Charters growing in CPS – up to 25% of schools?
So one of the big news stories about CPS today was the approval to expand charters by another 60 schools in five years, which could tally up to 25% of CPS schools. As you may have figured out, I’m neither fully in favor of nor against charters, but I have to admit that 25% is starting to sound like a lot. The Trib story is below. Apparently this move opens the city up to Bill Gate $ as well as some of the bigger (better?) charter operators.
Since I like data, I like Seth Lavin of Chicago Schools Wonks e-mail newsletter (subscription link is in the links list on the bottom right side of the page). He says:
As always the big question is: Is this good for kids?
I’d say we have no power to predict, from the plan itself, whether any of this will actually make things better. These days everyone (or at least everyone I like) acknowledges that new charter schools are just as likely to be worse than existing options as they are to be better.
That means just opening 60 charter schools doesn’t improve anything. Quality’s all that matters. 60 new high-quality charter schools would be wonderful for Chicago and, as I see it, definitely worth the disruption caused by all that student, teacher and principal reshuffling and the opportunity cost of the money and attention this is going to soak up. On the other hand 60 new schools of uneven quality would be a trust-damaging, time-wasting disruption.
So are these 60 charter schools going to be quality charter schools?
CPS says YES. That’s the good news. Rahm, to his credit, has talked about quality (not school type) as the only variable that matters. This application’s full of promises about “quality” and “rigorous high quality standards” for the new schools.
I also thought this was an interesting spin on things on Diane Ravitch’s blog (below.) Is this “failure?” Or finding a way to bring resources to a failing school district. Really, if Brizard had cracked the code on CPS that quickly, he’d have figure something out that has seemed to elude the rest of urban school systems.
Chicago Superintendent of Schools J.C. Brizard has admitted that he does not know how to improve Chicago’s public schools. He did so by asking the Gates Foundation to supply millions of dollars to open another 100 charter schools. Handing public schools over to private management is a frank admission of failure on the part of school leadership. It amounts to saying, “I don’t know how to improve them. Let’s turn the kids over to the private sector and see if they can do it.”
The plan for charter growth, part of a larger proposal for 100 new schools over the same five years, is laid out in an application seeking $20 million for charter schools from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Right now the district’s 675 schools include 110 charters, which get tax dollars but are privately controlled. Private organizations also operate an additional 27 schools, 19 of which are managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership.
There is a waiting list of 10,000 students for charter schools, which have been growing for the past seven years at a rate similar to what’s planned for the next five, according to CPS.
“I’m not looking for a quota, I’m not looking for a percentage, I’m looking to respond to a need,” said CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard. “As a whole, people are not satisfied with their neighborhood schools. Clearly, there’s a demand.”
CPS said the 40 remaining schools in the five-year plan would include some privately run turnaround schools, as well as magnets, International Baccalaureate programs and STEM schools (which specialize in science, technology, engineering and math), all run by the district.
The application to the Gates Foundation, made jointly by CPS and stakeholders in charter schools, seeks $20 million to secure $100 million in funds for construction and renovation of buildings for charter schools.
Even with 60 new schools, charters would make up a smaller proportion of all schools at CPS than they do at some other large urban districts — in New Orleans, for example, about 70 percent of schoolchildren attend charters.
But critics — prominent among them the Chicago Teachers Union — say the growth of charters signals the decline of CPS-run neighborhood schools. Additionally, state report card data released last fall suggested many charters in Chicago are performing no better than some of the same neighborhood schools. More than two dozen charters scored below district averages.
“If a new charter opens up or a charter expands, they are heavily marketed and parents are aggressively recruited,” said Sarah Hainds, a researcher with the Chicago Teachers Union. “So the neighborhood schools have had a declining enrollment, and that further facilitates the excuse of why (CPS) should close down these schools. More schools will be on the chopping block.”
In December, CPS became the latest large urban district to sign an agreement with the Gates Foundation, pledging greater cooperation and collaboration between the city’s charter and neighborhood schools. That compact brought an initial award of $100,000 but also allowed CPS to apply for money from a $40 million pool of funds.