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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Study: performance of charter schools in suburban and downstate communities

The Illinois Policy Institute has recently released a new report, Unsung Heroes: Charter Schools, which examines the performance of charter schools in suburban and downstate communities.

Interest in charter schools outside of Chicago has rapidly increased in the last year, with 3 charter school proposals approved in Rockford and 2 more in the works, in addition to proposals submitted in the South Suburbs, Joliet, Peoria and Waukegan. IL law caps the total number of charter schools outside of Chicago at 15 in the suburbs and 15 downstate.

Here are the report's highlights, courtesy of the IPI blog:

The Data
The new Illinois Policy Institute report focuses on charter schools that enrolled K-12 students during the 2007-2008 school year. These downstate and suburban charter schools outperformed the district averages in 72.1 percent of direct comparisons of academic performance.

  • In every instance, charter schools posted higher attendance rates and lower truancy rates than district schools.
  • In 4 of 7 comparisons, charter schools had a higher percentage of all students meeting/exceeding state standards on state tests. (In one instance, the overall performance of district schools and a charter school was identical).
  • In 4 of 6 comparisons, charter schools made stronger one-year gains on state tests.

A closer grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject analysis of performance showed charter schools were making strong headway. Overall, the grade-level test results at charter schools exceeded the district averages 72.0 percent of the time.

In a wide majority of comparisons, downstate and suburban charter schools outperformed the average at district schools in each subject tested: reading, math, science and writing. And in two schools where the grade-level performance of economically disadvantaged students could be compared directly to district averages, charter students outperformed the district averages in 67.7 percent, or 21 of 31, direct comparisons.

The demand for charter schools is real and the need is urgent. More than 13,000 students on wait list in communities throughout Illinois want the charter public school option. In fact, according to a recent poll of Illinois parents, demand for charter public schools is strong and growing. The poll showed that approximately 80 percent of parents are both interested in and favor charter public schools.

Legislators are taking notice of this large constituency of parents, teachers, students and leaders who will no longer wait silently on the sidelines. The charter school community is empowered, vocal and will not rest until every child in every community has the chance to choose a quality education.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Charter schools in the news

Recapping the Hoxby Lecture Show-Me Daily
In a nutshell, Hoxby reviewed the data collected in recent years from charter schools in New York and Chicago — and the news is very good! Charter schools as a whole are proving to be an effective means of improving student achievement, ...

Seventh-graders create iPhone app Chicago Sun-Times
More than $10,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to four high school entrepreneurs May 6 during the 4th Annual Citywide Business Plan Competition & Luncheon. The competition…showcased business plans from students representing ACE Technical Charter High School, Gwendolyn Brooks Academy, Chicago Vocational Career Academy and Global Visions Academy.

Seats open at Galapagos, Legacy charter schools Rockford Register Star
Seats are still available for two Rockford charter schools, and even though enrollment sessions have technically ended, both are still accepting applications.

District 150 eyeing charter school Peoria Journal Star
Both charter and math-and-science oriented schools exist in Illinois and nationwide. Such a charter school in Peoria would be a public school and would be ...

Charter school proposed for Bremen SD 228 Southtown Star
The presentation was made by Shirley A. Morris, a vice principal with Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, who would be an administrator at the school.

Chicago Public School Reforms and Renaissance 2010 Add 60,000 Performing Seats to Neighborhood Elementary Schools PRNewswire
The Illinois Facilities Fund's (IFF) new report - Here and Now 2: Change We Can Measure - documents the contribution made by charter and other new schools under Renaissance 2010, Mayor Richard M. Daley's ambitious plan to create 100 new schools in five years.

Spreading best practices takes more than awards Catalyst Chicago
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools has announced the winners of the 2009 Charter Up! award, and one winner, Civitas Schools, got a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Bremen District 228 mulls proposal for first Southland charter school Southtown Star
Just as the buzz over charter schools is ramping up nationally, the first of those schools could be coming to the Southland soon.

Decatur charter school touts achievements to lawmakers Pantagraph
For the first time in its eight-year history, Robertson Charter School administrators outlined their achievements and funding needs to a panel of lawmakers Wednesday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Governor Quinn on Re-Imagining Illinois

photo via United Power

Sunday is usually a day reserved for hope, family and reflection. This Sunday, May 17, at Congregation Solel in Highland Park was just such a time. My colleague Carlos Perez and I joined a multigenerational, diverse audience of over 700 people eager to participate in Re-Imagining Illinois. The event was a dialogue between DuPage United, Lake County United, Chicago PACT, United Power for Action and Justice and Governor Pat Quinn. For some participants, having Governor Quinn in office is like having the fairy Godmother of progressive politics in charge for a change. The four key issues on the table included the state budget, affordable housing, education reform and political corruption. All of the speakers were eloquent, but this was a great opportunity for Lake County United members to talk about the recent defeat in their battle to get authorization for a charter public school in Waukegan. They asked for Quinn’s help with a school district apparently hostile to charters. These eloquent speakers shared their personal stories, called “education the new civil rights movement” and said that “zip codes should not determine the type of education a child receives.”

Quinn left no doubt that he agrees with President Obama’s support for charters. “I support charter public schools, not just for Chicago but for all of Illinois” he said. In response to their requests, he promised to look into funding issues as well as to learn more about independent authorizing.

We have new hope in Springfield in the Governor’s office and with elected officials like Senator Lightford, Senator Steans, Representative Mitchell and others. But Governor Quinn says elected officials alone can’t bring education reform to Illinois. If Sunday’s gathering is any indication, the voice of the people is ready to be heard. The panels were not made up of professionals but rather concerned residents. The very kind of people the Governor may look to when he fills the vacant seat on the Illinois State Board of Education this summer.

View a recap of the event below:

Related: Governor Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 Charter Up program descriptions

Here are brief descriptions of the 2009 Charter Up! Honorees. Charter Up! gives Illinois charter schools an opportunity to celebrate their innovation, passion, and successes with each other, as well as bring public awareness to the experience of charter schools and the positive outcomes they create for children.

In addition, Charter Up! honorees will have the opportunity to serve as a model for other in-district schools through our Roadmaps to Innovation initiative, a school-to-school mentoring program between charters and other public schools that gives each school a chance to collaborate and innovate.

To learn more about these programs, come to our award ceremony on June 2nd at the Garfield Conservatory. Contact INCS' Mireya Vaca at or for details.

Chicago Math & Science Academy
College Path Program
The CMSA College Path Program was created to support CMSA’s mission for all students to attend college. Goals of the program are two-fold. First, tracking student academic progress, and second giving all students exposure to the college experience. Program provides student one-on-one time with a College advisor, a college readiness class and SAT preparation retreats. One hundred of CMSA’s first graduating class in on track to graduate and attend college.

Civitas Schools (CICS Ralph Ellison, CICS Northtown, CICS Wrightwood)
Civitas Community Leadership Program
The Community Leadership Program is an initiative that effectively and strategically guides students in the development of their leadership and diligence skills. Various facets of this program address all members of the school community: students, staff and parents. All three parties are involved in the process. Parents participate in interactive workshops, staff teaches the importance of community service and students evaluate their strengths and areas of growth.

Namaste Charter School
Peaceful People Tools
As part of its holistic approach, Namaste considers the socio-emotional development of its students crucial to their overall success in school and in life. Peaceful People Tools teaches students about space awareness, self-control and stress management, managing anger, building empathy, proactive interventions and conflict resolution. It is evident through internal and external evaluation that Namaste’s Peaceful People Program leads to students being on task for greater periods of the day during academic instruction.

Noble Network
Curriculum and Assessment Program
The Curriculum and Assessment Program provides a structure for designing and measuring the teaching and learning that occurs at all Noble campuses. The gathering of this information encourages the sharing of best practices. Assessment data is the basis for quarterly network-wide and frequent campus-based professional development, conversation and collaboration among and between teachers, principals’ work with teachers and the superintendent’s monitoring of consistent academic growth throughout the Noble Network.

Youth Connection Charter School
Grow Your Own Teachers & Peer Advocates
Grow-Your-Own Teachers & Peer Advocates was established as a community-based answer to the challenge of finding and retaining a qualified teaching pool for high-need schools. YCCS’ initiative offers parents, volunteers and supporters with the opportunity to become certified instructors in their preferred school. Through a partnership with Chicago State University and a peer advocates program this program is a proven success.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New charter school in the south suburbs?

Interest in charter schools is heating up in the South Suburbs, as more and more communities are developing charter school proposals around the state. The latest charter school news comes from Bremen District 228. District officials are weighing a proposal from a group of local educators to open a charter high school. On Tuesday night, over 60 community members attended a public hearing for the proposed charter school, which would be called South Suburban College Preparatory Charter School and would be housed in the now-shuttered St. Emeric Catholic School in Country Club Hills.

District 228 Superintendent Bill Kendall said in today's Southtown Star article:

"I think anytime there's a program that might benefit students, we need to look at it and consider it."

We at INCS applaud the district for taking the proposal seriously and for looking at new, innovative options to help students succeed. We also applaud the community members who attended Tuesday night's meeting, for taking the time to ask valuable questions about the proposal.

Other recent articles about the proposed school can be read here and here. Check back for updates on this exciting potential development in the Southland.

Generation INCS: a note from our spring intern

Each year, as part of our internship program, Generation INCS, we recruit one to two charter school students to come to our office a few hours each week to experience working in a nonprofit environment. Some of their responsibilities include:

Assisting advocacy, communications, and school supports teams
Conducting research reviews of national charter reports, and
Updating data and information

Our current intern, Jasmine, graciously allowed us hone some of her technological skills and write a blog for us. Here are her words about her school and her experiences:

My name is Jasmine Lumpkins, I’m a sophomore at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS). I have attended YWLCS for about 2 or 3 years now. At first I couldn’t believe that I actually had to attend an all-girls school. My first impression was that there would be too many girls, and lots of drama. But I quickly came to the conclusion that I was wrong. So far, my experience at YWLCS has been a great opportunity because I get to experience many different things that many other schools don’t offer. YWLCS wants their students to expand their minds, to make and achieve higher goals. I’m glad that YWLCS offered me a chance to gain real work experience with the Career Field Experience program, which is also known as Internship. Without this I wouldn’t have had a chance learn about working with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, what it’s like to have a job, work with people in an office area, and to learn more about how charter schools work. Now I know that, I can always reflect back on what I can do now that I couldn’t do before.

We're very happy to have Jasmine on board this Spring and appreciate the work she's done for us so far. To learn more about Jasmine's school, check out their YouTube video:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

charter schools and imPURE thoughts

Charters are at the center of a great (and urgent) debate about public education reform. This is terrific news for students and teachers who day in and day out work together on academic excellence. It’s also terrific for those of us looking for new metrics and new methods of public accountability to open the next breakthroughs in American public education. It’s great news for teachers seeking higher status and support for their profession and for parents seeking more respect from the institutions of public education.

It’s disappointing then when voices in the debate pick and choose their fact to fit another agenda, as Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) did in their recent blog entry. The fact is charter public schools and closing unacceptably low-performing schools are two totally separate issues in this great debate. If individuals associated with PURE actually looked at the whole picture, they would not be attempting to discredit charters as part of their honest questioning of school closing policies in Chicago.

In the 21st century, we must regain our place as the leader among nations in giving every single student an equal chance at the education necessary for their lifelong success.

2009 Charter Up! Winners

Announcing the 2009 Charter Up! Winners
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools is happy to congratulate this year’s Charter Up! winners:
Chicago Math & Science Academy - College Path Program
Civitas Schools (CICS Wrightwood, CICS Ralph Ellison, CICS Northtown) - Community Leadership Program
Noble Network of Charter Schools - Curriculum and Assessment Program
Namaste Charter School- Peaceful People Tools
Youth Connection Charter School- Grow Your Own Teachers
Thanks also to all the schools that submitted an application. We received many great submissions highlighting successful and innovative programs that are making a substantial difference in the lives of their students and communities. Please join us in honoring the selected schools at our fourth-annual Charter Up! Recognition Ceremony, June 2nd at the Garfield Park Conservatory. To RSVP, please email Mireya Vaca at or call her at (312) 235-0798, ext. 17.

Check back soon for more detailed descriptions of the programs! Or view last year's winners in this short video:

If you can't see the embedded file, click here to view the videos.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Charter schools in the news

The Case for Charter Schools: And why Waukegan didn’t buy it Chicago Reader
7 page article about Waukegan struggles, charter successes in Chicago, reports like RAND study quoted, quotes by members from Noble, CICS and UofC, and fellow advocates in arms.

Chicago charters branching outside the city Catalyst
According to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, these three charters will be the first charters in Rockford and will join the existing nine charters ...

Charter school group tries again in Joliet Chicago Tribune
There are 39 charter schools in the state, according to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Chicago has 30 -- some with multiple campuses -- while the ...

African American students are thriving in Afro-centric schools Florida Times-Union
"Public schools have failed African-American students, which is shown in lower graduation rates and lower achievement," says education professor Carol Lee of Northwestern University, founder of the Betty Shabazz charter school in Chicago, whose three campuses boast 825 students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Why charter schools matter Huffington Post
National Charter School Week is an opportunity to celebrate the 4600 public school options created in 39 states. It's also a chance to reflect on why ...

Chicago's charter schools reflect unmeasurable success Chicago Sun-Times
LTE by INCS' Executive Director: “A recent article by Rosalind Rossi titled "Ron Huberman: Raising the Bar on Charter Schools," has shined light on a matter of great concern to charter public schools -- performance metrics…”

Charter schools in Chicago, New York better serving disadvantaged students St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Hoxby’s talk will focus on what she’s learned from her study of over 100 schools — the biggest study of charter school affects so far, she says — and how charters are teaching educators what works for disadvantaged students in American cities.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meet the Charter Schools Reception

Last week, INCS held our second “Meet the Charter Schools” Reception, which is part of the College for All Cooperative (CFA) and was designed to:

  • Introduce colleges/universities to charter public schools as a new market for college recruitment
  • Provide the opportunity for colleges/universities to learn about the distinctive character of individual charter schools that are part of CFA
  • Foster connections between colleges/universities and charter schools.

There were 34 representatives from 31 colleges and universities in attendance, from Illinois, the Midwest and beyond. The CFA schools that participated were: CICS Northtown, CICS Ralph Ellison, DuSable Leadership Academy, Youth Connection Charter School, Noble: Pritzker College Prep, Noble: Gary Comer Campus, UNO, Catalyst, Galapagos, Perspectives and Chicago Math and Science Academy. Thank you all for doing a great job of presenting your schools and for highlighting the distinctive traits that make charters so unique, innovative and focused on strong college-going cultures.
One college representative said that the highlight of the event was, “Actually meeting the people whom help shape students' futures. It is an impressive collection of some of the best and most passionate education providers I have ever met.”
All comments will be posted at the discretion of INCS.