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Added Feb 21 2012

There is a new charter school that is being built at Milwaukee and Central by the Aspira organization.

Initially, people were up in arms because it would drastically reduce parking in the area. So the school changed their design to include an increased parking garage.

People were concerned that it would take away the green space. The school is going to have a roof top garden - and they spared the Avondale community garden in their expansion.

And people are concerned about the "troubled youth" that the school invites to our community. Folks, these are local children from our community who will have a beautiful new school with new opportunities.

Additionally, the school will leave their doors open for community use in the evenings. We should be thrilled to have these new neighbors.

So why were people outraged about the school at this meeting? Am I missing something?

  • To clarify - The Aspira people presented their plans at the Avondale Neighborhood Association meeting held last night. A meeting packed to the gills with people waiting to attack our new neighbors! It was however an informational presentation and not an open forum.

  • Evelyn 14-Year Logan Square Resident

    Where is this school Exactly being built?

    Anyway, I guess many people are hesitant to new things, or just change. Not trying to sound mean but Avondale has "troubled youth" just like any other neighborhood. I think they should be in favor of it and just make the neighborhood safer with more meetings and with the school giving service to the community after school hours is good.

    I go to school on Avondale and I dont feel safe at all there, my brother works around there as well and he too sometimes feels like there are moments where he doesnt feel safe with even customers coming in. The people should focus on the dangers in the neighborhood, I dont think you are missing anything, Its just they could be against it because maybe they property taxes will go up, or any other little reason that will cause them to pay more.

  • Inactive user

    one of the big caveats re: charters is the perception that they aren't there to serve the neighborhood kids, that they will bring kids in from outside the neighborhood, who will create problems etc. That's one of the typical gripes I hear, and charters tend to try and get lots of kids from the neighborhood enrolled.

  • SFW

    I do not understand the opposition is being built on a vacant lot - vacant lots are definitely not good for the area. I think persons who are anti something, anti development are more likely to attend a meeting like that and be more vocal. This issue is raised at our caps meetings which I do not understand either as it does not seem like a crime issue. I do know that some people are opposed to any and all change which must be frustrating as change is the only constant. I think the school will be welcomed by many

  • Inactive user

    "Am I missing something?"
    Only the whole controversy over charter schools and giving public funds meant for public education to private institutions with little public accountability... Once an charter school like this gets its foot in the door, it will most likely do what it wants and there will be no opportunity for the community to challenge it. Sure, our public education system is in crisis (much of it having to do with tying local property taxes to funding), but privatizing it is not the answer.

  • I hear you MJ. I am very familiar with the controversy - and have mixed feelings about charter schools. I'd like to learn more. What kinds of things should we be worried about the school doing. Can you give an example?

  • Joe

    @ MJ: Am I mistaken or aren't charter schools part of CPS? I thought they were.

  • Inactive user

    Joe, they are part of CPS, but in a distant way. Their budgets are untied, meaning they can use their money for whatever they want, with some basic parameters aside. They can hire and fire staff w/o concern for union obligations, as their employees aren't part of the union. One of the big strategic pieces for supporting charters on the part of CPS and Mayor Daley was to indirectly dismantle the LSC structure, as they offer more centralized control and autonomy in terms of staffing etc.

    Charters are a mixed bag. They are held accountable in terms of their performance, just like CPS schools (they can lose their charter status), but they bring in a bunch of money. At their best, they can be creative, awesome schools where the autonomy results in innovation. At worst, their managing organizations misuse money and see the schools as ways to earn money (i've heard crazy stories in my work about things that go on).

    At any rate, they're here to stay. I'm not sure is ASPIRA is good or not. At least it's not an UNO school.

  • Inactive user

    Just looked at their numbers...not impressed, especially with their high school numbers, but nobody is doing HS well aside from Noble Street and Devry Advantage

  • Does anyone have minutes or key talking points from the meeting last night? I unfortunately wasn't able to go. I am undecided on how I feel about Aspira, only because I don't know anything about it.

  • Inactive user

    I suggest folks google Aspira and some of their problems. They have notoriously poor "outcomes" yet continue to receive tax-payer money because of what appears to be their political connections (oh, Chicago). They have horrible rates of passing the PSAE test, and unlike public schools, they receive more money to "fix" their problems. Also, they've been sued for strip searching 3 females students and under investigation for inflating students grades and changing attendance records in an effort to make their performance look better.

    Aspira appears to be a non-profit brimming with nepotism and severe financial mismanagement--of public monies, no less.

  • Joe

    CPS is a shining example of financial management? CPS had never inflated scores? CPS does not have poor outcomes but continue to get tax payer money? CPS has never had security issues? CPS needs competition, Union control of schools is BAD - teachers, principals, students and parents should be responsible for schooling not a union. - if a charter fails replace it or change it, if a CPS school fails it fails for years before it is changed because of Union rules. I am all for Charters. I know at least 30 excellent teachers that quit at CPS because of the Union rules - and they in turn think CPS is so bad that they home school rather than have their kids go to CPS or use private schools or charters.

  • Okay. I did a deeper google search on Aspira...

    It doesn't have a very good reputation.

  • Joe

    2 is double the score of Clemente and Kelvyn both at 1 - why is there no date on those ratings? Can anyone find a date?

    Thanks for posting - Anyone currently going to Lane Tech? Is it really a 10? What is the college placement there?

  • Joe

    geez I cannot find a CPS high school with a rating above 1 (except Lane Tech)? HOw is LT a 10 and the rest a 1? How does that happen is LT a selective enrollment? wow

  • @Joe - I understand the case against unions, but in education - unions are very important. Without unions, an organization can really take advantage of one's passion to educate children. I could give you some nightmare examples of this, but I won't in this forum.

    Of course there probably are charter schools/networks that treat their teachers with the esteem and fairness they deserve. And there are still other charter schools that do have unions. This is why charter schools are (as T said) truly a mixed bag.

  • Inactive user

    Joe, LT is a selective enrollment school. Their College Enrollment average is in the mid-70s. Here's the CPS site for data...

    There are only a couple high schools that aren't selective enrollment that average more than 20 on the ACT. Two of them are charters, and one has an IB program.

  • Joe

    I am not against unions per se but there is a line and it has been crossed, the CPS union has become more important than the students - the concept of there are no bad teachers nor good teachers is silly - if the union took an active role in firing bad teachers I am all for them but they protect everyone as if they were the greatest teacher in the world - whether there is a union or not individuals need to be treated properly and held to some level of competency and performance. Northbrook PS school district has no union but is consistent in its top tier ratings - Urban Prep has 100% college placement - unions are not very important in education - individuals can quit and leave a organization that is taking advantage of you.

  • Inactive user

    T-Bone, I think the sentiment is sound, but in practice, the union structure has begun to work against the best interests of students insofar as the pension system is crushing the state's ability to direct money straight to the classroom.

    At some point they're going to realize they're in a poor negotiating position. At any event, I think it's clear that the unions are at least losing the PR battle in the ed reform war.

    As far as charters go: some are good, some are bad. If you're going to send your kids to one, research it like crazy.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    RE: What's the Problem? From Chicago Sun-Times, November 30, 2011:

    Chicago charter school franchises produced wildly uneven results — even among different campuses of the same chain — on state achievement test data released Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade.

    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.

  • Inactive user

    Thanks for that Tom. I do think it's important to note that multiple charter organizations can be working under one charter umbrella. This is b/c Chicago/IL have a cap on charters, and only a handful have the power to replicate. That means a CMO like CICS can "sell" a replication to another CMO, like Victory Schools, who will then open a campus with the CICS name, but Victory curriculum and other elements of that CMO. CICS has at least two CMOS operating under their charter -- AQS and Victory are the two I know of.

    This replication is one of the reasons results are uneven, b/c what AQS does and what Victory does is different, but they carry the same "brand" -- CICS. Noble doesn't sell replications, thus you see consistency and curricular fidelity across their campuses.

  • Inactive user

    To insinuate that public schools are bad because they have lacked competition is silly. We have many public institutions that have no competition that provide amazing value for tax payers that the private sector just cannot compete with. Additionally, the "competition" between CPS schools and charter schools is severely stacked in favor of charter schools with their increased flexibility (largely due to lack of oversight) and lower standards. Therefore, when an organization such as Aspira, with the advantage it has over CPS schools, cannot even match the limited success of CPS schools, it should be considered an abject failure.

  • Inactive user

    @T I hear you on the pension issue. However, I think it is wrongheaded to blame unions. The pensions are deferred compensation, meaning that the teachers most likely took less in terms of take home pay to have CPS contribute to their pensions. It's the CPS admin's poor accounting (acting as if they are saving money by agreeing to paying into pensions funds instead of paying that money up front) that has turned this into a financial crisis, not the union. This is happening with public sector unions across the country and now they are being scapegoated.

  • cg

    I recently tossed out an Aspira flyer I found on my car. It was trumpeting the advantages of early registration but contained such glaring errors in grammar that I couldn't take it seriously.

  • Inactive user

    @MJ, it's definitely wrong to blame one side of the bargaining table for those things, true. The mess is all over everyone. I do think it is catastrophically dumb, though, for Karen Lewis and the CTU to double-down with the 30% raise request. The absolute lack of understanding of how their organization is being perceived in the public eye is mind-boggling to me. Regardless of who is to blame, both CPS and the CTU need to start doing business differently, and Lewis isn't doing her membership any favors by bull-rushing forward with the same rhetoric they've been pulling out for decades.

    I bet if a random sample of 5,000 people were polled and asked who Chicago teachers cared about more, themselves or their students, a large majority would choose the former. They have to start positioning themselves better in terms of who their core constituency is, b/c the debate both nationally and locally has framed it around the kids. The CTU is still framing it around its membership. That's the mark of a responsive union, but not a good PR strategy.

    One comment about your charter comment...the power of charters locally is largely dependent on who is running CPS. Hubermann was notoriously anti-charter schools, and stifled their growth during his tenure. As someone who works relatively close to the district, I wouldn't say that Chicago is as pro-charter as, say, New Orleans, San Francisco of D.C.

  • I always thought that charter schools offered a better education, like private schools, but without the out-of-reach costs to parents. However, after reading the comment by cq about grammatical errors on the flyer, and reading the reviews for Aspira at the website link provided by T-bone (above), I've come to the conclusion that not all charter schools are created equal.

  • Charter schools do become an issue for our kids when they risk becoming the only option. (which is what CPS and the Rahminator are pushing).
    Charter schools commonly cull students -choosing their students (a neighborhood school can't).
    Charter schools hire inexperienced teachers (to cut costs) or have 'curious' hiring practices. A charter school in Rogers Park had many Turkish teachers (owned by Turkish investors) who taught English (and other). A Turkish teacher is not incapable, but do these students learn better English (or other subjects)?
    And what about Special Ed kids? In CPS, they MUST be serviced (by law). In charter school, Sp.Ed concerns are skirted aside and not fully addressed. Not right nor fair to those kids.
    With charter schools, there are other factors (transfer of property (CPS (Chicago’s largest landholder) loses the property in many cases and then there are other funding issues)...but let’s focus on issues (like the ones above) which WILL affect kids i.e. Noble Charter school and student fines. Noble charges students $5 for minor behavior (chewing gum, missing a button on uniform, or not making eye contact with teacher), and up to $280 for required behavior classes. 90% of Noble students are low-income, yet if they can’t pay all fines, they are made to repeat the entire school year or prevented from graduating. (BTW: studies do show psychological harm from being held back) Should a student be held back or not graduate because of this? You decide. Is this type of behavior ‘for the kids’? Or is just not for ‘our kids.’ You decide.
    Now some charter schools work wonders where there is a very tightly knit contract between parents, teachers and school. But if you look at the CPS public schools that are doing well - they have a good strong relationships (not contracts) between parents/teachers/students/community. That is where the LSC is working and that is where parents want their kids and the kids want to be.

  • Inactive user

    Lisa, I'd love to see a list of the schools you mention at the end of your post. Not because I disagree, but just out of curiosity.

    I don't know enough about Noble's fine structure to really comment on that, except to note that the parent of the student profiled by ABC was still planning to keep her child at Noble, despite the fines.

    I do question where you're getting this idea that Noble would willingly hold kids back because of fines. That doesn't pass the smell test to me. Why would they willingly drop their graduation rates over some fines? I've worked in CPS schools for years and that just doesn't scan for me.

    Again, it's important to note that, some outliers aside, Noble campuses are the only non-selective enrollment high schools where the average ACT score is 20, which is considered the bar for college acceptance. That has to count for something.

  • Joe

    Doesn't CPS already cull students VIA selective enrollment and magnets? Doesn't CPS have special needs only schools? I never have been able to understand the culling argument. I like the fines, if you don't like it dont go there.
    Charters are not perfect but at least they offer a choice. If a charter is doing poorly don't go there if your neighborhood cps school is poor you would have no options. More options is good. what is LSC?

  • We must also consider that some parents send their kids (as might be the case of the mom profiled in the abc news) as they perceive the charter schools to be safer than neighhorhood schools.

    Now this can be an interesting when some of these neighborhood schools schools are closed for 'turn around'...they break up the community and kids have to go to completely different schools (crossing gang borders ...and facing other problems).

    Parents are the child's first teacher and they will always be that child's most important teacher. As parents, we want a voice in our child's education in the schools that they attend. The problem is that CPS is silencing many parents’ desires about what they want for their kids (look at the debates and public outcry that the parents and their kids in some of these communities are expressing to the BOE with regard to their schools being closed and their communities being disrupted). (When those words are ignored and ‘written off’ that leaves those parents and kids WITHOUT a voice). All Parents want a voice. You want a voice which is why you write/read/question/debate. With public education...seemingly there is a voice - or so we thought there was. The parents who are currently trying to communicate with the BOE do not feel like they or their children have a voice.

    Take a look at the vigil that went from Lakeview H.S. to the Mayor's house (this was yesterday),0,266670.story

    Perhaps this report can shed some light for all of us.
    Democratically-led schools in CPS far outweigh turn-around charter school performance.

  • Michael M West Walker/Irving Park Homeowner

    There's always a small percentage of people anywhere that resist change of any kind near their homes. You could say that you're replacing a burnt-out liquor store with a library and you'd get people complaining about parking and traffic.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    Lisa, I think you probably could put together a list of all the infractions and failings of charter schools and public schools and it would make both look bad. I visited a Noble and I would really be surprised if there was an actual instance of being made to repeat a year due to inability to pay a a fine. Do you know of one? That said, my major beef against charter schools is that they lead the way to the privatization of public education. All the corporate groups and academic institutions that back charter schools have, in effect, given up on the public school system, teachers unions, and parental participation in decisions that affect their kids. With the mixed results we're getting from charter schools, I can't see why they have so many proponents among the ruling class and academic elites. It's not just a matter of piloting some good alternatives out of frustration with the system, it's a failure to do the analysis of who charter schools leave behind, and it's an abrogation of the responsibility of the state to make sure that every child has access to quality education.

  • Regarding Noble street and the fines

    as to the kids having to repeat (or have problems along this line) due to fine...

    It started with NCLB....
    then the testing industry got rich ..

    it is the Broad Foundation and other organizations that are out there and they essentially want to make public education a corporation.

  • Joe

    What is wrong with a corporation?

    I have yet to visit a school that did not use items created by corporations or use money earned by earned by corporations or money earned by people that work at corporations.
    Both corporations and gov draw employees from the same pool of people. Dividing people into groups is part of the problem. We all have the same goal if a corporation can or not for profit can do it better, why not? I went through the scores of high schools on the cps website and the worst charter schools beat the worst public high schools, also isn't part of the issue with HS is that middle schools send unqualified students to HS instead of holding them back? Causing Hs to teachers to reteach middle school material at the expense of kids on track? So charter schools are getting unqualified students from middle schools too?

  • Joe

    Race to the top and nclb cause school districts to compete for money often times with different standards even though the distrct has higher standards but to get money they have to spend money to conform, the federal gov should stay out of education and let local gov handle it, feds are making it worse by setting up one size fits all edicts for cash.

  • Inactive user

    Save us the hyperbole, @Michael M.

  • Michael M West Walker/Irving Park Homeowner

    Why is my opinion any less valuable because I used a hyperbole?

    My answer to the original question is that I believe this is an issue of "people complaining about change", which is EXTREMELY common in urban areas, even when many consider the change to be positive.

    Save us the attitude and let people express their opinion, MJ.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    Joe: Nothing wrong with corporations, except that they have different goals and values than the government. Corporations are in it for profit; governments are in it for the general welfare of the people. Corporations can walk away; the government is here to stay. Corporate values are about competition and hiring people that will boost the bottom line; education in government supported schools is about promoting values that have to do with creating a just, fair, equitable, creative and knowledgeable society, as well as training people in job-competitive skills. Corporations love to tell government to stay out their business. Nothing wrong about public schools telling corporations to stay out of their business, too.

  • Joe

    Tom if all that were true why does CPS have selective enrollment schools? Why can you buy access to shorter lines from the TSA? Why does the cta have a warehouse full of millions of dollars worth of useless equipment? Why doea the ctU believe 30% raises are deserved? I could go on and on but a gov or corp is just as good as the people in them. There is no difference, in fact history tells us gov has been less than what you described. Individual rights and limited gov get better results.

  • Joe

    Gov = false idol
    The office of mineral and mining is responsible for preventing oil rigs from blowing up - the risky drilling method that caused BP's rig to explode had prior approval from the gov to proceed, the investigation caused the person in charge to be fired, the gov agency was there but failed.
    The Sec went to audit madoff numerous times but bought him lunch instead. The stories go on and on.... choice and competition - trust no corporation and trust no gov - do the research and trust what you see not what you are told.

  • I think the select enrollment schools attract middle class/upper middle class IS part of a gentrificaiton process...though Lane has existed for over 100 has Chicago been in a weird kind of gentrification for that long...hummmmmmm

    one thing is certain - however - Kids are NOT widgets...

  • There was a recent PBS documentary about The Interrupters
    ...this clip shows some of the problems that result of the Turnaround schools that go into neighhorhoods.

    warning - there is some strong language.

  • If you check out the youtube video of "graduation protest at Aspira Early College Graduation".....doesn't make Aspira look so good when the graduating class protests at their own graduation.

  • Emily Avondale Neighborhood Association President

    Hey everyone- I am on the board of ANA and was at the meeting last night. Though the ASPIRA presentation was quick and just covering the basics, you can read a bit more on our interview with ASPIRA and Logan Square Concerned Citizens on our website:

    The contact for both groups are listed there and I would encourage you to call and ask questions as they are looking for feedback from the community.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    I hope I'm wrong but it may have to do with an unfair bias against the student body.

  • Pritzker Mom Logan Square Resident

    I am a proud parent of a Noble Charter graduate from their Pritzker College Prep campus. Before being accepted, we were given the rules and the penalties for not following them. In my child’s first year, there was some rebellion, but after a few times in detention, she realized that life would be a lot easier if she followed the rules (like proper dress code, treating others with respect, or not giving the teachers attitude…).

    The Noble Street Charter Schools are giving the structure that is necessary for our children to succeed in college, in future jobs, and in life in general.

    You can sit outside any of the Noble Street Charter Schools and you will notice something different about these kids compared to the kids going to the other neighborhood schools, they are well groomed, they stand tall, they arrive early to school, and they even hold the door open for one another!

    At what age should our kids be expected to learn to be respectful and to follow rules? At what age should they be held accountable for their actions?

    The $5 fee is minimal. These kids have the latest cell phones & gym shoes. If they refuse to obey the rules then there are repercussions.

    My child graduated from Pritzker College Prep and was accepted and offered scholarships by 11 universities! My child’s story is not unique – over 90% of her graduating class was also accepted to colleges & universities throughout the US.

  • Inactive user

    @Pritzker Mom, that's not an argument for charters/against public schools. I learned all of those things at public school, I was prepared for college and did well and got a graduate degree, and now I'm a productive member of society.

  • Joe

    Agree MJ, it does inject choice and flexibility into the CpS system. Change is good - i just want all schools producing results i do not care how, one size fits all does not work and charters are a quick way to inject choice, competition and manage supply and demand.

  • Inactive user

    To all, I think the bottom line is that it's dangerous to generalize about something as huge as CPS. CPS services hundreds of thousands of kids whose one commonality is that 84% of them receive free and reduced lunch. They attend one of 600+ schools.

    Point being, there is so much diversity among the student population that it's silly to fall into arguments about the inherent worth of each piece of school reform.

    @Lisa is right, there are Turnaround schools that have created gang territory issues, but there are also neighborhood schools (Clemente being one example) that do the same thing. On the other hand, there are Turnaround schools like Bethune and Dulles that are actually GIVING KIDS A CHANCE AT A BETTER LIFE.

    Moreover, there are charter organizations and charter schools that are being run for all the wrong reasons, but there are some that are actually trying to improve the lives of their students.

    That doesn't mean that Noble is right for everyone's child. The same is true for KIPP. Different families have different needs for their kids. All conspiracy theories aside, I do think that there is a legitimate desire to offer parents a real choice, and to inject competition into the system in order to improve the professional practice of all the adults involved.

    Long point (sorry) being, the worst thing that we can do in any discussion about schools in Chicago is to fall into an either/or discussion that lumps all reform measures into one bucket as either effective or ineffective. Rather, we should look at why the ones that work are working, seek to replicate those in the contexts in which they will succeed.

  • Inactive user

    Finally, last last point, I would recommend that people listen to stories on education in Chicago, but especially from WBEZ, with a critical ear. As someone who has worked around the district for years, I can tell you that Linda Lutton's pieces are not only mostly ill-informed, they're lazy, formulaic and reflect next to zero nuance about what's happening in the schools in Chicago. Basically, she interviews some parents and students, writes the script around the idea that the District's attempts at reform are inherently bad, and then brings out no data points that might contradict her standard pro-union, anti central-office argument. She also offers no alternatives.

    For example, she puts stuff like this on Twitter:!/lindalutton/status/142074059558105088 and then re-links to her story about Guggenheim, but fails to point out that last year Guggenheim's math and reading scores each dropped 15%. Only 40% of students at Guggenheim are meeting state standards, and when you factor in the lack of rigor behind our standards, that number probably drops to about 15%.

    Anyway, just don't believe everything you hear.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Charters are also a quick way to leach dollars out of a public system for private gain. On average, they produce results no better than those of the neighborhood public schools they draw students out of -- yet, ironically, they cause those neighborhood schools' results to worsen by pulling out the kids with more involved families.

    Charters, like selective enrollment schools, are a Band-Aid "solution" designed to mollify demanding parents without actually obtaining and distributing more resources for the school system as a whole. Not only is this unsustainable, it is IMMORAL. If a school, school district or curricular model is not good enough for your child, it's not good enough for someone else's, either. The failure to provide satisfactory schooling for every child in every neighborhood is not only a failure of Chicago politics, CPS administration or the teachers' union but of a state government and other municipalities that are unwilling to support a just equalization formula.

    When the patient is suffering from kidney failure, you don't prescribe a face lift. You get the patient a new kidney.

  • Inactive user

    Thanks, T. I would even extend the precautionary approach to comments made here. There are a lot of right wing foundations and "philanthropists" that are hell-bent on ending the public education system. One is the Bradley Foundation out of Milwaukee. They have a lot of money and spend it very strategically to weaken support for public schools at every turn. They support both non-profits and for-profits in their efforts to privatize the public education system. They even employ PR firms who craft their message and stage users at forums such as EveryBlock to act as concerned parents or just every-day residents to spread their message and make it appear as if there is grassroots support for their position. That's if they're not actually paying people to protest in support of their agenda, as we have recently experienced here in Chicago.

    As "they" say: It's not a question of whether or not you should be paranoid; it's a question of how paranoid should you be. ;)

  • Pritzker Mom Logan Square Resident

    The majority of the students that attend the Noble Network Charter Schools are low income and from that neighborhood. I am a lifelong resident of Humboldt Park/Logan Square, trying to keep my child and myself off of the welfare system.

    My child did not qualify for a Selective Enrollment School and the high schools in our area were out of the question (low scores, gangs...). Noble Network Charter/Pritzker College Prep Campus accepted and nurtured my child, who was considered an average student in grammer school. My child graduated and was accepted at Michigan State, Purdue, Marquette, Loyola, Dominican, Drake, and 5 other universities.

    There never was an "offer" of payment to speak for or against an issue, I am extremely greatful for the Noble Charter Schools. The end result was the reward.

  • Joe

    Catbus and MJ - politics and motives aside I do not care, - public vs private vs union vs not - it doesn't really matter if its about the kids right? I care about results - Catbus, I agree with your post except the first paragraph. That reads like status quo spin - The CPS funds Charters so it is not leaching money for private gain it is trying to inject choice with the goal of improving lives, the neighborhood school results do not get worse when kids that want to learn are pulled out - my research shows 1 kid in a class can prevent kids that want to learn from learning because the teacher has to address the 1 at the expense of the others - selective enrollment and Noble (read pritzker mom story) prove that kids and parents that want to learn when given the opportunity. By segregating kids with poor attitudes and parents that need help it allows for specialized focus without holding back others.

  • Inactive user

    @Joe, everything is political and has an effect beyond the immediate impact. Your talk of "results" is interesting given your own methods of argumentation which rely on anecdotes, ideology ("Govt = false idol"), and multiple other logical fallacies.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    One kid alone can't derail a class. Two can, but only if you let them sit close enough to each other to interact; if you seat them on opposite sides of the room, you'll be all right. Now, when you've got three, things get worse, because instead of one problem pair, you've got three problem pairs. A fourth troublesome student increases the problem pairs from three to six; a fifth gives you 10. By the time you have six or seven in one classroom, it's hopeless -- there's no longer any seating arrangement that will keep your troublemakers apart. Goodbye learning.

    And they say class size doesn't matter. Balderdash. The ideal class size is whatever limits the number of chronic troublemakers per room to two. If you live in a community where most kids know how to "do school," that may be 25 or even 30. If you live in a poverty-stricken area -- urban, rural, whatever -- where the kids have been dealing with constant stress since the day they were born, it may be eight. But of course, those are the kids we stick 35 or 40 together in one room, while wealthy parents pay to send their kids to private schools where they can sit in a class of 15.

    But that's not the wrongest thing you've said. The wrongest thing, the most flat-out appalling and inhumane thing, is, "By segregating kids with poor attitudes and parents that need help it allows for specialized focus without holding back others." Because what you're saying is, it's NOT really about the kids . . . it's about the KIDS WHO MATTER. The ones who don't have "poor attitudes" or "parents who need help." The somebodies. Those troublemaking nobodies, who cares about them? Let 'em all languish in some falling-down neighborhood school where the administration changes every two or three months, kids just stop going to classes or even showing up at school at all, and no one gives a damn ( Let 'em rot.

    You, Joe, do not get to decide who doesn't matter.


  • Joe

    MJ, everything is not political, gov = false idol is not a logical fallacy, I gave examples of proof, people in gov vs people in a corp are all imperfect people, if you believe a gov is looking out for you is in fact a mistake and counter to the very principles in which this country was founded.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    "We the People of the United States, in order to form a perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity do hereby ordain and establish these United States of America."

    So, in fact, government looking out for you is WHOLLY AND EXPLICITLY CONSISTENT with the principles upon which this country was founded. They even put it in the mission statement.

  • Inactive user

    @Joe, you just proved my point.

  • Joe

    wow catbus and MJ you guys totally read what you wanted you did not read what I wrote. We the people does not mean join into groups and compete for government handouts by seeing who can influence "their politicians" - my goodness.

    segregating kids that need more focused attention and parents that need coaching is what I said you added your spin - you care by giving them the focus and unique are they need you don't care by rating them as a number. The method I support is specialized care your method is group think failure. wow amazing

  • Inactive user

    @Joe, What exactly are you referring to with my posts? Talk about reading what you want to read into something... Wow.

  • Inactive user

    Also, how is anything dealing with tax payer money (e.g., the public school system and charter schools) not political??? That's crazy talk.

  • Kids thrive when parents/teachers/schools/communities work together. This is possible in SOME charter schools - but it is not a bandaid that functions in all situations and all communities. There are certainly examples of great things happening in regular CPS schools...and it is due to the same idea: parents/teachers/schools/communites working together....
    It really does take a whole village to raise a child...
    and as the late great Jane Jacobs (or Urban Planning fame)suggested - a lively and safe neighborhood depends on a variety of functions and 'eyes' that watch. People must be on the look out for each other. This carries over to schools - successful students (i.e.schools) are where people work together and where there are many sets of eyes.

    A huge concern is that the BOE is not listening to active and involved parents/students in schools where there is currently good change happening (and the turnabout is being forced - thus disrupting those everyone's lives).

    Too many people are being silenced and bulldozed/bullied into the venture philantropist's dream: charter schools (which are noted as being one of the 'hottest' investments out there).
    It is more than a minor 'problem'/coincidence that David Vitale Vitale, who is currently Chicago Public Schools' board president, has been the chairman of AUSL's board and CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley ran finances of AUSL charter schools. Rahm praises the AUSL schools and wants to open more of them. Whose pockets are going to be lined? (we would be blind not to see the connections and we are naive to believe that Rham wouldn't profit).

    Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    "wow catbus and MJ you guys totally read what you wanted you did not read what I wrote."

    Maybe you didn't succeed in writing what you meant. A lot of your comments are just plain incoherent. ("The method I support is specialized care your method is group think failure" -- word salad right on par with

  • Feb 22, 2012, at about 6:15 PM, the appointed Board of Education of the city of Chicago closed, phased out, and turned around all 17 schools on their chopping block without a dissenting vote and hardly a blink of an eye. Despite protests ranging from the sleepover on the sidewalk and mic-check takeover of the Board meeting in December, the 4-day sit-in at the mayor's office, the occupation of Piccolo school, the 500-plus person candlelight vigil to the mayor's house Monday night and the dozens of hearings, speakouts, and organizing meetings around the city where parents, students, teachers and community member poured out their hearts, developed plans, and were deeply involved in our children's education--this Board callously ignored the wisdom and love of Chicago's people. Even though we knew it was coming, we were deeply hurt and angered. They gave six schools to the very politically connected AUSL, rapidly on its way to building its empire in Chicago (now 25 schools) and soon to go national.

    As Jitu Brown of KOCO told the press immediately after the so-called vote, "only in Black and Brown communities would this happen, not in Winnetka or Oak Park." This is a deeply racist city, where the 1% ignores the knowledge and experience of its residents about the education of their children, overwhelmingly of color in Chicago public schools (92%).

    We need an elected and representative school board, elections with spending limits, and bottom-up, community-driven plans for real school transformation and community control of schools. And we need real popular political education, as to the nature of what we're up against. This is a business plan, hatched by the 1%, for the 1%--not an education plan.

    Someone's pockets will be lined with these kinds of actions....look to the BOE and to the mayor...

  • Inactive user

    @Lisa, this doesn't happen in Winnetka and Oak Park b/c their schools and communities aren't going to allow 17 year olds to graduate high school reading at a third-grade level. Their communities haven't confused school safety with academic rigor. They are actually educating their kids to read, write and do math.

    There is clearly a political dimension to some of the closings, but I find it shocking that people are actually up in arms about schools like Guggenheim and Piccolo being turned around. There is something deeply wrong with the perception of what schools are supposed to do -- who they are supposed to serve -- when parents and community members actually protest to KEEP their kids stuck in underachieving schools, where they are not learning to read, do math, think critically, or advancing in any way academically.

    To me it's more symptomatic of our society's latent racism when communities actually want to keep their kids mired in mediocrity, stuck in classrooms with adults who don't believe in their latent potential, when they don't stand up and demand their schools be of the same quality as those in Winnetka and Oak Park.

  • T - very well stated. You should expand on that and send it to the Trib for op-ed. Those parents and communuity members should have been marching into the schools themselves, into the classrooms, and digging in to create some actual, practical benefits for the students. Instead, they march in the streets of the north side, pretty far from where and when then actual problem exists.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    "They are actually educating their kids to read, write and do math." They are also actually educating their kids to do science, learn history, become physically fit and appreciate the arts, but let's not confuse those things with what's REALLY important: ISAT scores.

    They also have sufficient real estate bases to fund top-quality education through property taxes with minimal assistance from the state, but let's not dwell on issues of equity and financing.

    They're also communities with a lot of residents in management and professional occupations, who are giving their kids ample intellectual stimulation in early life, scads of summer enrichment opportunities, and a life largely free of life-threatening danger, hunger, ill health and anxiety, meaning that their kids come to school on the first day more prepared to learn than those kids' inner-city peers do, but let's not fixate on the impact of a student's home life on his or her cognitive development when we all know that nothing matters but the teacher. (Unless one is using a teacher-proofed scripted curriculum, in which case the teacher is irrelevant. Let it be noted for the record that you won't find those in Oak Park or Winnetka except in classes for kids with severe learning disabilities.)

    They also have elected school boards that are accountable to the demands of the community, but let's not pretend that democracy has any role in education.

    They also have caps on class sizes and buildings large enough to accommodate all their students, but the conventional wisdom is that class size doesn't matter (despite research showing that it does).

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    They also have neighborhood-only public school systems, meaning that all their public schools have to be good enough to serve everyone in the catchment area, as opposed to CPS's community-dividing three-tier system (neighborhood, magnet, selective enrollment) that allows the more involved and demanding parents to cluster their kids together in an environment with more resources, fewer disruptions and higher standards, leaving the rest to hang, but in our current political climate, pointing out social divisions is frowned upon (much more so than creating those divisions to begin with).

    Because they consist primarily of families living in comfort or luxury, they also have curricula in which success is defined as being creative, independent and analytical, rather than curricula in which success is defined as obedience, following directions and giving back the "right" answers (i.e., the ones the teachers want to hear), which are typical of education in neighborhoods characterized by poverty and subsistence. But hey, if Chicago government is going to be shot through with rigid authoritarianism and resentment of independent initiative, solution-oriented thinking and questioning of those in charge, why shouldn't Chicago schools be the same?

  • Inactive user

    Ok, Catbus. What's your solution? All I hear from people like you and Lisa are complaints about social problems that CPS doesn't have the agency or ability to solve, yet no solutions, alternative ideas etc.

    Frankly, I'm tired of the outpouring of unproductive outrage that comes out every time this stuff happens. Come up with some ideas, man, some solutions that are actually practical, implementable and not rooted in histrionics.

    Finally, the ISATs are a joke. Just because I want kids in Englewood to learn how to read doesn't mean I'm a fan of high-stakes testing. I love how you know nothing about me, yet use a few of my comments as a trigger for pouring out all your outdated progressive outrage about the ed reform movement.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: It only is "shocking" to find that people in the community are "up in arms" if you believe that they think like you think. The history of CPS is strewn with the carcasses of failed programs initiated by superintendents, bureaucrats, corporations, and mayors. What you're seeing is endemic mistrust and a legitimate sense of disenfranchisement fueled by years of systemic failure. The tactic of raising a ruckus is the best weapon that these parents have to gain the attention of the media so that the powers that be know that they have to do good or lose face. Without knowing the culture of these schools and the engagement of its parents, I am not giving CPS the doubt that it knows best. I totally disagree with your strange analysis that racist forces that have unwittingly made these parents accept mediocrity, because there are too many examples of African-American parents demanding a quality education. All I can say is that CPS obviously did not demonstrate its stated belief in parent participation when it made the school closing decisions. This is top-down all the way from a system that is known for playing politics and a lack of coherent policy.

  • @T - Your comments on this thread have been absolutely enlightening and refreshing. The reactive outrage from others may stem from frustration - being angry because of the what they have heard, and not having enough information or the power to feel like they can do anything about it.

    I don't think anyone was targeting you specifically. You do seem to have a depth of knowledge on this topic, which I totally was looking for when I opened this thread. Thank you!

  • Inactive user

    I understand that piece, Tom. I just don't see the point. I've been to dozens of schools across CPS, including two of those on the list this year -- two that parents are trying to "save." Neither of these schools is functioning for the students in those classrooms. One is the classic example of a school being reduced to a staging area for petty adult squabbling (one nice feature of this great fixture of the community is that I have never seen one piece of student work put on display in the halls). The other school features a community so satisfied that their children are safe that they don't care if they're learning or not. In neither case, would keeping the school open in the way they are operating change anything for those kids.

    In terms of my comment about race, I just think it's racist to argue that children of color should just accept that their schools are going to be mediocre b/c they're poorer than kids from Oak Park/Winnetka, so the best they can do is yell at CBOE meetings and try to keep their kids stuck in classrooms where no learning is going on.

  • Inactive user

    Thanks, T-Bone!

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    T, there are plenty of solutions lying in plain sight. The trouble is, the most fundamental of them are politically unacceptable.

    1. Dismantle the NCLB high-stakes testing and takeover/turnaround regime.

    2. Give the city back an elected school board and a superintendent hired by that board. Failing that, change the makeup of the school board to comprise at least one-third teachers' union members, at least one-third parents and no more than one-third mayoral appointees.

    3. Extend the school day, but NOT to 7½ hours. Make it 6¼ hours through fifth grade, 6½ hours for sixth through eighth and seven hours for high school. Use the extra time for arts, PE, and planning time for homeroom teachers. Give the kids recess.

    4. Get a full-time social worker, a full-time nurse and a full-time psychologist into every school.

    5. Geoffrey Canada may be a tool of the school reform movement, but there is one part of his Harlem Children's Zone program that he got exactly right: the support sequence that comprises Baby College, the Three-Year-Old Journey, Get Ready for Pre-K and Harlem Gems. Get this program up and running in every community area where 50 percent or more of schoolchildren receive free lunch, or 90 percent or more receive free or reduced-price lunch.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    6. Require a fixed fraction of TIF funds to go to schools. Period. Even better . . .

    7. Decouple school funding from property taxes altogether. No more property taxes paying for schools. Fund all public schools through the state general fund, paid for by income taxes. Give every school in every district an annual payment based on the following formula: $X per regular education student, $Y per special education student and $Z per building -- a fixed amount to cover administration and support personnel. (Among other things, this formula would provide CPS an incentive to place more of its students in appropriate special education programs, whereas right now, the district has an incentive to avoid providing special ed services as much as possible.)

    8. Phase out the three-tier enrollment system. Magnet schools were originally a desegregation scheme; they've become a scheme for ensuring special treatment for children of demanding parents. Continue to have programs for the academically gifted, but base them in neighborhood schools. Keep ordinary high achievers in regular classrooms, where they can serve as role models for their peers and increase the average stability in the classroom.

    9. Middle schools! Why the hell does Chicago not have middle schools? NO suburban district uses the K–8 "elementary" school model. Neighborhood elementary schools will be much safer without kids of middle school age (what CPS calls "upper grades") around. Plus, then you don't need to have two separate schedules for one building, and you can have better utilization of scarce areas like gyms and auditoriums.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    10. Mandate construction of new school buildings whenever existing schools reach 97 percent capacity.

    11. Make sure every bathroom stall has a door and toilet paper. (You think I'm making this up? Pick a high-poverty neighborhood and ask for a school tour. If you don't respect students' dignity, don't expect them to perform -- for you or for themselves.)

    I could go on at considerably greater length. I have a master's degree in elementary education and have observed, substituted and taught in schools from the South Side to Kenilworth. I have seen every inequity and stupidity firsthand and close-up. I could tell you about schools where students are forbidden to bring backpacks to class because they might contain weapons, and schools where they're forbidden to bring backpacks to class because they are heavy and get in the way, and where students leave them HANGING OPEN from pegs on the OUTSIDE of their lockers, and virtually nothing ever gets stolen. I could tell you about a school where students get one day of gym every week in eighth grade, and a school that floods its baseball fields every winter for ice skating and has its own Zamboni to plane the ice. I could tell you about a school where kids can choose from drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, vocal music, instrumental music, drama and musical theater, and a school where the one remaining art class was taken away to make more time for test prep. To me, it all boils down to one rule: If it's not good enough for your child, it's not good enough for someone else's. And if you're not willing to pitch in to give every child the education that you think your child deserves, then you're part of the problem.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: Thanks for the reply. I, too, have been in many schools, mainly in the '90s when I was working in school reform efforts. I've seen many parent squabbles as well as LSC's that had been captured by their principals. I remember one principal whose main point of pride was order, and she kids marching in file from class to calls with off-duty cops posted on the first and second floors. It may well be that the cultures of the schools threatened with closing are around the bend. But I also spent a good amount of time working with CPS bureaucrats at Pershing, and I might also put forth a good argument for closing down some stagnant parts of that wasteland. I just think that this is about power as well as education. In the long run it would be helpful to have the communities have more of a stake in the success of their schools. I assume that Oak Park and Winnetka schools know that their are active parents monitoring them, who will bring their power to bear if something goes wrong. They might even yell in public. (Well, maybe not in Winnetka.) So, without evidence of a sinister outside force manipulating the parents, I think that this outcry is what happens in a functioning democracy when people feel disenfranchised from decisions that affect their lives. What harm will come if CBOE is forced to take more time to work with these parents and engage them in a mutual effort to improve the schools? It's not a matter of whether the parents are right or wrong, it's a matter of them being stakeholders.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Oh, the parents WILL yell in Winnetka . . . but they'll do it in private. Because, for one thing, they can actually get a meeting with their district's superintendent.

  • Inactive user

    Lots of good ideas, @Catbus. Thanks for that. I especially agree about the bathrooms piece. I'm always shocked when I see that in schools. The middle school thing has always puzzled me, too, and the rationale I've heard is that they took away middle schools to help build continuity for students and to reduce mobility. The irony is that the turnarounds and closures probably create more mobility than expecting them to move to different campuses.

    As long as there are LSCs, there is no way the CBOE would ever revert to an elected body. I do think that you could look at a vast majority of the recent reform efforts in Chicago as a way to directly and indirectly dismantle the LSC structure w/o forcing the mayor to openly decry them and work to take them apart.

    I do think that, in reference to point 1: there has to be a way to gauge student readiness, to measure what they've learned. The College Readiness Standards and ISAT clearly aren't working for that. I do think the Common Core Standards are an improvement.

    @Tom, agree about the power piece, too.

  • T and Catbus, if ever an election is held for a school board in this city, I hope you two will ditch your pseudonyms and get in the running.

  • SFW

    Or at least their local school councils...if they are not already on them. The debate hase broadened significantly from the original question ....why the opposition to building on this particular vacant lot?......seems like overall it will benefit our community

  • I've worked at two Aspira schools. You will not find a more corrupt, inept, politically-tied organization than Aspira. The fact they are being granted more charters in incredible to me, and any neighborhood that allows this group to build a school within its boundaries will regret it more than you can imagine. Mark my words. This school will significantly harm its students, employees, and neighborhood. I cannot stress this point enough.

  • SFW

    I am curious. Can you tell us specifically what types of harm these schools caused in the two neighborhoods that you worked in?

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    If you look at my previous post from the Sun-Times about state achievement test data, you'll see this: "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." Seems you might at least kick the tires before driving this one off the lot.

  • What kind of harm did these schools cause? Violence, loitering, graffiti, etc. Just the type of stuff you'd expect when you bring 400-500 teens together on a daily basis. Keep in mind, charter schools have no attendance boundaries or real admissions process. Thus, you've got kids from different area (and, therefore, gangs) mixing on a daily basis. You've also got kids who have been expelled from their neighborhood school, which shows a problem-child in the first place.

  • expel a child is a very long laborious process. it appears some charter schools like Aspira deal with one end of the 'game'...(where it seems some of those students would be better suited for an alternative school)...and other charter schools have the luxury of culling students.
    In either case...these charter school COMPANIES are making money and have lots of political connections.

  • LJ Community member

    T-Bone, I'm with you on your sentiments. Thank you. I live near a charter school and believe my neighborhood is better for it. Education is a good thing.

    I appreciate this conversation -- it seems like people aren't just reacting to their fears but actually thinking about the situation of the schools in this city and have real insights.

    Charter schools are public schools, which means they receive public funding and are accountable to the public. One reason they exist is that the school system and its bureaucratic ways are ineffective at supporting individual schools in their improvement. Indeed the bureaucracy tends to create confusion and uncertainty at the school level and stymie the good judgment of principals, teachers, and parents.

    Charters have more freedom than regular schools -- freedom to hire committed professionals, for example. Imagine trying to run a school when half the teachers aren't interested in improving instruction because doing so will mean more work for them and taking some risks and perhaps exposing that they don't know their content area. Imagine having a social worker who is a "ring leader," meaning she leads those resistant teachers in opposition to change, rather than working to develop programs to support the non-academic needs of students. In schools with these kinds of dynamics dysfunction becomes the norm.

    Charters will not solve the problem of providing decent educational services to all the children in this city. Nor will turnarounds, which are expensive endeavors. But both are worth trying and supporting as long, as we learn from them and make sure children aren't worse off because of them.

  • LJ Community member

    To continue....

    My two cents in this conversation is that the school system must learn how to support the improvement of neighborhood schools because that's where most of the children in this city are educated. Central office needs to own up to the ways that it fails the schools and begin to evaluate its staff, its policies, and its programs for the ways they contribute to, rather than detract, from school improvement efforts.

    In the meantime, we need charter schools to show what can be done when school staff, parents, and communities work together around education. Although it's disappointing that some charters are not performing well, it's hard to argue against those that are performing well. There is nothing more convincing than being in a well-run school where everyone is focused on and committed to the goal of education, particularly when you realize that real children benefit.

    That said, improving our k-12 schools is only one part of the solution to nurturing, developing, and educating children in this city. That's one reason communities must be included in plans and decisions to improve education in this city.

    If we want the neighborhood schools to improve, we must expect more of central administration. I for one believe that central administration must work with communities and develop trust with them, which would mean that it can't make all the decisions downtown and then navigate and manipulate the ensuing conversation in such a way that its decisions carry the day. And communities must take a good hard look at their schools and be honest about what they see. Their defense of perenially poor performing schools is indefensible.

    Until central administration, schools, communities, and the teachers union can start working together, charters will have a place in our education system. When the system isn't working, the only thing to do is to work around the system. Charters work around the system. Good for them. Now let's improve the system.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    LJ: Not only do charters work around the system, they draw off resources from the system. I'm not talking about money, per se, but in the late 80's and early 90's when LSCs came into being, there was a great focus of academic and corporate interest in improving the system through greater parental control. Even then, these players had a jaundiced view of the CBOE. Inevitably, many schools with LSC parents who received no stipend for their service and often were poorly educated themselves had a hard time getting a handle on school improvement, despite a smattering of uneven support provided by the corporations, academic institutions, nonprofits, and the CBOE itself.

    When Daley took over in 1995, he did so with corporate and legislative backers who were tired of the experiment. He hired a new executive director with no educational background, began to abrogate the powers of the LSCs and cut into union control. So, we had the Vallas era more focused on reorganization, followed by the Duncan era focused on education.

    During this time powers like the Civic Committee and some of the big universities, along with a ragged bunch of entrepreneurs, became enamored of charter schools that privatize a public problem. Of course, there are some good models. But there are also plenty of good models where universities work with teachers and principals on best practices and a more holistic approach to education. I am against the growing charter movement because it is not accountable to ALL Chicago students. And it draws too much attention and support from powerful people who hate government and have given up on it. They have the luxury of setting up small-scale alternatives, circumventing unions, and leaving a legion of children at the mercy of a system they have lost interest in. As MItt Romney said, "I don't care about the very poor, there's government programs for them."

  • SFW

    OK - This has all been very enlightening. In answer to the original question it seems the oppostion to building this school on this vacant lot is opposition to having all of these high school age children coming into the area. Same kind of problems that we see around neighborhood schools like Schurz near my business. And in addition this particular charter school apparently accepts not only children whose parents don't want them in their neighborhood schools but also kids whom the neighborhood schools do not want in the neighborhood schools - which I did not realize. Now I see the issue - I will still hope for the best and hope this school is a greater asset to our area than that vacant lot has been. And if they accept and seek those students that have been expelled from neighborhood schools then their less than fantastic results are understandable

  • Inactive user

    I do think it's important to put the charter movement in Chicago into perspective, though. As of this year, there are 675 schools in CPS, 87 of those schools are charter campuses. That's 13% of the total school count. However, since charters enroll fewer students, their actual percentage of total CPS students is 12%.

    This includes the Youth Connection Charter network, which is a series of campuses devoted to students who are the true fringes of society, the last stop for students deemed incredibly highly likely to drop out and leave education. If you subtract the 4,000 kids who attend YCCS schools, the total % of students in charters in CPS drops to around 10.5%.

    All of this data is available on the CPS Research page, here, under attendance and membership.

    Point being that even with the doubled charter cap in 2009, over the last ten years only one out of every ten kids in CPS goes to a charter school. Compare that to places like San Francisco or NOLA, where organizations like KIPP are growing rapidly, and Chicago's charter crisis doesn't seem like that big of an emergency.

  • Inactive user

    For comparison sake:

    70% of schools in New Orleans are charter schools. 70%! Granted it took a catastrophic natural disaster to open the door for this, but it underscores that the charter situation in Chicago isn't that dire in terms of overall representation.

    Also, I would argue that Chicagoans are so provincial in terms of our strong ties to our neighborhoods that a true charter school "revolution" in the system isn't likely. Heck, the last CEO of CPS (Hubermann) HATED charters, and he was a Daley appointee.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: Thanks for your ever-informative comments. I seem to be wandering into polemics here. I just tend to think of charters in the same way I do Habitat for Humanity. Some wonderful small scale solutions that draw an inordinate amount of attention while others are engaged in the less glamorous task of whole community housing solutions. I'll look into the Youth Connection Charter Network, though. Sounds like people willing to address the toughest problems.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    SFW: If you're worried about kids from out of the neighborhood causing problems, I'd be concerned about the quality of the charter itself. Check out Aspire's model and its record. Hold out for a charter with a good reputation.

  • Anyone who thinks charter schools are good for education doesn't know much about education. Here is the deal in a nutshell:
    CPS will give a politically-connected group, like ASPIRA, a charter. They'll then give ASPIRA 85% or so of the funding they'd give a typical neighborhood public school. ASPIRA then does whatever it wants with the money. So CPS wins, because it has just saved 15%. And ASPIRA wins, because they get their name out there and receive millions of dollars to play with, with little oversight. Who loses? Kids, who receive a discount education and uncertified, unqualified teachers. Teachers lose too, as they receive less pay for longer hours with no contract or union backing, Charter schools are backed by Dems and Republicans because they are the ultimate political tool/scam. But they hurt the very group that schools are supposed to help- kids.
    There is a reason you don't see charter schools in the suburbs: "education" is not the problem and teachers are not the problem. Bad parents with bad kids are. It's not a school problem. It's a family problem.

  • LJ Community member

    Tom G: I agree with you, though you refer to charters as private, which isn't really inaccurate. Charters exist as an act of public law and have public oversight.

    Yes, charters do draw problem-solving intelligence away from the system. I'd even say that charters can be expressions of individual and institutional egotism. "The public system can't do it, but we can and we'll show them how." Easier said than done, most of them find out. But I don't see individual charter schools as the problem, per se.

    I don't know of anybody making the argument that we should actually invest in improving local systems of public education. I see that as the problem, and it seems you and I might agree on that.

    So why aren't we talking more about how to make the school district more effective organizationally? It needs the attention and as you point out, it hasn't been getting it.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    Edgebrook: Just following your line of reasoning, suburban schools are better because they have good parents and good kids, and city schools are worse because they have bad parents and bad kids? I want to be sure that you really meant this before I tell you where to get off.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    LJ: Thanks for the clarification. So we have quasi-public schools with nonprofit private boards, not the for-profit schools like Edison that are in other states. Full disclosure: I work for public higher-education. I tend to see this as part of a broader political movement of disinvestment in government. My school has a state charter to provide access to public education traditionally at a lower cost than private education. The state government has cut back from funding about half to a present 15%. Consequently, tuitions have risen and students have become scholarship dependent, if they're not priced out of our market. We must raise major amounts of government, private, and corporate research funding to keep a quality faculty. Charter schools also are dependent on 20% or more of private funding to survive. Our prisons are being privatized, our military operations are being privatized, etc. Who is taking us down this path and for what reasons?

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    I think (or would like to think) that what Edgebrook1 meant is that the suburbs don't resort to charter schools because there's trust in the system as a whole, and if certain students are failing, the responsibility for their failure falls first on them and their families. Of course, the flip side of that is that the problems that plague inner cities and limit students' ability to reach their full cognitive potential are much scarcer in the suburbs (well, most suburbs -- they're rife in, say, Melrose Park, Maywood and Cicero). When they're as widespread as they are in, say, Englewood, to the extent where they're affecting entire schools, people can't help but point fingers, and since they'd rather not point fingers at the poverty and segregation, they point fingers at the schools instead.

    But I think there's another factor at work: Not only do suburbs rarely reach the degree of dissatisfaction with their schools that opens the door to charters, few of them would ever tolerate the curricular and atmospheric rigidity prevalent in most charters for THEIR OWN children. Charters thrive on the mind-set that OTHER people's children need a different kind of education, one that's less flexible, less forgiving, and less designed to nurture creativity and initiative.

  • Tracy C domestic engineer, COO of the family

    I suggest if anyone has 2 hours to watch the documentary "Waiting For Superman" very interesting.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Oh, God, don't even get me started on that movie.

    If you've got two hours, read the first half of Educational Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality by Gerald Bracey. Then set aside another two hours to read the other half. Don't waste your time on pro-"reform" propaganda films.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Correction: The title is Education Hell, not Educational Hell.

  • Inactive user

    Or, you could go the Consortium's website and read lots of informative,data-based reports on ed movements and reform efforts and make up your own mind.

  • dd

    yes there needs to be change and unfortunately change takes time and when you have a child ready to go to school you cant wait for change you have to act to what is available at the time and try to be available to make things better where you end up sending your child to school. be it public private or charter IMO

  • jane photographer

    I just did a quick read of the comments and did not see this point made, one of the reasons parents, teachers and others are upset about charters is one simple fact. The board has admitted publically that they "starve" schools that are in trouble by denyig them funding and other assets. For example one of the schools closed last week is a three story building. For years it's roof has been in such bad shape the third floor classrooms finaly had to be abandoned due to the water running in when it rained, there was never any money to have the roof fixed. Now that it is going to be a charter school, tada! The roof is getting fixed along with many other things. My question is are you sure that ASPIRA is paying for the new building or are the taxpayers and ASPIRA getting the new building while our CPS kids and teachers are dealing with the problems of a 100 year old building a few blocks away?

  • Barbs hey you kids, get off my lawn!

    @Jane, you might want to ask about who is paying by contacting:
    Sonia Sanchez, Director
    Government & Community Relations
    ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois

    @Michael M: This site was not, until recently, an empty lot, but had a bank building and parking lot on much of it. It's not clear if the building was torn down before, or after purchase.

    My biggest concern centers around the fact that Aspira has failed to educate their kids, and I have good reason to believe what @Edgebrook1 states; that Aspira is rife w/ cronyism, nepotism, mismanagement. This school is not a good thing, but instead an expansion of an already proven failing charter.

    The location of this school, at a key intersection of what is a "Little Poland/Polonia" neighborhood also seems a bit strange. Is this a push by the Latino community to mark territory? A reaction to "gentrification" that is apparently slowly moving up Milwaukee Ave. and into Avondale? I am most cynical as to why this corner was chosen as opposed to so many other vacant lots located all over Avondale, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.

    does anyone know, are there connections between Aspira and LSNA? Aspira and former HDO members?

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Anyone who is interested in more information regarding the ASPIRA school, please use this link and read the interview with Logan Square Concerned Citizens and ASPIRA.

    There will also be an informational meeting :
    Wednesday March 14th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    Location: St. Hyacinth Basilica Resurrection Hall
    3636 W. Wolfram
    Invited Speakers: All Local Aldermen
    Chicago Police Commanders
    Chicago Public Schools Representative
    Aspira Inc, of Illinois High School Operator.

    Anyone who is concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent should attend as well as anyone who is concerned with how this high school will impact our community and traffic!
    What will be the impact on the existing Milwaukee business district?

    A brand new brick and mortar school will certainly be an improvement from watching the drunks camp out there with their carts but will we be trading vagrancy and drunk and disorderly for gang loitering, graffiti and gang related shootings and then retaliation!

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: Thanks for the Consortium link--I used to work there and they are scrupulous in how they use data to measure school improvement. Problem is, I combed their site for references to Aspira and found nothing. Which reports contain the data?

    Also, there is enough public data that we can question why Aspira was chosen. Last year two of their four schools were categorized at the lowest level 3 for academic performance, meaning that they can be closed down. There has been a well-documented case of grade changing, allegations of a strip search, and teachers reporting mismanagement in Substance and Catalyst. There is plenty of documented evidence of cronyism and nepotism tied to local, state, and national politics. This top-down decision-making is government at its worst.

    At the meeting, why not demand community input into the selection process, although I'm sure CPS will say they've done that. Why can't other providers state their case for running a school in the community? If Aspira is the only charter organization that has stepped forward, SO WHAT? Do we have to accept what the ruling elite gives us? Aspira was founded on principles of activism, so they'll look really dumb if they're in league with CPS to railroad the process past community activists.

    Why Aspira?

  • And if the CPS starves schools (which they do)
    How about Mayor who would seemingly willingly starve the schools of 25% of CPS students.

  • Inactive user

    @Lisa, come on now. You're going to believe what Karen Lewis says w/o any outside substantiation? To me, this article just proves what a terrible bargaining position she's in, and underscores that members of the CTU would be better served by another president.

  • I am honestly curious about how the Mayor's Office will respond to this. look at this actions and how he treats people. Does this surprise anybody?

    His comment had been reported to me by others...but until today..I had not heard the 'official reference' to the moment.
    I do believe Karen Lewis. I don't think she has reason to invent this. The Mayor's bedside manner and treatment of Chicagoans states plenty in itself.

  • Inactive user

    Give me a break, Lisa. She has no reason to invent this? How about because she is desperately trying to not lose a failing PR battle with central office and, true to form, instead of working to re-position the CTU in the public's eye as an organization in the service of children, she is instead tossing out unsubstantiated and inflammatory accusations. It seems desperate to me.

    The Mayor's office is going to just say he never said it and move on. Note, I'm not saying he DIDN'T say it, just that Lewis' motives for reporting it are far from altruistic.

  • Inactive user

    Also, if Lewis is so concerned about whether or not people in education believe in the intrinsic abilities of kids, she should focus on something she can control and impact: the belief systems of the members of her union.

  • Of course the Mayor's office will deny it.

    CTU is interested in the service of children. CTU recently released a very interesting proposal for the education of Chicago's children last week. There were many very creative and appropriate ideas that made quite a bit of sense and deserve recognitiion.These ideas make more sense that the rash 7.5 school day and then to top it off...the Track E school year (in a place like Chicago...where buildings are ill-equiped for summer) for all (both ideas need considerable study).

    I think the fact that senator Soto is sponsoring a bill to help but a moraturium on closing schools speaks volumes. This is an effort that CTU has been involved in grass root efforts to help communities and neighborhood schools. It is the BOE who turned a blind eye to parents and kids....not CTU.

    CTU and its grass-roots activism...which is working for the PARENTS and the noted. Karen Lewis and CORE are not the same old same old Union of yore. She and most CORE members were classroom teachers. They were in the trenches. They KNOW the problems of. students/communities


  • CTU is working with nationally recognized persons and organizations which recognize that there are problems...mass problems of inequities in our school district and how the school district has treated them (every so more pronounced since the BOE was made a mayorially appointed organization).,0,5442410.story

    I think the fact that CTU and CPS are becoming national topics
    is BIG news...and hardly indicates that she is having problems with her message. Ed Schultz 'gets it' with what IS happening in Chicago.

    It is the Mayor who is looting the public trust.

    It is Rahm that wants to
    A) limit public speech...look at his sneaky changes to public protest that were unveiled in the middle of the holiday season and then he nailed the coffin on MLK day.
    B) he calls the protests of parents/students 'noise'...thus belittling their thoughts...CTU never did that...
    C) he doesn't act like a man of the people...more like the 1%....
    He claims to support the middleclass....hummmmm a strong middle class except for teachers. And librarians. And firefighters. And bus drivers. And police—well, until the G8/NATO summits leave town. The mayor willl be sort of nice to cops until then.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Barbs. Why does ASPIRA have to confine themselves to certain areas, and I'm not sure what you mean by Hispanics marking off territory ina Polish enclave. I'd like to think that I'm missunderstanding you. I don't know enough about the subject to offer an opinion. Apparently there are pros and cons, if I'm to believe what I've been reading on this thread, but some comments like your are begining to open my eyes. Please starighten me out.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Does anyone else think that there is a problem here when the valedictorian and entire graduating class take off their gowns and display t-shirts in protest of the issues with the Aspira Charter School. Watch this:

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    How is it that neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Sun-Times EVER reported on that?!

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Catbus, I don't know why either because the Tribune posts the report cards on all of these schools and Aspira has been failing these kids miserably! Seem to be politics as usual here, as two people on the ASPIRA board either worked or still work for State Senator Iris Martinez.

  • also interesting on topic of charter schools are the conditions in some of the charter schools run by AUSL (which is the company being some fervently recommended by Rahm).

    two teachers tell it like it is at Orr (now an AUSL school)

    Strange but true...some LSC groups are going to take CPS to court regarding the schools that they want to close and turn into AUSL schools
    The lawsuit filed by LSC members at many of the closed and turned around schools, will be heard next Monday, March 12 at 2 pm.
    This lawsuit argues that, under the Illinois School Code, CPS “may not take such actions until they have complied with Section 34-8.3(c) and put in place “school improvement plans” that “include specific steps” that the LSCs “must take to correct identified deficiencies.”

    Here's an interesting twist: some people claim that Rahm is falling out of favor in the White House due to his various antics with CPS/BOE/school closings. Some believe that Nancy Pelosi cam to have a 'heart to heart' with Rahm. We know that Pelosi came to endorse Jesse Jackson Jr. at RainbowPUSH (which has affiliations with CTU regarding what Jesse Jackson Sr. claim that CPS practices educational apartheid. all....Curious.

  • It just gets weirder! Brizard wants to use public money for private and parochial schools. Why is he working in PUBLIC education?,0,3590608.story

    We need a publically elected BOE.

  • Inactive user

    Lisa, are you an employee for the CTU charged who uses EB as a place to conduct guerrilla pr under the guise of an average citizen?

    I'm just curious b/c you seem uninterested in dialogue and cross post things that read like thinly veiled CTU press releases...

  • Inactive user

    Also, AUSL schools aren't charters. They're CPS schools. Not charters.

  • I am an average citizen and a concerned parent.

    I don't believe that AUSL are standard CPS schools. It is my undertstanding that they are charter schools.

  • Inactive user

    They aren't charter schools, but they aren't standard CPS schools either. AUSL is a special case.

    They don't have LSCs, but AUSL isn't a charter management organization. Their schools fall under the same CPS budget guidelines that any other CPS neighborhood school has to operate under.

    What AUSL has, is a model for running school operations and systems that is unique to their organization. They also run teacher academies that train teachers under a residency model.

    Other things that make AUSL schools unique is that their leadership is "at will" meaning AUSL can let their principals and assistant principals go when they want, and the same is true for their teachers. CPS carved special space out for AUSL based largely on their ES results (Dodge being the cornerstone).

    As news reports indicate, their high school Turnarounds haven't seen much success, but the same could be said for the OSS Turnarounds. High Schools are just really f-ing hard to transform.

  • Inactive user

    I would also like to point out that while AUSL is the current target for anti-CPS sentiments, they -- as an organization -- do much more in the way of community outreach and engagement than any other ed organization I've run across. They have mixed results, but they're working in a field -- and finding decent success in pockets (Bethune,Dulles, Dodge being good examples) -- in a field where few people are finding any success. Also, their one non-Turnaround high school, Chicago Academy, has been making strides in FOT, attendance, and ACT scores, although I know that nobody is supposed to care how a kid does on the ACT, b/c all testing is bad, even though it's actually your ticket into college.

  • Thanks for bringing to light that AUSL does other things (besides the schools). That is the right and fair thing to point out.

    If you check out the occupychicagtrib article (about the two teachers at Orr) will notice that the teachers address the constant turnover of administration (which certainly can make implementation/follow through on discipline/schools rules exceedly difficult). Kids need consistency. The kids at Orr are not getting that. And the work environment there, seems at best, 'challenged'
    Orr was a difficult school before the turnaround (and as you state, T, some HS are just really difficult to turn around). (especially considering the already difficult socio-economic problems).
    Why is it that Chicago Academy is making strides? (is it the student population? parent commitment? something else?)

  • Inactive user

    Hi Lisa,
    You answered your own question about Chicago Academy a bit in your post. One big factor is that they've had stable leadership there for at lest five years. Research shows that the longer a principal stays in the role, the more likely it is for the school to improve over time. Chicago Academy High School is also a teaching academy for AUSL, which means they're working with teachers that have all been trained in the same systems and in the same manner, which improves the consistency of teaching across the classrooms. It also reduces the degree to which teachers are teaching radically different content across the same courses, which helps build the foundation for better teacher collaboration and peer-peer support.

    As you point out with Orr, they haven't had stable leadership since the turnaround, which has lead to the implementation of several different "ways" of doing things across the school, which would include codes of conduct, the establishment of a functioning leadership team and course-level teams etc.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Anyone who is interested in more information regarding the ASPIRA school, please use this link and read the interview with Logan Square Concerned Citizens and ASPIRA.

    There will also be an informational meeting :
    Wednesday March 14th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    Location: St. Hyacinth Basilica Resurrection Hall
    3636 W. Wolfram
    Invited Speakers: All Local Aldermen
    Chicago Police Commanders
    Chicago Public Schools Representative
    Aspira Inc, of Illinois High School Operator.

    Anyone who is concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent should attend as well as anyone who is concerned with how this high school will impact our community and traffic!
    What will be the impact on the existing Milwaukee business district?

    ASPIRA also has received failing grades as only 1% of their graduates are college ready!

    There were also three women struck and killed by motor vehicles at Monticello and Milwaukee Ave and I can attest to the difficulty in crossing the street there, even with the crosswalk. Once again this evening, I was three quarters through the intersection with the dog and someone turned right on Milwaukee from Ridgeway, without even stopping or looking.

    Also has anyone seen the amount of gang graffiti on Barry from Central Pk all the way east to Kedzie? Bring 600 new kids from all over the city and drop them in the mix of an existing gang conflict and wait for the powder keg to explode!

  • @T - would love to hear your take on UNO.

  • I just had the funniest run in with an unidentified elected official who was handing out pro library/anti school leaflets on Central Park and Oakdale (9pm)!?!? He was pushing a library over some charter school that was planned for the area. I can only imagine it was the one you're speaking about. He had a horribly incorrect understanding of some economic and political history. He was a weird dude.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    @Ethically Engineered......yes, it is the same school. It was supposed to be built but the local businesses have filed a law suit against the zoning board for granting the zoning change. I think the person was Larry Ligas and he has been instrumental in helping to postpone or stop this project all together. The recent spike in gang activity and shootings is reason enough not to drop 600 kids in the middle of a turf war and if that's not enough, how about the fact they they are under performing CPS schools, which is quite sad. We do not have a library in the area and this would be a perfect location.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Colemeister and Ethically Engineered; Be very careful about any interactions that you may have with Larry Ligas. He's a local community activist who has has been around for many years. E-mail me, and I can be more specific.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    @George F, I can't seem to email you, can you email me instead?

  • I'm not sure if the gentleman was Larry Ligas, but he definitely had an agenda. I couldn't get any well thought out benefit of a library over the school. He seemed upset that I was asking the question as if it was self evident. I will try to email you @George F. If I am unable please feel free to contact me via



  • Nice, just found this story from the Reader about Larry Ligas:

    Lessons in Propaganda

    Was the Sun-Times fed the Clemente/FALN story by a man with a political ax to grind?

    So weird, he is listed as a conservative democrat but he bristled when I pointed out that Paul Ryan voted yes to allow banks back into the securities business in the late 90s. Now, I'm really not sure what this guy is about.

  • Ah, ABC7 posted this. Apparently his catholicism is putting him at odds with Obama if this is the same guy.

    "Meanwhile, in Catholic churches across Chicago, parishioners joined the debate.

    "For far too long the Catholic Church has allowed president Obama to get away with a lot of his politics," said Catholic Larry Ligas"

    There was some info on court cases with him as a defendant and a matter of $300K in business taxes.

  • I love the interwebs.

  • Carter O'Brien Diversey to Belmont lifer

    Larry Ligas regularly gets flack for his group as it begs the question of what truly is a community group.

    Most people I've spoken to believe they fall far short:

    The Logan Square Concerned Citizens does not have meetings open to the public. They do not publish minutes, elect officers or in any way embrace alternative viewpoints. I don't think they even have a website where you can find a clearly stated position on anything.

    Now, everyone has a right to gather freely & so do they. Sometimes I agree with some of Larry's points.

    The problem is when Larry portrays himself as a spokesman for Logan Square. That's IMO deceptive and unacceptable.

    If you go here and do a search for him:

    You will find numerous comments over a decade running by neighbors, usually aggravated that they read a news story where Larry was as some sort of community representative.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Colemeister; Give me a couple of days. I'm home in nyc and won't be back until Monday night.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    I e-mailed Colemeister, and I'm sure he can foward it to you. I'm currently out of town until Monday night, so I don't get too much of a chance to check my e-mails.

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