Chicago Teachers Union lauds failing community school, wants 180 more

Chicago Teachers Union lauds failing community school, wants 180 more

The Chicago Teachers Union hosted a press conference to begin contract negotiations at one of the sustainable community schools it wants to replicate 180 times. The Ellen H. Richards Career Academy has zero students proficient in reading or math.

“We have committed as an entire union to using our contract to create more sustainable community schools like Richards Academy,” Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates said April 16 at a press conference in front of the Ellen H. Richards Career Academy to kick off the union’s contract negotiations.

The problem: Richards Academy failed to produce a single student who tested proficient in reading or math on the SAT, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Nearly 80% of students are chronically absent. Nearly one out of every 10 students drop out of the high school. Less than 70% of students graduate high school in four years.

What’s more, these abysmal results come at a per-student cost nearly $3,800 more than the average across all other Chicago Public Schools.

Richards Academy is exactly the type of school Davis Gates and CTU will use contract negotiations to force the school district to replicate 180 more times across Chicago.

CTU points to struggling Richards Career Academy as model for CPS

Davis Gates said Richards Academy, a sustainable community high school on the southwest side of Chicago, is the “type of school community that is necessary to nurture, to educate, to reimagine, to ameliorate injustice and disparity.”

Yet data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows Richards Academy is a school community where students are struggling to succeed and learn.

None of Richards Academy’s 11th grade students who took the SAT in spring 2023 could read or do math at grade level.

The sustainable community high school with the highest percentage of students proficient in reading and math is Thomas Kelly College Preparatory High School, and it doesn’t do much better. Only 10% of 11th grade students at Thomas Kelly could read at grade level and only 7% were proficient in math.

Richards Academy is also failing by other measures:

  • Nearly 80% of Richards Academy students are chronically absent – a rate double the average across CPS, countering CTU’s claims that one of the benefits of sustainable community schools is decreased absenteeism rates.
  • Only 69% of students manage to graduate from Richards Academy in four years. The average graduation rate across CPS is 14 percentage points higher than at Richards Academy.
  • Over 8% of students drop out of Richards Academy, double the district average. Hispanic students are the most likely to drop out at Richards Academy, with more than one in every 10 Hispanic students dropping out of the high school.
  • Only 21% of students enroll in post-secondary school within 12 months of graduating. That’s compared to an average post-secondary enrollment rate of 59% across CPS.

Expenditures per student are nearly $3,800 higher at Richards Academy compared to the average across CPS. Spending per student is over $24,000 to produce unacceptable results.

Despite the failures at sustainable community schools such as Richards Academy, CTU’s contract demands include expanding their number by 900%, increasing from 20 to 200 sustainable community schools by the end of the contract. But three out of every five seats at Richards Academy are empty. Data shows enrollment is only meeting 43% of the school’s ideal capacity in the current 2023-2024 school year.

“We want this type of school all over the district,” Davis Gates said. “But the most wonderful thing about that is not only does the union want it, the mayor of Chicago wants it.”

Davis Gates and Mayor Brandon Johnson, who worked for CTU and had his campaign bankrolled by it, may want more sustainable community schools such as Richards Academy. But parents and students are showing they don’t: half of CPS’ 20 sustainable community schools are more than half empty.

And more importantly, the data shows these schools are failing Chicago’s students.

If this is CTU’s model for the type of school to best educate and nurture students, Chicago parents ought to be concerned.

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