Save Collins High School

Monday, January 30, 2006

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.


  • At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Amy said…

    I'm sorry to rain on your parade (or blog, as it may be), but an ACT score of 14 is just plain dismal. Of course, it's not surprising in light of the fact that only 9% of your students score at or above standards for their grade level.

    I only heard today about the closing of your school, and came to this blog to find out more. Nothing I have read here has convinced me that this school should remain open.

  • At 10:48 PM, Anonymous c overstreet said…

    Why should this school remain open?

    *The 3 area schools (Manley, Marshall, and Crane)that N. Lawndale's children will be sent to have the same or WORSE test scores as Collins.

    *Collins has 91% of its teachers recognized as highly qualified. Manley, Marshall, and Crane all have a lower percentage of highly qualified teachers.

    *These children will have to cross gang boundary lines to get to these schools. Making it even more dangerous for them to get to school.

    With these facts in mind, how could closing Collins possilbly be a good thing for the students?

    All closing Collins does is move the problems the of inner city to another location. It does not solve anything. Are these kids magically supposed to perform better in a new school that is almost identical? This is just plain insane logic.

    Overall, average ACT scores in the city are low. Here is a list of schools that have an average score of 16 or less:

    Best Practice
    Gage Park
    Kelvyn Park

    A 16 on the ACT is nothing to brag about. Quite a list of schools here in Chicago have some work to do. Closing them will not solve the problem either.

    Unfortunately I do not have the solution or I would be a rich man, but I do know that closing schools without any real plan in place to help the kids is not the solution

    **all information regarding statistics can easily be found on the Chicago Public School website under High School Scorecard.

  • At 10:25 AM, Blogger J. Dudley said…

    Clearly what is needed here is a systemic overhaul. Amy you are right, a 14 is abysmal, but, as Mr. Overstreet points out, there is a plethora of CPS schools scoring at, below, or just above our scores. How does closing one school resolve the problems of an entire system. That's what's absurd.
    Furthermore there are great things happening at Collins that don't show up in the numbers. We work with the absolute poorest children in the state of Illinois, and these kids face very real challenges that non-inner-city folks may not realize. Such as the difficulty in getting to school every day, and the very powerful, and influential lure of the street. There are real gold chain wearing, Lexus driving, handfuls of cash dealing "role models" in this neighborhood. Getting a Collins HS student to stay in school, improve his reading from the 5th grade level, where he started as a Freshman to no fault of ours, to the 8th grade level, learn a trade skill, develop manners and maturity, learn how to problem solve, and graduate to a 4yr. uni, community college, or trades school is a major victory, and that's what we work towards and achieve everyday.
    We save hundreds of kids from the streets at Collins High School, and the Board has no measuring device for that.

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