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Friday, July 31, 2009

Gov Quinn signs SB 612

Governor Quinn signs SB 612 as several of those involved in the process look on. Senator Kim Lightford, Representative Jerry Mitchell, Senator Heather Steans, Senator Ricky Hendon, Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, INCS' Carlos Perez and former Executive Director Elizabeth Evans, Advance Illinois' Robin Steans, Civic Committee's Eden Martin, and Monique Davis, who said, "I was a charter school opponent for many years, but after seeing the remarkable results, I had to join the force and support charters!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Great news for the state, and from Washington

Governor Pat Quinn is set to sign Senate Bill 612 (Charter School Reform Act of 2009) tomorrow, expanding the number of charter schools from 60 to 120, with 45 new charter schools allowed in Chicago, five of those schools allocated for drop-out recovery, and 15 for downstate Illinois. We'd like to congratulate INCS staff, our members and the family of volunteers, who worked tirelessly over the course of five years to achieve this victory. The signing will take place at Alain Locke Charter Academy. For details, read INCS' Press Release.

Great News from Washington
The President has announced plans for the Race to the Top Fund to support states leading the way in education reform and innovation in classrooms, and the charter sector should benefit from these resources. We will keep you apprised of upcoming news as draft regulations will be shared in the next few weeks. You can read the release from the U.S. Department of Education.

Friday, July 24, 2009

News from Rockford's New Charter Schools

Today's Rockford Register Star has a great article on the new Legacy Academy Charter School, which talks about Jarmoro wanting to get into a good kindergarten but missing the age cut off. Thankfully, Legacy was able to cut through the red tape and secure Jarmoro's admission.
He and his family attended a recruitment session Thursday for the school. Legacy was the answer for his family, said Jarmoro’s mom, Myrah Bean.

“I couldn’t even get the public schools to look at him,” Myrah said, because of her son’s late birthday.

Myrah’s mother, Melma Norwood, teaches seventh-grade science at Flinn Middle School in the Rockford School District, and she supports her daughter’s decision to send Jarmoro to Legacy.

“The school provides education for the kids,” Norwood said. “And that’s what it’s all about: Making sure kids learn.”
For more information about Legacy, visit:

The other charter school opening this fall is Galapagos Rockford Charter School. It will be a K-3 school at 2605 N. School St., the old St. Patrick School. If you are interested in a student application, an informational meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the Northwest Community Center, 1325 N. Johnston Ave.

For more information, go to or call 815-388-4644.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Charter schools spend more time on task

Representative LaShawn K. Ford poses with KIPP students

Almost all charter public schools have an extended school day and year. There are three charter schools that are year-round: Alain Locke Charter Academy, Namaste Charter School and L.E.A.R.N. Charter Schools. But even those that aren’t year-round have an average of 45 more minutes of instruction a day, compared to traditional public schools. For instance, a KIPP Ascend charter school student spends nearly 70% more time in school than a typical CPS student.

There was an article today on NBC called “Back to School, Already?” about Chicago Public School students involved in the Track E program, where students have the same number of school instructional days, but vacations are interspersed throughout the year into shorter, more frequent breaks. This minimizes “learning loss” for kids who otherwise would be out of school an entire summer.

“The district is expanding its year-round school program this year, more than tripling the number of schools that operate on the so-called Track E calendar. On Monday, CPS officials, including CEO Ron Huberman, went door-to-door, handing out backpacks and other school supplies while reminding parents that school starts far earlier for their kids this year."

Whereas Track E is a re-allocation of time, charter schools routinely provide students more individual attention and more time on task. These are a few of the great freedoms charter schools have that allow them to structure and support the needs of both students and teachers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Illinois Mayors Meeting: Highways to Higher Achievement

The first-annual Highways to Higher Achievement: Illinois Mayors for Educational Excellence luncheon was held to urge mayors, municipal and civic leaders to reengage in education to improve the health of their communities and determine how charters can be a part of that improvement. We had over 40 guests in attendance including the Mayor of Rock Falls, David Blanton, Oak Park Village President, David Pope, Chris Ward, Illinois State Board of Education, Kevin McGrier, Broadview Trustee. We would also like to thank our INCS Board Members, Beth Purvis and Ron Giles for attending as well. We were welcomed by Tom Thanas, Joliet City Manager, who discussed how the revitalization of downtown Joliet was driven by innovation and partnerships, the same intentions and relationships that engendered charter public schools.

From INCS Board Chair David Weinberg and NACSA President Greg Richmond we heard the words leadership and opportunity. During the keynote address, Mayor Larry Morrissey of Rockford showed how taking the opportunity to lead can bring about real change in your community especially if you re-engage with education.

We hope the result of this meeting will be the re-engagement of mayors, municipal and civic leaders in the education process in their communities. Mayor Larry Morrissey has lent himself to this cause and shared the guidance and encouragement necessary to mobilize communities. INCS is available to support communities with resources and information needed to identify if charter public schools are one of the options leaders might want to use for improving educational options in their communities.

Check out the slideshow of the event!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dear Governor Quinn

Check out this letter urging Governor Quinn to sign SB 612 into law in order to double the number of charter public schools in Illinois! Thanks to Ms. Yvette Manning, a parent at KIPP Ascend Charter School, for taking the time to write this inspiring letter. For more information on SB 612, you can read the June blog post, "SB 612 Passes."

Dear Governor Quinn,

My name is Yvette Manning and I am a parent of a student that currently attends Kipp Ascend Charter School located on the Westside of Chicago. I am sending this letter on behalf of my son and his fellow classmates and many children in my community that are concern about their education. I would like to first point out the good job that you are doing with our state and secondly want to encourage you on this legislature to provide more charter schools for the state of Illinois. Secondly, to let you know I am very pleased with the charter school system on the many educated benefits that it provides for the children and especially for my son. The experience I have shared with Kipp has been the best that I have seen in years even since I was in school, of which I am to a product of the Chicago public school system. My son has excelled tremendously since he has been attending Kipp, I am very serious when I say tremendously he went from and “F” and “D” student to a “A” and “B” student he started 5th grade at Kipp reading at a 2nd grade level under the “Accelerated Reading Program”, to currently now going into the 6th grade at a 5.5 grade level in reading. As you may know Lauren Henley which is my son’s reading teacher as won “the Best Teacher of the Year Award” from Kipp Ascend Charter School, which the award was well deserved she works very hard to not only identify the students weakness with reading but to help the students develop their strengths that the students did not know they had, she challenge the students to become better readers by making a promise to stay committed and that the students stay committed on reading at least 30 minutes a night and writing a summary about what you read by clarifying and making connections. My son has transformed to a better reader and enjoys her class. Not just only in reading has he excelled, he has excelled in math and has dedicated on working hard on understanding long division with his math teacher whom makes math fun and enjoys teaching it. Kipp has teachers that enjoy what they do and have love for the children and the community in which they serve. Kipp provides positive reactions and motivates the children about College education, it does not stop at High School, which this exposure my son gets about College I wish I had those resources when I was growing up. Kipp Staff believes in their students that they can achieve, “Work Hard. Be Nice” written by Jay Matthews, which is the theme the staff uses to get the kids motivated and disciplined in order to achieve the goals “climbing the Mountain of Success. I encourage you to get the book that Kipp Ascend is based from and take my letter into serious consideration on how this school has changed my son’s life on education and has motivated him to be the best he can be by “Working hard. Being Nice. Please sign the SB 612, so this can be a success story for all the Parents and children in Illinois.

Sincerely yours,
Yvette Manning

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Erie Elementary Charter School has openings for 1st-5th grade

Erie Elementary Charter School is currently seeking students in 1st through 5th grade for the 2009-2010 school year. Visit their website to learn more and to fill out an application.

About the school:

Children, teachers, parents and Board members, work together to ensure the success of Erie Elementary Charter School, a non-profit organization. The mission of the school is to educate children who will be bi-literate—able to speak, write and read both Spanish and English—by the end of their Erie Charter School experience. Founded in 2005 under the umbrella of 137-year-old Erie Neighborhood House, the school’s educational program is hands-on and interactive; it focuses on the Hispanic heritage of the community and of many of the families of EECS. The fact that children remain with the same teacher for two years, thus supporting the close relationship between children, teachers, and parents, underscores the importance EECS places on social emotional growth. EECS partners with Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Erikson Institute, Ravinia, Suzuki-Orff, and TohKon Judo Academy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

National Charter Advocacy Day in DC

“I support charter schools only because at this point in history charter schools are a mechanism to get the education of our children. The issue is not charter schools, the issue is the education of our children.”

“If this movement is going to mean anything, we’ve got to close that achievement gap. We’ve got to eliminate that achievement gap.”

So said Dr. Howard Fuller, founding Chair of the Alliance, and feature speaker at the National Charter Schools Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. just a week ago. Dr. Fuller’s stirring speech reminded many of us of what is at the core of the charter schools movement: the education of all children across the nation.

Those of us in the field, at the school level, and in the classrooms know first-hand of the amazing achievements going on in some of the most innovative charter public schools across the nation. For instance, a parent who sees her 6th grader’s reading skills steadily improve from a 2nd grade reading level to a 5.5 reading level in just one year, another parent surprised but proud that her son would rather go to school in below-zero Chicago temperatures and not miss his science class than stay home, and teachers watching their students learn and their ambitions grow as they enroll, and stay, in college in neighborhoods where the drop-out rates are higher than college enrollment rates are just some of the stories that show the direct impact charters have made. It is not surprising that the waiting lists to enroll in a charter in many states are at the thousands.

To be sure, not all charter public schools, and schools in general, are at the same playing level. But, that is what the charter school movement strives to do – allow charter holders and operators the opportunity to provide the quality education that our children need. It is our job as parents, teachers, school leaders, and advocates in the movement to make sure that our stories of what works and what doesn’t are heard so that public officials understand how to best improve public education in the nation and to ensure that successful models of schools can be applied in the communities that need it the most.

Last Wednesday, about 1500 charter advocates stormed through Capitol to visit their representatives, bringing the charter school movement to the national stage. Participants included members of the INCS Team and other leaders in the Illinois charter school movement. At the federal level, we asked members of Congress to co-sponsor the All Students Achieving Through Reform Act (ALL-STAR) which would support successful charter schools that are replicating and expanding, and we also asked Senators to approve President Obama’s budget which will increase funding for charter public schools by $52 million.

At the state and local level, we rely on the voices of parents, teachers, school leaders, and community members to get the charter school message across to public officials. Your show of support through the various actions we’ve had, including our very own Charter Public Schools Lobby Day in Illinois, have shown politicians the demand there is for charter schools and have led to this year’s huge legislative victory doubling the number of charters that are allowed in Illinois!

The groundwork for charter public schools has been laid, but it is still up to leaders in the community and to families waiting for their children to receive the public education they deserve to step up and start the conversations needed that will bring charter schools to communities across Illinois. To quote Dr. Fuller again, “nobody is just going to make the changes we need for our kids. We have to struggle to make that happen.”

To listen to his full speech, check out the video below and the link to other video recaps from the 2009 National Charter Schools Conference. You can also view pictures of the Illinois Advocacy Team at DC (and become a fan of INCS!) on the INCS facebook page!

Still Left Behind

On the final day of June 2009 the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago published a report entitled “Still Left Behind” which revealed a stark and disturbing reality regarding Chicago Public Schools.

The report’s key findings include:
- Nearly half of the students at non-selective-enrollment schools drop out before graduation. Additionally, more than 70% of remaining students at those schools fail to meet 11th grade state standards for college preparedness. High performing students are all concentrated in magnet and selective enrollment schools.
- The perception of improvement in the number of students meeting state standards on assessment tests reflects changes in testing made by the Illinois State Board of Education rather than improved student learning.
- To truly push improvement in CPS a more rigorous national test for student achievement must used as the benchmark. An independent auditor must also be responsible for ensuring all reports regarding student achievement are accurate and distributed in a timely, comprehendible fashion
- Improvement in education depends on providing quality alternatives, including expanding the number of charter and contract schools in Chicago. These schools outperform traditional public schools and spur all CPS schools toward improvement.

The report’s full text can be viewed at:
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