CPS Withholds Report On Kids From 50 Closed Schools

The district refuses to provide information on what happened to the students in the year after their schools were shuttered.

Main photo courtesy of Bill Healy/WBEZ. Forrest Claypool photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times.

So whatever happened to the 12,000 or so students displaced by the 2013 closings of 50 city schools?

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked guy, refuses to say – holding hostage a report that would shed light on where those kids ended up, and more importantly, how they’ve done academically.

We learned about the report – called an “After Action Report” – and asked CPS for a copy. But Claypool’s aides wouldn’t give it up, saying it’s still a “draft” and therefore it doesn’t have to be released under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees public access to most public records.

But . . . the report, we’re told by someone in the know, is dated Nov. 10, 2014 – or more than a year after the schools were shuttered and, we should note, more than a year ago from today.

And the report is still a draft?


Related Article: Rahm’s School Closings – What Happened To The Desks, Laptops, Books?


Or is Emanuel trying to avoid renewed talk about his controversial decision to close those 50 schools, which were primarily located on the South and West sides and caused huge uproar in those communities?
 
We just wrote about how CPS can’t say what happened to all the supplies and equipment from those buildings.

The last official word from CPS on what happened to the students came in March 2014 after two quarters of attendance in their new schools. In then-CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s presentation to the school board, she declared victory, saying, “We’re stronger today than we were before and better positioned than we were before. Students impacted by the consolidations are making academic gains.”
 
But a close look at Byrd-Bennett’s handouts showed only small gains. Half of the students had increased attendance a bit, while the other half did not. Students had slightly fewer misconducts and slightly higher grade point averages.
 
Meanwhile, other CPS data shows some of the receiving schools that were designated for students leaving the 50 closed schools have faced a rocky road. Forty-two of the so-called “welcoming” schools are currently underutilized, or with too much space and not enough kids.
 
CPS officials decided which schools to close in 2013 based on underutilization.
 
The combined population of the closed and “welcoming” schools in 2012-2013 was about 32,000 students. Today, fewer than 25,000 students go to the “welcoming” schools.
 
So there’s evidence that Emanuel’s school closures didn’t serve Chicagoans as well as the mayor promised.
 
But CPS must give a fuller accounting, and soon, and stop hiding behind words such as “draft.”

About the Author

Sarah Karp

Sarah Karp was a senior investigator at the BGA in 2016, responsible for covering public education, among other topics, before moving to WBEZ. A former reporter for Catalyst-Chicago, the Chicago Reporter and the Daily Southtown, Karp has covered education, and children and family issues for more than 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.