Numbers don't tell the whole story
Crane advocates say CPS punishing school for taking in challenged kids
02/15/2012 10:00 PM
As the brass at Chicago Public Schools continues to push for shutting down Crane High School on the Near West Side, the district has repeatedly tossed out chunks of information showing just how the school is failing its students.
But they’ve neglected to discuss a key factor affecting Crane’s numbers. More than 150 students have been specifically brought into the school — many from outside of the school’s regular boundaries — because they’ve struggled academically.
Crane is the site of one of CPS’ eight achievement academies, located in high schools across the city where the district sends kids who reach the age of 15 without completing elementary school requirements.
Founded in 2003, CPS began the program as a way to get older kids out of elementary schools, rather than holding them back with kids who are much younger. It began as a two-year accelerated learning program that would get kids ready to enter high school, though the program has since been extended to three years at some schools.
Ashton Coleman, a dean at Crane, said achievement academy students come from some of the most challenging circumstances of any students in the city.
“Ones who come in not only seem to have developmental issues, but seemingly have run-ins with the law, things of that nature, multiple moves by the family,” he said. “That displaces the child and makes it very difficult for them to have any continuity from an educational standpoint.”
Akeshia Craven, CPS’ school officer for pathways to college and career, said the district’s goal is to get these kids ready to move into high school-level classes, while already being used to a high-school setting.
“We want students to go to their neighborhood school when they’re done with the achievement academy,” Craven said. “We recognize this as a group of students that are entering achievement academies with a learning gap.”
At Crane, the school has roughly 160 students in its achievement academy — slightly more than 20 percent of the student population.
While it’s possible to separate achievement academy students from the rest of Crane, statistically, CPS has opted not to do so with the numbers it has used in advocating for the school’s four-year phase out.
CPS officials did not supply information about graduation rates from the achievement academy as of press time Wednesday. Crane advocates say that the school’s ACT average is a full point higher when achievement academy students are separated.
CPS’ tentative plans for phasing out Crane would move achievement academy students to Roberto Clemente High School, two miles north of Crane at Western Avenue and Division Street.
To Coleman, who’s been one of the leaders advocating to keep the school open, it seems unfair to punish the school for hosting kids who need the most help.
“Unfortunately, none of this is taken into accord when they basically aggregate our scores at the end of the year,” Coleman said. “You know, we’re giving individuals an opportunity to not basically be completely disgruntled with the whole educational process.”
The kids who come through Crane’s achievement academy come in with problematic backgrounds, but can often make it through with hard work, Coleman said.
“It’s a chance to make it up. We all know everyone’s not necessarily a Mensa prospect,” he said. “There are kids who go to college … because they’re diligent about their studies and they work hard and they come out with a degree. Just because you don’t start well doesn’t mean a strong finish cannot be fashioned for you.”