Illinois’ bottom 95 high schools enroll only 15% of the state’s high school students, but have more than 40% of the dropouts. A new report from Advance Illinois and Mass Insight’s School Turnaround Group takes a close look at what’s happening in the 10 schools that received school improvement grant (SIG) money in year 1.
Good news: Most schools had encouraging gains in terms of attendance, truancy, and achievement (ACT scores).
Key challenges: Deepening and sustaining the achievement gains in these schools, while expanding the program to others. Several recommendations for how the state could help, such as more systematically sharing lessons learned, pooling federal funding streams to support school clusters, and building the political will to make tough decisions around working conditions and related issues. The state gets high marks for cutting funding to a district that reneged on its commitments.
The report singles out Chicago Public Schools’ Office of School Turnaround for its systematic, strategic approach for building the specialized capacity needed to introduce and sustain reforms over time.
Bottom line: “This is not the final word. But given the urgency of the task and the significant financial investment to date, it is not too early to ask questions, learn as we go, and then use the experience to help these and other schools continually improve and better serve our most vulnerable students.”