What happens when the principal of the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago resigns? He writes a very detailed blog explaining his decision. Former principal of Blaine Elementary School, Troy LaRaviere, wrote a long explanation addressed to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Here’s what LaRaviere had to say:
Dear Mayor Emanuel:
In 2010 Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school. After being hired to lead Blaine in the fall of 2011, I told my Local School Council (LSC) I had a “six-year plan” to turn Blaine into the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago.
I have the pleasure of informing you that I lived up to my promise to the Blaine LSC, and I did so a year earlier than promised. Last Monday, Chicago Magazine released its elementary school rankings for 2016. Blaine is now ranked as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago, and #3 public school in the City overall. In the process, working with motivated teachers and engaged parents, we increased the percentage of students meeting reading standards from an already high 79% to 89% in just our first two years. That kind of growth from an already high performing school–without the addition of a selective enrollment program–is unprecedented.
Behind this significant accomplishment are a series of basic concepts based on empirical evidence regarding effective school practices and thoughtful consideration of how we might apply those practices at Blaine. One fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum. When I arrived, less than 30% of students had access to it; today more than 90% have access. As is the case with most CPS schools, Blaine has a talented hard working staff. Another critical element of our success was to involve that staff in an effort to create systems, relationships, and patterns of collaborative activity that are proven to improve teacher performance, and therefore improve student achievement. In many ways, that was the easy part.
The difficult part was mustering the will and stamina to remain steadfast in our commitment to use evidence-based practice in the face of tremendous pressure–from politicians like you–to adopt baseless “school reform” ideas like “tracking” (school based selective enrollment), “choice,” and the over-evaluation of teachers; ideas that are grounded in ideology and politics as opposed to proven effective educational methods. In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics. And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you.
I spent a lot of time fighting those politics during my first two years at Blaine. Some of the people I fought had good intentions, but it was abundantly clear that they did not understand effective education policy. Rather, they came with ideology and politics. We came, instead, with empirical research and evidence.
Click here to read the entire letter on Troy’s blog.
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