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CPS to bring 31 ‘turnaround’ schools back under district management

The school system plans to phase out its school management partnership with the Academy of Urban School Leadership over the next three years, starting with 16 schools next year.

Orr Academy High School, 730 N. Pulaski Rd., is run by the Academy of Urban School Leadership.
Orr Academy High School, 730 N. Pulaski Rd., is run by the Academy of Urban School Leadership.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times, Sun-Times Media

Chicago Public Schools officials plan to move 31 schools back into the district’s control after 15 years of private management by a not-for-profit organization that used controversial “turnaround” strategies.

The school system said Wednesday it would phase out its school management partnership with the Academy of Urban School Leadership over the next three years, starting with 16 schools next year.

CPS first brought AUSL into the fold in 2006 to “transform” schools the district deemed were struggling with poor academic records. The organization’s M.O. was to fire entire school staffs — everyone from principals and teachers to janitors — and make them reapply for their positions under new leadership.

Critics have said those takeovers led to mass firings of Black educators in predominantly Black schools and contributed to the racial disparities in today’s teaching ranks.

“AUSL has been a critical partner in helping schools and communities in need of additional support, which has led to years of consistent, stable, and improved academic experiences for thousands of CPS students,” CPS spokesman James Gherardi said in a statement announcing the end of the partnership.

Gherardi said the district decided to make the change because “AUSL schools have successfully demonstrated sustained progress” and no longer needed the organization’s support.

The schools, which serve about 16,000 students, would move back into CPS’ geographic networks. Officials are set to propose the move at this month’s Board of Education meeting, and plans are underway to engage each school community about the transition in the coming weeks.

CPS will still pay AUSL more than $1 million per year for a teacher training program that will cover at least 75 teachers each year. The district said it would propose a new three year partnership at the school board meeting.