by Collin Hitt
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Illinois’s Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Hispanic students will play a major role in determining the state’s economic future. Unfortunately, these two critical groups of students have remained among the lowest-performing in our schools. This is especially the case in Chicago Public Schools, where the problem is exacerbated by the fact that thousands of LEP and Hispanic students are attending overcrowded schools.
Indeed, the problem of school overcrowding seems to fall most heavily on Hispanic communities in Chicago, as shown by United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) research. New, high-quality schooling options need to be created in Chicago to meet the demands and needs of those families.
Public charter schools create such options. A new study co-published by the Illinois Policy Institute and the Lexington Institute finds strong evidence that many Chicago charter schools are brining improvements for both LEP and Hispanic students.
Thus it is recommended that:
- Local policymakers in Chicago encourage charter school operators to expand in ways that serve more LEP and Hispanic students and their communities;
- Local policymakers in other Illinois cities, especially those with high LEP and Hispanic student populations, examine how charter schools might improve education in their communities;
- State lawmakers change charter school authorization laws and eliminate other impediments (such as statutory caps on charter schools) that could keep innovative educators from creating new, high-quality options for Illinois’s schoolchildren.
Why This Works
The new Illinois Policy Institute study reviewed the performance at Chicago charter schools where LEP and Hispanic student populations exceed district averages (i.e. schools with similar demographics to those of overcrowded schools, which are mostly attended by Hispanic students). The study reviews the percentage of LEP and Hispanic students, at select campuses, who met standards on state tests during the 2007-08 school year. Much of the campus-level performance data is available publicly for the first time.
Among its findings from schools with available data:
- LEP students at reviewed charter schools outperformed their Chicago Public Schools peers at the same grade level 83.8 percent of the time;
- Hispanic students did so 65.9 percent of the time;
- In particular, LEP and Hispanic students at charter school campuses operated by the UNO Network of Charter Schools and Chicago International Charter School demonstrated some of the city’s strongest standardized test results, routinely performing above district averages.
These figures show that Chicago charter school campuses are routinely posting higher test scores for LEP and Hispanic students, when those campuses have high enrollments of either student group.
The reason why more LEP and Hispanic students do not attend charter schools is because such schools have not often been permitted to open. This study, long waiting lines to get into charter schools and overcrowding at Chicago schools all show that more charters are needed.
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