Friday, May 2, 2014


At turnarounds, a revolving door for most teachersShare on facebook

(Editor’s note: This story is an abridged version of an article from the upcoming spring issue of Catalyst In Depth, which will examine teacher retention and turnover in CPS. The issue is scheduled for publication in May. Previous issues of In Depth can be foundhere.)
With three proposed turnarounds scheduled for a Board of Education vote next week, Chicago Public School officials justify the move by pointing out that most turnaround schools have higher- than-average student growth on standardized tests.
Yet it has been a rocky experience for many of the 32 schools that have undergone turnarounds, a drastic action in which the entire staff must reapply for their jobs and typically, most are not rehired.  Nationally, Secretary of Education has promoted turnarounds as a key strategy for school improvement.
In CPS, however, more than half of turnaround schools are still among the lowest-performing schools. Some started badly and had to undergo another turnaround. Others have improved more than other schools, yet are still far from meeting district averages, much less the higher statewide averages.
What’s more, large chunks of the new staff—teachers who were hand-picked and spent weeks over the summer getting to know each other, becoming a team and learning how to spark improvement when the school reopened—leave within a few years.
Catalyst Chicago analysis of Illinois State Teacher Service Records and CPS employee rosters found that:
-- At 16 of the 17 schools that underwent a turnaround between 2007 and 2011, more than half of teachers hired in the first year of the turnaround left by the third year.
-- Among all turnarounds, an average of two-thirds of new teachers left by year three, an attrition rate that is higher than for CPS overall—even among low-achieving, high-poverty, predominantly minority schools that typically have high turnover.
-- The troubling trend has continued among newer turnarounds. In the 10 schools that were turned around last year (the 2012-2013 school year) a third of the faculty left by the start of the current school year. In comparison, only 7 percent of CPS schools have a third of teachers leave in one year.
On average, the year-over-year turnover rate in CPS is 18 percent.  
CPS officials did not respond to specific questions about turnover in turnarounds. In a statement submitted via e-mail, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she understands that to retain teachers, she must set them up for “success in the classroom and support their professional growth.” The district is doing this by investing in mentoring, professional development and having teachers share best practices, according to the e-mail.
Still, the fact that turnaround schools have such low teacher retention raises questions about the effectiveness of a strategy that relies on firing and hiring an entire staff to spark improvement.
Plus, as CTU President Karen Lewis and others have pointed out on many occasions, turnarounds result in a loss of veteran black teachers, who have cultural experience with the African American neighborhoods where most turnarounds are located.
Prior to the turnarounds, more than two-thirds of teachers at the targeted schools were black; among black teachers, two-thirds had more than 10 years of experience, according to Catalyst’s analysis. In the year after the turnaround, less than half of the teachers were black and just 20 percent of them had more than a decade of experience.
“Does not have to be the same teacherTur”
With large numbers of new teachers, turnarounds are already likely to have high turnover simply because young people switch jobs more often. The tendency is compounded by the inherent challenges of working in a turnaround, and the intense pressure to accomplish the difficult job of transforming a chronically low-achieving school.
Most of the district’s 32 turnaround schools are run by the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which would also run the turnarounds CPS will vote on April 23. AUSL has a specific model that, at least initially, emphasizes discipline and how the school and classrooms look, as well as the use of data to drive instruction.
Former turnaround teachers told Catalyst they felt too much emphasis was placed on the appearance of the school, too many visitors were paraded through the building and teaching was micro-managed, leaving little room for creativity.
Yet AUSL Managing Director Jarvis Sanford says he is not that worried about losing teachers. “It has never been our model that staff stay for three to five years,” he says. “We want to put the effective teachers in front of students. It does not have to be the same teacher.”
Some of the attrition happens by design, as successful principals in the AUSL network are moved to new turnarounds and take their best teachers. Sanford notes that the lauded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina have successfully used this approach.
In other cases, good teachers are encouraged to become coaches or are promoted to leadership roles within the network.
Many teachers who don’t go to other turnarounds stay within CPS, which means that Chicago students benefit from the training AUSL provides, Sanford points out.
However, Catalyst’s analysis shows that about half of the teachers who leave turnaround schools do not take jobs in any CPS school. Catalyst located several: One returned to her previous job and career as a nurse, another is now a real estate broker and a third is working as a grocery cashier.
Sanford insists that the results speak for themselves. Not only do many of the AUSL turnaround schools perform better than CPS in helping students raise their test scores, they also have better attendance. The fact that students come to school shows they are not negatively affected by having teachers leave year after year, he says.
“You may cause more harm than help”
Sanford’s stance is contrary to that of most experts, who agree that schools do better when they have a stable teaching staff.
In the 2009 report “Why Teachers Leave,” the Consortium on Chicago School Research begins with the premise that, while some turnover is to be expected, high attrition is problematic. “It can produce a range of organizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in key subjects and loss of teacher leadership.”
Michael Hansen, senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., says there has been surprisingly little research about whether changing the majority of a school’s staff will lead to a better school. “The strategies that are being prescribed under Arne Duncan are under-researched,” says Hansen.
One study showed that turnarounds in California improved more than schools subjected to other, less drastic action. But Hansen points out that turnarounds also get extra money to address students’ social and emotional needs, and that might be the real reason for any improvement. “There is not great data on what else is happening,” he says. “There are many moving parts going into it.”
In looking at rapidly improving schools in Florida and California, Hansen found that new teachers and veteran teachers appeared equally responsible for the positive changes.
Hansen says he would be concerned about high attrition following a turnaround. “It is possible you may cause more harm than help,” he says.
“I don’t want to lose the team”
While the management of AUSL might not think retention is important, some administrators do.
Morton Principal Peggie Burnett says that she is doing her best to hang onto the staff she inherited when she took over the school--the highest-performing AUSL turnaround--in East Garfield Park last year.
“I love my teachers,” Burnett says. “It is good for the community to keep the same teachers and also I make an investment in my teachers. We are a team and I don’t want to lose the team.”
Teachers point out that students are negatively affected by the constant churn, were sad to see them go and still call them and reach out to them on Facebook.
Lindsey Siemens, a teacher at Bradwell Elementary in South Shore, says that so many teachers have quit or moved on to other jobs that students are hyper-sensitive. Of the 35 new teachers hired in 2010 with the turnaround, only eight remain. None of the administrators are still there.
“If a teacher is absent for a few days because they are sick, the students start to wonder if they are ever coming back,” Siemens says.
She points out that this turnover is taking place in schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, where children often cope with adults coming and going from their lives.
“They experience so much loss that it is important for us to develop relationships with them,” she says.
Despite lackluster academic results at Bradwell, Siemens still believes that the turnaround process can work, but that it will only happen if the school has a stable staff for three to five years. 


Anonymous wrote 1 week 5 days ago

Building Positive Relationships

"Does not have to be the same teacher."
Sure, it doesn't HAVE to be the same teacher, but it sure would help a lot with that whole "building positive relationships" piece...
Rod Estvan wrote 1 week 5 days ago

Jarvis Sanford's comment

Jarvis Sanford's comment on how AUSL's model does not require teachers to be retained for more than two years was simply astounding. Since several of the current leaders of CPS have been associated with AUSL one has to wonder whether their perspectives are similar to those of Mr. Sanford.
Rod Estvan
Anonymous wrote 1 week 5 days ago

teacher stability

My children have attended the same high performing CPS school for the last 7 years. Formerly a turn around, it is staffed to a large extent with teachers who were part of the school before it became high performing.
The continuity of good teachers and their ability to communicate together about the needs of all the children at school has been a huge factor in the academic success of each of our students.
It's an insult to both good teaching and to CPS families that AUSL believes that constant movement can result in improved school success. Building a strong high performing school community begins with the retention and continued support of collaboration between the best instructors. Good teachers often tough out poor conditions for their students but this is the wrong environment for long term growth.
The saddest part of this story is that the most vulnerable students are the most shortchanged in this system.
retired principal wrote 1 week 5 days ago

may be good reasons why AUSL teachers do not stay

commented before: you dont hold a pencil unless you do it the ausl way. wonder why ausl does not explain to mr. jarvis how to hold the pencil or this may be their true pov. agree with mr. estvan.
AUSL Teacher wrote 1 week 5 days ago

Classic AUSL

What Sandord should have said: This is an area that greatly concerns us and one in which we are constantly striving to improve.
What Sanford did say: So? Who cares?
This is a classic AUSL response to criticism.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 4 days ago

Former Morton Teacher

Trained by AUSL, I still had to resign MID YEAR during my 3rd year. I'm so glad that Jarvis is finally making these statements publicly. They were the things said to our faces, but never to the press. He interviewed me, personally, following the circumstances of my resignation. He feigned shock that the abuses he had conveyed to his principals had had a trickle down effect to their teachers. There is a special place, somewhere, for that man. So many, many horrible doings.
Anonymous AUSL teacher wrote 1 week 4 days ago

This is what we meant to do all along. Nothing to see here.

I'm "confused" about Sanford's comments. If he doesn't think they're goal is to keep teachers around for 3-5 years then why is the AUSL residency contract 5 years long!? This is another example of AUSL leadership finding the explanation to meet the situation on the ground after the fact. They're making everything up as they go along without thought to long term goals or solutions. Instead of saying that teacher turn-over is a problem they've identified and are working on he simply dismisses the concerns. This "I know best" mentality is pervasive throughout AUSL and is cleverly dubbed being "mission consistent" and used to threaten and subvert their teachers. Now, it seems AUSL's mission involves having remarkably high teacher turn-over. Anyone in the "network" should be careful to suggest solutions to this issue as they'll be identified as being "mission inconsistent" and pressured to leave. I once suggested possible ways to decrease political fallout from Turnarounds and the very next day was threatened with a newly minted "Unsatisfactory" evaluation.
Besides the threatening and subverting of teachers, AUSL sells a particularly nefarious brand of school reform (and conservative ideology) to their new teachers. Recruits are told they can save the world by fixing the broken system full of lazy veteran teachers. They say "didn't you know, teachers are the biggest indicator of student success" (therefore failing schools are full of incompetent teachers). They'll tell you that ALL students can learn at the highest levels and that poverty is simply an excuse. Another way to say this is that kids who don't learn haven't worked hard enough or have teachers who haven't worked hard enough. It's the "pull yourself up by your boot straps" meritocracy that permeates portions of America. When new teachers realize that all of this is mostly a farce and doesn't match the reality of their classrooms they leave. Many leave the profession entirely. Some stay and move to schools where administrators are experienced educators themselves.
Too bad, in a week or so everyone will have forgotten and the AUSL clout train will roll on.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 4 days ago

AUSL trainwreck

They just keep recycling administrators who have been fired for telling lies on their child's free lunch application, a principal who is sexting with his teachers, a principal/slumlord who owes the city thousands, a principal who berates her staff (no wonder there is such turnover), and they let the few good administrators leave! Crazy!
A former AUSL teacher
Anonymous wrote 1 week 4 days ago


I can verify the lie on the free lunch application.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 4 days ago


AUSL needs to clean up its house as does CPS. The administrators who are hired by CPS are less than stellar and often seem to lack ethics. They are not good role models for new teachers and are often so incompetent that they are threaten by veteran teachers who question their train wreck policies.
I will say that the best administrator I ever had in my teaching career was
an AUSL trained principal who had ten years of teaching experience. Unfortunately, he was made an offer he couldn't refuse and he left CPS for the suburbs.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 4 days ago

CTU Principal Survey

The CTU, under Deborah Lynch's, tenure instituted a principal survey which was anonymous, online and I think, run by UIC. Staff members were allowed to rate the principal. Results were published to drive school improvement and so that teachers who were planning on transferring would have info on the principal.
It was a great idea and should have continued and could have been a game changer for schools with high teach turn-over. CPS does not ask teachers why they leave a school or the system-very expensive to train and not retain. Some of the principals that CPS hires are one step away from being committed to a mental health facility or they think they are thugs and bully the staff.
Nataly Diaz wrote 1 week 4 days ago

Jarvis retention comment

It is ridiculous for Jarvis Sanford to say it is not designed for teachers to stay...... The AUSL resident teacher training program requires teachers to commit to teaching for 5 years within an AUSL school. So his comment is in contrast to their fundamental teacher preparation program.
Nataly Diaz wrote 1 week 3 days ago

Get the REAL stories

Attn: Catalyst reporters
If you want real quotes try getting them from former AUSL teachers like myself, whom have no problem giving you the real behind the scenes picture of AUSL tyranny with email proof to back it up.
Megan Phelan wrote 1 week 3 days ago

Sanford is Ridiculous

Jarvis Sanford is typical of the reason Chicago schools are so bad. He was horrible to his teachers and student teachers when he was principal at Dodge Renaissance Academy and has obviously taken it to the next level. The awful thing is that the kids are most affected by his ignorance.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 3 days ago

AUSL is in trouble

As a former AUSL "admin" employee (not teacher), I am pleased to see the beginning of the exposure of what really goes on behind the public parades. AUSL is run by two people with less than 2 years in the classroom and very little education experience at all before their MD positions. They are running what used to be a good thing into the ground by bullying employees, teachers and school admin. I also understand they lie on federal and state grants. I'm not surprised to hear them have their principals lie for funding as well.
I have never seen more empty promises and worse treatment of teachers in my life. People need to step down. Hopefully what they are doing, how AUSL is really run, will be publicly exposed. Shameful.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 3 days ago

Times must be really hard if

Times must be really hard if xx is speaking to the press! He usually keeps his crass comments behind closed doors, behind someone's back, or through one of his thug buddies:) The Morton principal should get ready to be berated for disagreeing with him! The sad thing is that he is being 100% honest, he does not care if anyone stays or goes. Of course everyone wants the very best teacher in front of ALL students, but xx and AUSL constantly change the definition of "best" to fit their own agenda. It's not working anymore.
Megan Phelan wrote 1 week 3 days ago


As a student of AUSL I did my student teaching when xx was principal at Dodge Renaissance Academy. He treated his teachers and student teachers like dirt. He allowed capital punishment and seemed to only care about scores. I have taught in both CPS and CMS and both are awful examples of political and bureaucratic nonsense wreaking havoc on our children's lives. CMS is not much-lauded. It is used as an example of how not to run a school system. They are what is wrong with American education.
retired principal ll wrote 1 week 3 days ago

CPAA also conducted a survey by principals about central office

they need to do one about the networks. cpaa did nnot release results to principals why not?
retired principal ll wrote 1 week 3 days ago

a step away from being committed thugs bullys

I do not think cps principals start out this way or intend this, (accept maybe for XX as others have mentioned here and I have heard him speak, who is to say how ausl brass treat him)
Cps has a way of demeaning you as they threat and bully principals. Unfortunately there are principals who turn mean due to cps treatment. One need only look at their outrageous principal evolution system to see why teachers think their principal is losing it or why principals retire early or resign.
retired principal ll wrote 1 week 3 days ago

as for surveys, teachers need to answer their my voice survey

and answer it in a postive manner. cps says they will add against the schools nwea score if there are not enough teachers who answer the survey they don't do that to charters do they?
cant beleive uofchgo accepts this edict as a motivator to complete their survey
teachers need to give their school and principal high scores or they put thier school in a bad light-when that happens watch out for your jobs
reminder: the rest iIl schools had their survey results supressed?
retired principal ll wrote 1 week 3 days ago

1 postive of ausl turnarounds as they dont keep veteran teachers

ausl tends to clear out veteran teachers from thier 'new' turnaround schools. our school was able to hire some of these great teachers who have done very well by thier students and thier current cps school
retired principal ll wrote 1 week 3 days ago

proof - Principal evaluations go insane in Chicago

How about this 'Principal Evaluation Placemat'?! that explains how principals will be evaluated for running Chicago schools -- without mentioning children's education or children ONCE!
Anonymous wrote 1 week 2 days ago


The problem with AUSL is not the students, families or even the media. The problem with teacher turnaround is that we have to live up to extremely high expectations and we can't always rise to them in year one of a turnaround. AUSL's heart is in the right place, but because of all the political stress and dyer need to show growth immediately it wares on the teachers.
I'm stressed out. Along with hundreds of other AUSL teachers who were trained in the AUSL way and those who were not. We are making headway but considering the media wants our lowest schools in the nation to astronomically shoot up to #1 in a years time is ridiculous. Can't you highlight our gains? Or the fact that our kids and families are feeling empowered and loved? I have kids texting me telling me they can't wait to come back to school. Doesn't that mean anything?
AUSL teachers leave because we don'tfeel like what we are doing is good enough. We break our backs,invest our own money and sacrifice our lives for a shared mission. We are over worked, under appreciated and are some of the hardest working educators in America. I believe in AUSL because I see it working. I'll end up leaving because I cannot physically work like this for the rest of my life. AUSL teachers are changing lives, but we can't be continuously treated like we are expendable. Teachers need to be appreciated and nurtured as well.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 2 days ago

Former AUSL teacher

I am a teacher with a few years of experience on my resume. I left my former teaching job to teach at an AUSL school, wanting to use abilities to help those in an under privileged area. I ended up leaving mid-year because the amount of stress was not only unbearable, it began to affect my health and quality of life. I wish the model worked and that the model could have been as great as it was made to seem at the Summer Turnaround Academy I attended. I don't think it's a problem with keeping new, younger teachers. I'm shocked they can keep teachers at all. Sadly, I'm not sure when I'll be ready to return to a classroom after my experience with this system, if ever.
xian wrote 1 week 1 day ago

Experienced educators

It is definitely positive to support the highest need students. But it's about long-term programs they get to shape and mold, not an assembly line model to push temporary growth.
Experienced teachers know this and built these amazing works, but naturally, the ego of many miracle reformers doesn't allow them to believe that respectfully learning a community and building over time is the best strategy because they never have.
This is why it's extremely dangerous for educators who have only been in the classroom for a few years to make large systemic decisions. Some empathize, but many do not understand the long game of student support.
As a result, we get plans like turnaround or push out which do tremendous long-term damage to students.
There are great AUSL teachers, great charter school teachers and tons of great neighborhood school teachers.
Anyone who ignores the beautiful works they support their students and communities in building in favor of "fire to the top" or "secret sauce" ideology is an enemy to students.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 1 day ago

AUSL and mayor; removing poor performing teachers

The mayor sends lots of extra cash to AUSL, which is a reason they are getting the turnaround schools. I'd like to see the data on AUSL compared to similar schools, and then see a cost-basis analysis. Turnarounds and AUSL are super expensive-- and ineffective.
At the same time, turnarounds allow low-quality teachers to be removed. The union prevents low-quality teachers from being removed.
Stanford economist Eric Hanushek showed that removing the lowest 10% of teachers would result in a $10 Trillion bump in the US economy. Simple solution-- remove poor performers. Complex solution with lots of clout and cash going to ineffective results: AUSL and turnarounds.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 1 day ago


Sounds like we had the same experience. I'm still picking up the pieces.
Anonymous AUSL Teacher wrote 1 week 1 day ago

If this is indeed ...

If this is indeed [the] mission for Ausl, that teachers are not expected to stay for more than 2 years, then what is the purpose of Ausl coaches? Teachers aren't expected to stay anyway, so how would you ever know that your coaching efforts are effective? I've seen Ausl teachers get coaching and then it abruptly stops because the teacher is not improving fast enough. The coaches are doing the best they can, but they are not able to see their work through.
Also, if [AUSL] is not concerned about teachers staying, why should parents and community members be interested in their schools becomin turnarounds? Where is the long term investment? Look at the turnover rates for the first turnarounds, sherman and Harvard....and dodge, Jarvis's old school. There must be a correlation between teacher turnover and the lack of academic progress at these schools.
Anonymous wrote 1 week 1 day ago

AUSL doesn't keep it's teachers for long?

True, but they make the residents sign a commitment to stay with AUSL for 5 years after they complete the residency program. So, it seems odd that that they can't keep teachers for at least that long.
Anonymous AUSL teacher-another one wrote 1 week 1 day ago

Per the 5 year contract: many

Per the 5 year contract: many teachers would rather pay the hefty $3k-11k penalty than fulfill their contract.

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