New School Fair: Field Report

December 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm 144 comments

So I actually hauled my butt out of the house, down to Soldier Field this weekend (grumbling the whole time because of the location.)  It’s probably the only time I’ll set foot in Soldier Field, which is kind of sad.   The Fair had lots of signs helping you find the free parking… then kind of dead-ended you in the parking lot.  I finally made my way to the event, with the help of another family.  I asked the mom why there were there and she said they were looking for a high school option for their daughter for next year — that their neighborhood high school (whose name I’ve forgotten) wasn’t a great option.

As we entered, there were many volunteers to lead us in, many nice signs declaring the schools as “among Chicago’s best” which I cynically noted is a vague phrase.  We had to stand in line and were told that we had to go first to a waiting area to watch a video before entering the fair, which annoyed me and the other mom.  The majority of the attendees were African American and most came as families so the place was very full/bustling.  I’m sure there were at least 1000 people there throughout the day.  Very busy, very noisy.

The video was very nicely produced and features news anchor Robin Roberston talking about the importance of eduction.  It gave pointers on navigating the fair.  It said that charters vary in how they do (but said the 70% of charter grads go to college) and that parents should ask about:
School performance
School culture
Is it a safe fit?

The video explained that charters are public schools run by independent non profits and are held to high standards by the city or they have their charter revoked.
They encouraged parents to talk to principals and visit the schools.  They also encouraged parents to apply to 5-10 schools to increase their chances and they have an “increase your odds” program that families can sign up for to stay apprised of deadlines and be notified when schools are not full late in the season and still accepting applicants.

I entered the fair and was instantly overwhelmed.  The first room was full of vendors like Sylan and others I wasn’t familiar with, nor did I want to spend my brain energy on.    The room of school was also huge and loud and overwhelming and I didn’t really know where to start.

Some of the schools had students walking around, passing out postcards.  I was immediately approached by 2 incredible boys from Quest, which as you may know, has been of great interest to me.  They are both 7th graders in their 2nd year there and came from a Hyde Park school.  They were incredibly smart and well spoken and answered every questions I posed to them like an adult would.  I ended up meeting their parents later who were very forthcoming about the school and the progress that is being made there.

I made my way around some tables and chatted briefly with some of the charters,, such as KIPP and UNO.  I asked some general questions.  There were so many that I hadn’t heard of – most located on the south or west side.   I sort of decided at that point to approach the fair from my own personal interests because otherwise I’d have had a brain aneurysm.  It was just too much.  A parent who was really looking for an elem or high school could have spent the entire day there if they really wanted to ask good questions and fill out applications.

So I talked to some of the current schools as well as some that were just approved:
The Orange School (will be an arts integration school)
The Montessori school in Englewood (principal came from Near North)
Chi Arts (after my detailed questions about the auditions/admissions I admitted that my son was in 4th grade and they looked at me like I was nuts)
Quest (they are still working out the discipline issues, but are making progress and the curriculum sounds incredible to me – super hands on)
Intrinsic Schools (a new charter that is founded by previous CPS teachers)
Academy for Global Citizenship (perhaps could be called a “hippy” school, didn’t print any materials but handed out seeds!)
Chicago Virtual Charter (very interesting! didn’t we see them at the top of some test score list?)
Another new charter whose name I can’t recall – 2 enthusiastic young teachers who said they’d had vast teacher turnover for the first 4 years but it was finally slowing down
OAE – always love these guys.  BIG NEWS.  I was told that CPS is looking to change the HS testing so kids will get test results BEFORE they apply for high schools.  No idea when this will happen, but it is clearly being talked about.  I inquired a bit about the IB process and asked if they publish score cutoffs.  Stumped the guy!  He asked and they told me that they do not because there are a serious of rounds of offers, so it’s not as clear cut as with the SEHSs.  I scored a phone number in case there are questions.
CICS – one campus, I cannot recall… talked with a SpEd teacher who said they have a good SpEd program there.  I’ll find the name of it.

So you walk around and talk and while there isn’t a lot of talk about performance, the schools state what it is about them that makes them different.  Some are about discipline, some about small classes, some about method of teaching.  In the absence of thinking about how charters affect the entire system, it’s hard not to get enthusiastic about the idea of offering parent a CHOICE about how their kids are taught.  Especially parents who may not have a lot of other choices in privates – here is the chance to pursue a different way of learning for their kids.  There is a lot of enthusiasm there and ideas that sound great and new thinking.  (Similar enthusiasm when you go to the NPN fair among publics and private… most school sound good when you ask them questions.)

The new charters have people who seem to be on a mission to try a new way of educating kids – particularly lower income kids.  In a perfect world, it’s nice to offer a choice to parents.  I left there overwhelmed but impressed with most of what I saw.   As I was walking back to the parking lot, I read HSObsessed’s email about the WBEZ article that 1/3 of the schools at the fair are Level 3.  Jeez.  Kind of like a slap in the face after talking to all these people with good intentions.

My assumption is that most of the people attending the fair come from a neighborhood with Level 3 schools.  Maybe the fact that only 1/3 are Level 3 looks good, given that they have a 2/3 chance of not getting in a Level 3 school.  Also of note, some of the best charters were not there.  You know how at the NPN fair, schools like Hawthorne never showed up (because frankly, they don’t need your application.)  I noticed that Namaste and CICS Irving Park did not attend – perhaps some of the other best scoring charters did not.  Some of these school have to sell themselves to fill up.

I still think that having these education choices is a cool idea.  But it brings me back to the inherent craziness that there really are very few “choices” in CPS.  Many of these parents will apply to 5-10 school and take what the get.  Be it Montessori (principal told me many parents the first year didn’t know what Montessori was) or Quest (parents wanted a charter, child isn’t really suited to hands on, open learning) or Urban Prep (guys looking so impressive in their suits) or the hippy school or the Orange arts school.  It would be so much better if families and schools could match up a little better so a school could find families who support the mission.

I asked about discipline and “counseling out” at a few tables.  I didn’t get many specifics and most of the schools say they work closely with kids who are falling behind or having issues to help them try to succeed.

I talked to a woman from the Edison Park neighborhood who was mad that she doesn’t have any charters near her.  She understands that the school perform well, but didn’t love the CPS method of education and wanted some choices.

Yes, some of the tables had candy.  They certainly were not bribing children with it by any stretch of the imagination.  You know how when you go to a convention/fair and you’re going to be there for several grueling hours?  Half the time the candy is eaten by the people who are working the tables.  The only food available that I saw was hot pretzels/nachos/popcorn so the candy was sustenance for many people there, including me.  No visible balloons either.  We all got a free Walgreen’s shopping bag and a crap-ton of paper.

On the way home and since, I’m still pondering the role of charters.  Should we be offering choice?  If CPS hasn’t fixed the crummiest of the CPS schools, should parents have these options as a means of some hope?  Why do the good intentions of some of these charters fail and end in level 3 schools?  Can a charter high school take kids with low incoming skills and turn them around by graduation?  What is the goal of some of these new charter founder?  Doing things a better/different way? Making money? Both?  One revealed to me the massive effort it’s taken for 5+ years to get the school going.  It sounds arduous.  But then the hope of college entry compared to the CPS dropout factories.  Isn’t that worth something?  And finally, am I so old now that I can’t tell teenage students from young teachers?  Apparently so.


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Testing Culture Forum (and my experience with a test this week) Please answer the official CPS survey about a unified school calendar

144 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HSObsessed  |  December 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for the great report. I hope you’ll share more about what you learned about Quest with us at some point!

    About getting the SEHS test results before applying: I don’t understand why this would change anyone’s decisions during the application process?

    They really do need to hone the process better of matching kids to the charter schools that they’re truly interested in. This method of applying separately to each school and then holding separate lotteries ends up with a lot of “misfits” like you said. There might be a kid who would be really interested in the soccer-focused charter school and another whose learning style would mesh in Montessori, but if their parents simply cast a wide net and apply everywhere (which is the safest thing to do to up the chances of getting an offer anywhere), then the soccer enthusiast might end up miserable at the Montessori charter, while the recorder-playing free spirit finds himself running soccer drills every day. The problem is that a joint application would entail all the charters working together, and currently, they’re all charged with handling their own marketing, recruiting, admissions procedures, etc.

  • 2. chicagodad  |  December 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    On the topic of choice, I always cringe when this is being touted as a new good thing as I have never seen a school formed or even improved by first asking parents what they want. It’s not real choice if all you can do is choose from things preselected for you.

  • 3. chicagodad  |  December 9, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    @1, This is the problem with market driven choice as it is manifested these days. We are expected to wait for “the market” to sort things (schools) out via competition by using our kids as the lab rats. Without a central organizing entity, there’s no way to predict where a kid will be accepted, and from what I’ve seen, little time to decide once that happens as notifications can arrive seemingly at random from the various schools.

  • 4. Jill  |  December 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    CPSO, I’m glad you went. I’m certain if you got a chance to also visit various Level 3 schools, you would also see people passionate about educating low income children as well. This is a complex beast.

    I’m still frustrated by the hypocrisy of spending so much money and time on sharpening the sizzle of charters (along with their relative lack of accountability). Don’t we have real problems in this district to solve without squandering valuable resources stirring up Kool Aid and asking parents and taxpayers to drink it?

    Einstein once said “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Similarly, Tim Cook noted that Steve Jobs’ best attribute was his ability to change his mind. Until the current administration is able to reflect and better align good pedagogy with good public policy, they only thing they will continue to focus on is changing other people’s minds.

  • 5. Christine Whitley  |  December 9, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Oh was Orange there? I did not see them on the attendance list. Very curious about this school.

  • 6. Frango Mint  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I think a lot of charters open with the best of intentions – to offer something new, to try a different approach with high risk kids, etc. But many of them discover that the new intervention they are trying doesn’t work any better than what traditional public schools are doing. I can see the point of charters as testing grounds for new approaches, but when they don’t work you need to shut them down immediately. Five years is plenty of time to test out something new.

    There are a few charters that use methods that DO work better than what traditional schools offer. In those cases, those methods need to be scaled up and used by all public schools. There is a problem with that though, in that most of the successful charter interventions are expensive and are paid for by private donors. Ultra-small class sizes with an assistant in every class – charters have proven it works! Let’s all do it! NOT. Same for the close one-on-one mentoring and support that Urban Prep uses to get kids into and through college. CPS sees that and says “way to go!” but when asked if ALL schools can now offer that kind of support, the answer is “NOPE, TOO EXPENSIVE.” It defeats the purpose of establishing charters in the first place if the successful methods cannot be scaled up.

    Furthermore, the “new methods” that many of the charters are using are things that we already know work, but that CPS simply refuses to adopt. We don’t need to open a new school to prove that very small class sizes improve scores – we’ve known that for years. Same for social supports in schools. We know it works, but CPS draws a line in the sand when it come to best practices – if it costs one penny more than what we’re already doing, forget it.

    As for choice, what if a parent wanted to “choose” for her neighborhood school to have smaller classes? Or social supports? Or a health-based curriculum? What do you think CPS would say (if they even bothered to listen in the first place)?

    It turns out that the only way to get “gold standard” practices to children in Chicago is via a charter school. There is no other route. There are a few lucky kids who will get into charters that will make a huge difference in their lives. But a sizable chunk of charter kids will do no better than they would have in their neighborhood school, because their charter is not really offering anything new or better (UNO, for example). And in the meantime the neighborhood schools are being bled dry. 😦

    We will very quickly have a segregated system in which traditional schools only serve children with special needs (because charters do not serve them) and children who have been kicked out of charters for bad behavior.

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    One other thing I forgot to mention is that it does seem like it takes a few years at least to really get a new charter school running the way it is supposed to be running. Clearly Quest is still working it out. The other one I talked to with high teacher turnover is in year 4 and teachers who want to stick it out are finally settling into the school. I think a parent (ie the Quest parents I met) has to be fairly committed to the school’s philosophy to ride it out.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    @Frango – I didn’t talk much to UNO (I think they did have numbers showing better performance than average CPS… I can’t recall now.) But if the school is geared toward helping Hispanic students prepare for college/work in a way that meets their particular needs, (assuming they do this… I’m just guessing from their web site what their mission is) isn’t that worth something to parents compared to many of the CPS schools? I need to look up the UNO numbers… although I think the numbers vary by school. Again, why?

  • 9. cpsobsessed  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    UNO ranges from a high for meets/exceeds (I think this was reading) of 84 to a low of 67%. I can’t find the city average for hispanic kids city wide. That is all grades combined. Does anyone recall where ISATs are broken out by race?

  • 10. cpsobsessed  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Hispanic kids city-wide meet/exceeds in reading is 78. So looks like 5 UNO schools above, 5 below. Hm… so I’d say a kid should be getting something significant out of the school beyond test scores to justify opening more UNOs.

  • 11. Bookworm  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    I’m curious why Cps mandated that the Englewood Montessori school’s charter require the program to begin at kindergarden- two years late in the context of the Montessori method.
    It seems strange that a Montessori program ostensibly for the most needy learners should begin so very late in the game and not according to the parameters of the method.
    Are they having trouble recruiting from the Englewood community if they were at the fair?

  • 12. EdgewaterMom  |  December 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    According to the WBEZ article, “CPS does not spend any money on the New Schools Expo.” I assume that this means that the charters have to pay to be a part of the expo, since somebody has to pay for it. CPS ultimately pays for a big chunk of the budget at charters, so it seems a bit misleading to say this.

  • 13. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 10, 2012 at 5:33 am

    CPSO~I hope you get to Soldier Field again! They have gr8 concerts and a wonderful Father’s day brunch besides the games!

  • 14. cpsobsessed  |  December 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    @Bookworm – good question about the montessori school starting at K! I didn’t think to ask because I was yammering about
    Montessori stuff. I’m sure that’s one of the frustrations about starting a charter. You have a vision, then there are restraints imposed by cps. If the rumors are true about charters being able to offer preK, maybe they’d expand. It’s also got to be a challenge taking kids at age 5, when they’re supposed to learn to read via the montessori system but they haven’t had the first 2, important years of pre-work that happens in montessori schools.
    I did get the sense that they’re full – but mainly because they’re a charter, not because most parents were seeking a montessori option. The principal made it sound like once parents are acquainted with the method, that they like it.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 15. cpsobsessed  |  December 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I’ve asked the question before too about why they don’t open more magnets. The info someone posted about the concept that magents succeed because they have a mix of tiers made me wonder how a magnet school (which is now 40percent neighborhood) would fare in the midst of the area where there are the poorest performing schools, where you likely won’t get many (any) tier 4 kids into the mix. Would that still succeed?
    I need to look at the map to see how magnets are doing in those neighborhoods. I don’t know enough about it now. Howver if one opposes charters for skimming off the neighborhood schools, the magnets do the same and cost more — they keep union jobs though which some consider a plus.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 16. Paul  |  December 10, 2012 at 10:18 am

    From what I can gather, the powers that be (excluding CTU) see charters as a solution to an inefficient and ineffective traditional public school system. They think that the return on investment is too low. They see a neighborhood public elementary school that spends $6 million per year to teach 450 students, principal makes $130,000, teachers make $74,000, and only half the students can read and calculate at grade level.

    They think that a major reason for this situation is a lack of choice and competition. Parents have to send their kids to their neighborhood school, or they have to pay for private school. There’s no choice for them. And, teachers and principals can count on a steady supply of new students each year regardless of their teaching methods or how responsive they are to the community or parents. They don’t have to worry about parents leaving their school because there’s no other school down the street that does a better job.

    Through a relatively modest investment, say 15 or 20 percent of a school’s budget, they can leverage public sector dollars by creating a charter school. Now parents have a choice, and the school has competition. The traditional neighborhood school’s teachers and principal has to think about attracting new students and convincing parents to keep their kids enrolled. And, that’s how they’re hoping to drive change through the system.

  • 17. ChiSchoolGPS  |  December 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    To confuse matters even more, the newest Regional Gifted Center that CPS added (to phase out South Loop) is not a traditional CPS school, but more of a contract school, run by AUSL: National Teacher’s Academy. They are adding a Kindergarten and 1st grade RGC class next year, they have a gorgeous facility (with a pool!) and the principal and teachers are extremely dedicated and represented the school well, as did their 8th grade tour guides. They don’t have an LSC to hire/fire the principal or manage the CIWP, but I believe their teachers are CPS Union.

    They have an Open House tomorrow night, 12/11/12 @ 6PM, 55
    W. Cermak.

  • 18. ChiSchoolGPS  |  December 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Here’s the National Teacher’s Academy website:

  • 19. Mayfair Dad  |  December 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    @ 16: great explanation.

  • 20. local  |  December 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Where there kids from the Ikes Projects at the NTA school? Where are they now that the projects were scraped? More room at NTA for non-project kids? Anyone know the history of the school at NTA?

  • 21. anonymouse teacher  |  December 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    @15, I don’t think magnets succeed primarily or only because they have a mix of tiers. I think they succeed due to 1) more instructional positions and 2) more dedicated families. Even if a magnet in a high poverty area didn’t perform as well as say LaSalle or Hawthorne, that should be no surprise. It won’t perform as well. The amount and severity of poverty will drag down scores no matter how dedicated families are or throwing 3-4 extra positions into the mix. But there’d still be better scores than a neighborhood school simply due to the increased dedication and the increased amount of teachers. Charters, magnets, and SEES schools all work for the same reasons. The greater challenge is meeting the needs of children without dedicated families in schools that don’t have enough staff to meet the depth of needs that go hand in hand with poverty.

  • 22. FP  |  December 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Don’t believe the Hype about Chicago Quest. You’ll regret it. We were therefor a brief moment and the fights—the fact that the school doesn’t know how to manage classroom disruptions.

    The principal quit suddenly. It’s a sinking ship. Ask the students how often they use the iPads. Ask to see about students who have transferred.

    It will continue to be a dumping ground for students who aren’t doing well.

    Those well mannered boys are few and far between.

  • […] New School Fair: Field Report cpsobsessed: In the absence of thinking about how charters affect the entire system, it’s hard not to get enthusiastic about the idea of offering parent a CHOICE about how their kids are taught.  Especially parents who may not have a lot of other choices in privates – here is the chance to pursue a different way of learning for their kids. […]

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for the input @FP. How would a charter become a dumping ground? Also, does this mean that kids aren’t being “counseled out” as people say the charters do?

  • 25. Paul  |  December 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I just read the story of the Ohio mom who went to jail for sending her kids to the better suburban school. For me, it complicates the charter school debate because it’s hard to argue against more school choice for poor families. Upper income families have choice because of their income. They can afford private school or can more easily move to another neighborhood. And, if the neighborhood school in a wealthy area is bad and turnaround efforts have been unsuccessfully, the families generally abandon it. So, I have a hard time supporting the CTU’s anti-charter movement because it’s basically saying that poor families don’t need that choice, they just need more investment in their neighborhood school.

    I’d be pretty frustrated if I lived in a poor neighborhood, thought my neighborhood school was unsafe and low performing, and saw the teachers union and others fighting against charter schools. They’d basically be saying that they knew better than me, that charters were no better than my neighborhood school, and that the low performing school was the fault of me (poverty, low parent involvement) and CPS leaders (racist, fat cat, profiteers).,0,7998905.story

  • 26. CPS Parent  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Paul – I agree with your sentiments. I also find it interesting that charters are one thing where both Democrats and Republicans are in general agreement. I pay scant any attention to what the CTU thinks regarding charters since their self preservation is at stake – they have a bias which has nothing to do with improving education opportunities.

    I also question the validity of a “neighborhood” school with attendance boundaries when charters are in the mix. If all schools throughout the city were open to all students via a hybrid lottery-plus-selection process I would imagine all schools would become more or less the same in terms of overall quality. If the kids in Englewood had equal access to schools in Lincoln park I bet the “neighborhood” schools in Englewood wood be improved pretty darn quickly. The Los Angeles school district has considered this recently.

  • 27. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

    @Paul, I tend to agree with you as well. I understand conceptually that “all CPS neighborhood schools should be excellent schools.” But if I’m a parent living in a crummy neighborhood with a crummy (scorewise) school I don’t know that I have the patience to wait for God-knows-who to figure out how to make that happen. For Illinois to fund education better. For CPS to figure out how to do it. For my own neighborhood school to figure out how to do it. I may likely feel that the current CPS model has failed in my neighborhood (whether that is true or not… as we know demographics matter immensely.)

    As WBEZ pointed out, 1/3 of the schools at the New Schools Fair are level 3. And…..1/3 are level 2 and 1/3 are Level 1. That may seem like a better chance of success if I’m coming from one of the worst CPS schools. And it’s available now, without waiting for society to get their shit together.

    Now conversely, as I’ve seen several people point out, when we are in dire financial straights and trying to “rightsize” the district, it seems counter intuitive to be adding charters all over the place. Can’t some of these innovative teacher ideas be implemented at a CPS school? Does it make sense to continue full steam ahead with charters without more consideration about them?

    I can see both sides, I guess.

  • 28. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:24 am


    Who says magnet schools succeed? They don’t perform substantially better academically if you adjust for selection bias.

  • 29. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

    @junior – how would you adjust for selection bias? Or rather how would you adjust to the point that you’d know they perform the same as other schools without that bias?

  • 30. Anonymous  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

    #26. However, some people choose their neighborhood for the school . I want my kids going to school with our neighbors. I feel safer knowing my neighbors. I would leave Chicago if they did a random city-wide lottery. Neighborhood schools BUIILD community in both poor and wealthy neighborhoods. Why do you think low-income families are fighting school closings as much as north siders are fighting for theirs?

  • 31. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

    The problem with the charter “market competition” model is that there really is no true competition nor a true market. The supply and demand in this market is controlled by CPS. CPS can put charters in areas where there are few other schools options and therefore the charter will “succeed” by filling up with students. But they have no incentive to perform exceptionally well, as long as they know they will fill their classrooms.

    In fact, without better accountability, the incentive for charters is to invest only as many resources as will fill their classrooms and pocket the rest as profit. And their incentive is also to invest in resources like marketing, which will help fill the school without adding true educational value.

    Markets work by picking winners (good products) and losers (bad products). I don’t see many losers being weeded out of the charter system. There needs to be more transparency and accountability.

    The main arguments for charters is (1) that they seem to perform comparably (some better, some worse) to traditional schools at a lesser cost to taxpayers, and (2) they provide additional choice to parents who may be seeking different educational approaches for their children. Ideally they would also serve as experimental laboratories where new approaches can be proven, and then brought back into the traditional system — but that seems to also have fallen short of the promise so far.

  • 32. CPS Parent  |  December 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    30. Anonymous – I’m not aware of anyone fighting school closings. The CTU and groups who support them are but I don’t see much public concern going by attendance size at the neighborhood meetings. I think most people realize that half full schools are wasteful of money that could be used in classrooms and not wasted on inefficient overhead.

  • 33. HS Mom  |  December 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    @31 – Junior – are we talking magnets, charters or both?

  • 34. Mayfair Dad  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    @ 31 – for Adam Smith to prevail, we would need more charter transparency, more charters (or choice in general) and more time. I fear the stagnant bureaucracy of CPS more than I fear the vibrant competition of charters. You will see a greater investment in quality by charters when they are forced to compete with other, more efficient charters. Right now, some of the less efficient operators are giving the charter movement a bad name. These bad operators need to be held to the same turnaround/closure criteria as neighborhood schools. B3 should shut down Aspira, et al. in March. She would establish some credibility if she did. I think many people are suspect of unfair advantages charters currently receive – real or imagined – but are open to the idea of charters.

  • 35. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    @29 cpso

    A large, well constructed study showed that those who entered the lottery and got into a magnet did not do significantly better academically than those who entered the magnet lottery and wound up at neighborhood schools.

    Many posts on this in the past. People still shocked and/or unwilling to believe that their child will not do better academically at their beloved magnet school than their neighborhood alternative.

  • 36. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    @34 MFD

    I can’t see adding more charters without the necessary accountability and transparency. Replace the bad charters with new/better operators and beef up accountability before expanding the flawed system.

  • 37. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    @junior – ah, right! I still have a rumpled version of that study somewhere. I need to pull it out again, but now I remember.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 38. Kelly in Edgewater  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    @35 junior – Will you post a link to the study you referenced? Thanks!

  • 39. kate  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    32 cps parent – in the recent 4 years, Hamilton & Prescott parents/community did fight to keep their schools open.

    Junior – I’m trying to keep the faith…. although if I were a SEES/magnet parent I’d probably “not believe”. Thanks.

  • 40. Paul  |  December 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    @31 junior, I’m all for transparency and accountability. We’ll see what CPS does in this next round of charter renewal. Here’s what they say they’ll do:

    “Recently, CPS announced its intent to take action on under-performing charter schools that are up for contract renewal in June 2013. The charter contract renewal process entails a thorough and rigorous examination of key academic, compliance and fiscal management areas to determine each school’s renewal status recommendation and conditions for renewal, as necessary. Actions the Board may take on low-performing charters include non-renewal of contracts or shortened contract renewals with conditions, which may result in charter school closings.”

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Here is a link to that paper. (Gotta love the Internet.) I swear I paid to get it before. It is interesting, but hideously boring because it was really set up as an experimental academic design (and not written in a user friendly way for the most part.)

  • 42. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for locating that! And the Internet doesn’t rumple things up.

    For those looking for less-boring accounts, I went back to the Freakonomics blog:

    And then I saw that they look at another new study suggests that there may be some benefit to choice schools:

    I haven’t bought the new study, so I can’t comment on it.

  • 43. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm


    Thanks for locating that! And the Internet doesn’t rumple things up.

    For those looking for less-boring accounts, I went back to the Freakonomics blog:

  • 44. junior  |  December 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm



    And then I saw that they look at another new study suggests that there may be some benefit to choice schools:

    I haven’t bought the new study, so I can’t comment on it.

  • 45. Bookworm  |  December 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    @14 thanks cpso-
    interesting- though my reading is that the Montessori method doesn’t have a target age for reading. Many Montessori schools don’t advance students into the elementary level until an extra half year from the preschool level to avoid pressuring children.
    This is extremely common in private Montessori schools and no stigma.It would be interesting to find out if Englewood’s program will practice this or if they will need to compromise to rush kids along. Imagine missing two whole years of working at your own pace?
    Montessori created the whole method for children with complex learning abilities living in housing projects in Rome.

    One of the challenges must be educating parents about what the method is exactly. I think the “pre-reading skills” begin with learning to listen, hearing subtle sounds and building a complex relationship with language, writing and concentration in a non-hurried environment. Reading comes very last.

    Hopefully CPS will allow Englewood to add the earlier years to build these other experiences for their students as it might strengthen the program over time. I wonder if another charter already in place near by has preschool or did not want to compete with a cool new charter?

  • 46. anonymouse teacher  |  December 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    @28, that was exactly my point. Magnets, charters and SEES all “work” the same exact way. Selection bias/money/dedication/etc me. They “succeed” (or get high test scores) because of their students, the advantages those kids come with and the extra teaching positions showered upon them (at least in the case of magnets). High poverty schools generally all don’t “work” the same way. They don’t succeed because of their students, the disadvantages those kids come with and the lack of resources within the school in general.

    I think what many on this board are saying is this: if Northside parents get a choice through magnets, why deny South and West side parents a choice through charters? I agree with the fact that everyone should have a choice. I just don’t understand why the city has decided for the poorer communities that their choice must be either a charter or neighborhood instead of a magnet or neighborhood school.

  • 47. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    That is a very well laid argument @A-Mouse!

  • 48. Citizen Brain  |  December 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    @46 because Charters are a lot cheaper than CPS magnets or SEES. CPS will spend the money on Magnets and SEES if that’s what it takes to keep middle class and affluent, mostly white people in Lincoln Park and Lakeview living in Chicago and sending their kids to CPS schools. Charters are good enough for the mostly low-income, mostly minority families living in the south and west sides because no one cares if they leave. I hate to put it in such brutal terms, but there it is.

    And by “no one” I mean the city, school board, CPS, etc. I care very much if they leave as a citizen of this community but I am not a decision-maker.

  • 49. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    @Citizen: I don’t know if I buy that… if CPS didn’t care about the population, why all the rigamarole to have all these charters? Someone has to screen them, monitor them, pay for their buildings, etc. I see it more as the ongoing hope that somebody has found a way to close the gap, because CPS hasn’t figured it out (nor have any other urban school districts as far as I know.) But really, if what you’re saying it true, they’d just shut down low enrollment schools, shift everyone around and be done with it.

  • 50. anonymouse teacher  |  December 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I have something to say, but I am afraid to say it. It is about this idea that anyone is “given” a crummy school. I don’t buy it, at least not entirely.
    On the one hand, I understand that being white, speaking English as my first language and comparatively wealthy (when looking at Chicago as a whole) relays certain unearned and undeserved advantages at my feet. I also understand that being minority, speaking English as a second language (especially if one doesn’t speak it well) and being relatively poor (I’ll say under 35K for a family of 4) relays a whole host of unearned and undeserved disadvantages to folks. But I don’t think communities are completely blameless or not responsible for their own crummy schools (or their good ones). Families have some responsibility in allowing their schools to be crummy. I know survival often takes precedence over education though. I also believe my profession has a responsibility for the quality or lack of in our schools and many teachers don’t want to accept that. I don’t believe teachers carry ALL the weight or blame or ALL the credit in school failure or success, but I do think we have something to do with it.

    I don’t have answers (well, okay, I think I do, but they aren’t cheap and they aren’t popular) but I just wanted to put that out there.

  • 51. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    We have a n’hood school that was montessori from K-5th and now this yr has gone to 8th grade. It’s a gr8 program that many ppl like.

  • 52. Bookworm  |  December 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    @ 51. SoxSiderish is it public? There are only four public CPS Montessori programs. If it’s in Beverly they have been trying to catch up on the years when the Montessori lagged. Mayer is a neighborhood school that is open primarily to neighborhood students but the program becomes IB at the upper grades.

    “Montessori” programs that begin at kindergarden could not get accredited by the American or international Montessori societies because the program cannot just jump in and begin at 6 years. The crucial 3 year old start is a foundation of the philosophy. I am sure that the Englewood Montessori school administration and board are aware of this as well.
    What are the hallmarks of your neighborhood school’s 8th grade program? What is Montessori about it?

  • 53. EdgewaterMom  |  December 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    How many “extra” positions do magnets get? I know that our magnet school has many classes with 30+ students, but we also have Art, Music, Gym, Spanish, Science Lab, and Library. I am assuming that the extra positions go to these “special” classes, but I am not sure exactly how it works.

  • 54. cpsobsessed  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Magnets also get full day kindergarten. I’m not sure about the positions but it seems like they don’t fight for library, music, etc.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 55. anonymouse teacher  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    I don’t know how many extra positions magnets get, but the one my children used to attend had several extra reading specialists, and several extra resource teachers. I would imagine it is partly related to student numbers, but I could be wrong. We had 30+ in each room, which allowed us to have more resource teachers and the PTA fundraised for a few extra positions too, so it is unclear to me how many. For a school of 550, we had full time art AND music (a neighborhood school at that # would only get half time of one of those), full time library, full time PE, 3 reading specialists, an extra math teacher and several TA’s. As well as all the extra positions from the PTA and the artists in residence they brought in for special sessions.
    And I am not sure where the money came for all the new equipment, books, technology, supplies, trips, etc., either.

  • 56. PPmom  |  December 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    off topic, i guess, but i just saw that disney ii is applying to open a high school. anyone have information on this? i assume it will also be a magnet, with all disney II kids getting priority. any idea on how big it will be? i live on the NW side and this could be exciting….

    …or just another example of a good school my kids will never get into?

  • 57. junior  |  December 12, 2012 at 12:51 am

    @46 anonymouse said:

    ” I just don’t understand why the city has decided for the poorer communities that their choice must be either a charter or neighborhood instead of a magnet or neighborhood school.”

    I believe this is simply a practical problem, not an issue of CPS discrimination as someone asserted. Magnets were intended to draw students from all over the city to create diverse environments. It’s much easier to draw poorer students out of disadvantaged neighborhoods to attend schools in a safer/wealthier areas than it is to draw students of all socioeconomic statuses to attend schools in more impoverished areas.

    Just like a lot of the South Side SES, magnets in disadvantaged neighborhoods fail to attract the target diversity. Magnets were historically based on racial quotas (until the recent lifting of the consent decree), and in a school system with 8% white kids, you’re simply not going to meet the target number of white students by locating magnets in Englewood or Washington Park.

  • 58. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 12, 2012 at 5:12 am

    #52~Bookworm~Yes it is in Beverly. It’s a public n’hood school. I live near 2 private preK-K montessori schools and 2 private grades 1-8 montessori schools and my neighbors seem to like them.

  • 59. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 12, 2012 at 5:23 am

    #57~Jr~I agree w/you that certain areas will not get diversity; however, some will be getting a gr8 school w/excellent programs~like South Shore.

  • 60. anonymouse teacher  |  December 12, 2012 at 7:33 am

    @57, I still don’t believe CPS should be making that choice for families. Yes, it will always be easier to draw families to safer areas. But magnets aren’t racially based anymore and there are desperate families in non-diverse areas who would kill to get into a good magnet. I believe it is all about $$.

  • 61. HS Mom  |  December 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Here is the school locator for CPS. Magnets are throughout the city with the greatest concentration in central areas.

    The issue of school choice extends beyond the South side and poverty. Families that cannot get into test based schools want what everyone wants – safety, quality programming and an opportunity to participate in some innovative learning and specialties.

  • 62. Paul  |  December 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

    One of the major problems faced by school districts is how to effectively educate poor students and improve the educational outcomes of black and hispanic students. I think magnet schools and extreme busing were created to address this problem. At the time, the powers that be thought that segregation was the cause of the low performance amongst poor and minority populations. It was a huge social experiment to bus kids long distances to integrate the schools. And while it may have had limited success in some schools, poor and minority students still lag behind.

    I think that charters are the latest experiment in an attempt to address the same problem. In this case, the powers that be think that unionized teachers, overly bureaucratized school districts, lack of innovation, and lack of choice are the causes of low performance. Charters are generally are free of these constraints.

  • 63. Bookworm  |  December 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    @58- Hi Soxsiderish- I imagine the private schools- the pre-k and 1st up Montessori programs grew up around the public school that begins at k- kids may go from the private to the public program or the private which begins at first grade. Really interesting.. Thanks

  • 64. fixed or not fixed  |  December 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Can someone please tell me if the magnet school lottery is fixed. I know they changed 2 years ago to a central lottery system and that there is not supposed to be principle discretion but I have heard that at some schools that does not matter if you test well or your parents make a certain amount of money.
    I have an incoming kindergartner, know nobody who works for any school, city and as much as I love her, don’t think she is going to score gifted. I am really relying that it is strictly lottery.

  • 65. cant sleep  |  December 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    @64 It is a lottery. There are no more principal’s picks and it is tier and proximity based. My best advice is to make sure that you use all 20 slots and pick a mix of highly sought after and “hidden gems”. We got into a magnet school through the wait list.

  • 66. EdgewaterMom  |  December 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    It has always been a lottery, but in the past I think that the “principal discretion” spots were heavily used. Now there are no spots for the principal to give out. The vice principal at our magnet was not able to get his kids into our school.

    I think that some magnets were much more faithful to the lottery system in the past than others. If you look at the stats for some schools, such as Hawthorne, where they are 50% white and less than 25% low income, I just don’t see how they could have really been following the lottery guidelines. I am not really sure how they get around it.

  • 67. cpsobsessed  |  December 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    as others have said, there are no discretion spots. Howver as with all things in life, rules are followed to the extent that people follow them. A school like hawthorne where parents are tracking the top spots probably can’t get away with it (especially since people can now share info readily online about the waiting lists.). An off the radar schools without a long list might be able to get away with it if nobody is paying attention. The principals are supposed to use the list until after schools starts. Probably that first month at least. In the past if loosely expired in july or so. If you contact a schools in october and they have space you might be able to make it work, especially in upper grades where schools often need to fill spots due to attrition.
    But the old bust-your-heiney to get in days are over.
    High schools have a regimented process for it.
    The academic centers currently do not.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 68. FP  |  December 13, 2012 at 5:28 am

    They way Chicago Quest is a dumping is like this:
    It’s first year the school opened to 7th and 8th graders. The staff recruited to get the type of students in the growing neighborhood. They had to allow the students from the old Cabrini Green neighborhood schools to return back and take slots first. Once they didn’t make their numbers they were desperate to fill those slots. They had initially stated that they would only add 6th graders each year and that the original 7th graders would be their first graduating class without letting any incoming 8th graders in.

    Well the school was horrible- my child went there for a brief period of time. The students began leaving in groves. The rough around the edges children outweighed the children who were there because of the innovative curriculum promised. So after the first year they had to fill not only the slots for incoming 6th graders but now for all the seats of people who were lucky enough to transfer out. They began accepting middle school children from 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Children in 7th and 7th grade don’t usually leave their schools unless they get into an academic center or they have been encouraged to leave. Lots of the children from neighbouring Jenner get in trouble with the system and find themselves filling those Quest empty seats —–now because it isn’t bound by CPS boundaries multiply that by 15 more Jenner rejects seeking another spot. Parents don’t move their children in 8th grade unless they are the problem. Word travels fast.

    Bottom line is —it is very hard to “counsel out” children when you don’t have all of the seats filled —so you take a little more crap from several kids until the parents who are hanging by a thread leave and then you have more empty seats to fill. Too many empty seats means someone gets laid off. Counselling out rarely happens. If the school has a waiting list and all seats filled then maybe.

  • 69. FP  |  December 13, 2012 at 5:29 am

    That should be “opened to 6th and 7th graders.”

  • 70. Iamthemama  |  December 13, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I agree Quest has had its share of discipline issues but it is still a new and innovative school with a very unique way of learning. I currently have a 8th grader at the school and she is doing very well and her test scores have continued to rise while she has been at Quest. There are those few handfuls of students who will test the patience of almost everyone, but the 2 young men you met at the fair are the majority not the minority at Quest. This is the 2nd year of the school and they are meeting the bumps in the road and handling them well. There is new leadership in the school and as a parent I am hoping for nothing but positive changes.

  • 71. Paul  |  December 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    According to the press release, wall-to-well IB doesn’t affect neighborhood admissions.

  • 72. Paul  |  December 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Meant to post that under a different thread.

  • 73. anonymouse teacher  |  December 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I am surprised no one is commenting about the hundred or so school actions that have been listed at D299. Does anyone know if these are official and have been released from CPS itself? And I wonder how I could find out what specific action has been decided, if any, regarding each school. I interviewed at one of the schools on the list and they decided not to hire me. I ended up in a high scoring school. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have avoided that train wreck of a situation.

  • 74. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 12:55 am

    @A-Mouse, I can’t find the list there. Ended up reading articles for 30 minutes though…. man I can barely keep up with all the education articles. Were there this many 10 years ago and I didn’t notice because I didn’t have a child? Or is this really an oddly omnipresent topic in the press?

  • 75. Mayfair Dad  |  December 14, 2012 at 9:52 am

    @ 62. Yes. Dr. Joseph Hannon was recruited from the Boston Public School System to run CPS and implement our nacent magnet school program back in the 70s. This was seen as a more palatable approach than forced bussing, an experiment that went horribly awry in Boston. I worked briefly for Dr. Hannon in the 80s. He had a very impressive intellect and was a very snappy dresser. Your take on the purpose of charters is correct – primarily to close the achievement gap for poor minority students. Same problem, new approach.

  • 76. Paul  |  December 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

    @75 Mayfair Dad. So, do charters look like they might be successful? The early assessments seem mixed. Some charters seem to work well, others don’t. Are they at least better than the worst schools that serve that population?

    I’m concerned about opposing charters or anything else that is seen as a possible solution to closing the achievement gap. That would be accepting the status quo or giving up.

    The teachers union argues that only way to bridge the gap is through significant investment in neighborhood schools and providing additional services like social workers, wraparound before and after school care, and investments to ensure every school has adequate facilities like libraries, playgrounds, etc.

    Are charters going to be another fad that comes and goes, while the achievement gap remains?

  • 77. SutherlandParent  |  December 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

    @76 Paul, I agree that “charters” aren’t one single group, and the quality of charter schools and operators seems to vary wildly.

    I guess that’s why I consider myself charter-conflicted. Since some charters have demonstrated success, I don’t want to see those schools disappear. But I’d like to see the bar for opening new charter schools set very, very high. I’d like to see a systematic approach in CPS for taking what works in charters and figuring out how to expand that to neighborhood schools (which is the original purpose of charters, as I understand it). I’d like to see fewer politically connected people opening charters in CPS and more people with academic backgrounds. And I’m disgusted that CPS is approving so many new charter schools for the ’13-’14 school year while claiming it has no idea what neighborhood schools it wants to close because of underutilization.

    As long as charters are treated as a quick fix instead of a thoughtful, coherent aspect of public schools, there will continue to be charter schools that are no better, and possibly worse, than the schools they drew kids from.

  • 78. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I saw a commenter on TV saying that the learning on Chicago charters so far doesn’t point to shutting them all down. Nor does it point to opening them at an accelerated pace. Not that 13 per year seems accelerated… but if you do it every year….

    As I’ve thought more about the charter operators I met last weekend I realize it starts to sound a little bit like religion. Each school has a belief that their way of educating (mostly at-risk) kids will have some special way of succeeding that the others do not. And you sort of have to have faith in that method. Or feel it’s a good fit for your child and hope you get lucky in the lottery.

    I DO get the sense that the new admin (and Rahm) will be more aggressive about closing unsuccessful charters but now I realize that it probably takes a couple years to get a charter into successful territory and for the mission to gel properly.

  • 79. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for the feedback on Quest. Clearly the school is put at a disadvantage by having to enroll so many kids at once and having to figure out how to discipline kids who had problems at other schools, all while trying to stay true to a more open learning/hands-on way of teaching. I’m hoping to go on a tour after the new year.

  • 80. southie  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Could you add a link on your homepage to the Forums?

  • 81. southie  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Mayfair Dad, How old are you?

  • 82. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Jeez, that would make sense, wouldn’t it?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 83. southie  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    @ 76. Paul | December 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Paul, Unless the achievement gap solutions also close the gap permitted for students with special needs and disabilities, then the solutions are ineffective.

  • 84. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Link here and I’ll add it. I’m going to spend time with it over Xmas break to beef it up a little bit.

  • 85. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Based on public information, Mayfair Dad seems to have spent part of his childhood during the late 60’s when the TV show Family Affair was on air.

  • 86. southie  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    So, MFD might be, say, 50 years old and worked with Hannon in the late 80s after college?

  • 87. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I’d guess 1984 or beyond just on speculation.

    Or he could have been a Dougie Howser, worked with the guy in his teens in the early 80’s, and had a fondness for Family Affair when he saw it in reruns later in life.

  • 88. cpsobsessed  |  December 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Now can we guess his hair color?

  • 89. Paul  |  December 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    @83 southie, that gap we don’t hear as much about. I know No Child Left Behind calls for students with special needs to meet state standards, like all other students. It seems that parents of special needs students struggle just to get the services their children need, let alone keep up academically with regular education students.
    The main thrust of special needs students’ advocates seems to be in getting each student access to the services they’re entitled to.

    It would think that some students with special needs and disabilities can be expected to perform at the same level academically with regular ed students, e.g. students with certain types of physical disabilities or behavioral disabilities that may not impact their performance on standardized tests. But, it seems unfair to expect other students with certain types of learning disabilities disabilities to perform at the same level, and therefore it’s unfair to expect schools to close that achievement gap.

  • 90. EdgewaterMom  |  December 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    @CPSobsessed Thanks for the laughs – I think that we can all use a bit of humor tonight! Now I can’t get Buffy, Jody, and Mrs. Beasly out of my head…

  • 91. anonymouse teacher  |  December 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    @74, here it is.
    You have to look in the comment section. I believe it is the poster named “retired principal”, who often has info before other people put it out officially, who gave out the list.

  • 92. WMY  |  December 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    CPSObessed, I am the mother of one of the boys you met from Quest. You and I did not meet that day. I personally have been very happy with Quest. There are some real issues with behavior that are being addressed with the new administration. Nevertheless, we love the mission and the curriculum. And the teachers are awesome. We are a good fit. We did not apply to 5 to 10 schools. We applied to just Quest.

    I graduated with first class at Whitney Young that went through all four years. Mrs. Obama was in our class. No one knew in the late 1970’s that Whitney Young was going to be the school that it is now. You don’t expect a 2 year old child to be as mature as a 10 year old. You cannot expect a new school to be as mature as a 10 year old school. Quest works and it will work even better as it irons out the kinks.

  • 93. local  |  December 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Michelle O was not in the first 4-year grad class (class of 1979). She came up later, but she would have been in the school at the same time as you, fellow WMYer.

  • 94. local  |  December 16, 2012 at 10:02 am

    BTW, WMY was a “magnet” school when it launched. Only much later did it become Selective Enrollment, and even added an Academic Center.

  • 95. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I believe Michele O graduated in ’81.

  • 96. WMY  |  December 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Yes, I was in the Class of 1981. We started 4 years earlier, in the late ’70s. Whitney Young was the first Magnet H.S. and was touted as the first racially integrated H.S. in the City. Many, many of us travelled an hour or more each way to attend. Twenty years ago, I saw Charles Mingo at a WTTW sponsored event and I introduced myself to him. I clearly recall him saying “no one knew what Whitney Young would become” and that was 20 years ago. So much has changed even since 1992.

    When I applied to Quest for my son, I thought about WY, and thought this school is going to be hot like WY. Let’s get in on the ground floor.

  • 97. local  |  December 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Re: WY old-style…

    The first 3-year class graduated in 1978. The first four-year class graduated in 1979. The school started with only two groups of students in the mainstream magnet program: sophomores, who transferred in from other schools, and freshmen, right out of 8th grade.

  • 98. WMY  |  December 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Mr. or Ms. Local, I wonder if I know you. I liked your opening above: “Re: WY old-style.” Were you from the north, south or west sides? I was/am a south sider. One of my classmates, told me a few years ago we were the first class to go through all four years, but I guess not. Do you remember Mr. Mingo? He was a large presence. Pun intended. Good luck with finding the right school for your son/daughter.

  • 99. Mayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2012 at 11:40 am

    51, worked for Dr. Hannon ’84 – ’86 when he ran the CCTB at McCormick Place, mostly grey (what is left of it). Have lived on the north/northwest side my entire adult life but know many Beverly families from the kids I met in college. “Mikey” from the famous Life cereal commercial is a childhood friend. No, he didn’t die from a tragic Pop Rocks accident.

  • 100. RL Julia  |  December 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    and the love of Family Affair?

  • 101. Mayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I secretly always wanted to be Jody.

  • 102. cpsobsessed  |  December 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I have a vivid memory of being there being a contest where the prize was that you could win a day with the Buffy actress and I remember wanting to win with every fiber of my being.

  • 103. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    #101~MFD~good to know…I was wondering if you had a thing for Mrs. Beasley!!! haha

  • 104. HS Mom  |  December 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    @102 I assume that was before she died in 1976 of her drug overdose. Ah….Americana

  • 105. Mayfair Dad  |  December 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Sad story about Buffy. Still looking for Cissy.

  • 106. local  |  December 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    @ WMY – We stayed on the southside during high school. Yes, I remember Mingo. Lots of characters in that school then. BTW, I have great hopes for Quest. It’s a REAL alternative to the standard.

  • 107. Pam Allen  |  December 18, 2012 at 10:15 am

    From my friend and a great educator, Tahira DuPree Chase, her wrenching and profound message about the real work of teachers, and how test scores are no measure:

    “…Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the heroic teachers and school leaders who went beyond the call of duty (and some even gave their lives) to protect children… Over the years, the teaching profession had been ridiculed and disrespected. To date, the profession is still viewed negatively as the nation equates good teaching only to test scores. It is time to pay homage to teachers and school administrators who sacrifice their own well-being each and everyday for the betterment of children. If Victoria Soto, Principal Hochsprung, Ms Rosseau and other Sandy Hooks educators were firefighters they would be called “fallen heroes”. Had they been in the armed forces, they would receive the medal of honor. Had they been politicians, the nation would mourn the loss and call their murder an assassination. They are teachers; people who have the greatest impact on the future of our nation. A test score cannot measure the effectiveness and dedication of those Sandy Hook educators… Each and everyday, millions of educators give their very best to children…. Test results only measure a small percentage of what teachers and administrators accomplish on a daily basis. The heroic acts of the educators at Sandy Hook who comforted the children, hid children in closets and bathrooms, read stories to children so they would not hear the horrific sounds of murder, acted as human shields and told the frightened students they were loved must resonate in the heart and minds of those who do not regard teaching as a real profession and only view teacher effectiveness through a single source. I am stunned at how educators are regarded in this nation, yet applauded and celebrated in other countries. It is time to acknowledge the real heroes and heroines, the real first responders (who break up fights, mend wounds, provide academic and social intervention and redirect inappropriate behavior), and the true soldiers who are constantly on the front line…”

  • 108. Mom  |  December 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

    ROGERS PARK — Several faculty and staff members of Sullivan High School were assaulted last Friday as four fist fights broke out among members of two warring gangs, school officials said.

    Read more:

  • 109. FP  |  December 28, 2012 at 7:43 am


    While I do understand your desire to represent your child’s school in a light that would encourage/recruit more like minded families to attend- this forum is supposed to be open and honest.

    Quest doesn’t even use the iPads. The only measurable test scores are the NWEA scores and MOST children got worse each time the test came out. 90% of the families I am in contact with have removed their children from the school for various reasons including academics, structure, instruction, leadership, curriculum, and safety of the students.

    Let me repeat that 90% of the families I have spoken with have transferred their children from the school. It is unfair if you to not tell the larger picture in an effort to recruit more parents —-other people’s children aren’t guinea pigs until they figure it out. The facts are that 5% of the people who are still at ChicagoQuest are trying to leave but because quest doesn’t actually give grades –correct children assignments quantitatively, schools are having a hard time assessing kids. This if course works out nicely for Quest as a way of keeping the children trapped.

    Their approach to grading appeals to parents who are intimidated by the traditional grading scale and would rather not actually know where their child stands academically. That’s fine —but be honest about it—it’s not really that innovative. They stopped the “boss” level because without being able to group students and selectively enroll critical thinking students, the whole process is diluted and not what happens in the school in NYC.

    Be honest.

  • 110. cpsobsessed  |  December 28, 2012 at 11:50 am

    @FP – it seems you’re not implying that 90% of the school has left, but 90% of the parents you’ve spoken to (and I’m assuming that those who leave are more outspoken based on my experience at my son’s preschool that we left when I was always talking to other people who left and had complaints.) How many people have you spoken to so we can assess the 90% figure? How are you aware that exactly 5% of the people “are trying to leave…. etc.” I’m all for facts but I get skeptical when “facts” like that are thrown about when one can’t assess percentages without doing a survey of some sort.

    I wasn’t aware of the No-Grades policy. That’s what drove me nuts about Montessori as well. I’ll have to inquire more about that. I very much appreciate your input.

  • 111. WMY  |  December 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    @FP “Their approach to grading appeals to parents who are intimidated by the traditional grading scale and would rather not actually know where their child stands academically. That’s fine —but be honest about it—it’s not really that innovative. They stopped the “boss” level because without being able to group students and selectively enroll critical thinking students, the whole process is diluted and not what happens in the school in NYC.”

    I certainly want to know where my child stands academically and I am very happy with the report provided at the student evaluation each trimester. For me, traditional letter grades, A, B, C, D, F, only give a snap shot of the strengths and weaknesses of a student. They do not pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of a particular student. What you did not mention is that the reports are converted to letter grades for transcript purposes when the students apply to college. I went to a college that did not have letter grades and converted reports to letter grades for transcript purposes. I never did better in an academic environment than I did in college.

    I think what is important to note is that one size does not fit all. What works for one student, may not work for another. For my son, his NWEA scores improved many fold. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this fall. I don’t know how other kids performed on the NWEA and I’m not sure why that is important. What is important is whether your child is doing well or not. If your child was not doing well, then you did what you thought you needed to do and leave. That does not mean it should apply to all.

  • 112. cps sad teacher  |  January 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Is Im sure charters are doing great. However, when every school becomes a charter school …wont they just become the new public schools. How is Chicago going to recruit 40k teachers in 450 independent schools that pay 40k a year and have no job security. Im guessing in the future they wont even have to pay insurance or pensions. I dont think Chicago will be a hotbed of teacher recruit moment or stability. Also, private donations will dry up and someone will have to pay for kids whose parents cant afford transportation. Are their any 1st world countries or suburbs that have balkanized their school systems. I bet not. Its all great now, but it isnt a viable solution. Who is going to get all these kids to school every day…. it will be a logistical nightmare. I imagine it will come down to the survival of the fittest. It just doesn’t seem doable . Hope im wrong

  • 113. Chicago Parent  |  January 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    In the Netherlands, one of the worlds most socially progressive and liberal liberal countries, over 75% of all schools are charter schools.

  • 114. Chicago Teacher  |  January 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I’m not sure where the number 75% comes from, but I do know that only 30% of schools are what we in the United States consider “public” schools. Other schools include religious or educationally specific types of schools. I don’t think these should be called specifically “charter” schools. The Netherlands have a national curriculum guideline that all schools, private and public, must adhere to.

    Here is a very interesting paper on the system:

  • 115. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    #113~Chicago Parent~I wouldn’t want this education for any1’s child~A Report from The Netherlands ~

  • 116. Cake for all!!  |  January 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    “other people’s children aren’t guinea pigs ”

    Interesting thought. Wish it were true.

  • 117. Chicago Parent  |  January 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    114. Chicago Teacher – The point is that there is an incredible amount of school diversity from which ALL (not just the wealthy which is the case in this country) parents can choose. These include Montessori, Steiner, Jenaplan, and, yes, Christian, Moslem, Hindu schools all equally funded with public money, with strong and equal oversight and unionized.

    For instance, here is the website for the Jenaplan charter system consisting of 201 schools. (let Google translate)

    The Dutch system is by no means perfect but they have been dealing with a hybrid “public” and charter school system for over 100 years so it’s an interesting model to look at and learn from.

  • 118. Chicago Parent  |  January 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Note – regarding the Jenaplan schools mentioned above – of the 201 some are “public” some are “charter” some are “charter” with a religious affiliation but all are equally, 100%, funded with public money.

  • 119. local  |  January 3, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Interesting, in light of Dutch system: “Teachers at a Chicago charter school are now subject to private-sector labor laws, rather than state laws governing public workers. The ruling, made by the National Labor Relations Board last month, said the Chicago Math and Science Academy is a “private entity” and therefore covered under the federal law governing the private sector, according to WBEZ.” – at Catalyst

  • 120. anonymouse teacher  |  January 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    What does that do to the lawsuit a teacher at CMSA filed regarding her firing over organizing a union there? (after receiving a bonus for extremely high quality work the previous spring) Does that make the firing legal or illegal? Do private sector companies have to provide specific meal times or breaks? Will CMSA staff get those?

  • 121. Iamthemama  |  January 3, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    @FP I am not a recruiter nor am I looking to recruit “like minded” families. I am a parent who was fully aware of Quest grading systems and systems thinking approach prior to enrolling my student. AGAIN, FOR MY FAMILY QUEST WORKS…… I am not saying it is perfect that would be a lie.

    My child actually did better on her NWEA score this year so I guess she would not be part of the majority that you speak of, also Quest is easily able to transfer their method of grading to a letter grade scale (they did it for me and my child received 4 a’s and 1 b). I am not intimidated by the grading system my child has been with CPS since pre-k and has always had very good grades.

    Lets really be honest here, the truth is QUEST was not a good fit for your student and so you decided to move on. I applaud you on doing what is best for your child, and moving on from Quest, but please dont try to cheapen the experience I am having because of your bad experience. Oh and just a FYI QUEST still completes boss level and the first one of this school year went pretty well.

  • 122. FP  |  January 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Chicago Quest has zero chance at becoming another Whitney Young. Whitney Young, like the NYC Quest is selective–/a charter school cannot do that.

    I am on my phone and will be back to address the other comments.

    I would like to say that there was a core group of families that were not from the neighborhood who would attend the meetings and PTA type meetings until they started noticing the moms who stepped up to be the PTA presidents quit. I stopped going after the Math teacher filled out a student assessment rubric but never assessed my child’s abilities.

    The ass. principal is gone, the principal quit, the PTA president and Vice President disappeared/quit though their child attend until they transferred.

    Right now I am looking for high schools for my child. I need people to tell me the truth about the schools in these discussions.

    Please do not sugar coat what is happening at any school.

  • 123. SutherlandParent  |  January 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Getting off-topic here, but did anyone have any thoughts on the CPS Inspector General’s report about free and reduced lunch fraud? I’ve always heard that the vast majority of kids in CPS were low-income or living in poverty–and while the majority are, Sullivan’s 2012 Annual Report claims it’s much closer to two-thirds than 90%:

    The possibility of system-wide fraud is crystallized by the fact that reliable census data suggests that CPS student eligibility for free or reduced-price meals should be around 67%— approximately 20% lower than reported by CPS.

  • 124. WayOuttaThere  |  January 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    To FP #122: Your instincts are correct. Stay away from Quest. There’s a reason many families left during year one and that they couldn’t fill the new 6th grade 2 months after the lottery. It’s not the crime, the violence, the turnover in administration or the inexperience of most of the teachers. It’s the constant and continual overpromise and underdeliver that drove many families crazy.

    We were led to believe that the iPads were for content delivery. Wrong. Never did figure out what the iPads were for (hence, not being used in Year 2) but the saddest part is that there was no cirriculum, no textbooks, no nothing. If you ever visit the school (which I don’t recommend) it’s kind of creepy. It takes a while before you realize that there are no books, no supplies, nothing. Even though there are kids there, it’s empty.

    Everything was “make it up as you go along” so even simple math you were neve quite sure if you were doing it correctly because they never checked anything ahead of time so 141 and 43/57ths could be a correct answer. Kind of a simple example, I know, but multiply this by everything they “taught” and you get the idea.

    There was even a class called “Sports for the Mind” which was some kind of game design class. Total waste of time.

    You know it’s pretty bad when families don’t even stick it out for the entire year. We bailed about half way through.

    CQ will never be the next Whitney Young; it will never be the next anything.

  • 125. Dave Smith  |  January 11, 2013 at 9:59 am

    If your instinct tells you that innovation and scientific research might improve society, then you should look into Quest. Quest is based on new thinking related a $50 million dollar research project provided by the MacArthur Foundation on digital learning.

    Granted, it’s new and working out systemic issues at a local level. It has a very diverse population with children from very different SES. The teachers are well educated and bright, perhaps young but not yet burned out. Administration has turned over and disciplinary issues are being addressed. I am waiting to see how they do with this and have great hope that they can address these concerns.

    CQ does have a curriculum and based on a well researched and practiced model, albeit cutting edge. Anyone interested in innovation in education can access any of the literature in “The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning”. Also, Quest to Learn in NY City has a great reputation at this point.

    For the record, education is not based on text books or paper. Learning is based on engaging problems, critical thinking and finding solutions. Digital media provide a superior forum for this endeavor.

    Finally, regarding “WayOutThere’s” criticism of Sports for the Mind which is unsubstantiated, I’ll just respond that it is NOT a waste of time.

    If families bailed on the school half way through the year, it likely reflects their frustration and disappointed expectations. Perhaps their expectations were based on misunderstanding or misinformation. There are plenty of schools in Chicago with worn out text books and pads of paper. If people want to understand CQ”s mission, they should read the science behind it.

    New schools clearly have their challenges. If they resolve their problems they can evolve to the caliber of a Whitney Young. I have faith that a school who’s mission is based on critical thinking and solving problems can accomplish this. So, you should check out CQ.

  • 126. anonymous  |  January 11, 2013 at 10:06 am

    @125 For the record, what’s your affiliation with Quest? Parent? Teacher? Administrator? Just curious. Thanks.

  • 127. Dave Smith  |  January 11, 2013 at 10:07 am


  • 128. local  |  January 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

    How did Quest obtain its charter if it’s such a hot mess (no curriculum, etc.)? Sounds wacky.

  • 129. local  |  January 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Hmm. Considering Dave Smith’s comments, maybe it’s just that “WayOutThere’s” family was not a good fit. Thanks for the info, Smith.

  • 130. cpsobsessed  |  January 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    @128: my sense from the New School fair and talking to the new charter operators is that someone with a good, compelling vision (I’d hope with some data to back it up) who can put a solid plan together and can be unrelenting in their pursuit to get a school opened is what it takes. In Quest’s case, there is a successful school operating in NYC. However in NYC, I believe charters can interview families to select those who are a good fit with the school and their philosophy (which makes so much more sense.) Yes, I’m sure this is another way to weed out undesirable students, but a school that’s a hippy school or an art school or a hands-on school or a Montessori school will best succeed with families who actively WANT that curriculum. Quest doesn’t seem to have that now. I think they are also penalized by their big physical structure and having no lottery process. They took anyone who wanted in, which likely includes kids having problems at other nearby schools. And are not a good fit with the curriculum.

    The positive feedback I’ve heard is enough to keep me open-minded about the place (but that’s because the method sounds very appealing to me personally.) I don’t know yet if it’s a good fit for my son who seems to function better in a more traditional classroom setting where he is told what to do and when to do it (or else extreme procrastination sets in.) I’m planning a visit to Quest soon to check it out — keeping in mind we have a few more years for the school to work some stuff out.

  • 131. FP  |  January 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    @ Dave Smith

    The reality of the Quest situation is that there is a lot of innovation in the approach—there is a Tom of innovation in the instructional design.

    THE DELIVERY wasn’t there. They cannot deliver on that promise for many years. Anyone who leaves their child in that situation is making a mistake. They don’t even deliver on the technology—-last year they didn’t have any novels it books. I was fine with that if they used ebooks on their iPads—- they weren’t asked to read as a recreational activity. And what is even more telling- the website was NEVER updated. Lol the website was developed for promotional use but was never functioning for parent use to see updated info.

    I beg you to DIG deeper than what they say. Ask them how your child received the “apprentice” level and ask them to support it with actual products and projects that your child completed. They were unable to show that.

    Last year there was “slap ass Friday” a friend transferred her daughter because this slapping occurred and reoccurred even after the student body was told about it.

    Poor fiscipline AND poor academics.

  • 132. INTRINSIC CHARTER  |  January 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I am curious to know where Instrinsic Charter will be located, Anyone know? The Principal at Lasalle II will be running the school along with some other former heavy weights from CPS.

  • 133. cpsobsessed  |  January 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    As of the charter fair, their materials said that possible locations include hermosa, belmont craigin, Logan sq and portage park.

    The materials say its “an innovate approach focused on providing all students a path to a 4 year college.
    Founded by a team of educators who have led many of the best CPS schools.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 134. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    #132~Intrinsic Charter ~ I posted this on another link re: Intrinsic Charters charters are based on 2 teachers, and one assistant in classroom based on 90 students in a classroom. Look at the Model on the bottom of the page Very few kids could learn this way.

  • 135. cpsobsessed  |  January 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    That’s a really odd model. Well, it’s cool but the reality of it for middle and high schoolers… I just don’t know. It says there are 90 kids per pod and each school will have 600 kids. No idea how that works out in kids per grade… I guess 90 per grade 6-12 all in one room? Or they move rooms for different subjects? so the whole school has 6 rooms?
    I think I’ve mentioned before that I went to an open middle school (big open pods with classrooms on the perimeter) and it was very challenging. The school was long ago converted to a traditional layout.

  • 136. INTRINSIC CHARTER  |  January 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    it sounds like Montessori and Disney(pod style) school mixed together. I think middle school and High school kids would enjoy this style of learning. I work in an elementary school, I am not a teacher but I do see kids on a regular basis. They seem so bored with school by 6th grade. I think all of the test prep and busy work sucks the life out of them.

  • 137. INTRINSIC CHARTER  |  January 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I hope the location is Logan Square. It sounds like a good feeder for a school like Drummond or the other cps Montessori schools

  • 138. cpsobsessed  |  January 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I just worry about the acoustics – it was awful in my middle school – you could hear multiple teachers talking at once. Also, there were always 7th grade boys lobbing wads of paper over the partitions.
    I’m sure it all comes down to the instruction and inspiration. Reducing boredom would probably help with attendance too.

    The beauty of new charters is that a group of parents could probably get a bunch of kids in the first couple years, which is what happened at CICS Irving Park. The parents just used it as another neighborhood school when it was easy to get in. You find 40 parents who want an alternative to the neighborhood high schools – they could fill a lot of those spots.

  • 139. SoxSideIrish4  |  January 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    There is no way that Intrinisic charter could work unless they tested to get into. They would take the 6th graders get them up to speed and get them ready for honor classes for 7th grade. They would prolly start w/6-9 grades and build from there. This is a very challenging model~they couldn’t just take n’hood or lottery. Very few cud kids could do this and they wud still have test prep sucking the life out of them~that’s the CPS MO.

  • 140. Mom of 2  |  January 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I would be impressed and a full supporter if they took kids from the neighborhood schools like Jenner, Graham or Bethune and pulled off some element of success. Somehow I doubt this will happen.

    Again, this is going to be one of those schools “for other people’s children.” Which is the other CPS MO.

  • 141. FP  |  January 14, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Mom of 2 I agree with you.

  • 142. Gobemouche  |  February 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Via Reuters:

    “Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want”

    Excerpts from the article:

    “Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.”

    ” In one extreme example the Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove, Illinois, mandates that each student’s family invest in the company that built the school – a practice the state said it would investigate after inquiries from Reuters.”

  • 143. love the weather  |  May 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    UNO teachers are voting on unionizing,0,5328003.story

  • 144. anonymouse teacher  |  May 1, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I am SO not surprised. Though, now that their funding has been cut off, not sure they will have an employer to work for this fall.

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