Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Charter school campuses get state report cards

For the first time, the state is releasing today new school report cards for charter campuses, with test scores and data on student and school characteristics compiled in the same format used for traditional public schools. 

With the test scores for individual charter campuses now more readily available, the new reports are likely to give ammunition to grassroots activists who oppose charters and school closings. CPS is slated to announce more proposed closings by Thursday.

According to performance guidelines established by CPS, 28 percent of charter schools are high- performing, 40 percent are in the middle range and a third are in performance level 3--making them eligible for closure under the guidelines.

However, no CPS charter schools will be on the school closure list, says CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. In the coming year, she says, district leadership plans to “create a system of measuring performance of all schools in order to hold all accountable for results regardless of what kind of school they are. “

Charter schools are given five year contracts and CPS must wait until they are up for renewal to decide their fate. CPS has closed only one charter school, in the 1990s, though a few have shut on their own because of low performance and financial difficulties.

Though CPS has long provided information on standardized test scores for charter campuses, the state had only produced school report cards for each charter network. A 2009 state law mandated that the information be reported for individual campuses.

CPS has 87 charter schools, but report cards are only available for 54 campuses because many are too new to have students in tested grades (third through 8th and junior year of high school).

In addition to test score data, the demographic, class size and teacher information on the report cards reveal some interesting differences between charter schools in the same network, and between charter schools compared to the district average.

Some of those points are:

  • Compared to the district average, charters have lower percentages of students in bilingual education or with disabilities. But some charter schools, such as Chicago International-Northtown, have a higher percentage of students with disabilities. In the same network, Chicago International-Loomis has a lower percentage.

  • The mobility rate at charter schools is far lower than the district average of 17 percent. Only three schools, Perspectives-Calumet Middle School, Noble Street-Englewood High School and Chicago International-Larry Hawkins Campus, which is in Roseland, have above-average mobility rates. 

  • The state did not include teacher or administrator salaries or other budget information in the report cards. But the report cards show that charter schools employ far more teachers with emergency and provisional credentials than district schools. Charters also have far fewer highly qualified teachers. At four of the Noble Street High School campuses, more than a quarter of the teachers are not highly qualified.

  • Charter schools have higher average class sizes than district schools. But LEARN Charter Schools tend to have lower class sizes, while United Neighborhood Organization campuses have mostly higher than average class sizes.


Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

Very well done story

Ms. Karp's article was very well done and it was important to point out how some charter schools have higher numbers of students with disabilities than the average CPS school, but most have fewer. One issue that cannot be seen from this report card data is the fact that very few charter schools are currently providing services to more seriously disabled students. Access Living believes there are probably two reasons for this: (1) the CPS funding allocation system for special education positions for charter schools and (2) the unfortunate fact that some charter schools appear to discourage enrollment of more disabled students by advising parents that the school is not really prepared to address the needs of their child but will effectively try their best. In a way advising parents of this inability of the school to effectively meet the needs of a child can be seen as being honest, in another way it can be seen as a self-fullfilling prediction.

If a charter school advised you it might not be able to address the needs of your disabled child would you really want your child attending such a school? Not likely. I have heard this story repeatedly from parents over the years and I have to assume it is true given the data I have seen on the disabling conditions of those students with disabilities attending CPS based charter schools.

Rod Estvan

lobewiper wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

"Waiting for Superman"

These new data give the lie to the main thesis of the popluar film "Waiting for Superman." (I'm not going to tell you more about that thesis--I want you to see the DVD film for yourself if you've not already--which I already know is most of you! Talk about hiding one's head in the sand like an ostrich!).

So, the education biz in Chicago Public Schools turns out to not be as simple to improve as some of us thought, Mr. Bill Gates and others. I suggest you and everyone else take a look at the 2010 book out of the U. of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (the CCSR) titled, "Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago" and become a bit more informed about the educational challenges we have and continue to face in this city.

Then, with genuine understanding, we can move forward--if we can find the money and political will needed. We've heard all the high-sounding rhetoric before, Mr. Brizard and Mr. Emanuel. Now let's see if you can "walk the walk!"

Anonymous wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

Getting Closer

Glad to see we are approaching something like transparency that would finally make school choice based on something more than public relations. We still have schools missing, however. Ms. Karp, who tracks contract schools? How many contract schools are in CPS? What kinds of schools are they? How can we find their performance data?

Anonymous wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

Sun Times analysis adds to the emerging picture

Analysis from the Sun Times --

"Only one of nine Chicago multi-site charter operators — Noble Street — beat the districtwide average of all Chicago public schools for the percent of students passing state tests last spring on every campus it oversees.

The overall passing rate at two city charter franchises — Aspira and North Lawndale — was below the city average at every campus those two groups operate.

Four other chains — Betty Shabazz, Perspectives, North Lawndale and Chicago International — saw the majority of their campuses with over-all pass rates that were below the citywide average. In fact, one Shabazz high school campus — DuSable — had a passing rate that put it among the bottom 30 high schools in the entire state. One of its elementary campuses placed among the bottom 40."

Sarah Karp wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

Contract schools

Contract schools are treated just like traditional public schools in terms of accountability and I believe would have been given performance policy level. However, many of the original contract schools are now charter schools or traditional/magnet schools.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

In 'Waiting for Superman'

In 'Waiting for Superman' Canada admitted that your neighborhood public school out performed the average charter. Neighborhood schools take ALL students and do not then selectively dis-enroll those who fail to behave or perform academically like Noble
Street or some other charters.....

Anonymous wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

Student growth over time vs. ISAT benchmarks

Andrew Broy acknowledged that maybe a dozen underperforming charter schools are in need of "substantial actions" that may include closing. But simply looking at how many students have met state benchmarks is not a fair assessment, he said; a more important indicator is student growth over time."

If there is student growth over time, wouldn't schools have met benchmarks over time?

Ms. Karp, can you explain what Mr. Broy was trying to get at when he said ISAT benchmarks are not fair assessments? Why are they not fair for charters, but were fair for traditional schools?

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

The Last Corporate Frontier

With the private sector being constricted in this global recession, businesses are looking for any new possible margin for profit. What are the two areas that businesses have not gotten their hands on: public education (where every child is required by law to have formal education to the age of 16; thats a huge demographic) and public worker pension funds (this is why we see the 401k option included in a lot of these bills. It actually costs the state more to provide a 401k option w social security then a state retirement system, but some investment firms have a lot of money to buy legislation).

Clara Fitzpatrick wrote 3 years 1 week ago

A Little Late

Why does the demographics table only include % Black enrollment?

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more