Posts filed under ‘Charter schools’

7 More Charters on the Way


As I’m sure you’ve heard, CPS voted to approve 7 new charters today, among 17 proposed.

The tribune (intrepid education reporter Noreen) covered the story as shown below.

I remain “charter neutral,” conceptually.  Meaning I am okay with the idea of choice and offering options, especially to families who are surrounded by low performing schools.  When I attended the New Schools fair last year I could fully understand the appeal.   BUT, that is just conceptual.  The current reality of our school district makes the notion of choice and schools competing for students a bit ludicrous.  How long can the Mayor and Board pretend that opening these schools won’t have an impact on neighborhood schools?   I would be much more open to embracing new charters if some kind of strategic plan was laid out and  sense of forthrightness was shown in managing the shift from neighborhood to charter.

Without any hint of a strategy to manage the shifting student population (which is inevitable) it appears that it will be left to chance, to “free market” results.  What can the result be other than less efficient neighborhood schools?  If there is another outcome that doesn’t result in inefficiency, I would love to hear about it.  If the goal is to continue to reduce neighborhood schools with charters, just say it.  Or just have the balls to do it.  Let a charter take over a neighborhood school if some of the charters so are good.  Figure out a plan to shift students that doesn’t let schools dwindle and fester.

Yes, competition can be a good thing.  It works when 2 independent companies or entities compete.  One wins business and the other loses business and the only downside is to the owners of the “losing” business.  But in this case WE (CPS, Chicago, taxpayers) own BOTH the businesses.  If one loses, that results in losses and inefficiency, neither of which we can afford right now.
Show me the strategy, Rahm.

**Original link to Trib story here:**,0,1446141.story?page=1

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah Tribune reporter8:54 p.m. CST, January 22, 2014

While Chicago’s Board of Education on Wednesday approved just seven of 17 proposals for new charter schools, the growth of privately run schools in the city remains on a pace sought by advocates.

Five of the seven schools that got the go-ahead are scheduled to open up this fall, at the same time as 10 charter schools previously approved by the board. So the rejection of 10 charter proposals Wednesday was not seen as a setback by the charter community.

“It’s a somewhat modest number, but it’s good,” said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. “It’s progress.”

With the 15 new charters opened this past August, Broy said the district would still be on target to meet its goal to open 60 new charters between 2012 and 2017.Chicago Public Schools has promoted the growth of charters as one way to fix the city’s troubled educational system because they can offer a range of innovative learning environments and offer parents more choices.

But charter expansion efforts this year have met with especially strong criticism in large part because they follow the decision last year to close nearly 50 district-run schools because of underenrollment, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts at schools.

CPS has made clear it intended to be conservative in charter growth this year, and on Wednesday again stressed that only a handful of the 10 schools approved earlier appear on track to open in the fall.

The board Wednesday followed the recommendation of CPS staff to approve seven of the 17 proposals. Only three of the schools approved Wednesday will be located in communities with overcrowded schools, which CPS had said would be target areas for new charters this year.

None of the four district-recommended charters in “non-priority” areas passed unanimously, with one board member, Carlos Azcoitia, voting against all four. Those schools are slated for communities on the South and West sides, which saw large scale school closures this past summer.

“This is a very difficult decision, and it’s very difficult for me,” said board member Andrea Zopp who voted against one of the seven recommended proposals. “I think we have some real challenges. It is hard to balance what we’ve done already this year with opening schools that are in communities where we have said we have too many seats. I struggle with that significantly.”

Zopp said voted for three other charters planning to locate outside CPS’ “priority communities” on the Northwest and Southwest sides because they had demonstrated strong community support.

Right now, 126 of the district’s 658 schools are charters. Charter schools can employ non-union teachers, and the Chicago Teachers Union has led protests against charter expansion, culminating with an overnight vigil outside CPS headquarters that ended early Wednesday.

Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, a charter proponent, spoke passionately about her desire for a Noble Street Charter campus in her neighborhood. Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, spoke out in favor of a charter that was part of a play by mayoral ally the Rev. Charles Jenkins to redevelop the old Johnson Products Co. site on 85th Street..CPS officials said they settled on recommending seven charters as opposed to all 17 based on the quality of applicants, strong track records, solid finances and evidence they could meet additional requirements.

Noble Street Charter Schools, a favorite of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s, won approval for two new high schools which will increase its number of campuses in the city to 16. Concept Schools, which has a high school in Rogers Park and opened two campuses this year, won approval for two more.Intrinsic Schools, which opened its first campus this year, needs to meet further requirements involving academics and other factors before getting final approval for a Fall 2015 starting date for the new high school it wants to open.

Bishop James Dukes, part of group of South Side pastors who applied for a new school through the Connected Futures Academy charter network, which targets troubled youths and dropouts, made clear his disappointment with the board’s rejection of that group’s proposal.“It’s a sad day in Chicago that of all the applications you have the usual organizations being approved, none of the charters (that were approved) are lead African American organizations and yet all of them are going to operate primarily in African American communities,” Dukes said.

The board followed a recommendation made earlier in the day from Chicago Public Schools staff to move ahead with seven of the 17 proposed charter schools.The board approved proposals from the following charter operators:

•    Concept Schools: two schools at 5401 S. Western Avenue and 8522 S. Lafayette Ave.;

•    Intrinsic Schools: one school at 4540 W. Belmont Ave. in first year before moving to another unspecified Northwest Side location;

•    Noble: two schools, at 5321 W. Grand Ave. and 17 N. State Street;

•    Chicago Education Partnership: one school, with grades K-6 at 400 N. Leamington Ave., grades 7-8 at 415 N. Laramie Ave.;

•    Great Lakes Academy: one school, location to be determined.


January 23, 2014 at 12:55 am 222 comments

New School Fair: Field Report

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.


December 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm 144 comments

Charter ISAT Performance 2012

I am on an ongoing quest to figure out whether charters are actually “better” than non-charter schools. The mayor and Brizard seem to think so. School Reformers definitely think so. The “Waiting for Superman” movie seems to think so.
On the other hand, I see comments a lot of about the underperforming. I’ve read more than my fair share of research reports (my fair share being fairly low number.) So far I have been left with the answer “it depends.” Some do well. Other do not. They seem to show an uneven performance that doesn’t necssarily justify large scale expansion without some serious selection efforts. Being a Charter alone doesn’t guarantee success in terms of test scores. On the other hand, perhaps the kids who attend these schools would have done worse if they had gone to their neighborhood school.

We all know the selection bias (parents willing to make the effort to apply, get their kids to the school, comply with the rules) probably plays a factor and I can’t account for that here.

But I decided to rank the schools on the new 2011 ISAT meets/exceed scores and place all the school into quintiles. For those who are bad at math, that means I divided the scores into fifths, to see which schools are in the top quintile (top 20%, and each subsequent quintile.) If charters perform the SAME as non-charters, we’d expect to see 20/20/20/20/20% across the quintiles.

In fact, the charter fare better than we’d expect by chance/natural rank. Few charters are in the bottom 2 quintiles than you’d expect.

For scores with ESL the distribution is:
18% Top Quintile
30% Middle Quintile
8% Bottom Quintile

For scores without ESL the distribution is:
18% Top Quintile
23% Middle Quintile
12% Bottom Quintile

The ranking that include ESL look slightly better than those without ESL.

I think the question we’d all like to know is how some of these charters would perform if they got a group of neighborhood kids and had to keep those kids no matter what. THAT is the test I’d like to see.

In any case, CICS Irving Park is easily on par with many of the top city schools. (It also has a fairly low % of low income kids.) CICS West Belden does very well, especially considering it is 95% low income (92% Hispanic.) UNO Torres at #3 is also mostly Hispanic. Noble Comer is almost all Af-American.

It’s hard to identify why the Bottom Quintile schools are down there without knowing more about them. Disappointing to see Quest on the list, but like CICS Hawkins, it’s harder to get good scores when you haven’t been teaching the kids for the previous 7 years.

So my next question is whether these are basically performing like magnets — succeeding because of selection bias. Or does it not matter. If I’m a Hispanic parent, I could be pretty excited about those numbers for some of the mostly Hispanic schools compared to the typical achievement gap scene in CPS.

I think the range of results, even within each operator, is interesting. Why does CICS or UNO or whoever perform really well in some locations and not others? How can CPS predict which new charters will succeed?

September 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm 147 comments

Charters growing in CPS – up to 25% of schools?

Charters and neighborhood schools – can we co-exist? (I need something cute to take my mind off the school stuff.)

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.

From Diane:

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.

Trib story

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribun

Chicago Public Schools plans to create 60 more charter schools over five years, which would increase the share of privately run charters to about a quarter of all schools in the district.

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.

May 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm 178 comments

QuestChicago update and some other stuff…

I wanted to post some updates about QuestChicago, the new charter school that opened.  The school is located at 1443 N. Ogden, near the North/Clyborn corner and near the old Cabrini Green projects.  It’s just south of the area we were discussing regarding Lincoln/LaSalle.  The school opened last fall for 6th graders (they took in around 150 kids) and will expand one grade per year until they have a middle school and high school.  I was interested in the school because it’s based on a similar charter that operates in NYC and is sort of billed as the “video game school” no as much in terms of technology, but in terms of game-based thinking, which I can imagine would be appealing to my son.
The school had to promote itself all last year to build enrollment and they did not quite meet their goal, meaning any child who wanted to attend could do so.  I found this interesting in regards to seeing how the student body of a new charter is shaped over time.  Obviously parents who chose to seek out this new school must be a bit more education-minded and/or be looking for something better than their current school to make the effort/take the chance on a new school.
A reader here gave me some information on her child’s year at Quest last Fall and I followed up with the school to get their response.  It  sounds like despite the self-selection process that a charters benefit from, at least in the first year, there have been some behavior problems that the school is working to overcome.  Because of their need to keep students (for funding) I’m guessing that not many or any students are being “counseled out” at this point, as we’ve heard the other charters can.
The feedback on the curriculum sounds incredible to me personally.  I’m hoping the school can get some of the other issues in line within the next few years.  In theory, with a more committed student base I think the school could have really hit the ground running, but since they have to take who they get, they’ll have to spend time on non-academic issues for a while.
 There’s an open house Tuesday January 11th which I can’t make as my son’s school will be holding a meeting about the longer day (my son is LIVID about the idea and I can’t say I’m in favor of 7.5 hours either unless I’m promised I’ll never have to do homework with him again…)  But Quest will hold monthly open houses through the end of the year.
If you’ve heard anything else about this school, add to the comments.
Does the school seem organized and like they know what they’re doing?
No. Right now everything seems to be a work in process.  The staff is new, so we’re (the school/parents/staff) going through growing pains.  They didn’t get their full enrollment numbers so the budget isn’t as big as they had hoped so a lot of the staff is doing double duty.  It’s frustrating at times but we’re working through it as parents.  The curriculum is in order so the kids know what’s expected of them.  There are some very dedicated parents that are working with the administration to get things going smoothly.
I guess my key question is whether the style of learning seems materially different than typical CPS.  My son is in 3rd grade and I feel like the learning style is so boring (even though I think he’s got some good teachers.)
Yes, this is a very different mindset that I’m still wrapping my mind around.  I’m coming from the selective school environment where it’s all about testing and individual achievement.   At CQ, it’s about the total child.  Classes work off each other.  There is no math, science, literature, etc.  There is The Way Things Work(science), Being, Space and Place(social studies), CodeWorld(math, writing), Sports for the Mind(critical thinking), etc.  The classes all work together so that one day they kids may study mathmatical problems but they’re studying WHY do you carry the one in adding, plus have to make up a story using that formula, and have to work as a team to discover the answer to codes from the problems.  So in one class, they’ve done math, critical thinking, writing, and maybe some literature.  This is how all the classes operate; free-flowing and interesting.  One specific example was when a teacher had the kids pretend they were Spartan soldiers.  They had to perform certain tasks to be promoted to the next level of society so the kids had a history, math and critical thinking lesson all in one.  My daughter LOVES the school and the interactive lessons.  They just distributed iPads so that’s starting to be incorporated into the lesson plan. Kids work as teams to accomplish goals.
What is the student body like?
Downside: open enrollment.  The kids from selective enrollment schools are starting to get bored with homework and classwork that they did 2 years before.  The school is trying to find a way to keep them challenged.
Student behavior:  A lot of the students are very disruptive and very disrespectful to teachers and students alike.  It’s as if the administration was totally unprepared for this type of kid.  They’re altering the disclipline program to parents’ delights.
Teacher behavior:  New teachers not used to handling disruptive students so a lot of time is spent trying to quiet the class down.  The administration is going to work with teachers to see how they handle their classes and give them recommendations to improve.
Are you glad you sent your child there?
Right now it’s a draw for CQ.  I must say that parents, me included, are glad to see excitement in their children about learning.  My daughter doesn’t complain about getting up at 5:00 am to catch a van to school.  My daughter had started to dread going to school at her previous school but is really excited about learning now.  Once the school works on the discipline issue and gets a full staff, it will be a great school  So by time you son is ready for 6th grade, all the kinks should be worked out. I’ve talked to other parents that went to a new school and they experienced the same exact problems.  Each year it got better and now the schools are doing great.  Overall, it’s a draw but I believe that it will only get better as the bad kids get tired of doing detention and move on.
Response From Quest:
We had a great meeting for PTA Advisory and there’s so much coming down the pipe with the new focus on Common Core Standards.   I’ll send you the info.  Did you know that the OAES(Office of Academic Enhancement Services) was pretty much disbanded and distributed across CPS in different offices?  It will be interesting to see how this plays out this year.

All things considered, we have had a remarkable start to this first year.  We have had some behavioral challenges — students coming from all kinds of school experiences and norms.  Kids are learning the ChicagoQuest way, and that takes day-in, day-out persistence.
Our Parent-Teacher-Community Organization is up and running and they have been great about giving us real and hard feedback.  We are committed to using it to make the school better every day and I think that shows.

I am most proud of a) the amazing curriculum that our teachers and game designers have created and provided to kids and b) the fact that most of our kids LOVE to come to school, which is no small feat at the middle grades.

Our Open Houses for next year are on January 11th and every first Wednesday after that at 6pm at the school. features the weekly updates that teachers send to parents, as well as a message from our Design Team.

We are very proud about how much of the model that our teachers have been able to implement so far.

*****OTHER STUFF******

I’ve finally gotten my house listed.  Once again, giant bungalow in Waters district listed at $535 if anyone is interested.  I’ve sent the info to Brizard’s people with no bites.  🙂

My son took the gifted test last week for entry into 4th grade, just so I could see how he performed again (I’m curious about the consistency and let’s face it, practice testing in CPS probably can’t hurt.)  I was surprised that his dad said the kids were gone about an hour and 20 minutes total.  This time, they read the questions themselves and worked at their own pace.  Sounds like the usual questions on logic, patterns, etc and his dad said his feedback made it sound like a typical intelligence test.

I’ll be meeting at my son’s school about the longer day and also perhaps with some other parents from other schools next weekend.  I also have some info on it that CPS gave me to share.

I’ve been following the Facebook posts about the Lincoln elem issue and it sounds like CPS is working independently on some ideas and the area parents are coming up with some very good ideas of their own.  Brizard’s press person did say that CPS still supports the idea of magnets so we’ll see where it all nets out in terms of Lincoln/LaSalle and the area.

Finally, if anyone knows of someone selling or thinking of selling their house or 3 bedroom condo on the north side, feel free to let me know.  It is slim pickins out there!

January 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm 94 comments

Where do Charters rank in the city?

Since we’re on the topic of charter and I woke up to read several comments about Ben Jarovsky’s current Reader article about Senator Kirk’s misrepresentation of the success of charter schools (which WE discussed weeks ago – yay us!)

Unfortunately, I find Jarovsky’s article almost as misleading as Kirk’s.  Kirk or his people clearly stole a blurb that Rahm or his people came up with about the top high schools in the city being charters.  Obviously anyone reading here knows that they needed the disclaimed “Other Than Selective High Schools.”  They didn’t include that which makes it horrible fact-reporting.  But when I pull a list by ACT scores, I have to admit, the charters don’t make a bad showing.  So I don’t love Ben’s articles that spends 2 pages about how Kirk messed up.  Yes, he did.  Dumb-*ass error, but let’s get to the heart of the matter.  Charter performance.  Ben says they should be compared to SE high schools and I disagree.  He came up with an analysis that is different than mine and I’m curious about it, just as he was about Kirk’s. Link to the story is down below.

I posted the following comment on his article:

Point taken, both Rahm and Kirk reported an inaccurate “data blurb” about charters.  I am not necessarily pro-charter, but I’m pro-data.  They way they reported it is inexcusable.  However I STRONGLY believe that one needs to remove the SE high schools when comparing “the rest.”  It’s no secret that those schools take the very top students in the city based on test scores and grade.  It’s not even close to comparable.

I ranked ACT scores for 2011 and removed SE, Military (I don’t know the admission criteria there) and a couple other schools that use test/grade-selective components.

I am left with the following list.  To ME it looks like the charters occupy a prime spot above the neighborhood schools – on par with a few Magnet high schools.  A list of CPS elem schools would show the same Magnet effect.  Charters are acting like magnets (which in essence they are.)  Does that make it right or wrong to operated them?  I don’t know. Perhaps CPS could open more magnet high schools and get the same results.

I am curious about your numbers though.  As a data person, I just like to make sure I’m getting the real picture and it seems like you are as well.  Can we reconcile these?

Ranked by Avg 2011 ACT score

NOBLE ST CHTR-UIC        21.2        Charter

NOBLE ST CHTR-PRITZKER            21.0        Charter

DEVRY HS            20.7        Magnet

NOBLE ST CHTR-NOBLE  20.6        Charter

CHGO AGR HS   20.4        Magnet

NOBLE ST CHTR-RAUNER              20.2        Charter

NOBLE ST CHTR-COMER                20.1        Charter

NOBLE ST CHTR-GOLDER               20.1        Charter

KENWOOD HS   19.2        Neighborhood

CICS-NORTHTOWN         19.0        Charter

NOBLE ST CHTR-ROWE CLARK     18.9        Charter

UNO CHTR – MAJOR HECTOR P.GARCIA 18.7        Charter

CHICAGO VIRTUAL CHTR CAMPUS HS     18.5        Charter

CHGO ACAD HS 18.4        Designated Small School

TAFT HS                18.2        Neighborhood with AC for middle school

November 18, 2011 at 9:37 am 107 comments

Galewood New Charter School Dissent

I’m probably late coming in on this but a reader emailed me today about it.  The Galewood community on the west side is experiencing some tension around a possible new charter school.  Some parents are interested in getting a new UNO charter school built, but the teachers’ union is trying to keep them out.

Cheryl, who wrote to me said that the union urged teachers to show up early for the meeting so they were able to secure all nearly all the seats in the room (which was then closed due to capacity.)  The union is well mobilized, I will give them that.  In any case, the parents are now seeking petitions to try to get the land re-zoned as the first step in getting a new charter school in the area.

If you are in the boundaries and are inclined to support a new charter school, contact Cheryl at the information below.  If you are a teacher and are opposed to it, the union would probably welcome your support.

(773) 836-2246 or

**Boundaries are Harlem to Austin Blvd and North Avenue to Grand**

I’m sure this has happened before?  I’m just not aware of it.  Definitely an obstacle for Brizard’s granular approach of filling needs in the neighborhoods.  Or maybe top city officials can just rezone and open charters where they like?  I’m slowly learning more about charters, but still don’t know much.

Union, UNO Clash Over School

by REBECCA VEVEA | Nov 9, 2011

More than 100 people turned out for a community meeting on a new charter school proposal Tuesday night on the city’s far Northwest Side, with public school teachers pressing freshman Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) to block the plan put forward by one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s staunch allies.

At the urging of Chicago Teachers Union organizers, teachers and union representatives packed the meeting room to oppose the proposal from the United Neighborhood Organization, the city’s most prominent Latino community group.

UNO wants to buy a parcel in the ward, at 2102 N. Natchez Ave., for a new school that would open next year. But the proposal for the site in the Galewood neighborhood first needs a zoning change, so Sposato called the meeting to gather feedback from constituents.

Angel Rivera, a teacher at Canty Elementary School, asked Sposato to “say adios to UNO,” which largely serves Latino students at its 11 schools across the city.

“Charter schools are the privatization of public education,” said Joe McDermott, a teacher and CTU organizer who was among about 50 people who spoke at the meeting. “They are the Wal-Mart of education.”

UNO’s CEO, Juan Rangel, replied that the teachers’ union members were there “to protect their interests.”

“Clearly, it’s a very strong union community here, but ultimately it should be about the interests of the students and the parents,” Rangel said.

Several parents of UNO students spoke in favor of the proposal, and Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno also showed up in support of UNO, which recently opened a school in his 1st Ward.

“You’re going to be extremely pleased,” Moreno said. “It can only get better when UNO comes in.”

The new school would be built with funds from a $98 million construction grant that state officials approved for UNO in 2009. But the union has sought to stop the proliferation of charter schools, arguing that scarce education dollars should not be diverted from existing city schools.

Rangel contended that UNO backers were among the roughly 50 people denied entry after the meeting started at 7 p.m., because the room was at capacity. Sposato threatened to end the meeting several times, as the debate often grew heated.

Sposato replied “no” when an audience member asked, “Is this a done deal?” And after the meeting, the first-term alderman would not say which way he was inclined to side on the issue.City Hall’s de facto system of deciding zoning issues, aldermen almost always have final say over the fate of real estate projects in their wards.

Some critics of the 36th Ward proposal on Tuesday made reference to Rangel’s strong political ties to Emanuel, who has praised UNO’s efforts. Rangel was an ally of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and served as Emanuel’s campaign co-chairman in the February mayoral race.

Steve Berry, a physical education teacher at Locke Elementary School in the ward, said he was disenchanted with the way Chicago politics work.

“It seems like in Chicago it doesn’t matter what the people want,” Berry said. “This is almost a waste of time.”

But Shelley Huske, a 36th Ward parent who professed neutrality on the UNO plan, bemoaned how the public hearing had devolved into a “referendum on unions.”

“I feel sorry for him because this shouldn’t be a political decision,” Huske said of Sposato. “For me, it’s about my kids and the kids in the neighborhood.”

November 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm 24 comments

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