Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Koldyke's Chicago 'turnaround' investment

It all began when venture capitalist and Mayor Daley golf buddy, Mike Koldyke (Frontenac Capital) decided he could save the public school system by running it like a business. Frontenac had been a big investor in for-profit colleges like DeVry and Rasmussen College, which trained technically skilled workers for local businesses. Scrutiny of for-profit colleges by the feds has them, and everybody across the for-profit sector, examining how they measure student success and relying more and more on standardized testing.

In 2001, with lots of political clout and years of good will built up from his days sponsoring the Golden Apple Foundation, and as a trustee of  the Chicago Public Education Fund, Koldyke decided to get into the heavily D.O.E.-funded school-turnaround business by establishing his own non-profit venture, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).

Koldyke brought in Chicago banker and corporate power broker, David Vitale to run his operation. Vitale was then tapped by Mayor Emanuel to become Chicago school board president along with another AUSL exec, Tim Cawley, coming over  to serve as CPS Chief Administrative Officer. With virtual control of the board and the central office, Koldyke can now assure a stable funding pipeline to his 19 turnaround schools, even in the midst of the current budget crisis when neighborhood schools are being starved of operating cash.
"Clearly they're very tied in to the political establishment in Chicago and they're getting opportunities in funding not available to anybody else," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education. -- Chicago Tribune
The Trib goes on to report:
The new CPS administration backs the organization but critics are concerned that turnaround schools, which are championed by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, get resources at the expense of neighborhood schools.
...the 19 turnaround schools — failing schools targeted for overhaul by CPS — are run by the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which will train 90 teachers in its academies this year. The number of AUSL training academies will double to 14 within the next two years. The program partners with National-Louis University, placing graduate students in AUSL-run turnaround schools.
With those extra millions in CPS funding at its disposal, AUSL claims to have produced an 8-point rise in elementary school test scores but little or no gain in high school scores. But with the modest bump in test scores has come lots of chaos and disruption in the lives of thousands of the neediest of Chicago's school kids. Koldyke's prescription for the city's so-called "failing schools" is the mass firing of teachers and their replacement with AUSL teachers along with an accompanying movement of kids from one school to another. This disruption and break in relationship between students, teachers and their former schools, was one of the factors in the 2009 melee at Fenger High School which led to the death of Derion Albert. In a column on the Fenger tragedy published in the Chicago Sun-Times (October 2, 2009) former CTU president Deborah Lynch wrote,
“School turnarounds have turned out to be the deadliest reform of all. How could anyone expect that completely eliminating all the professionals and staff of a tough high-poverty high school could be a good thing?”

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