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Poor performance forces 3 Chicago schools to close

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) -- Three elementary schools will be closed for poor performance, the first time such a drastic step has been taken in seven years of reform efforts in the city's public schools.

Students at the three schools -- Terrell, Williams and Dodge -- will be transferred when they close at the end of the school year. Terrell, on the city's South Side, will close permanently and the other two will reopen in fall 2003 after changes are made, school officials said.

''We don't believe these schools as they currently exist, will ever measure up,'' schools chief Arne Duncan said Wednesday. ''There are better education alternatives within walking distance.''

Besides three principals who will be looking for new jobs, about 80 teachers and 20 school aides and other staff members will be unemployed unless other schools choose to hire them.

Closing a school for poor performance is the most severe reform measure allowed under the 1995 state law that gave Mayor Richard Daley control of the city's schools.

Standardized test scores at the three schools have been chronically low and officials say the schools are not improving.

Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch said she feels betrayed because Duncan had told her no schools would be closed this year. She said she will appeal the decision to Daley.

''This is no partnership,'' Lynch said. ''They want to look like they are doing something instead of the years of hard work that it takes to turn around a school.''

Many parents of affected students also were unhappy, saying they would rather see the schools improve than their children transferred.

''Nobody is doing anything to help these teachers and students. Nobody,'' said Dodge parent Tina Riley. ''They set the school up for failure.''

School Board President Michael Scott said children cannot afford to wait for the schools to improve, because ''children have one chance at an education.''

Dodge and Terrell have been on probation since 1996. Williams also has been on probation since 1996, except for a one-year respite when its test scores rose.

The Chicago system has about 600 schools serving 435,000 students, according to its Web site.



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