by Josh Dwyer
According to a report in today’s Chicago Tribune, CPS officials have asked several charter operators if they would be willing to take over some of the 80 to 120 under-enrolled or poorly performing schools that the district is planning on closing next year. Among the names mentioned are the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and the Noble Network of Charter Schools.
Traditionally, the privately-run Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) was in charge of taking over schools that CPS needed to turn around. Unlike charter schools, the AUSL hires only Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) members.
Increasing the amount of charter schools operating in Chicago is a development that the Institute fully supports.
Chicago’s charter high schools are a welcome change to the typical Chicago Public School (CPS) story of schools struggling to meet minimal standards full of teachers complaining about intrusive administrators and lackluster pay These non-unionized, lower cost schools, which remained open during the CTU strike, are doing a great job at raising student achievement.
Our most recent report, A model of success: Chicago’s charter schools hold the top nine spots for 2012 ACT scores, shows this.
This year, charter schools held the top nine spots for ACT scores for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago. Another charter school ended up in a three-way tie for tenth. The Noble Network of Charter Schools led the pack, with nine schools in the top 10, one of which was included in the tie. The average ACT score for charter schools in the top 10 was 20.6, with Noble Network’s UIC College Prep campus scoring 21.9 – the highest-ever average at an open-enrollment, non-selective CPS high school.
Additionally, a comparison of Chicago’s top 10 charter high schools to the top 10 open-enrollment, non-selective, traditional public high schools over the last five years shows that charters’ pace of improvement is significantly greater. Since 2007, top charter school scores have increased by 17 percent, while the top traditional schools have gained nearly 5 percent.
While the Institute supports this charter school expansion, it urges city hall to create a transparent, well-designed process to decide which charters schools will be chosen to operate these turnaround schools.
It would be a shame if they were chosen on the basis of political connections, not quality and cost.