Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

ILLINOIS: Why charter schools are part of the solution

illinois-network-charter-schoolsThe Illinois Network of Charter Schools is compelled to set the record straight on the sweeping generalizations about Chicago charter public schools in Kenneth Saltman’s opinion piece.

Dr. Saltman claims “Chicago’s record on charter performance is parallel to the poor national one” and that charters do not perform as well as traditional schools. Abundant data and research directly contradict this claim and clearly prove that charter schools are part of the solution to stubbornly low academic performance in our city.

On absolute performance, charter public high schools account for nine of the top 10 highest-performing nonselective high schools in Chicago (based on ACT performance). Charter public school students are more likely to graduate high school compared with their nonselective school peers and more likely to enroll in college.

In 2009, Rand Corp. found that Chicago students attending a charter high school were 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than their peers. Stanford University’s 2013 CREDO report found significant academic gains for Chicago elementary charter school students in reading and math. Charter school students experienced two weeks more growth in reading and a month more growth in math compared with their traditional school peers. Most telling, the report also found that charter schools effectively are closing the achievement gap for Latino students.


Don’t take our word for it. Using data from the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools, INCS launched a publicly available data finder that includes all public schools in Chicago — traditional and charter — and allows users to compare the academic performance of any school in the city on an array of measures. It also allows users to control for a variety of demographic factors to isolate impacts among schools.

There are 130 charter schools in Chicago, including college preparatory schools, math and science schools, dropout recovery schools, language immersion schools and many others. Among the 15 new charters opening this year, we’ve added a Montessori charter school in Englewood; Christopher House, which builds on years of effective work in early-childhood and family services; and Instituto Justice Alternative campus, which creates an opportunity for students who have dropped out. The notion of charters as a monolith perpetuated by private foundations is simply incorrect.

Affluent parents have always had the ability to make school-choice decisions by moving to different neighborhoods or paying private school tuition. Chicago charter public schools provide options for families with limited means. As they have from the beginning, charter schools continue to serve a student population that is disproportionately poor and African-American. Why do these families deserve less?

The simple reality is that charter schools exist only because parents choose them. No one is assigned to a charter school. Charter public schools are educating more than 53,000 Chicago students. Despite legions of professional agitators working against charter schools, Chicago families continue to choose them year after year.

Some claim that the increase in charter school enrollment in recent years served as the catalyst for school closures. However, population data reveal that Chicago has been losing students for decades. These demographic shifts predate the expansion of the charter sector and have been exacerbated by economic realities that have driven thousands of Chicago families out of the city.

In fact, charter schools are actually contributing to population stability in the city. After losing more than 30,000 students since 2000, the city’s public school enrollment has held steady at approximately 403,000 students the past three years. During the same period, charter school enrollment has increased by 10,000 students. Rather than contributing to under-enrollment, charter schools are actually keeping students and families in the city.

How can we work toward a better future for all?

We must be willing to take a new approach and foster collaboration among all schools in our city. Charter public schools are here to stay and we are proud to be a part of CPS’ strategic plan to improve educational opportunities for all students across the city.

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business – by Andrew Broy (President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools)

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This entry was posted on September 13, 2013 by in Advocacy, Charter Schools, Illinois and tagged , .


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