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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Transforming public education in Rockford

I had the pleasure of visiting the two new charter public schools in Rockford recently, along with several of my colleagues from INCS and the Rockford Charter School Initiative (RCSI).

Three themes stood out to me at both schools, as we visited classrooms, saw students in action and talked with teachers: high expectations, engagement and support.

At Legacy Academy of Excellence, these themes came across in the consistent, active involvement of students in classrooms throughout the school. Students enthusiastically participated in the call and response of the Direct Instruction approach. The hallways resonated with the sound of student voices. In one of classroom, several students proudly showed me the fiction writing they were working on. Two boys were writing stories about each other and sports – topics that clearly appealed to them both.

A parent and board member shared with us that the school has truly transformed his son’s educational experience. In a sharp departure from the past, he said, his son is now coming home excited about school, eager to talk about what he’s learning and to do his homework.

At Galapagos Rockford, a new charter school replicating the original Galapagos Charter School in Chicago, we were greeted by bright, large classrooms set up for stations and small group instruction using the “CAFÉ” model to teach reading (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expanding Vocabulary). College pendants and other reminders that the elementary school “scholars” (as they refer to their students) are on the path to higher education were displayed throughout the school. We learned about the monthly parades to celebrate students who have consistently completed homework and behaved in a scholarly fashion.

A third grade teacher (a Rockford native who returned to her community with the opening of the charter school) showed us two samples of a student’s writing – one from the first week of school and one from several months later. The difference was remarkable: the first was a sloppy, poorly-written half-page; the second, a neatly written, multi-page story incorporating quotations. The teacher attributed this change to the high expectations of the students in her classroom and across the school.

In both schools, students and teachers are learning for more hours than in the traditional school system – with longer school days for students and significant time devoted to professional development for teachers. A gallery walk in the professional development room at Legacy showed that students weren’t the only ones engaged and supported in their learning. Flip chart posters circled the large room, displaying the work on strategies such as Activating Prior Knowledge that teachers had completed in playfully named teams.

-Anne Levy-Brown

Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School visit

The faculty and staff at Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School were very pleasant and accommodating. I was escorted by the family coordinator for BLCS, Mrs. Michelle Clayborn. Upon my arrival, the students were on their last lunch session as other students were already back in class. As I toured the school, we had some dialogue about the school’s structure. BLCS has over 450 students enrolled. The school accommodates grades kindergarten through eighth grade. There are two classrooms for each grade with a maximum of 25 students. The school hours are from 8AM-4PM. The “K-4th” grade students are located on the first floor and the 5th-8th grade students are located on the second floor. There is a Director of Instruction on each floor whose primary responsibility is teacher support.

The school serves both breakfast and lunch for 30 minutes and 20 minutes respectively. The lunchroom is also used for their after-school program and parent sessions. The parents are required to attend at least two sessions. In addition to their major subjects taught, BLCS also offer Music, Spanish, Technology, Art, and Library classes. During my visit, there were students practicing on the drums in preparation for their Christmas program through a community partnership. BLCS integrates art programs to support their mission. This allows their students to be creative through learning. The school has an art studio which displays many works by the students.

I had the opportunity to sit in on a third grade class. The teacher was covering an English exercise where students identified topic sentences and details within a paragraph. The students were very attentive. The asked relevant questions and seem to understand the lesson. The teacher did a good job with her delivery of the lesson. I also observed an eighth grade class where the teacher was covering a book reading assignment. The students are to read 10 books of their choice. Upon reading the books, the students are required to complete a book review, engage in book talk and online discussion. She also covered a lesson on writing an autobiography. She passed out index cards that had questions on them. The students asked the teacher questions from the cards. She provided answers as a way to stimulate their thoughts for writing an autobiography. Once the students complete the autobiography, they have to create a PowerPoint presentation or poster display. I also visited the computer lab. The computer teacher is relatively new to BLCS and will be taking on a technical support role for the school. She also mentioned that their administration currently serves as their technical support.

-Jerald Blackwell

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An educator and consultant

As an educator and consultant, I’ve helped to start a number of new schools and reviewed many charter proposals. So one of my main jobs at INCS is to work with design teams seeking to start new charter schools, and to field questions from people who want to get started on the process. One of the most uplifting aspects of this work is that there are so many people throughout Illinois who care deeply about improving life opportunities for kids, particularly for underserved populations. And they have a great many innovative and well-thought-out ideas about how to do this. They are usually not interested in putting down or replacing existing school districts, but simply seeking exciting alternatives – individualized learning plans for kids, engaging real-world inquiry projects, collaboration among teachers, strong school cultures that respect children, focus on preparing all students for college and getting them there. These are things that good educators seek everywhere, though charters often make it easier to get them started. In some of the political back-and-forth and concerns about testing and control, it can be easy to lose sight of this great fund of energy and inspiration. But if you are someone who would like to launch a start-up effort yourself, or to get involved in one of the teams that is already making progress, call us here at INCS and we’re ready to help and to give you our best guidance.

--Steve Zemelman, Director of School Innovation and Planning

Carlos Perez testimony

INCS testimony at CPS Board Meeting 11-23-09, given by Carlos Perez, Director of Public Policy

On behalf of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, we’d like to extend our deepest sympathy for the loss of Michael Scott. Our thoughts remain with his family and colleagues.

Today you will vote to convert a number of contract schools to charters and to create 5 new charter school campuses which will provide new educational opportunities for hundreds of Chicago’s families.

These schools started as one new school with the intention to provide innovative educational practices. Nearly ten years ago, the CPS board supported two teachers when they took a chance to create Noble St. charter school. Today you will be voting to continue that schools expansion as they work to put thousands of Chicago’s children in college.

Over ten years ago, this body voted to create LEARN charter school, a small school that grew from a 3 flat apartment building in North Lawndale to one of the top performing elementary schools in the city. Today you will vote to expand that educational opportunity from the Westside to the city’s South Shore community.

Years ago the CPS board showed leadership when this body authorized the United Neighborhood Organization to open an elementary school on the city’s Westside. This relationship serves as one example of the many ways community organizations can work together with the school district. Today, UNO continues to serve to help alleviate overcrowding in the city’s Latino communities while providing a rigorous education.

Unfortunately, today you will not be voting to create any new charter schools that have come through this year’s request for proposal process.

At the heart of the charter law, and indeed the lifeblood of a robust charter sector, is the infusion of new innovative techniques and new educational entrepreneurs. You are witnessing first-hand those successes being brought to scale. The visionaries of the future may be dreaming of their ideal school for Englewood, or Logan Square, or Beverly as I speak. Don’t close the door on their chance to strengthen public education in their community.

We encourage CPS to continue to exert leadership and it is our hope that new charter public school operators will be given the chance to create the next great school for Chicago’s children.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An unlikely trio on Meet the Press

This past Sunday on Meet the Press with David Gregory, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Reverend Al Sharpton sat down to talk about the state of public education in our country and how President Obama’s Race to the Top Fund is seeking to improve states’ school systems. The trio -- which brings both liberal and conservative ideals to the table -- is not the most likely group to band together in addressing one of the nation’s most important 21st century challenges. However, it is nice to see bipartisan support for education since the futures of our children should not be held victim to partisan politics.

Charter schools, ever since they burst on the scene less than twenty years ago have been thought of as engines of innovation, schools that could be used to discover new best practices that could in turn be shared across school districts. The Race to the Top fund recognizes successful approaches states have taken to increase student achievement and encourages competition between states to keep raising the bar.

This kind of competition sounds pretty healthy if the payoff is more students achieving above state standards. With 1.2 million students dropping out of school each year, unique approaches must be taken.

States begin applying for the competitive grant in the beginning of the year; new ideas will be implemented -- ideas like data systems that track a student’s entire record from kindergarten through high school, and using data to track principal performance. Imagine what could happen if we keep pushing for more of these “unlikely alliances” to solve our nation’s biggest challenges.

-Marvin Smith

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The charter choice

As I was dropping my children off at their Chicago Public School this morning, another mother stopped to ask me about charter schools. Her child is a 7th grader and she has begun the arduous task of investigating the multitude of high school options. She had just attended an open house at CICS Northtown, and came away very impressed.

This mother wanted to know how admissions worked for charter schools. When I explained that it was a citywide lottery, done in public with full transparency, she was impressed -- but discouraged. As she told me, “I don’t want to get too enthusiastic about a charter school when I know my child literally has to win the lottery to gain admission.” I don’t know that the odds of gaining admission to one of the college prep magnets are any better or worse than winning a charter school lottery, but it doesn’t really matter -- the odds are stacked against your child in both instances.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended an open house at the Disney II performance school and was wowed by the fabulous work being done there. But, like my friend, I walked away discouraged, knowing it was all but impossible to get my 7 year old twins into the school.

This dilemma is occurring across the city. And what it really comes down to is the fact that there are not enough high quality options for ALL children -- charter, magnet, or neighborhood schools. I work daily to serve and promote charter schools because I believe they dramatically raise the academic achievement -- and brighten the future -- for so many children that would otherwise be stuck in failing schools.

Charters are not the only answer, but right now they are the best lever we have to push the public school system to close the achievement gap. I just wish there were more of them!

--Pamela Clarke

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chicago mourns Michael Scott

The city of Chicago suffered a tremendous loss with the death of Michael Scott. Mr. Scott, the President of the Chicago Board of Education, was a well respected figure in the community. He could interact positively with people from all walks of life, whether they came from CPS, City Hall or the street.

During his tenure with Chicago’s Board of Education, Chicago saw the number of charter schools rise, providing more opportunities for the city’s kids, including in his own Lawndale community.

We who fight for educational reform should redouble our efforts to fix what is wrong with the system, and we should remember that we are the stewards of our children’s future.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Senator James Meeks and the CTU

State Senator James Meeks is coming under fire for his editorial in the Chicago Tribune on October 29th entitled “Their Blood is on Our Hands.” In it, he bemoans the issues of school violence that have put Chicago in the national spotlight. Another story appeared on Friday describing the fallout between CTU and Sen. Meeks, and things are heating up quickly.

I applaud Sen. Meeks for his support of charter schools and his dedication to educational reform, even if our political views and goals do not agree on every point. He was able to put politics aside and speak to the shortcomings of Illinois schools, risking campaign contributions from CTU (which he has now roundly rejected) in the process. But the system will never change if we, as a state, do not stand together to improve Illinois schools.

Charter schools in Illinois serve more than 30,000 students and work for thousands of families. They are changing the face of education. And, since CPS just announced the new charters opening next year, the movement is gaining more support each month. It’s good to receive recognition in the Senator’s sweeping reform plan.

Sen. Meeks concludes his editorial by saying “We must begin making decisions that are in the best interest of children.” We here at INCS could not agree more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leigh McGuigan joins CPS

It was announced last week that Leigh McGuigan left her position in Cleveland's Office of New and Innovative Schools to take a position as special assistant under CPS CEO Ron Huberman. What does this mean for Chicago?

We know that McGuigan has done extensive work in Cleveland based around evaluation and metrics. She designed a "value-added" score that was adopted as part of Ohio's school report cards. By taking the students' academic starting point into consideration, her new metric could take some of the pressure off CPS’ reliance on standardized state tests to show that students are learning. Chicago has been considering such a metric, but educators, and the charter sector in particular, still need to weigh in on the outcomes they’re expected to live up to.

As part of Cleveland's academic infrastructure, McGuigan did a lot of work with assessment and evaluation as well as helping schools first develop, then reach, explicit goals. Knowing all this, it won't surprise anyone to hear that McGuigan’s publishing history focuses on teacher efficacy and standardized testing.

What does it mean for the charter sector’s hard and costly choices around facilities planning, the ugly battles over school closings, miscommunication about charters, or the uneven tug of war for resources between pensions and pencils? We’ll have to wait and see

One of the advantages of a school system that includes charter schools is the ability for charters to employ different, innovative techniques in the classroom and feed those practices into the larger system. There’s a lot happening in CPS these days, to put it bluntly, and there’s still a lot left to do. Welcome to the big game, Ms. McGuigan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Burnham 2.0 Plan

The Burnham Group recently released a report entitled Burnham 2.0, which focuses on specific categories of educational reform in Illinois. This report has the near-term goal of strengthening the Illinois Race to the Top application.

Burnham 2.0 calls for student outcomes to be the basis upon which all Illinois schools are judged. Notable is the urging for school growth to become a metric for determining school success. The Burnham Group fully recognizes the need to boost the performance of weak schools and states that school success needs to be defined more fully, that the State Board of Education should improve a teacher assessment program as well as evaluation of instruction, and that operational and instructional be the basis of decisions regarding our state’s educational system.

The 22 page report was signed by several names in the educational arena, including Ron Huberman, State Representative Roger Eddy, Miguel Delvalle and myself.

The release of this report is cause for celebration. While we all come from greatly varied political backgrounds and leanings, our belief in educational reform and our passion for giving Illinois students the best possible future brought us together for this cause. We all believe education needs to have the student at its center.

-Sylvia Ewing

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Race to the Top

Race to the Top is, in short, a $4.35 billion dollar fund that’s part of the Federal Stimulus package, which is itself designed to bring unprecedented levels of federal funding to certain states to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps. Through Race to the Top, Illinois has a historic and potentially groundbreaking opportunity to use this one-time federal money to implement high impact reforms.

INCS stands ready to work with the state to help get a winning application for Illinois and bring much needed funds to our state. To that end, we’ve identified four key areas that the Department of Education should look at when it comes to charter public schools. Illinois has done well in some of these areas, and in others, there is room for Illinois to improve upon for a winning application.

1. Authorizing

Illinois has, in statute, the basics for authorizing and outlines the role of school districts as authorizers. We currently have a task force, commissioned by the general assembly, which will review the need for and capacity of creating a new and independent charter school authorizer for the state. Illinois has only one active authorizer at the moment – the Chicago Public Schools. We do not have consistent authorizing practices across the state as the majority of the districts are not serving as authorizers of charters and therefore not creating the in-house expertise on charter school authorizing essential to the creation and oversight of charter schools.

To improve Illinois’ Race to the Top application as it relates to charter public schools, a state-wide approach to authorizing that will share the best practice in the creation, oversight and re-authorizing or closing of charter schools would put Illinois at the top of the class when it comes to charter school authorizing. We hope the recommendations put forth by the task force at the end of this year and any subsequent action taken by the General Assembly will accomplish that end.

2. Caps

Both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have commented publicly about the need to lift charter school caps. INCS is proud that Illinois was the first state, under the leadership Sen. Lightford, Senator Steans and Representative Mitchell to heed that call and double the number of charters available in Illinois. We certainly think Illinois should tout that achievement in its Race to the Top application.

3. Funding Equity

According to the Race to the Top application draft, the D.O.E will be looking at the extent to which the State's charter schools receive equitable funding compared to traditional public schools, and a commensurate share of local, State, and Federal program and revenue sources.

The reality is that we just do not have this information. There is a general perception by our charter operators that charters receive less funding than traditional schools. We need access to the data from all districts that authorize charter schools to truly know. More importantly, the onus is on Illinois to prove in its application that charters are funded fairly.

This leads to my final point. Often, the funding equation does not factor in one of the biggest expenses charter schools face – facilities funding.

4. Facilities Access

The D.O.E. will examine the extent to which the state provides charter schools with equitable access to facilities by providing them with facilities funding, assistance with facilities acquisition, access to public facilities, the ability to share in bonds and mill levies, and/or other supports

This past legislative session, $173 million was allocated to school districts and charter schools for facilities. Part of that funding went to the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) to build new charter school facilities that would help alleviate overcrowding. There were also other dollars set for charter school facilities in Rockford and other charter schools, including ASPIRA, this past year. This facilities funding allocation will help some with the Illinois application, but it does not go far enough.

Even though we’ve had this one-time allotment of funds for charter facilities, they are just that — a one-time allotment. Prior to this session there have not been state funds allocated for charter public school buildings. Currently, a vacuum exists in the charter law to address the facilities needs of charter public schools. That issue left unresolved would dock points from the Illinois Race to the Top application.

With respect to charter schools, Illinois does not have all of the winning pieces in place to secure top marks on the charter section of Race to the Top. It is the hope that with improvement of these four key issues , Illinois will not only have a stronger application, but stronger supports for charter schools that have already shown to be quality public schools.

-Carlos Perez

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Enrolling Your Child in a Charter Public School

Over the summer, INCS receives many phone calls from parents searching for charter school information and who are interested in enrolling their children in a charter school for the fall. Fall is the best time to start looking into charter schools for the next school year, particularly for families that have children that will be entering high school in a year. Many charter schools hold open houses and info sessions during the fall for students to come and explore what their school has to offer. You can take a look at INCS’ 2008 Charter School Profiles for contact information to each charter school to arrange a visit yourself, or to simply contact the school for more information. Be on the lookout for our new 2009 Charter School Profiles which are currently being updated!

More and more parents are taking a second look at what charter public schools have to offer and are excited by what they see. Thanks to these and many other charter advocates that are spreading the word on charter public schools, the charter public school community in Illinois has grown tremendously in the past few years! The strength in the charter school community can be measured by our success this year in increasing the charter school cap in Illinois from 60 to 120. Our voice can only get stronger with your continued support and involvement in the charter public school movement. Keep spreading your charter school stories to other families so they, too, can learn about the difference charter schools have been making in Illinois and how they can also be a part of the Illinois charter school movement through INCS!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More time in the classroom?

This week’s announcement by former Chicago politicos Barak Obama and Arnie Duncan that American schools should add more class time to the schedule has brought a lot of attention to charter schools. KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program system of schools, has been especially singled out by the press for their long class hours and extended schedule.

KIPP has 87 campuses in 19 states across America. Chicago is home to KIPP Ascend Charter School, and it serves grades 5-8 in the Lawndale neighborhood. Students there spend around 70% more time in the classroom than their CPS counterparts and have an 80% rate of college enrollment. Don’t let that number be misleading: though there are nearly 16,000 KIPP students nationally in 2009, the 80% applies to all alumni who graduate the program, which has existed since 1994. That percentage is far and above the schools’ surrounding communities. Clearly, the system is doing something right.

Additionally, Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby’s recent study of New York charter schools brought light to a previous study in Chicago that came to the same conclusion: charter schools outperform public schools. She notes a direct correlation to a student’s time in a charter school to their academic performance, such that a student when stays in the charter system from K-12 will perform better than a student who attends, say, from 5-12.

Charter schools are truly unique entities that deserve a chance to show the American educational system what, exactly, they’re capable of doing. Though it isn’t easy to pick just one reason they succeed, the Obama/Duncan call to action is a step in the right direction. Just ask someone from KIPP.

-Jim Publicover

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ron Huberman talks to District 299

INCS today held its first District 299 meeting of the 2009-2010 school year, hosted by LEARN Charter School. And it was the hottest ticket in town. CEO of Chicago Public Schools Ron Huberman came to discuss with the charter sector CPS’ plans for improving facilities access, increasing per pupil funding, changing the ways in which the district holds charter schools accountable, and making all schools safer.

Huberman delivered a 30 minute presentation to a large crowd of nearly 100 charter school leaders, board members, and teachers, representing 24 charter school organizations across Chicago. It was a lively and interactive discussion which showed how well informed Huberman is and how thoughtful and passionate charter leaders are as well.

Mr. Huberman spent much of his time reviewing the “report card” that CPS will release in the next 4 -6 months which will provide parents reliable information about how every public school is performing. And school leaders agreed to the need for clarity and accountability while offering several refinements to the process.

Huberman reiterated his goal of collecting accurate student data, and assured schools that he did not want to catch any schools off guard with his new accountability plan.

Huberman quickly touched upon his plan to strategically address facilities access for charter schools, sharing that schools performing well may be put ahead those not doing as well. Also announced to pleasant surprise were plans to increase the general education per pupil funding for charters.

This was the most important meeting of the year to date. Continuing this important collaboration will be vital to improving our city’s schools.

-Marvin Smith

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to measure success

The political arena surrounding education is often charged, and recent headlines, like the exit of Josh Edelman from CPS or the talk that there will be A-F report cards for all public schools in Chicago, only reinforce this notion. With all the changes and questions about how to measure charter schools’ impact, what’s going to come next? I find it helpful to look at the big picture in times like these, in order to maintain perspective.

News from New York State is certainly encouraging — a recent report by Stanford economist Carline Hoxby shows just how much can be achieved when you combine the charter school model with supportive policies and an engaged and thoughtful authorizer. The study How New York City’s Charters Affect Achievement followed students who got into a charter public school and compared the group to those who, like so many in Chicago, were on a waiting list. The results are certainly encouraging: students at charter public schools outperform students at traditional district schools in math and English, and they make greater annual academic gains. Also, just as in Chicago, charter students are more likely to graduate (by a rate of 7% here in Chicago and 28% in New York). In light of these results, charter schools and their proponents should be proud that we helped more students reach high academic standards.

Operational elements are largely credited for the study’s findings. New York’s charter schools are notable for their data-driven instruction, extended day and year, flexible curriculum, parental involvement, and merit pay for teachers. These findings show that charter schools can inspire achievement in urban areas. Like Chicago, New York has a waiting list of students who wish to attend a charter public school, but, with the recent doubling of the charter school cap in Illinois, more students will have a chance for success at a charter school here. You can visit the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to find out more about charter schools’ operational differences.

A human element I feel is linked to school success is leadership. In another look at the big picture, The Principal Story by Chicago Filmmakers’ Todd Lending and David Mrazek aired on PBS stations last week. It shows just how important having the right person in this tough job is. For example, charter schools give leaders the authority and autonomy they need at the school level to make decisions that matter. The charter model lends a more strength to the crucial task of school leadership. You can visit The Wallace Foundation for clips of the documentary and educational resources that go along with the film.

While the road is rocky at times, charter public schools are headed in the right direction. We are helping students reach their full potential, and that can only be counted as a success.

Sylvia Ewing
INCS Interim Executive Director

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Charter schools spend more time in the classroom

Information in a recent column by CRAIN’S Chicago Business Greg Hinz should be repeated far and wide. In the 2009-2010 school year, which is already underway, Chicago Public School (CPS) students will be in school a total of 40 weeks, and out of those 40 weeks, CPS students will only receive a mere 19 full weeks (Monday through Friday) of teaching. Spending more than half of the school year outside the classroom is no way to grow the next generation of Chicagoans! In my opinion, it is an offensive contradiction to say that we care about education and then accept systems that allow so little time on task.

As Hinz highlighted, in a 2006 National Council on Teacher Quality study, CPS ranked last out of 26 big-city districts, with our school day three-quarters of an hour shorter than the national norm and the school year six days shorter. In addition, out of 868 Illinois districts Chicago is third from last in instructional days. This is not tolerable and there has to be a better way. Teachers want to educate students and those student need to depend on both the teachers and the system to cultivate their minds. The current CPS status quo does not give our children this opportunity and I know we can do better.

A solution to this problem is charter public schools. Right now, there are charter public schools in Chicago like West Side’s Alain Locke Charter Academy that offer year-round education. Year-round school may not be for everyone, but we owe it to our students to give them options and a chance for success. Charter public schools are not perfect but they offer freedom to create schools that meet the needs of students, families and communities. Charters spend an average of 45 more minutes of instruction a day than traditional CPS schools. Thanks to new legislation that raises the cap on charter schools in Illinois, we have an opportunity to have more charter schools and grow upon this unique educational freedom.

CPS CEO Ron Huberman says he is committed to a quality education for all students and I believe that he but he can’t reach this goal alone. Everyone who cares about education should take a close look at what we are offering our youth, including the amount of time committed to our children, and support making choices that put students needs first.

As self-governing entities, charter schools have the autonomy to make quick, effective changes to meet students’ specific needs, which helps improve student achievement, and offer a safe place to learn. We are good partners in education reform and the facts show that reform is sorely needed.

Sylvia Ewing,
INCS Interim Executive Director

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Charter Family Picnic picture teaser

We had an amazing time at our 4th annual Charter Family Picnic at Garfield Park. Expect more to come later, but I couldn't wait to show you a few pictures from the event, by our fantastic photographer Anna Bonick.

Pictures and a recap of the day are coming shortly!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Charter School News

Reinsdorf-funded charter school opens near United Center Sun-Times

Longtime dream of Bulls chairman Reinsdorf comes true as charter school facility opens near United Center

If you missed the clips last week, a Young Women’s Leadership Charter School student, Kassandra Davis, was profiled in 8 Teen Dreams by Chicago Magazine.

A friendly neighbor Chicago Flame Online
De la Cruz officially closed shop in June. As it would happen, in July, one month later, the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) announced its flagship school, Octavia Paz, a CPS Charter school, needed a new, temporarily permanent home. After receiving nearly 100 million dollars in federal stimulus money, UNO had then decided it was time to make much-needed repairs to the Octavio Paz facilities.

Emerge Peoria: An open letter to Sharon Crews
I was just looking at your comments today about the Math and Science Academy and I just cringed because I believe the charter school has promise. You clearly care about the community, the schools and the children.

More yoga classes are geared toward specific groups Daily Herald
In Chicago, there's even a yogic elementary school, the Namaste Charter School, which takes a holistic approach to education. "Yoga isn't about being on the ...

County sets up H1N1 flu preparations The State Journal-Register
Three-year-old Piper Chase follows the instructions for washing her hands on Friday, September 11, 2009 in her pre-k classroom at Ball Charter School. ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ready to Serve Chicago's Future

I had the opportunity to appear on a panel for WTTW’s Chicago Tonight on Wednesday, September 8, 2009. I was joined by Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, and Lorraine Forte, editor-in-chief of Catalyst Chicago. We discussed back-to-school issues and the current state of Chicago education.

As a panelist, I shared some unique qualities that charter public schools encompass, how they serve as frontiers for education innovation. While addressing topics such as government education funding, dropout rates, violence and testing scores, I highlighted Youth Connection Charter Schools (YCCS). YCCS is an excellent example of how charter schools address and improve these current educational issues. This Chicago charter public school has worked hard to increase student attendance and dropout recovery. The panel experience also gave me the platform to clear the air of certain charter school assumptions such as selective student enrollment.

The most important message of the evening was to remember that the name of the school is not important, but the process and value of education we are instilling in our children. Charter public schools are a part of the public school system and there is a state of urgency to come together and find the best solution for our future Chicagoans. For that reason, I found the conversation very beneficial for all parties.

Last night’s experience was educational and productive. In order to ensure a stronger tomorrow for our children, we need to concentrate on the current problems and take action to improve. Chicago Tonight’s panel gave me the podium to demonstrate how charter public schools are a great avenue for this change and how they can harmonize with the public school system. Working together to help our future should be all of our priorities and I know Chicago is up for the challenge.

Sylvia Ewing,
INCS Interim Executive DIrector

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Charter Family Picnic next week - September 12th!

2009 Charter Family Picnic
Saturday, September 12
Garfield Park
12:00 - 4:00 PM

Join INCS and the rest of the charter school community for a FREE day of fun, music, good food, and great raffle prizes!

If you haven't already, please RSVP with Mireya Vaca at (312) 235-0798 x17 or at

*Please note the change in location - this year's picnic will be held in Garfield Park, near the intersection of Central Park Ave and Schrader Street (just south of Lake Street)!*

There will be limited FREE parking available at the Garfield Park parking lot and on the street. Garfield Park is easily accessible via public transportation. If traveling by train, walk south from the "Conservatory-Central Park" Green line stop to reach the picnic area. If traveling by car, take the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and exit at Independence Blvd. (Exit 26A). Turn right (east) onto Washington Blvd and then turn left (north) onto Central Park Ave.

For a map to Garfield Park, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Charter School News

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Robin Steans: Race to the Top money a carrot for state educators State Journal-Register

How would you like to play a lottery where you get to control the odds? That’s what the U.S. Department of Education is offering, by setting aside more than $4 billion in a Race to the Top fund to be given to only a handful of states — if they’re willing and able to take steps that dramatically improve their public schools.

Galapagos' lesson plans for 1st day, year ready Rockford Register Star

All that communication is more than what's typically done at Galapagos' Chicago campus because charter schools are new to Rockford and don't already have ...

One week to go: Galapagos Charter School prepares for big open WREX-TV

Galapagos has run a Chicago charter school for five years. "Inevitably on the first day of any school or even any organization, there's going to be some ...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Charter School News

September 1, 2009

State task force will study proposal for new group to authorize charter schools Catalyst
'The Illinois State Board of Education is assembling a task force to study plans for a new, independent authorizer of charter schools—a controversial idea that supporters say would lead to higher-quality charters and help Illinois capture some of the nearly $5 billion in competitive federal stimulus grants....

A Blow To Transparent School Reform In Chicago Progress Illinois
After being blindsided by the changes, Soto is vowing to override Quinn's amendments. Talking to Black, the Chicago lawmaker expressed her ongoing ...

What Are The Best Methods For School Improvement? National Journal Online
The Obama administration has an ambitious goal of turning around the nation's 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years. To achieve this, the strategies adopted must be ones that can be applied on a large scale. One response from Greg Richmond, President & CEO, National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA).

The Education Bubble Gapers Block
As Ramsin pointed out, charter operators, like UNO have used the new charter school "market" to gain influence and bring in huge sums of cash. ...

Old Sears power plant in Chicago turned into charter high school Tribune
Not so much on the school, but lots on the architecture and history of the building.. “Inside, Farr Associates followed the broad outlines of the Tate Modern, making the three-story turbine room a dramatic great hall and turning the boiler …”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Charter School News

August 29-31st, 2009

New school blends past, future Sun-Times

The Ford Motor Co. Fund's first school in Dearborn, Mich., achieved those results, and now officials hope the same can be done at a new charter high school opened by the fund in Homan Square on Saturday.

Prairie Crossing Charter School updating its image Daily Herald

For example, Prairie Crossing represented Illinois as a national charter school of the year winner selected by the Center for Education Reform in 2007. ...

The Rubber Room New Yorker

The battle over New York City’s worst teachers…These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

Charters shortchanged Rockford Register Star

(LTE) Taxpayers need to be willing to spend more on charter schools. You get what you pay for.

Let’s give charter, new school leaders chance to succeed Rockford Register Star

(LTE) Public schools are personally important to me. I am a product of the public school system in Kankakee. I graduated from a state university (University of Illinois, Champaign) and a publicly funded law school (University of California, Berkeley).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tribune highlights YCCS student's triumphs

Youth Connection Charter School, who was featured as our first case study recently, has an inspiring article on their website right now about Nasia Smith, a student who just graduated:
Youth Connection Charter School 2009 graduate Nasia Smith was featured in a Chicago Tribune article on August 7, 2009. The article entitled, “In The Fight of Their Lives”, recent graduates of CPS schools discuss overcoming a growing problem in Chicago, homelessness. Nasia was one of the 236 homeless youth population enrolled in YCCS campuses this past school year. Her situation is classified as an “unaccompanied youth” - those who are homeless and not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The article written by Lauren B. Harrison, focused on the many struggles Nasia went through to graduate from high school. Despite having a baby and meeting his needs, being homeless and working several jobs to make ends meet, Nasia still persevered to graduation as salutatorian of her class this past June...
Read the rest on YCCS's website!

Charter School News

Friday, August 28, 2009

Charter school leader, others take pay cuts to help budget Daily Herald

Prairie Crossing Charter School's director and other administration office employees have agreed to pay cuts to help negate a projected $100,000 in extra annual interest expenses associated with a loan.

Legal eagles nurture young fledglings at Law Camp Chicago Tribune

..and almost became a TV movie, the Perspectives Charter School student started thinking law might be a good Plan...problem is to start young with students in middle school and high school and get them interested in the legal profession...

Paul Adam's Interview with Montel Williams

School Leader of Providence Englewood Charter, Paul Adams, was on Air America at 820 AM this morning (August 28) at 9:20 a.m. (Central Time). This was a live national interview for Montel Williams’ "Feel Good Fridays" nationally syndicated series.

Comings & Goings New Broad fellows, principals Catalyst

Seven new Broad Fellows will be working in Chicago schools through the Broad Residency program, which places executives from the private and civic sectors into two-year, top-level management positions in urban school districts around the country.

Single-sex classes at Ryerson help raise achievement for black boys--and girls Catalyst

In the May/June issue of Catalyst In Depth, I wrote about Ryerson Elementary School Principal Lorenzo Russell’s experiment with single-sex classrooms as a strategy to curb discipline problems and raise academic achievement. The focus was on helping black boys in particular at the West Garfield Park school.

Orr shaping up with Espinosa's help Chicago Sun-Times
After attending a Chicago Public School job fair, she was offered a job at Orr. She teaches health and physical education. But she also wanted to coach. ...

Teesee's Town: Marilyn Stewart, CTU president, to address City Club of Chicago lunch Chicago Defender

Newsy Names – Insiders and those in the know are predicting “a sell out” when Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, addresses the City Club of Chicago’s Public Policy Luncheon on Oct. 1

State involvement in Chicago youth murder crisis - Part I
... topic that is apparently “persona non grata” for State of Illinois officials is the crisis-level murder rate of Chicago Public School (CPS) students. ...

CJA reinstitutes scholarship program National Jeweler Network

According to a 2006 study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, only 54 percent of Chicago public school freshmen ...

Smart Child Left Behind NY Times, by the independent Center on Education Policy, showed that more students are...But is that our only national goal in education? What might happen if federal law encouraged...a member of the task force on K-12 education at Stanford’s Hoover Institution...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Creating More Routes To High-Quality Education

INCS created Charter Up! to encourage forward thinking and academic excellence. Charter Up! provides charter schools with the opportunity to showcase programs that impact their students and communities and have the potential to be applied in traditional public schools. Each charter school had the opportunity to submit an overview of programs that have helped produce outstanding academic achievements. Participants were encouraged to submit programs/ initiatives that demonstrated creativity or innovation in leadership development, governance, parental involvement, curriculum, enrichment programming and funding. An independent judging panel reviewed the entries and chose five honorees based on their creativity, innovation, impact on student achievement and representation of the overall charter school experience.

We are pleased to highlight the 2009 Roadmap to Innovation profiles, a portfolio of program models that are shared with teachers and school leaders at in-district schools as well as within the charter school network.

To learn more about Roadmaps, and how to implement these programs in YOUR schools, visit INCS' website.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charter School News

State denies Joliet charter school petition Joliet Herald News
... according to the Illinois Administrative Review Law. In the letter to Joliet Academy Charter School and Superintendent Paul Swanstrom, Koch said state ...

New charter school opens on far South Side
(Plus video) Chicago International Charter School (CICS) is the largest charter school in Illinois, serving over 8000 students across 13 Chicago neighborhoods. ...

First charter school off to rocky start; communication key
Rockford Register Star
Legacy Academy of Excellence opened Tuesday with frustrated parents, a superintendent seeking legal options, and the public wondering what’s going on. That’s not a good start.

Legacy school changes phone number Rockford Register Star
Parents, Rockford School District officials and others trying to reach Legacy Academy of Excellence officials by phone Monday and Tuesday heard only the sound of rings. That’s because the school changed the phone and fax numbers. Tuesday parents found notes attached to their children’s backpacks with the new school numbers.

Whose Fault is the CPS Budget Crisis?
Is Chicago's high-wage / short day and year setup to blame for current pension woes? One charter school teacher says yes

If Illinois blows this ... Chicago Tribune
What's the best way to make the U.S. public education system serve students better? President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are betting that cold, hard cash -- and plenty of it -- will do the trick. By September 2010, the administration will have distributed $4.35 billion in supplemental education funding to the states. But not every state will get a share of the loot. In fact, most states won't see a dime.

Dangling Money, Obama Pushes Education Shift
NY Times
Holding out billions of dollars as a potential windfall, the Obama administration is persuading state after state to rewrite education laws to open the door to more charter schools and expand the use of student test scores for judging teachers.

Are charters schools a price of entry to reform? The Associated Press
Illinois lawmakers decided in July to allow 60 more charter schools to answer President Obama's challenge after a campaign in that state by the state ...

Student-Focused Education
Illinois Review
By Rafael Rivadeneira, candidate for House District 41. These schools work for the students and parents, not for unions and outside interest groups. We need to encourage student and parent choice in the school decision process. Currently Illinois doesn't have enough Charter Schools to meet the demands of waiting lists.

Charter school debuts in secluded Altgeld Gardens Chicago Tribune
So on the first day of school this week, Shannon walked Tamyra Jones, 5, to kindergarten at Chicago International Lloyd Bond, the first charter school to ...

Medill student's slideshow about De La Cruz -- the building that UNO wants

New charter school opens near Altgeld community
Chicago Defender
That's when the Chicago International Charter purchased the building from the Archdiocese of Chicago and spent $2 million in renovations, according to ...

Fewer male teachers are in K-12 classrooms in Illinois Chicago Tribune
But after two years teaching 8th-grade math at Calumet Middle School, a charter school in Chicago's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, and two years at other area ...

The KIPP-ing Point The Jewish Week
Dubovi went to the campus of KIPP (the Knowledge is Power Program), flagship of a charter school network that has grown in 17 years from a single Houston ...
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