“Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” And charter schools.

February 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm 60 comments

I’ve spent the day (well, in addition to working) mulling over several interesting Internet articles about CPS about the success (or lack thereof of charter schools.)

I started the day by getting a link to this article that features a video made by some high school students (Sullivan, a neighborhood high school) that purports that Rahm Emanuel (a charter school supporter) “lied” in a recent speech when he boldly stated that “If you take out Northside [College Prep], if you take out Walter Payton, the seven best performing high schools are all charters.”  OK, anyone with minimal knowledge of SE High Schools would immediately know that there’s no way that’s correct.  I don’t need to see any data to know that the other Selective Enrollment high schools would be at the top of that list.  I checked some numbers this morning and confirmed that top 7 scoring schools (PSAE composite 2010 Meets/Exceeds) are all SE schools.  None of the top 10 schools are charters.


It took me about 1 minute to infer that Rahm meant “The Northsides, the Paytons, etc,” meaning all selective schools.  That seemed a little more plausible.

I then happened upon this Trib article about parents getting letters this week about Charter school acceptance.  Charters operate via lottery, like the magnets do (Or did… magnets now include a neighborhood proximity lottery for many schools – elementary at least – doe this apply to HS too?)  The story features a mother who has done a ton of research and legwork in the hopes of getting her kids into charters, which she feels offers small classes, college prep curriculum, longer school day and graduation rates.


 In that article, I saw the following blurb, which is clearly what was driving Rahm’s statement:  Critics have maintained that charters, which get government funding, take resources away from traditional schools. While seven of the top 10 nonselective city high schools are charters, as measured by the ACT average, many charter schools perform no better than their neighborhood counterparts.”

 This confirmed my hunch that the 7-out-of-10 data refers to non-selective schools.  I checked the data they mentioned, and sure enough, charters DO have a strong presence in the top schools.  But… so do magnet schools. And military schools (also selective.. maybe they don’t count.) And Small high schools (which get a special designation under CPS.)

 So does this make a case for magnets?  Kind of.  I think it DOES make a case for schools that use some kind of selection process, even a random lottery.   The lottery pulls out kids from families whose parents are concerned about education and are willing/able to make the effort to seek information, fill out applications, figure out transportation, and have siblings in multiple schools if that’s what it takes.

 Although many of the top non-selective high schools are charters, not all charter HS are excelling.  Worth noting, none of the bottom high schools in the city are charters.

 So the million dollar question is where to funnel limited fund.  Given a horrifying shortage of education funds in out state/city, do we spend money on charters that will benefit the kids who win a spot?  Open more magnet schools?  SE high schools? Or try to find a way to improve the neighborhood schools with limited funds?  The kids’ video says that DeValle is in favor of improving neighborhood schools but doesn’t mention how or with what funds.  Who wouldn’t want to support the kids at Sullivan where 33% are reading at grade level and 22% are doing math at grade level? The question is how….?  (A question I hope to explore a bit more in the next few months.)

 After my day of reading/number crunching, I remain open towards charters (perhaps biased by some of the recent discussion here.)  The charters do appear more at the top of the list than at the bottom of the list performance-wise.  But I don’t think the numbers make a compelling case in favor of shutting them down OR accelerating their presence in the city.  They’re possibly another decent option (or “choice” as CPS likes to call their lotteries) for parents to opt out of the local schools.  Which makes the task of improving the neighborhood high schools even more daunting.  Ergh.  I truly don’t know what I’d do if I were in charge of CPS.

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What’s good about CPS The more things change….

60 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Grace  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Could you add the high school rankings you are working from? Or at least point us to them? Do you have AYP, too? Thanks.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. Let me try… WordPress is not good for stuff like that.

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    School + Composite ACT 2010 (2010 PSAE Meets/Exceeds %)

    NORTHSIDE PREP HS (SE) 28.5 (99%)
    PAYTON HS (SE) 27.6 (97%)
    YOUNG HS (SE) 26.2 (93%)
    JONES HS (SE) 24.8 (87%)
    LANE HS (SE) 22.9 (84%)
    LINCOLN PARK HS (N/IB) 21.4 (62%)
    BROOKS HS (SE) 21.2 (70%)
    LINDBLOM HS (SE) 21.0 (64%)
    VON STEUBEN HS (magnet/selective admin) 20.0 (52%)
    NOBLE ST CHTR-PRITZKER (CH) 19.9 (49%) NOBLE ST CHTR-NOBLE (CH) 19.8 (49%)
    KING HS (SE) 19.7 (52%)
    CHGO AGR HS (magnet) 19.6 (54%)
    NOBLE ST CHTR-RAUNER (CH) 19.5 (49%)
    RICKOVER HS (Military) 19.5 (53%)
    DEVRY HS (Magnet) 19.3 (44%)
    CICS-NORTHTOWN (CH) 19.1 (38%)
    NOBLE ST CHTR-ROWE CLARK (CH) 19.0 (39%)
    TAFT HS (N/AC) 18.9 (45%)
    NOBLE ST CHTR-GOLDER (CH) 18.8 (45%)
    MORGAN PARK HS (Neigh/IB Stanine 6+) 18.7 (40%)
    KENWOOD HS (N/AC) 18.7 (43%)
    PHOENIX MILITARY HS (Military) 18.7 (46%)
    CHGO ACAD HS (N small) 18.4 (38%)
    WILLIAMS, D (College/career prep – req application) 18.3 (33%)
    LAKE VIEW HS (Neigh) 18.2 (27%)
    HUBBARD HS (Neigh) 17.7 (34%)
    PROSSER HS (Career acad – stanine 5+) 17.5 (28%)
    CHGO MILITARY ACAD HS (Military) 17.5 (28%)

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Spreadsheets are available here. Just scroll down for a variety of reporting options:


  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    For the record, I’m not sure how Taft/Kenwood factor in. the HS is neighborhood (?) but they have Academic Centers. Which shouldn’t affect their ACT scores… but it seems coincidentatl that they rate near the top. Not sure whether to count them as Selective or not for high school.

  • 6. Grace  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve never seen this list before, great job there! Now, I wonder what are the ACT scores for the top Chicago parochial schools?

  • 7. jinny  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Politicians have steered the conversation to their advantage. They have us arguing about which type of school should be supported.
    How about putting politicians’ feet to the fire on why Illinois is 49th out of 50th with regard to education funding? Illinois houses the 3rd largest education system (chicago) in the entire country.
    The other fact that is often overlooked when articles discuss charters is the fact that they operate with 80 cents on the dollar that neighborhood schools receive (Magnets and SE schools receive more funding than neighborhood schools). Plus, charters have to pay for rent and utilities out of this 80 cents where as other CPS schools do not.
    One of the big reasons Charters can operate on 80 cents on the dollar – they do not have union teachers (so no huge pension costs). The teachers are non-union and tend to believe in the cause. Also, charters seek private donations for some of their funding (hence the “don’t privatize our schools” rhetoric by the unions).
    Bottom line: We need to be open to all successful models. If one doesn’t agree with a certain model – don’t send your child there.
    We need to demand more funding for our education system. 49/50 is shameful. We are having the wrong conversation.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Excellent point, Jinny.
    I’d have to think that anyone in their right mind would agree that CPS needs some major overhauling. But with our sad education budget, it just isn’t going to happen without a LOT of creative ideas, hard work, or miracles.

  • 9. Grace  |  February 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    @cps obsessed, If you think that a little data is good, and a lot of data is better, ythen you might check out this site:


    For a ranking of the top 100 high schools in Illinois, city and suburbs, based on the 2009 -2010 PSAE reading & Math scores.

    Whic brings me to another topic for another time — what is the difference between the SAT, ACT, and PSAE?

  • 10. Grace  |  February 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Top 10, based on PSAE:
    Northside, Walter Payton, Whitney Young, Deerfield, New Trier, Jones, Hinsdale Central, Glenbrook North, Lane Tech, and Lake Forest.

  • 11. cps Mom  |  February 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    #6 – very well put. I agree completely. Also note that new schools would be excluded from the data (Noble UIC and Westinghouse) and that it takes some time to bring scores up. When you consider that a student at a Charter or a Magnet HS could (and does) come from a neighborhood school with C’s and D’s – Not the A’s and B’s of SE – an average ACT of 19 is an accomplishment. If these schools challenge students at both the upper and lower academic levels and have a successful formula then I believe that there is hope for overall enrichment of Chicagps public school system.

  • 12. parent  |  February 11, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    To #7: The attached link contains information about charter schools and pension costs. You can’t really say that charters save money because no union means no pension cost. That is certainly not true in Chicago. Many of the top charters contribute to their teachers’ pensions at the same rate that the BOE contributes to CPS union teachers’ pensions (in non-charter schools).


    We have a few ex-charter teachers who teach at the school where I work. I have heard them talk about having been part of the CPS pension plan while at their charter.

  • 13. Jinny  |  February 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    To #12
    Thanks for the information. I retract the “so no huge pension costs” part of my entry for now.
    I’d like to do more research on this (or ask your input).
    The percent contribution to pension is based on salary, right?
    And the longer you’ve been a teacher, likely the higher salary?
    From what I’ve heard, it’s hard to fire/lay off a non-performing union teacher, especially one that has been in the system for years. So they stick around, often making a higher salary (with higher pension contributions) and aren’t doing the best job for progressing students.
    Let me be very clear that I believe most of the union CPS teachers are performers and good at their job.
    Charters are still 80 cents on the dollar. Charters are cheaper.

  • 14. Raminder S. Chadha  |  February 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

    CPS spends over $10,000 per student per year. Is that really underfunded? We have 50% dropout rate and that’s not due to lack of funding. Similar to healthcare, we spend the most but get questionable results. Just my 2 cents…

  • 15. Y  |  February 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Great analysis. I think that school size needs to be brought into the discussion when comparing charters and neighborhood CPS high schools. Of the 35 charter high schools listed on the CPS website, most are targeting or limited to approx. 150 students per grade. Of the 47 listed neighborhood high schools, only 7 have that few students per grade. The norm for neighborhood HS is between 250 and 500 per grade. I believe the charters have an advantage when working with a much smaller population and a self-selected group of families who made the effort to search out the programs. At this point, the bulk of neighborhood high schools are probably getting a limited number of engaged students, which makes some of the standout neighborhood schools really impressive.

  • 16. RL Julia  |  February 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    @14 – o.k. Here are some statistics (from the Illinois Interactive Report Card) – provided they are a little dated… In 2008-9 Lake Forest spent $7,684 in “instructional” dollars per grade school student. The total per student cost for that year was $14,047. The poverty rate of the student body in Lake Forest is 1%. For that same school year, Evanston spent $8,119 for their grade school aged “instructional” cost per student. The total cost was $14,441. The poverty rate of the student body for the Evanston school district is 39%. For that same time period, Chicago spent $7,690 per student in instructional costs and $12,880 total per student. The poverty rate of the student body in Chicago is 87%. This amount includes high school students which for Lake Forest and Evanston respectively the per pupil amounts are $11,890/$23,789 and $10,469/$20,223.

    Since it is pretty well accepted that the poverty rate of a student population at large correlates positively with school readiness, ISAT scores and many other measures that are used to define quality in education, I would imagine, that even if Chicago schools were funded equally in comparison to areas with lower poverty rates that they would not necessarily do as well.

    So to answer your question – while $10,000 seems like a lot of money per pupil – at least for an individual, Chicago is hardly leading the way in per pupil costs regionally – this is only exacerbated when you also add in the costs of facility maintenance (Chicago has more, older schools to maintain, upgrade etc…) the poverty rate of the student population and the large number of special education students (as determined by the ISAT 3rd grade reading school 2011 sample). While Chicago doesn’t have a larger percentage of kids with IEPs, because of the size of the system there are about a hundred times more (for instance the sample sizes I got from the Illinois Report card were 633 non-IEP 3rd grade English testers and 58 IEP tester in Evanston (9.2%), 208 non-IEP 3rd grade testers and 24 IEP testers in Lake Forest (11.5%) and 28,022 non-IEP 3rd grade testers and 2,989 IEP testers in Chicago.(10.6%), while there are some economies of scale, I still would imagine the overall costs are higher. However, in all fairness, I don’t know if IEP accommodations and etc… are counted in the per pupil costs I outlined above.

  • 17. bagg  |  February 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Rahm’s oldest son is currently an 8th grader. Anyone know where he will be going to HS?

  • 18. cps Mom  |  February 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    He is applying for SE

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  February 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    The other point about our schools being underfunded is that Illinois makes a paltry contribution towards education, as compared to other states (we are 49th in state funding out of 50.)

  • 20. RL Julia  |  February 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    It should be noted that while the state itself might not make huge contributions to education, overall, Illinois is consistently ranked in the top twenty states in terms of the total amount of money put towards education. All this means for Illinoisians is to expect huge discrepancies in per-pupil spending depending on where in the state you attend school – since property taxes and federal money attached to test score performance and poverty levels are what makes up the difference.

    For all those stats geeks out there – you might enjoy this link:

  • 21. HSObsessed  |  February 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Nearly all the high schools in the list above with ACT scores are “selective” in that they require that the child either have grades and test scores that meet a certain level (for the SE HS, the magnets, and the military academies), or at least have kids/parents with the wherewithal to know about charter high schools and send in the application to enter the lottery. Given that so many of the students with good grades and motivation choose to attend those “option” schools, the neighborhood high schools will always be challenged to try to compete in terms of posting high average ACT scores. Kudos to the charter high schools on the list like Noble St Pritkzker and NS Noble, which admit citywide on random lottery only, and post ACT scores equalling von Steuben, which limits applications to those scoring at a certain stanine on 7th gr ISATs. The charters must be doing something right.

  • 22. MarketingMom  |  February 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I’m sure if his son does not get accepted to an SE HS, he will go to a private school. But I’m pretty sure they will find a way to get him into any SE HS of his choosing.

  • 23. cps Mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Von Steuben has a “scholars program” that limits applicants to 7.5 stanine and above and a magnet program selecting students based upon tier etc. The scholars program boasts ACT’s in the mid 20’s like the selective which means that the magnet program brings their averages down. Theoretically, the charters could be doing better than Von’s magnet students who are not admitted based upon tests/grades.

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Regarding Rahm’s kid, I know we sort of scoff at the notion that private school parents assume their child will get into an SE high school, but from their viewpoint, assuming they have an adequately intelligent and motivated child (which one would assume given Rahm and his brother’s success) wouldn’t you sort of expect your child would have learned enough to earn an SE spot after spending something like $100K+ on education for them over the years? There must be some kind of buyer’s remorse/cognitive dissonance if SE doesn’t work out….

  • 25. HSObsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    @cps mom — VS’s website says that it admits via lottery through its regular program, which requires 7th gr stanines of 5 or higher, and its scholar program, which requires stanines of 7 or higher. So if I’m reading that correctly, all VS students come in performing better than average (on standardized tests, at least — looks like grades are not considered) from the get go. The charter high schools have no such policy, and kids who are offered spots could conceivably be testing in the bottom 1, 2, 3, or 4 stanines. Anyway, this just reinforces that indeed the Noble St high schools seem to be doing very well.

    Did Rahm move his family back here already from DC? I thought he was living in a little condo on Milwaukee? Wonder which tier that falls in…

  • 26. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Good question about Rahm’s tier! I wonder if he had that in mind when they rented a condo.
    But c’mon. I’m gonna say that any child coming from a private school should automatically go in Tier 4. Or at least a private school with a tuition of $10K/yr +.

  • 27. Mayfair Dad  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    No, a child coming from a private school should be categorized by their census tract address, just like every other 8th grader in Chicago. No special rules.

    What I didn’t read above: the State of Illinois average ACT score is 20.0. The City of Chicago average ACT score is 17.0 Remove the schools from the list that don’t even meet the average state ACT score and you have a very short list. This is the problem. More to Park Ridge and your kid AUTOMATICALLY goes to a high school that is superior to the vast majority of Chicago neighborhood high schools.

  • 28. Mayfair Dad  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Move not More. Sorry.

  • 29. hawthorne mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I like that the scholars program at VS requires at least a 7.5 stanine, because many other programs (Senn HS’s IB program, VS’s general program) only require a stanine of 5. A 5 is technically average, but seriously, ISATs are easy and if either of my kids get 5’s in any area, I’ll be getting a second job to make sure the next go around is at minimum a 7. Illinois keeps lowering the number of questions required to “meet standards” (a well documented fact) on the ISAT. I believe ten years ago, a student had to answer 50+ correctly (out of 100) to meet standards and now it is in the low 30’s.
    Anyways, all that to say, any program that says they require a stanine of 5 isn’t setting the bar very high at all.

  • 30. hawthorne mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    That is, I’ll be getting a second job to pay for intensive tutoring…..

  • 31. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I update the info on the schools above, and I *think* that Lakeview and Hubbard are the only 2 that are fully neighborhood (meaning no lottery, selection, scores needed.)

    The PSAE Meets/Exceeds numbers for those schools are:
    Lakeview 29% (in past years was closer to 38% (still not great.))

    Hubbard 34%.

    Von Steuben, the best of the non-SE schools has 52% Meet/Exceed.


  • 32. cps Mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    @25 According to OAE Von Stueben is a Magnet and requires the “standard HS application” there is no indicator of test scores on the application. Unless they’ve changed something. So, I’m confused as to how a lottery school can stipulate grades. But, like Hawthorne Mom says….5 isn’t much of a stipulation.

  • 33. Mayfair Dad  |  February 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    @32: go to the VS website to view the Scholars program application form. Grades and test scores required, verified by the elementary school principal. Teacher/guidance counselor recommendation and writing assignment also required.

    I would agree that a stanine of 5 for the general population (or 7 for Scholars) does not make VS super-exclusive, but it does weed out most of the gang bangers and riff raff, who end up going to Roosevelt — or Cook County Jail.

  • 34. HSObsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    This is what I’m relying on in saying VS requires stanines of 5 on 7th grade ISATs, even for the general lottery. Under FAQs.


  • 35. ChicagoGawker  |  February 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Agree with Mayfair dad on the Tier issue for private school kids applying to SEs. Cps obsessesed seems to have it in a bit for private school kids applying to SEs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, private school kids are not all rich kids who have had every advantage. Some get FA, some have parents who are out of money at HS time. If private school kids should be automatic Tier 4 due the advantages of their supposedly top notch elementary education, then so should kids who went to gifted CPS schools.

  • 36. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I don’t *think* I have it out for private school kids. Maybe I do? I was thinking specifically of Rahm’s kid, with a $100K education and they may now have a Tier 1 address. It seems like if you can pay for private, it reflects some level of socio-economic tier status, that is supposedly taken into account with the tier. Although I guess it’s really just pure income. I know, I know, there are some families who make huge sacrifices to keep their kids in private schools. I suppose in theory most private school kids live in neighborhoods that accurately reflect their tier. If one believes in the concept of the tier system, it should all work out, with a few outliers here and there. I’m sure if I were Rahm and happened to be relocating right at HS application time, I’d might try to choose an advantageous rental address. (Not saying he is. Just saying I would!)

  • 37. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I updated the schools with the PSAE Meets/Exceeds %. I need to find what the state number is. These looks horrible to me, but I have no point of reference. What is realistic for a school system like ours?

  • 38. cps Mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    The PSAE requirement is difficult to make because the number to meet or exceed rises every year. One by one schools are not able to make it (even New Trier). I’m not sure what the point is other than they are looking for 100% of students meeting requirements eventually and most schools are not anticipating making the requirements next year.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    When I get on a data mission, I can’t stop. here are the meets/exceeds PSAE for a random group of non-Chicago schools. Overall, it looks like the state average is about 53% of kids meeting/exceeding state standards.
    (I’ve created my own rough composite %.) Obviously looking at a district like Lake Forest is probably the extreme high end, and one like Waukegan (who recently rejected charter schools after a big debate) is the low end.

    Lake Forest 84%
    Downers Grove 78%
    Aurora 70%
    Oak Park 68%
    Macomb 67%
    Flossmoor 64%
    Evanston 62%
    Oswego 60%
    DesPlaines 58%
    Waukegan 23%

  • 40. cps Mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Also notable about PSAE – results are by race. If a certain race does not account for a minimum % of the class results overall, those results are not counted.

  • 41. cps Mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Just to clarify PSAE now that I have my papers. This is a state test (like the ISATs) to determine if schools are in compliance with NCLB. There are some ground rules like at least 95% of the population must take the exam and each subgroup (race) must have 45 students to be counted. The purpose is to see if the school is making AYP (adequate yearly progress). 2010-11 AYP is 85% meets or exceeds next year it will be 92.5% which will mean that almost every school will not meet NCLB accountability. There are various ramifications to the school for not making it depending on # of years that this happens. So, for example, not making AYP for 2 years means that students will be offered a “school choice transfer”. I doubt that students from Jones, Lane and Lincoln Park will be asking for transfers. Obviously, this whole concept is going to have to be revisited.

    As far as scores go, this is not a test that is prepped for or taken nearly as seriously as the ACT. I’m not sure how valuable the % are other than it seems to align with school rank.

  • 42. Hawthorne mom  |  February 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Isn’t Obama revamping NCLB? I thought I heard him say in the State of the Union that was under works?

  • 43. CPSmama  |  February 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    @cps mom: The PSAE includes the ACT plus writing. And believe me, the SEHS prep their students quite a bit for the PSAE, including a 2-day practice test in the fall/winter and 7-12 weeks of before/after school test prep before the actual PSAE/ACT at the end of April. Also, at schools like Taft & Von Steuben (and probably others) Juniors can get Kaplan ACT test prep at very discounted prices ($25-50) to prep for the PSAE.
    IMHO- the PSAE is high-stakes testing at its worst. High schools are ranked based on these results, therefore, they are prepping their students (often at a significant cost) to do their best on the PSAE to improve the school’s ranking. Gaming the system? As a bonus for the students, the test includes the ACT, and a good score on the ACT portion of the PSAE helps them with college admissions.

    here is a link which describes what the PSAE includes:

  • 44. cps Mom  |  February 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I thought these were 2 completely different tests. Thanks for the info. I’m still confused on grading. There is a separate ACT score and a PSAE percentile?? I guess that’s why they correlate so closely with ACT rank.

  • 45. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Stumbled upon this link about Charter school performance:


  • 46. eja  |  February 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Here’s another summary of charter school performance from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (so a broader view). Some of their points are lifted from the #45 link. Interestingly, Charters are more successful if they are in an urban center/city (last paragraph).


  • 47. cps Mom  |  February 17, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Thanks eja for that interesting article. I think it nicely sums up the whole charter thing. This is potentially an option for those not happy with their neighborhood school (a common thing). I see Urban Prep had another 100% college bound year. Better (much better) than the neigborhood school – Robeson – with 36% grad rate and 13.2 avg ACT.

    I wonder, with all these pockets of highly sought after charter schools, aimed at helping kids that want to learn – will the neighborhood high schools close down and whats left by default become the “alternative” schools talked about. If that is the way we are heading, it might not be a bad thing.

  • 48. Jill  |  February 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    The argument presented vs. magnets, FYI, is that they “cream” students (like charters).

  • 49. jinny  |  February 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    @48- what does “cream” mean (and “like charters”)? Thanks!

  • 50. RL Julia  |  February 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

    In this case, creaming means taking the best testing students off the top – in this case, the argument is that charter schools and magnets school, both who can control their admissions “cream” – i.e. take the best, highest achieving, easiest to teach students leaving the neighborhood schools (who do not control their own admissions) with disproportionate number of students who do not test well, are not easy to teach etc… which further skews test result and hence the reputation of the neighborhood school tanks for reasons that are largely beyond its control.

  • 51. jinny  |  March 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    But aren’t all charters computer lottery admission (meaning they can’t cream)? Here is a quote from the CICS Northtown website:
    “As a non-selective school, we do not consider test scores or grades as a factor in admissions. Any 8th grader residing in Chicago can apply and will be placed in a lottery for the available freshmen seats for the 2010-2011 school year. A lottery is conducted in February.”
    Charters just do a better job with the students they have. Why can’t neighborhood schools do this if charters are? Charters do it with less money too.
    It is also important to remember why magnets, SE and charters were introduced to CPS in the 1st place- neighborhood schools stunk. Worse than today (I was born and raised in Chicago and public school was simply not an option in my neighborhood) People were fleeing to the suburbs – people who otherwise would arguably pay the highest amount to the city in the form of taxes.

  • 52. RL Julia  |  March 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I think that it is largely agreed upon that especially in the earlier grades, parental involvement (education and income levels) counts for a lot in terms of a student’s success and the fact is, charters are not picking randomly via the entire school population, they are picking from a lottery of kids whose parents actually care enough to figure out how to apply. Additionally, charters can expel kids or return them to their home school if for instance they have lots of discipline issues or if they or their families are unable to following the rules of the charter. The reason that charters costs less money has more to do with the teachers not being unionized and being less experiences on average than those who teach in neighborhood schools.

    There are many terrible schools in Chicago – but there are also at least now, many, many viable and safe options. Charters are just one of them – but in many cases, the presence of charters and magnets and se’s prevent the neighborhood schools from ever getting better as they create a way for people to opt out of their neighborhood school if they don’t like it – if everyone sent their kids to their neighborhood schools, I think lots of schools would see improvement.

  • 53. jinny  |  March 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I would like to believe that.
    But who wants to be a part of that great experiment?
    My child’s education is too important to gamble on a “maybe it would happen”. Especially with the CPS track record. My neighborhood school is Reilly – take a look at the test scores and parent/student reviews.
    Bottom line: If the only public school option Chicago offered me was Reilly – I would likely move.
    Until CPS can prove that every neighborhood school offered a solid education (so people weren’t penalized based on what block they lived on and therefore what school they had to go to) other school options are a necessity. Otherwise, this city would experience a major outflow of tax payers and suffer further economic decline.

  • 54. RL Julia  |  March 2, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Looked at Reilly’s test scores etc… it actually looks a lot like the neighborhood school I sent both my kids to. One of them is still there, the other transferred this year to the Taft academic center. When I looked at my neighborhood school’s test scores initially (they were actually worse than Reilly’s at the time), I was a little horrified but I figured that if they had a few kids who were scoring well on the ISATs, the school was capable of teaching that student and it was just my job to make sure that my kid was one of those kids. So far its worked out. We love the school, love being part of our neighborhood. The teachers at the school are great and quite frankly, my kids have gotten far more attention for being good students than the might have at a school where everyone was a good student. There is definitely less of a sense of competition and more of a sense of collaboration in general and my kids are both very comfortable helping and teaching other kids – leadership opportunities they probably wouldn’t have gotten in a regional gifted center where everyone was more like them.

    I feel like the school has really done a great job accommodating them by giving them extra work or pulling them out to do harder stuff and etc…

    By and far, the thing I appreciate the most about the school has been the opportunity it has afforded my kids to make friends with kids with backgrounds different than theirs.

    I didn’t think I was part of a great experiment when we decided to go neighborhood. I mostly just thought that we’d give it a shot and see how it went. Life is often what you make of it -and even the most unimpressive school probably has at least a few good teachers in it.

  • 55. jinny  |  March 2, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Totally hear you. You had a choice and made a deliberate decision. And I guess that is my point. I enjoy the choice in this imperfect situation.
    I choose to attend a charter school because I believe longer school days and longer school years benefit my children in the long run. They also believe that any child, regardless of background, can attend college. They believe in positive reinforcement, tailored learning and true diversity. I share in these beliefs.
    All that said, I don’t believe every person should have to attend a charter school. I do believe every person should have a choice.
    If CPS offers every child the same high quality education, regardless of where they live, I’d forgo choice and attend the mandated neighborhood school.

  • 56. RL Julia  |  March 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Since my son didn’t get into any of the schools we applied to for Kindergarten, we didn’t really have a choice – although I was willing to give the school a shot. We had a choice a year later for first grade (as he got into a few places then) but by that time we were sold.

    If there had been a charter school in my neighborhood at the time, I would have considered it because I think CPS school day and general calendar is too short – and because as a working parent household, I am/was always looking for ways to reduce childcare costs. Sounds like you have found a good fit with your charter school which is great. The neighborhood school my kids attend also has high expectations for its students, celebrates difference, tailors its learning to the individual kid. Ironically, I have found (antedotally) that schools with more mediocre test scores seem to be more open to curricular individuation than some of the higher scoring schools which can be a little more rigid. Weird.

  • 57. royce76  |  March 26, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    But who wants to be a part of that great experiment?

    That experiment might seem favorable a generation from now when you have a three tier public ed system

    Fast Forward 25 yrs.

    Tier 1 SE schools like winning the lotto or having extreme connections. WY and all that. Some will close

    Tier 2. Charters – At 75 High Schools and Close to 200 Elem, your child can learn minus the severely neglected and prison-bound. For a small fee, of course. (that continually rises, like a cell phone or gas bill)

    Tier 3. Well geez what to call this? The last great hope? I will be a parent soon and maybe Chicago’s not for me anymore.

  • 58. CJ  |  March 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

    According to my daughter’s acceptance letter from Von Steuben’s Scholars program, it is not a lottery. She was chosen based on her cum card, letter of recommendation and written essay. It was the only school that considered all her years of success rather than a snapshot. The students in the general program are selected by lottery.

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