Social Enterprise Helps Turn Chicago School Around

Show and Tell - explaining the rain game [Photo by woodleywonderworks] (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Joey and April working on their keyboarding skills [Photo by Extra Ketchup] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Social Enterprise Helps Turn Chicago School Around

Harvard Elementary School in Englewood, IL was a teacher’s worst nightmare, which consistently ranked at the bottom of Illinois public schools in terms of test scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). However, this became one of the best good business ideas. In 2007, the school was handed over to a social enterprise organization called the Academy for Urban School Leadership (ASUL), which launched a massive turnaround. They started by replacing all of the faculty and staff at the school, and renovating the building as well. ASUL skeptics, including the Chicago Teachers Union and some local families, have argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify handing the school over to ASUL, but the Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan believed in the organization. As Secretary of Education for the Obama administration, he has made turnaround a centerpiece of his agenda and highlighted ASUL as an example.