

In 2013 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) made national history by closing 50 public schools. The report examines the choices families made for their children due to the school closings.

“The study followed where kids went and why,” said de la Torre, one of the authors of the report.

According to the report, 66 percent of families affected by school closings enrolled their students in designated welcoming schools. Parents that enrolled their students in schools that were not designated welcoming schools often chose a school with a lower performance policy rating.

De la Torre said many of the families that enrolled their children in designated welcoming schools made the enrollment choice because the school was close to home, it had strong academics and friends or staff members from the closing school were transferred to the welcoming school. Other reasons include families not knowing they had the choice to choose a different school and transportation barriers that limited families’ school options.

De la Torre said the families that enrolled their children in schools that were not their designated welcoming school did so because they no longer lived in the neighborhood of their closing schools, the schools their children were being sent to were perceived as being lower in academic quality than those previous schools or the distance of the schools from their homes was not ideal for safety concerns as well as extreme weather and medical emergency concerns.

The report also found that for many families, academic quality meant something different than a school’s performance policy rating. Many families defined academic quality as a school having after-school programs, certain curricula and courses, small class sizes, a positive welcoming environment and one-on-one attention from teachers in classes.

“We found that the importance of relationships and connecting made a school more desirable to most families,” Allensworth said during a panel discussion later that evening at the School Project event. “It’s about relationships.”

d.phillips@hpherald.com