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Whittier parents hold fast

CPS chief Jean Claude Brizard may have thought he could carry out a preemptive strike against the Whittier Parents Committee.  He couldn’t.

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School closings 3

It turns out CPS isn’t closing Andersen School — it’ s just changing boundaries.

In a January 24 press release, CPS listed Andersen among “under-enrolled” schools to be closed and phased out.  A January 23 report to the Board of Education (available at the Catalyst blog) listed Andersen utilization at 47 percent, just below the 50 percent mark it defined as under-enrolled.  That was the figure Arne Duncan cited in a letter to Andersen parents.

Andersen parents, teachers, and supporters argued that rate didn’t take into account legal limits on class size for the school’s several programs for special education.  They said that applying those limits put the school at 58 percent utilization.

At a February 15 hearing CPS sidestepped this issue — and its guidelines on school closing policy — by announcing it was phasing out the school as a boundary change.

That changes the standard that must be met, said Rod Estvan of Access Living.  Rather than showing underutilization, CPS can change boundaries simply to “maximize utilization” at one of two buildings.

Estvan testified Friday that adding in an autism program and pull-out rooms, “a rational approach to space utilization that takes into consideration State Law would give Andersen School a utilization rate somewhere around 65 to 68%.”  That’s right in the middle of the range CPS terms “efficient utilization.”

Estvan noted that students with disabilities at Andersen tested 15 percent higher than the CPS average in reading and nearly 20 percent higher in math.

“On the face of this data Access Living believes that Andersen School should in fact be given some type of achievement award for the effective reading and math instruction the school appears to be providing to students with disabilities, instead of being closed,” he said.

“It’s pretty slick,” Estvan commented today.  “If they can use this standard, they can write schools out of existence all over the place.”



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