WEST ENGLEWOOD — Michelle Clark, a parent and Local School Council member at Elaine Goodlow Elementary, has no intention of sending her 9-year-old back to the South Side school for the rest of the school year.
She, like parents of as many as one-third of the students at the school, held her son out of school for some or all of last week — a "boycott" to protest the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools' officials to turn the administration of Goodlow over to nearby Charles Earle Elementary.
"Home is where he will stay until something is done about the ridiculous changes by CPS to my baby's school," Clark said late last week at a media conference outside Goodlow, 2040 W. 62nd St.
No matter how she looks at it, she cannot figure out why CPS made the decision, she said.
Goodlow performed better on state achievement tests in 2012: 59.9 percent of students met or exceeded state standards, compared to 57.6 percent at Earle. While both schools are on academic probation and saw test scores drop from 2011, Earle's scores fell by 8.8 percentage points, compared to a 3.2 percentage point drop at Goodlow.
"Why increase class sizes by dumping kids from a lower performing school into a higher performing school? That's makes no sense whatsoever," she said.
Goodlow also has higher attendance rates (92.6 percent vs. 90 percent). And the school has more students — 358, to Earle's 335 — calling into question which school is more underutilized.
Basically, every argument the district put forward, she said, is bogus.
"We outperformed them on the ISAT [Illinois Scholastic Achievement Test], and we have a higher attendance record than Earle," she said.
To add insult to injury, the district is handing over Goodlow's building, which has air-conditioning, to Earle's staff and renaming it Earle Elementary.
"To steal their identity by renaming the school and taking away their teachers is what really put me over the edge," she said.
Ihechi Abu Sadiki, principal of Goodlow, was unavailable for comment.
CPS spokesman David Miranda noted that Earle performed higher on metrics established by a Commission on School Utilization, set up earlier in the year by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Those metrics, which include ISAT scores but also other measures, gave Earle 35.7 percent of available points, compared with 31 percent for Goodlow, he said.
While Miranda couldn't confirm how many students missed school last week, he said "CPS encourages all students to attend every day of school, and we encourage parents to join us in helping make sure children are in the classroom where they belong."
Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th) also urged the parents to end the boycott and said the parents' decision to keep their kids at home didn't make any sense.
"Are you really hurting CPS by keeping your kids out of school?" Foulkes said.
She questioned "why Goodlow parents are upset when their children are not leaving the building. They get to stay in the same building. It's the kids at Earle that must leave their building next school year to attend school somewhere else. And the Earle parents are fine with it."
Still, Jennie Biggs, a member of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, said she worried about the potential result of mixing kids from different neighborhoods and cultures.
"Bringing kids from Earle into Goodlow will open up a whole new culture," she said. "One that could have a bad outcome."