Melody is a PreK-8 elementary school located just west of Garfield Park. Despite being labeled a “receiving school”, Melody will be relocated to “closing school” Delano. This means Melody’s staff and students will begin the 2013-2014 school year in the Delano building.
There are two glaring problems with this school action. First, the passage Melody students must make from their old school to Delano is not safe. Second, the scores at Delano and Melody are roughly similar; it would be impossible to look at the data and claim that Melody is significantly higher performing.
A Safe Passage?
For many students the walk from Melody to Delano is over a mile in an area of urban blight: gang boundaries, drug dealers, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots:
“That’s not a route I’d send my child. They are going to have to come back with some better options that that… There is no way, no way, I would send my child (on that walk). And I’m not voting for anything I wouldn’t vote for for my child. OK?” —Mahalia Hines, CPS Board of Education member
“That’s quite a walk. And especially, it’s quite a walk for young children.” He added: “There were drug dealers standing along the route we walked. And if they were there now, they’ll be there when the children are walking to school.”–U.S. Rep. Danny Davis
“It’s scary. It’s just not right. […]I certainly wouldn’t want my kids doing this.” —36th Ward Alderman Nick Sposato
“It’s a very dangerous walk,” —Shakeena Sturgent, Delano parent.
(Photo: An open abandoned building on the route from Melody to Delano).
“How does a school that’s on probation come in and take over a school that’s not on probation?”–28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin
Indeed, there is no clear academic winner when student test scores at Delano and Melody are compared. Both schools are “Level 2” schools. Both schools show student growth that is above the national average. Delano is not on probation, but Melody has been on probation for 6 years. According to their CPS report cards, Delano’s student performance (based on Scantron tests) is average; Melody’s student performance score (based on NWEA tests) is below average. On ISAT meets/exceeds scores, more of Delano’s students met or exceed state standards (73.7%) than Melody’s (68.8%). Yet when when examining the more rigorous “exceeds at grade 8” scores, Melody edges out Delano (5.4% of Melody students exceed state standards at grade 8 compared with 0% of Delano students). In total, these scores paint a picture of two comparable schools. Neither school meets the “top quartile” benchmark that a University of Chicago study found was required for displaced students to make better than expected achievement gains.
A Community Anchor:
Amidst a neighborhood divided up by gang territories, Melody Elementary, in its current location, is a haven for students and student learning. In the “My School, My Voice survey,” students rated Melody’s supportive environment highly, earning it a “green” (strong) rating. At a CPS hearing, Ladonya, a student at Melody, testified about the effect closing Melody’s doors would have:
“Closing Melody means you are sending little kids farther than they have to go. They will have to pass sad memorials of people have who died, drugs selling on the corners, and even some gang lines. Closing Melody will put the students at the risk of being shot, hurt or worse, killed. Melody is home to many children. Melody is the place that is safe haven and serves to protect and guide the students.”–Melody student