Save Collins High School

Monday, January 30, 2006

Get involved

Want to help us fight against the hypocrisy of school closures?

Then join us Wednesday February 1st at Collins High School at 3:30pm for a rally and a little bus ride to City Hall to share our views with those in charge.
If you are not sure about making such a commitment to our cause you may instead attend our Town Hall Meeting on Thursday February 2nd, also at Collins High School, at 6:00pm.
Either way get involved, and help us stand up for urban education and the students who need it the most.

George W. Collins High School is located at 1313 S. Sacramento Dr. One block south of Roosevelt Road between California and Kedzie.

True Lies

So if test scores and academic achievement are not the real reasons for the proposed closing of George W. Collins High School then what is? Better get the Real Estate section from your Chicago Tribune, because the answer lies in property values, and in the ever-menacing, ever-growing "G" word: gentrification.
Any fool with two eyes can look across the street from Collins High School and see the initial work being done on gut re-hab condominiums lining the west side of Douglas Park. Condominiums which well sell for over $300,000, a price tag way beyond the means of the families that have lived, worked, and died in this community, called North Lawndale, for the past 30 years. A community that is impoverished, crime-ridden, beat down in the media, and almost entirely African-American. It is in fact interesting to note that the four schools chosen for closing have an average student body population of 99% African-American. The other 1% are certain to be Hispanic. Furthermore the average percentage of students at those schools receiving free and reduced lunch (the state's measure for how impoverished the student body is) is 96%. George W. Collins High School, for that matter, has 99% of its students on free and reduced lunch, the highest number in the entire state of Illinois. To be harsh, these numbers further reveal that not a single majority, middle class, tax-paying, voting, white family will be effected by these closures. This is not playing the race card, this is simply reporting the facts. To go a step further it is very easy to look east and to see the type of family that is coming, and it is not the former, rather, but the latter.
Brinks Armored Security opened a massive warehouse for its trucks last year 3 blocks away from Collins High School. I saw no signs informing the community that job applications would be accepted there despite the large workforce needed to run such an expansive warehouse. Who are the workers then coming into this community? 1 block from Collins (hardly, it's across the park - 200 yards), Roosevelt University is building a large, 3-story extension. It is a beautiful building, and no doubt will not only house students from communities outside of Lawndale, but faculty, staff, and other such workers as well. Think they'll invite the community to come in, have a look around, use the facilities, and apply for jobs therein, think again. 4 blocks away on Western Avenue there are sprawling new condominium developments. And 2 blocks further east of that begins the massive Hospital Row, featuring no less than 4 of Chicago's biggest facilities. No doubt the scores of hospital staff who commute daily would love to live a scant 5-minute bus ride from their employer. The city planners are not stupid, they know which direction the wind is blowing, and what underachieving inner-city high school stands smack dab in the middle of their expansion. Deny the school freshmen now, completely remove the student body by 2009 and in 2010 city leaders will be able to present a brand new charter school (sponsored by the big business of the moment) with, no doubt, updated facilities, to entice more "desirable" families to move back to the west side. If you are not yet convinced, and consider me run amok with conspiracy theory, then take a minute to examine for yourself who owns several buildings within walking distance of Collins High School. You will find that the answer is none other than Chicago Public Schools President Michael Scott. How convenient that he gets to "close a failing school" and pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars off a subsequent increase in the property values of each of those buildings that he owns. Education warrior? Education crook.

Punching Holes in the Board's Argument

The best idea in opening any debate is to first acknowledge your opponent's argument and then state clearly and with evidence why your opponent is wrong. This is the intention of this post.

The Chicago Board of Education has stated through its own leadership, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan that George W. Collins High School was selected for the proposed closing because of a history of low test scores and no growth. To be more specific they have have said repeatedly, on radio, television, and in the newspapers, that Collins High School has "a history of poor academic achievement". This statement relating directly to the fact that Collins High School has had less than 10% of students testing at or above state standards for a number of years. This fact is not in dispute. We also recognize that this is the main reason identified by the Board for closing our school. However we believe that when one actually looks at the numbers it becomes clear, that while our scores are low there is a certain measurable amount of academic growth taking place at Collins High School. Therefore we would like to take a minute to present the actual numbers which represent us:

  • Our state test scores have risen 1 percentage point each year for three years a row. From 7% at or above standards in 2003 to 9.3% in 2005
  • Our ACT scores have risen for 4 years in a row. Our students currently have an average ACT of 14.6 our highest score since 2001.
  • Our attendance has held steady, while we have increased our graduation rate, and decreased chronic truancy
  • Our reading scores have steadily grown from 14% at or above state standards in 2001 to 21% currently
  • Collins High School has decreased its incident reports (cataloguing fights, crime, school vandalism, etc.) over the past two years, and Maggie Daley, wife of Mayor Richard Daley, marveled at the school's cleanliness and said it was the most organized she had seen it in years.

These facts have not been addressed by the leaders of the Chicago Public School system. Nor do they want to talk about the schools that are ranked below us. That's right, there are several, including no less than 3 in the same community. Now we want to reiterate that we are against all school closings, but since the Board is intent on doing this it would seem that they would look to close the worst one, not one that has shown 3 years of growth. The proof is the same test scores that they are indicting us with. Last year, in our third year of improved scores, Collins HS scored a 9.3 on the state mandated PSAE tests. A rival high school 4 blocks north of us scored a 9.0, another school to the west scored an 8.3, and still yet a third area school, only 10 blocks north of us, scored a 7.0. In fact that school has had no growth in its ACT scores in 5 years. If the Board is seeking to close schools with low academic achievement why not choose a school that is actually achieving lower than Collins? Because the real reason Collins High School has been selected for the proposed closing doesn't have anything to do with our test scores, it has to do with reasons far more sinister. Reasons that involve the racial make up of the student body at Collins High School, its beautiful location in the heart of Douglas Park, and the ever increasing property values of the west side streets between Kedzie and Western Avenues (see the posting True Lies). But don't rely on us, do your own homework and post your results here in the comments section. We believe our integrity and the hard work we have put in will speak for itself.

Opening Statement

This blog has been created as a method through which the leadership committee of Collins High School can post information, updates, and photographs regarding our campaign to save Collins High School, in Chicago, Il. from being closed by the Chicago Board of Education.
The intent for this action is to be positive and informative. We are not looking for doubters or naysayers. If you have concerns about our decision making, or of the course of this campaign then please let us know in a professional manner, with specific suggestions as to how we can improve our direction.
Mainly we are trying to provide a central link for those who wish to know more about us and our campaign, and those who have the information, and more importantly, the truth about Collins High School and the proposed closing of the school.
Thanks for visiting and taking the time to read this statement. We hope that you take the time to read through the information posted here, and consider seriously the plight of urban education in Chicago and the United States for that matter. Your voice can be a contribution, and the more voices we have the better we sound.