Thursday, October 31, 2013

Despite all their boasting, charters missing from today's top-scoring schools list

Missing from today's published list of the top 50 highest performing list of Chicago area schools are any charters. All 50 of the top-listed schools (based solely on ISAT test scores of course), whether selective-enrollment or suburban, are public schools with union teachers.

OK, so where are over-hyped Chicago charters? Noble Street? Urban Prep? KIPP? Chicago Int'l? Well, you won't find any of them on today's list of top scorers and you won't find them at all, out in the wealthy burbs. Nor will you find any of Rahm's vaunted military academies or turnaround schools.

Best and funniest answer to the where-are-they question comes from top charter school hustler Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. According to his press release:
For the first time in Chicago history, this year the top 11 highest performing non-selective Chicago Public Schools high schools are charter schools... Chicago public charter schools are proving what parents already know: when it comes to academic outcomes, charter public schools are changing lives.
Wow! Changing lives. That's amazing. Well, not exactly. You see, 9 of those top 11 "non-selective" city high schools Broy refers to all belong to one network -- Noble Street. And for Broy to refer to his charters as "non-selective", well let's just all admit that's a stretch. You'll need a fine-tooth comb to find any kids who are English Language Learners, have disabilities, or severe behavioral problems. Even Chicago selective-enrollment magnet schools enroll more special-needs students than do the charters.

Plus Noble Street, KIPP and many other charter networks have become notorious for the way they push out low-scoring kids. They have among the highest attrition rates of any schools in the country which artificially boosts their scores.

And why does Broy only mention high schools? The top-50 list also includes elementary and middle schools, also all public with no charters in sight.

Yes, it's a fact that ISAT scores correlate more with poverty than with anything going on in the classroom. That's why Broy's charters, like all public schools, are all over the map when it comes to test scores. A tiny handful score relatively high. Most score low, depending on the kids they are able to recruit.
Side note:
And among the state’s high schools, Chicago rated six of the top 50, but 42 of the bottom 50. At least four schools that took in students from closed schools, including Jensen Elementary Scholastic School and Lavizzo Elementary School, are among the schools that had major drops in rankings between 2013 and last year, according to the Sun-Times analysis.
But, if you want to find most charters on the list, don't start with the top. Scroll down around the middle of the pack or at the bottom where you'll find the most segregated schools with the poorest kids.

Today's Sun-Times reports:
Five charter schools have been placed on the Chicago Public Schools academic warning list for failing to meet academic standards, CPS officials announced Wednesday. The schools are: Catalyst Circle Rock, Catalyst Howland, Chicago International Charter School Longwood, EPIC Academy and UNO Tamayo.
Best comment on that comes from the CTU's Michael Harrington who said the union is “suspicious” of the small number of charter schools on the list and said “Only five, really?”

He added accountability for charters should go beyond academic performance and said they should answer: “Where is the money going?”

Umm, I don't know. The d'Escoto brothers? I'll leave it to the federal investigators to answer that one.

Most sensible comment comes from top-scoring Payton Principal Tim Devine who says:
The focus on standardized tests at Payton is “somewhat minimal. We really believe if you just have a great curriculum starting from Day One of the school year, and you build that throughout the entire year and the student’s four-year career, great standardized test scores will be a byproduct of great teaching and learning.”
I'm sure Devine would admit that it helps to limit your school's recruitment to the top-scoring .5% of applicants.


  1. Craig Malin Davenport, IowaNovember 10, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    Mr. Klonsky:

    I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I met you and worked with your wife almost 20 years ago. Your passion for small schools and social equity made an impression – as you’ll soon find out.

    I may or may not be the only regular reader of your blog from Davenport , Iowa , but I do get to it at least once a week. I may not always agree with the specifics but I generally enjoy reading it. A poor (orphanage category poor) kid from Chicago , with my formative years at CPS, I’ve done ok and am now the City Administrator of Davenport, where I try my best to repay the debt of social capital I owe by focusing on leveling the playing field for our community’s poor kids.

    Your Small Talk post about no charters making the top 50 schools forgot one. One you should remember. One that was and is all about the power of a great small school. One Susan helped us with considerably as we fought the entire state to allow it to see the light of day. One that (proudly) is not affiliated with any private chain of charters and one that (proudly) features AFT affiliated teachers.

    Does any of this ring a bell?

    Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake is a great little school I worked hard at for four years, with a few other people including Susan to get it approved and open. I’ve moved on, but the school is still there, with an ISAT score (not that I care much about the testing obsession, which you can find a passage on that I drafted in our original charter) that puts it in the Top 50. I understand it wasn’t included in the Sun-Times list, but it is there, happily going about its life changing work as a burr in the saddle to the district / factory that is still trying to squash it like a bug.

    For me, the best part is my daughter helped cut the ribbon on the school her first day of kindergarten. Today, she’s at college, studying to become a public school teacher.

    I share your disdain for private charters, but there is at least one charter (with your help, many years ago) that got it right.

    Keep fighting the good fight …

  2. Craig,
    Looking at Thursday's Tribune story made me think back to your comments regarding Prairie Crossing Charter School. Here's the latest:


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.