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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

National Alliance Charter School Conference

Check out these videos, which recap some of the speeches from last week's national charter school conference, courtesy of The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. I suggest you check out Dr. Howard Fuller's speech in particular:

Monday, June 29, 2009

INCS is on Facebook

We have finally joined 2009 and created a Facebook page for our organization. Click on the above link to become a fan of INCS.

Perks: learn the inside scoop on charter schools in Illinois, be up to date on events and connect with other charter school advocates. Plus, see adorable pictures of charter school students.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Charter Up slideshow

Check out the great photos from this year's Charter Up! Awards Ceremony, courtesy of Anna Bonick, of Hullabaloo Design.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Save the Date for INCS’ Charter Family Picnic

INCS is pleased to announce our fourth annual Charter Family Picnic on September 12, 2009 at Garfield Park.This is an exciting opportunity to connect with more than 1,200 charter public school advocates, parents, students, and teachers from all over Chicago who are coming to enjoy a day of food, games, music, and other fun activities at Garfield Park!
There are three ways that your organization can help us this year! You can select the level of participation that best meets your needs, and be secure in the knowledge that your commitment will be used to help INCS continue our important work!

Buy an ad in our Program Book

Donate an item or service for the Raffle

Help spread the word

For more information on sponsoring the Charter Family Picnic, please feel free to contact Aimee Mandolini at

A note from INCS' Interim Executive Director

There have been big changes at INCS, what with the recent tide of positive charter school legislation and Elizabeth Evans’ departure after almost five years as Executive Director. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a part of the charter school movement, it’s that change means opportunity. As Interim Executive Director, I want to assure you that INCS will continue to support and fight for what matters – creating positive change for as many children in Illinois as possible. As Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education said recently on NPR, “I’m a big fan of good charter schools. For charters to be successful we need three things in place. First, you need to have a very high bar. You should only be taking the best of the best in allowing them to open new schools. That is a really sacred opportunity and obligation to educate our children and this cannot be 'let a thousand flowers bloom,' it should be the best of the best.”

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. Now we have our chance to live up to the promise, as soon as Governor Quinn signs SB 612. Your support during this transition is appreciated and we look forward to the great strides ahead of us this summer and beyond.

Sylvia Ewing, Interim Executive Director

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Namaste Charter School on Chicago Tonight!

Recent Charter Up! Honoree Namaste Charter School was highlighted as an example of a highly successful school on WTTW's Chicago Tonight! Check out the video clip on WTTW's website.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Noble Street parent shares her story

Rosa Gonzalez, a parent at Noble Street Charter School, was kind enough to share her words with us about the school and the positive effects it has had on her son Jonathan. Parents are an integral component to charter school success and we at INCS are pleased to share Rosa's words with you.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Noble Street Charter School (NSCS) for being so great at what they do. NSCS is able to provide my son Jonathan with a safe learning environment. It is rare where you can find a high school that can provide you with that sense of security. I chose NSCS as my top choice of high school for Jonathan because I was impressed with their goals for their students. NCSC expects to have 2020 college graduates by the year 2020. Fortunately, Jonathan's application was picked from the lottery and he has just completed his freshman year. I have seen the commitment and effort from the school in helping the students reach this goal. Jonathan has developed a "college" mentality and has set a number of academic goals for himself. I could not have accomplished this without the help from NSCS. I constantly talk to my son about college and how important it is to not just make it into college, but also graduate! I support the school 100% and although this year has brought some challenges, I strongly believe that this is the school that is going to help Jonathan set higher goals for himself and help him reach those goals.

I also want to commend the school by providing activities that involve the family, the Noble Classic 5K Run and even the Annual Spaghetti Dinner. Jonathan even had the opportunity to spend a week in South Carolina along with his JROTC cadets to participate in boot camp. This was a great experience for him. Jonathan has taken an interest in the Arts. He performed in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" play and took part in a dance class and was part of the end of year dance performance "The Pagaggios." He found a creative side to him that neither he nor I knew he had. Thank you NSCS for providing your students with so many wonderful opportunities and positive experiences!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Charter Schools in the News

Photo by Anna Bonick

Court: Virtual charter school can receive public funds Chi-Town Daily News
The Chicago Teachers Union challenged the Chicago Virtual Charter School's legality and tried to block its public funding. A judge ruled the school's public ...

Charter schools are on the ball Illinois Times
Even though politicians and education reformers have been singing the praises of charter schools for a number of years now, the concept has been slow to catch on outside of America’s big inner cities. This is especially true in Illinois, where only nine of the state’s 39 charter schools are located outside of the city of Chicago.

Use Stimulus Funds to Expand Charter Schools Huffington Post - New York
By UNO’s Juan Rangel. Through this funding strategy, Illinois is creating a new public/private partnership model for public school construction. This model will focus on school ...

Legislation would loosen cap on new charter schools Chi-Town Daily News
Jesse Ruiz, who chairs the State Board of Education, disagrees. He says programs such as the Illinois Network's Charter Up! help educators at traditional public schools learn how to implement successful programs from charter schools. They are an answer to concerns from policymakers who think charters are too insulated, he says.

Area charter schools see honors for their programming Medill Reports
Charter school supporters, students and leaders gathered at the Garfield Park Conservatory on Tuesday to celebrate innovative programming at five Chicago charters. Jesse Ruiz congratulated the audience on the bill's passage and stressed the importance of having charter schools in Illinois to provide alternatives in education ...

District paves way for new academy Peoria Journal Star
Highlights school board vote for requesting applications for a Math, Science, Tech Charter School. Great quote from David Gorenz, School Board President.

Illinois lifts cap on charter schools Rockford Register Star
That means 15 charter schools can be licensed in downstate Illinois, which includes Rockford. In Chicago, 40 new schools can be added, and in the state five allocated for drop-out recovery.

Bill allows 120 state charter schools
Chicago Sun-Times
The number of charter schools allowed in Illinois would double to 120 under a bill that passed both chambers amid a swirl of legislative activity late Monday. The bill's passage comes after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that Illinois...

Lawmakers pave the way to double the number of charters Catalyst
A bill that doubles the statewide charter cap from 60 to 120. Senate Bill 612, now awaiting Governor Quinn's signature, would allow up to 45 additional charters in Chicago, including up to five new charters aimed at dropout recovery.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2009 Charter Up! Video

Watch the video on this year's Charter Up! Honorees. And be sure to check out the Roadmaps to Innovation initiative!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Independent authorizer article in Focal Point magazine

Written by Veronica Aguilar, soon to be a senior at
Noble's Pritzker College Prep
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
These are momentous words spoken by philosopher Lao Tzu. A recent article was written in Focal Point magazine, a Chicago international Charter School publication, titled “A Fresh Perspective: Why Illinois needs an independent charter school authorizer.” Written by Marvin Smith, Policy Manager here at INCS, this article successfully illustrates the significant need for an independent charter school authorizer in Illinois. Establishing an independent authorizer in Illinois will be that single step towards a journey of prosperous charters.

Charter schools are enabling Illinois scholars' to achieve academically. This article illustrates how having an independent authorizer would allow for the expansion of more schools to serve more students who need them.

Here's what an independent authorizer would do:

1. Suppoert current, active and effective authorizers
2. Assist communities with school districts working to improve local authorizing activity
3. Lead the authorizing effort in inactive communities

To further the success of high-quality charter schools in Illinois, INCS' proposes that Illinois' independent authorizer be composed of a board of appointed members: “education experts with responsibility for approving charters, overseeing school performance, and renewing charters.” The journey of a thousand miles can only get easier with a step in the right direction: a statewide independent authorizer in Illinois.

To learn more about this, as well as a background on authorizing and potential Illinois roadblocks, check out the full article here.

Youth Connection Charter School: A Drop-Out Case-Study

"Each year in Illinois, close to 30,000 students drop out of school. At any one time, there are over 100,000 Illinoisans between the ages of 17 and 20 who are out of school. The consequences for these youth and for the state are dire: the unemployment rate for high school dropouts under age 20 is close to 70% and those dropouts who do work earn far less than high school and college graduates."

That is from Sarah Lieberman Weisz, author of Success with Drop-Outs, a new tool commissioned by INCS, that provides case studies on Illinois charter schools by independent authors. The first case study is on recent Charter Up! honoree Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS).

One of the first schools to open, YCCS was chartered in 1997, and has been a pioneer for supporting students aged 17-21 who have dropped out of school. They serve as an excellent model that has inspired similar charters statewide with their community-based programs and innovative educational services.

Learn more about the successes of YCCS and drop-out recovery by reading the case study.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Charter Up! Up and Away!

Photo by Anna Bonick

Thank you to all that came out to yesterday’s fourth annual Charter Up! Recognition Ceremony! We had a wonderful event at the Garfield Park Conservatory with a roomful of charter supporters from across Illinois. Nearly 120 school leaders, community members and leaders, students, teachers and administrators, and principals from in-district schools throughout Chicago came to celebrate the honorees and to learn about these successful programs. We heard from guest speaker Jesse Ruiz, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education about the impact charters have had across the state, and school leaders also learned from INCS very own Steve Zemelman how they can adapt and replicate these innovative programs at their owns schools or partner with a charter school to exchange ideas and work together through the Roadmaps Initiative. Also, a special thanks to CICS Ralph Ellison’s fantastic a capella gospel choir who helped close the event on a “high note”!

Be sure to read our Press Release about the event and learn more about the programs here!

Monday, June 1, 2009

SB 612 Passes! Charter Schools Double in Illinois!

Monumental news for the charter school movement! Last night, SB 612, also known as the Charter School Reform Act of 2009, passed the Illinois Legislative Assembly in a 45-10 vote. This means that we will now have 40 new charter schools available in Chicago and 15 in downstate Illinois, with 5 new schools allocated for drop-out recovery!

This remarkable feat could not have been accomplished without the exemplary efforts of everyone in the charter school family.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the charter school parents who wrote letters to their legislators, who traveled down to Springfield for Charter School Lobby Days, who spoke at events and rallies and who spread the word about charter schools to other parents and friends,” said Carlos Perez, INCS’ Director of Public Policy.

We are indebted also to all the teachers, administrators, students and community members who make charter schools the best schools they can be – innovative, high-quality, community-focused schools that are tailored to meet the needs of all students and to prepare them to succeed not just locally, but globally.

There is much celebration ahead, but with great success also comes hard work. We must continue to strive, and to provide ALL students the opportunity to attend a great school, despite where they live or what challenges they face. Each and all of you who are a part of the charter school movement deserve credit for the long, hard slog that led to the historic vote in the Illinois General Assembly yesterday and I am so proud to say that Illinois is the first state in the nation to respond to President Obama's call for more charter schools as part of his vision for a strong national economy and his goal that the United States return to the world's top spot for college enrollment.

This is wonderful news, but it has been a long and bumpy ride. As a result of this work literally tens of thousands of families in Illinois will have opportunities they could not have otherwise obtained. And teachers will have real choices for the kind of public school environment they want to work in.

~Elizabeth Evans, Executive Director

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