Charter school discussions and University of Chicago Charter Schools

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(Based on a Herald article March 16, 2011) There is a perpetual quarrel and suspicion over charter school boundaries, and such may or may not be the case over University of Chicago Charter School- North Kenwood-Oakland Charter go-ahead from CPS to draw a boundary. Some hold that in many charters declined to have boundaries to draw from far and wide while excluding local children, and when that didn't garner enough students, secured a boundary to compete as the "neighborhood" school of choice within the boundary. One fear is of depleting students so more schools will be underutilized and hence closed. (The interim CPS head says there are not enough spaces for all the requested charters.) UC Charter always have had split lotteries or accepted all children. North Kenwood-Oakland's will coincide with those of the other elementary-middle schools in the Charter, Donoghue and Woodson). The boundary will be 35th, King and St. Lawrence, and 49th to the Lake. U of C (Linda Wing, Diorector of Schools and community Engagement for UC Charter) says the new boundary will help it fulfill its mission of serving with priority low income and minority students-- rare among charters. Andrea Lee of Grand Boulevard Federation, told the Herald she believes UC's use of boundaries and commitment to the community are a good example. U of C charters started when charter boundaries were not allowed. Donoghue received one in 205, Woodlawn High received one in 2006, and Woodson in 2008.)


Charters and U of C and the Gates funding

Charters started with North Kenwood-Oakland, then Donoghue, then Woodlawn High. In fall 2008, the NK/O middle school, at St. Ambrose, moved to a new Carter G. Woodson campus (with new students), 4414 S Evans (by traditional CPS Woodson), fall 2008, the 100th anniversary of Woodson's UC graduation. The new school, like the others, will stress expectation of going to college and will offer one-on-one computing (>each owning a laptop and participation in Digital Youth Network-- a real workshop), X-programming (hoodwinking..,) and signature programs.

Highlights of the University of Chicago Charter School system

Purpose: provide students with rigorous instruction and comprehensive academic adn social supports to accelerate learning, develop college readiness, and engender leadership. Our campuses provide extensive instruction time, including an academic day and an extended day, week, and year. We take a research-based approach to instruction, engaging students in ambitious intellectual work. Students undertake research projects in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, beginning in elementary school and culminating with thesis projects in the senior year.

The school uses diagnostic assessments to gauge student progress towards learning standards, using the results to fine-tune instruction, introduce interventions, and target academic and social supports. Intensive professional development, supports and incentives are in place for teachers and school leaders. An advanced technological infrastructure supports teaching and learning. Parent centers and parent leadership are integral to our school culture. Above all, our teachers, staff, and leaders are dedicated, knowledgeable and skillful educators who teach, support and inspire our students to achieve at high levels.

(Social component is taken seriously-- a major responsibility of assistant principals is to oversee counseling.)

Key principles

Success We Can Count- students meeting or exceeding standards.
2007 66-70%, K-5 51-56
2009 ISAT 3rd graders 74-80 (CPS 61), 8th graders 80-87% (CPS 79), Reading/Math/Science 71-78,
2009 ISAT Math 82-87 and Woodlawn 87 (CPS 73, 74),
reading benchmarks- NKO from 56 in 2007 to 75 in 2009, Donoghue from 51 in 2007 to 61 in 2009.

UC Charter students learn to lead themselves, their schools, their world.
NKO 2nd graders created a plan and business and sold campaign buttons.
NKO 4th an 5th graders learned at site from Navigant Consulting how to start and run a business from start to finish in 2008-09, continuing the next year for a total contribution of $30,000.
Donoghue children workshopped with then performed with Ella Jenkins on a recording.
Woodson eighth graders did their research in Egypt.
Woodlawn students participated in many internship and learning camps with career and college components.

The longer the students are educated at the charters, the stronger their academic achievement. Woodlawn's initial 6th graders were 72/66% at standard, by their eighth grade year this cohort was at 87%.

Charter 8th graders were at 7 times the CPS level of admission into selective high schools (31% at Woodson v 8%)

Graduation rates from high school - finished 8th grade at charter: 91.3% graduated from their high school (CPS 55%)

College Prep- finished 8th at charter: 95.45% have enrolled in college (CPS 52.5%)

Woodson is a new kind of middle school.

2008 enrollment total 1,315, 2013 projection 1,800. Budget for 2009: $15.2 million, 22% from grants and gifts. Money is being raised for the full Woodson program, which has five additional 5 subject matter teachers- $1,000 more per pupil than CPS provides. THE GOAL- WHAT CITIES LIKE NEW YORK, BOSTON, ATLANTA SPEND PER CHILD.

The corporate board: President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, UC Provost. Vice President Ann Marie Lipinski, UC VP Civic Engagement. Secretary and Treasurer Beth A. Harris, UC VP and General Counsel.

The Governing Board- Chair Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice Chair Shirley Newsome, NK/O Conservation Counsel. Rest UC faculty/Urban School Institute, chairs of the parent-teacher boards of the individual boards, or corporate.

Chronicle, Oct. 6 2006: Woodlawn, University partners in education through Charter School. By William Harms

As the teachers and 160 students of the newly opened Woodlawn High School marched into the auditorium of this University-operated charter school Wednesday, Sept. 27, an audience of University leaders, Woodlawn residents and other community members was on hand to applaud the group.

For the dedication of the third campus of the University of Chicago Charter School and it first charter high school, President Zimmer spoke at the event with some remarks of praise for the launch of the new school: " Nothing we do as a society is more important than educating our children. The University of Chicago is very proud to be part of this partnership, which reflects the values of the University."

Joining Zimmer at the dedication of the campus, which shares space with Wadsworth Elementary School at 6420 S. University Ave., was James Crown, Chairman of the University Board of Trustees; Alderman Arenda Troutman, whose 20th Ward includes Woodlawn; State Sen. Kwame Raoul; Woodlawn community leader, Joseph Trickled; and Hank Webber, Vice President for Community and Government Affairs at the University. Hosanna Mahaley, New Schools Officer and the head of the Renaissance 2010 initiative for the Chicago Public Schools, also attended the event.

A video chronicling the hopes and dreams of Woodlawn's students and parents also was shown. One of the directors and producers of the video is Woodlawn freshman Shani Edmond, a graduate of North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School, the University's first charter school campus, established in 1998. "As a student leader, I plan to set the pace for success." said Edmond. "My goal is to demonstrate what it actually means to get admitted to college and graduate from college with success."

The Woodlawn campus' secondary program begins in sixth-grade under a model designed to improve the transition to the traditional high school grades. Enrollment consists of 50 6th graders and 110 ninth graders. By 2009-2010, it will enroll 590 students and will graduate its firsts class in 2010.

Timothy Knowles, Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement, which operates the school, said the mission is ambitious: to prepare all its students for success in college, develop new knowledge about Chicago's communities through student research, service and leadership, and serve as a site of professional development where educators enhance their capacity to teach.

The school day, which begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., is about three hours longer than the normal day at Chicago Public Schools. The school year is 190 instructional days long, compared to 173 at Chicago Public Schools.

Students already have become engaged in challenging ways of learning. For instance, they are currently studying A Raisin in the Sun, By Loraine Hansberry, who grew up in Woodlawn. Their studies will include attending and getting an inside look at Raisin, a musical based on the prize-winning play, which is currently playing at Court Theatre. Court Theatre, on the University's campus, is one of the school's partners.

The curriculum and graduation requirements are linked to college entrance requirements. Students must complete three years of laboratory science and social sciences, and by taking double periods during the freshman year, they will have five years of English and mathematics.

Open to students throughout the city, the school is intended to serve Woodlawn in particular; 43 percent of the campus' students resided in the school's attendance zone. In general, the zone runs from 60th to 67th streets and from Stony Island Avenue to Evans Avenue.

Barbara Crock, a former teacher, coach and administrator in public schools in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, is director of t he campus and Victoria Woodley, who also has extensive experience in Chicago Public Schools, is the director of academic and social supports.

Major funding supporters of the high school are the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Chicagoans Ken and Anne Griffin.

Students at the North Kenwood/Oakland campus of the University of Chicago Charter School have achieved academic success, according to the 2006 data from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. That report showed that an average of 79 percent of NKO's third- through eighth-grade students met or exceeded standards in mathematics and an average of 79 percent of NKO's students in the same grades met or exceeded standards in reading.

In addition to North Kenwood/Oakland, the University of Chicago Charter School has a campus at Donoghue, 707 E. 37th St., which opened last fall. In its first year, the majority of Donoghue's kindergarten- through third-grade students made more than on year of progress in reading, with 52 percent of students meeting reading benchmarks in June 2006, compared to 13 percent at the start of the school year.



The Donoghue (set boundary neighborhood school) joined North-Kenwood Oakwood as the second UC charter school in fall 2005. The UC in January was getting close to announcing the site of its Woodlawn K-12 school, which will be in an underutilized public school and have an open boundary. This school one guesses is Wadsworth, which has 320 students in a 2,000 building and from which Woodlawn Community charter has moved. A Unique feature will be an intensive college preparatory curriculum featuring a Signature Project that a student works on for a year, focusing on issues (historical, political, or environmental) related to their own neighborhood with grad students and sometimes UC faculty. 9th and an elementary grades will be started, with the other grades added year by year. 5 grads will be eligible for a U of C scholarship. The University wants to have good instruction be the cause of academic success while training public school teachers. The new director is Barbara Crock.

May 19, 2005, the Gates Foundation announced a grant of $6 million to the UC Center for School Improvement. This was part of an $11.2 million grant to public schools and groups citywide. The Center will spend its grants setting up 2 more U-run charter schools (1 a high and one a prek-12 for 4 of expected 5 or 6) in the fall of 2006-8, design and set up 5 more high schools to be run by others but aided by UC. All will be college oriented, including for challenged learners, and training grounds for teachers. UC will also be expanding its help to up to 7 high schools and up to 12 elementary schools. UC will not be seeking to take over existing schools such as Dyett, which is on probation.

The goals of the U of C schools according to Timothy Knowles in the U of C Chronicle : (1) provide students with a rigorous college-preparation program, (2) serve as sites of professional development for Chicago Public Schools teachers and instructional leaders , and (3) play a vital role in community building in the neighborhoods where they are located.

Gates Foundation supports University's urban education goals

William Harms, University of Chicago Chronicle, May 26, 2005

The University plans to open at least two new schools serving secondary-school students on the South Side in the next three years. The University-sponsored schools will provide eager students, regardless of their tested ability or socioeconomic background, enriched learning opportunities to pre spare them for college and success when they get there.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the University's Center for Urban School Improvement a grant of $6 million to support the design and start-up of these schools, as well as five additional high schools across the city's South Side. The University-sponsored schools will be operated by the Center for Urban School Improvement. The five additional schools will be operated by other organizations, receiving support and guidance from the Center for Urban School Improvement over the next four years.

Design work is underway for the first University-sponsored charter high school, which is expected to open in September 2006 and will serve students in grades 6-12. The second University-sponsored school is projected to operate in 2008, and is anticipated to serve pre-kindergarten-though 12th grand student when it reaches full capacity.

"Our plans align well with the Gates Foundation's vision of action for creating effective high schools for urban children," said Timothy Knowles, Executive Director of of the Center for Urban School Improvement. School leaders and faculty will enact a college-preparatory curriculum, which is interdisciplinary and rich in project- and laboratory-based experience.

The schools will have a threefold mission: provide students with a rigorous college-preparation program, serve as sites of professional development for Chicago Public Schools teachers and instructional leaders , and play a vital role in community building in the neighborhoods where they are located.

"The new schools will be small, 'effort-based' college-preparatory institutions. They will have personalized learning to encourage engagement in school work, high academic expectations and the necessary extra supports that enable all student to achieve at high levels," Knowles said. Throughout their school experience, students will engage in activities that colleges look for--service learning, exhibitions and performance, activities that cultivate leadership, and freshman-, sophomore-, junior- and senior-year research projects will be embedded in the school design.

"Struggling students will be given extensive support, and sufficient time, to succeed. Students unable to meet a grade's exit standards will be offered additional coursework during the school day, summer seminars and tutorial support. Put another way, while the standards will be non-negotiable, the time we provide to ensure students meet the standards will be elastic," Knowles said.

"Equally important, students meeting standards will be expected to participate in deeper courses of study--both within the school and beyond. The goal is ambitious and straightforward: every graduate will be very well prepared to succeed in a four-year college."

The schools will grow in a phased manner, Knowles said. When complete, the campuses may enroll up to 600 children in the 6th- to 12th-grade campus and 700 in the pre-kindergarten-to 12th-grade campus.

The Center for Urban School Improvement operates the highly successful North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School and this fall will [start] the Donoghue School, a new pre-kindergarten- to 8th-grade school.


About charter schools and related initiatives, plans for a new charter at Donoghue, . All about charters. Info on new UC charter from Jan. 2005-
Expanded UC charter role opens 2005. See more in Gates, above. A counter view.

What has been apparently learned by the University, in its recent forays into childhood learning, for students to excel and be successful in college? Challenging standards must not be compromised but students must have both the resources and time, at their own pace, to master skills and gain the confidence to advance. Schools and classes must be small and effort-based and the learning environment personalized.

North Oakland consistently outscores other area schools, at least in math at 75% exceeding, although half in reading.

The third charter, Woodlawn High, to be sited in Woodlawn's Wadsworth School, was given final approval by CPS in March 2006. This year there will be 50 students in the 6th grade, 100 in the 9th. Over 500 applications were received.

While the record of charter schools is at least as uneven as regular public schools, and the worst "cheat" in various ways (including skimming new teachers, giving them no benefits and burning them out or have no real product or vision and pull financial highjinks and end up being closed-- after getting away with it for 5 years), the better ones have excellent records and have been innovative. Timothy Knowles of UC told the April 3 Chicago Magazine some essentials for charter success: "Good working conditions for teachers are absolutely critical. Salary and benefits and vacation days are important, but you can't neglect the actual day-to-day experiences in the schoolhouse." UC uses a two-teacher model of mentoring, collaboration, and allowing teachers to take on extra roles without giving up time in the classroom.

(Meanwhile, North Kenwood-Oakland and Ariel charter are two of the apparently very few Mid-South schools that will only be gradually transformed but remain open. And Woodlawn Community led the Rising Stars in 2004 for most dramatic scores improvement.)

The University has announced its first high school will open in fall 2006, in Woodlawn in an Wadsworth School, 6420 S. University). CPS approved March 22, 2006. Graduates of the K-8 schools, currently North Kenwood-Oakland and Donoghue, will be able to continue in the new school. A focus will be on tracking into college (college entrance requirements) , success in college and leadership in communities, and real challenge to kids--including with UC faculty on research in humanities, social sciences, environmental sciences. Students will study issues of importance to Chicago's south side and will do projects that will be in an accessible digital library. Three years of lab science and soc. science, and five years worth of English an math. There will be multiple assessments. The school will also be a professional development site.

In meetings with Woodlawn residents and kids October 2005, some even asked for counseling that continues after graduation. Local hearings were held and CPS approved. The new school was fast tracked by a major MacArthur grant. The school is seeking a boundary, like Donoghue--that was by state law as charters aren't supposed to have boundaries. In Woodlawn this would give local residents first choice, and open the school if space remains. Some residents outside the bounds, especially in North Kenwood, asked for inclusion. The school's hours will be 8:15 to 5 and will include sports and clubs and go two weeks longer than CPS. Facilities such as gym and cafeteria will be shared. In the first year, there will be 50 sixth graders and 110 ninth, adding grades per year until there are 590 students in 2009. An unusual aspect will be stat of college prep in 6th grade. Why? Because only 57 percent of African American women and 38 percent of men graduate from high school in Chicago. Hank Webber, Community Affairs, calls this school part of an important partnership with communities.

Over 500 applied for Woodlawn High. A lottery for Woodlawn and the other charter schools was held recently. Principal: Barbara Crock, highly experienced in schools. The school was granted a boundary, 60th, 67th, Stony, and Evans. Priority is for students living there and students from the other UC charters.


University plans to lead second charter school to success. [A pilot of learning with internship and discovery for education practitioners]

From the Chicago Chronicle, January 20, 2005 by William Harms

After demonstrating through the North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School that outstanding educational research and innovative teacher training can boost academic performance, the University will build on that success with the opening of a second charter school.

Tim Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement, said he hopes the new school will profoundly influence the lives of students and families throughout the South Side. "Both the University and CPS expect this school to server as the nucleus of a network of new schools that contribute to the social, economic and civic vibrancy of Chicago's South Side," he explained.

The University is the nation's only major private research university to operate a charter school. The new school will be an additional campus to the already highly successful North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School and will serve as a model for the city and a training place for teachers on the South Side. The proposal for the school, which the University plans to open in the fall of 2005, will be reviewed Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Chicago Public Schools board meeting.

The new charter school would be the second to be operated as a partnership between the University and the Chicago Public Schools. While serving as a second campus to the NKO Charter School, the new school would be operated separately. Additional University charter schools are likely to open in future years.

Operating since 1998, the [NKO] Charter School has proven successful, with students garnering high test scores across the grades, consistently exceeding Chicago Public School averages at all grades. NKO Charter School students exceed Illinois average scores in witting at all grade levels and mathematics at the fifth-grade level.

The new charter school, yet to be named, would open with pre-kindergarten and primary grades and eventually be expanded to serve pre-kindergarten- through eighth-grande students. Two classes of students would be enrolled at each grade level, with a maximum total enrollment of 500 students.

The new school is planned to be located in the former George T. Donoghue School at 507 E. 37th St. and would serve a diverse student body, including families who currently reside in the neighborhood and families who will be new residents of the housing developments being constructed in the area.

Arne Duncan, the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, requested a proposal for the charter school from the University in August 2004, and the Chicago Board of Education is expected to approve it next week.

The University's new charter school is part of its current efforts to engage in urban education. In addition to its established charter school, the University provides professional development to teachers and school leaders, offers an innovation teacher preparation program, designs technology tools to enhance teaching and learning, and generates knowledge about education through its Center for Urban School Improvement and through faculty research.

"We are very proud of the University's history of teaching and research," said President Randel. "With these charter schools, we are now committing ourselves to make that scholarship and education available as never before to many of the children who live near our community. Chicago's children are its future, and by developing these schools, we are pleased to be making an investment that will pay dividends to the children, Chicago and the nation for decades to come."

Like the NKO Charter School, the new school would have a college-preparatory curriculum, beginning with 4-year-old schoolchildren enrolled in the pre-kindergarten classes. In order to equip students for higher education, the school will stress reading and writing and will use the much-acclaimed University of Chicago Everyday Mathematics program.

Additionally, the students would use technology throughout the program and take part in a project-based science science curriculum that encourages critical thinking and collaboration.

As a professional development school, the charter school also would offer a teacher preparation and enrichment program that encourages aspiring, new and veteran teachers to learn from master educators and provide opportunities for teachers to work together and learn from each other.

One innovative feature of the school would be the establishment of an apprentice teacher program, in which master teachers serve as mentors of newly certified teachers. The arrangement also would provide time for the master teachers to work with visiting instructors from other schools in the district who seek to increase their professional knowledge and skills. The mode could be adopted in other University professional development schools, Knowles said.

"Over time, we envision that a continuous stream of apprentice teacher graduates would sere as master teachers to yet another generation of new teachers entering the University's professional development schools and other CPS schools," he said.

The new charter school also would serve as a resource to its neighborhood, Knowles said. "We also plan to expand our partnerships with University and community organizations in areas such as health technology, the arts, early childhood education, recreation and family literacy," Knowles said. "We see the school as the hub of community building."

A national search for the new school's principal is underway, and that administrator will work with a design team of University representatives on preparations for the coming school year, Knowles said.

"I'm very grateful to the Center for Urban School Improvement and to the University for committing resources to the communities I serve. they currently operate a first-class charter school in North Kenwood, and we are fortunate to have another coming into Oakland," said Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago 4th Ward Alderwoman.



Led by Randel, university vows new South Side role

Hyde Park Herald, April 14, 2004. By Lenore T. Adkins

In what will be the University of Chicago's latest foray into the North Kenwood-Oakland community, officials at the school--the South Side's largest employer--say Donoghue School, 707 E. 37th St., may become the next location for a university- run charter school.

"It is one location that has been suggested and it's one of a number of possible locations, but we have no concrete plans for time or place," said Hank Webber, university vice president of community and governmental affairs. "We certainly want to concentrate on the Mid-South Side and I think this is an area we are committed to in public education."

Currently, the university operates the North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School, 1119 E. 46th St., a popular elementary school with a long waiting list. University officials say the school's popularity prompted them to consider opening another charter school on the Mid-South Side.

While charter schools are funded with public money and run by private institutions, they must abide by the policies of the Chicago Board of Education.

The school board also has the final word on whether to renew the schools' five-year charter. Rather than drawing from the community, charter schools admit students by lottery. Webber said the university will begin discussion with community residents after finalizing the school's location.

According to Area 15 15 Instructional Officer Virginia Vaske, whose district includes Donoghue, the school would be and attractive location for the university's charter school, as it recently underwent extensive renovations, is internet-friendly and has one of the only automated public school libraries in Chicago.

But construction woes at Lindbloom Technical High School could force the university to consider another location for its project. Lindblom students occupy Donoghue while Lindblom, an 85-year-old school at 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., receives technical upgrades and other capital improvements. students are scheduled to return to the high school in September, 2005.

"I work at Lindblom and they need to do an awful lot of work really quickly to get in on their time table," Vaske said. "Now, if that work is not completed, then everything is going to get pushed back and it could be that another site becomes desirable or available more quickly [for the university's charter school]."

These days, the university is slowly becoming more of a presence north of Hyde Park. While the area is rapidly gentrifying, the university recently extended its university police to Pershing Road. Additionally, Webber and Duel Richardson, university director of neighborhood relations, are both members of a CPS team that is determining the future of 25 public schools in Bronzeville. The team also includes th Illinois Institute of Technology, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and her former aide Rebecca Janowitz, now an aide to Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan. The plan will be released in May.

Last June [2003], the Chicago Board of Education closed Donoghue, 707 E. 37th St., citing low enrollment. But Donoghue parents charged the closure was in response to the gentrifying North Kenwood-Oakland community, where the Ida B. Wells and Madden Park Homes, inhabited by low income residents, are being razed and replaced with new, mixed-income homes.

"Could it be that our kids do not represent the upscale image of the new community?" asked Donoghue parent Gregory Roberts at a hearing about the closing last year. Top

University hopes to open four charter schools

Hyde Park Herald, December 15, 2004. By Jeremy Adragna. More in Schools-U of C initiatives.

The University of Chicago submitted plans to Chicago Public Schools in late November to open a new college prep charter school as part of Renaissance 2010 plan. It leaves the door open for the U/ of C. to open three additional schools later on the South Side.

In the proposal, the university specifically outlines how it first plans to open a new primary school at the former Donoghue Elementary School building at 707 E. 37th St. by Sept. 6 2005. The proposal does not mention any specifics for the additional schools but rather hints at future plans to build three more schools, including one high school in coming years.

Currently, the U. of C. operates the North Kenwood/Oakland charter School (NK/O) which opened in 1998 at 1119 E. 46th St. School officials and parents met last weekend to discuss the school's opening.

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) assured parents that unlike the NK/O Charter School, this newest school will be open to neighborhood children before room is opened to a citywide lottery. "People who live immediately around the school including people who live across the street can't necessarily get their kids into that school," Preckwinkle said. "That is a problem... We've got to be able to have really good, high quality neighborhood schools and we're working toward that with this new charter school."

The plan would boost U. of C. charter school enrollment from 450 students at NK/O to 2,800 students in a total of five schools.

The proposal, solicited by CPS, describes how this newest school, which has not been named, will be operated through the U. of C. Charter School Corporation and the university think tank, Center for Urban School Improvement (USI). The proposal signals an ambitious university plan to expand its educational reach beyond Hyde Park and create model schools that rely on community involvement in the new mixed-income neighborhoods springing up on the near South Side.

The newest school will abut a planned Chicago Housing Authority development known as Oakwood Shores, near the corner of Ellis Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard, which will house not only CHA families but market-rate homeowners as well.

Donoghue transition advisory council member Grace Dawson says she plans to ensure that the school is diverse from its inception. "Children learn from children as much as they learn from teachers. They need to have that integration of the [social] classes," Dawson said. "I have a bold concern that the lower income students be well educated."

Plans indicate the newest school will enroll kindergarten through second grade students in its first year, then year-by-year add more grade levels up to eighth grade. The school will be completely filled by 2013.

CPS closed Donoghue School in June 2003, citing low enrollment. One month later Lindblom College Prep High School was installed in the building while its former home at 6130 S. Wolcott Ave. was rehabbed. Lindblom is slated to vacate the Donoghue building by June 2005. Top

From Inside Out, publication of the University of Chicago Office of Community and Government Affairs

Charter Schools: Direct Questions, Straight Answers

Several parents of children attending the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School recently met with Tim Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement.

Q. There is a lot of concern, what with the changes in the neighborhood, that people who live nearby can't send their children to this school. Who does the charter school serve:

A. The charter school is a public school funded with public money that admits students from across the city by lottery. We serve anyone who enters the lottery and then is selected to attend. We have very few slots open each year because--by and large--families stay.

Q. How is the charter school different from other schools?

A. In a charter you get increased flexibility. You get more control over the use of time, such as t he length of the school day. You get flexibility over resources, rather than being told how to spend you money. And you get a governing structure that includes a parent and community advisory board.

Q. What's the trade-off?

A. In exchange for all that flexibility, you are held to a higher standard of accountability. A charter school can be closed if it fails....There is a lot of debate about whether charters are succeeding or failing, and I think the answer is that they are doing both. We are succeeding; there are a few charters that are not. It would be wrong to write off the charter school idea because there are some that have not been successful. But it would also be wrong to think of charters as a panacea.

Q. When you talk about the success of a school, the focus has to be on instruction, doesn't it?

A. Stacy Beardsley, the director of NKO, focuses very directly on ensuring high-quality instruction We want to create irrefutable evidence that no matter who walks through the door, we can get them to very high levels of achievement. Our students are equipped to succeed at any high school in the city.

Q. Where do charter schools get their funding?

A. A charter school gets the same funding from the city per pupil as a regular school. Chatter schools need to raise additional money, because in our view that [city funding] isn't nearly enough, given the kind of services that we try to offer. That's partly what the University supports, in the range of $160,000 to $180,000 a year.

Q. There are a lot of people in the community who think that the lottery is fixed.

A. The lottery is videotaped every year. We handle that with unbelievable transparency...

Q. How about college?

A. Many of these student swill be first generation of their family to attend college, and the data on first-generation students sticking it out in college is not very god. We want to hold ourselves accountable by looking at the success of completion rates in college, not just college attendance. We believe what we do is directly related to where the kids are when they are 25.

Q. As far as teacher accreditation, what do you require?

A. Our goal is to meet or exceed the federal requirements. Our school has a dual mission: first to education students at a high level and second to serve as a professional development school, where teacher are trained and CPS teachers come to see what good teaching looks like. Because of that dual mission, attracting and retaining really high-quality faculty is essential....

Q. What is the effect of the Parent Teacher Community Organization...

A. Very few things re consistent in the school research literature, but one that is clear is that good schools have parents and community deeply engaged in the life of the school. We're trying this year to to pull together a really effective PTCO, which will be asked to make recommendations about the budget and will be involved in hiring faculty and making key personnel decisions. It was directly involved when Ms. Beardsley was selected Director.

Q. ...can you explain how NKO is engaging the community?

A. ....from raising money to arranging partnerships with Muntu Dance Theatre or Little Black Pearl or other community organizations.



The middle school described in the first article below has now moved to a state-of-art campus named after noted graduate and a founder of African-American studies and history Carter G. Woodson- see succeeding article.

NKO Charter School students making scholastic strides as school expands

University of Chicago Chronicle, February 3, 2005. by William Harms

With a newly opened middle school building and impressive test scores on the Illinois School Report Card, the North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School is making substantial progress in expanding opportunities for the school children it serves. The [school], founded in 1998, is the outgrowth of initiatives by the University's center for School Improvement. The pre-kindergarten-through eighth-grade school, which graduated its first class in 2002, prepares new Chicago public school teachers and provides additional training for experienced teachers. students at NKO are chosen by a citywide lottery and may come from any neighborhood in the city.

The new middle school building is in th former St. Ambrose elementary school at 1014 E. 47th St., aa building that was converted to a state-of-the-art facility in a project completed this fall. The new building accommodates expanded growth at NKO, which is adding a second class to each of its grade levels. With the new building, the school, which accommodates students in sixth through eighth grades, will have an enrollment of 160 students by 2008, about twice its current enrollment.

The two-story structure has computer facilities and wireless connections throughout the building. Each student has a laptop computer to prepare school work, send and receive e-mail, and keep track of assignments. The building also has a science lab and a large multi-purpose room for lunch service, physical education and student performances.

The school continues to strongly emphasize literacy development, a part of the work of NKO, which is directed by Stacy Beardsley. "We want students to develop critical thinking skills so they can gather information and also create knowledge," said Jared Washington, the Middle School Director. "They should be able to look at a situation from more than one point of view, draw conclusions and then be able to present their ideas to others."

Students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade attend classes in the nearby Shakespeare Building, 1119 E. 46th St., which is also home to Ariel Academy. [These students] benefit from a program rich in technology and literacy opportunities. They study mathematics through materials from the University's School Mathematics Project and being learning spanish, a language they can continue studying through eighth grade.

About 68 percent of the students come from low-income families, but they score consistently above CPS average test scores, nearly meet state scores in some areas, as well as exceed state scores in some areas. Test scores released in December 2004, for instance, show that in mathematics at the fifth-grade level, 74 percent of students met or exceeded the state goals, compares with 72 percent of stud nets statewide. In al CPS schools, 51 percent of students met or exceeded the state goals.

In reading, 65 percent of all eighth-graders met or exceeded state goals, compared with 67 percent of eighth graders statewide. In al CPS schools, 55 percent of students met or exceeded state goals. Tim Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement, said the success reflects the high standards that North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School has established. "We focus very much on improving the quality of instruction," he said. "We want to be a school that outperforms the state on everything. We want to create irrefutable evidence that no matter who walks through the door, we can get them to very high levels of achievement. I don't mean relative to other CPS schools. I mean students who are equipped to succeed in any high school in the city."

This far, graduates of NKO have entered some of the city's best high schools. About half go to competitive public schools, while the rest attend other CPS schools or private high schools. Most are expected to continue their education in college, and their work will be followed by the Center for Urban School Improvement. "We want to look not just at college-going rates, but college success rates," Knowles said. "Many of these students are going to be the first generation in their families to attend college, and the data on first generation students in sticking it out in college is not very good.

"Part of the way we want to hold ourselves accountable is to look at the success of completion rates n college. We want to look at what careers our students are entering. We believe what we do with these 10 years is directly related to where kids are when they are 25. We want to prove it," he said.

The Center for Urban School Improvement intends to open other charter schools in the future, including one planned for the former George T. Donoghue School at 707 E. 37th St. The CPS board has approved the plan, and the school could open in the fall.


Carter G. Woodson Middle School empowers students to believe in their intellect.

What's esp. important here is that this is the first to target neighborhood children without prescreening-- and aim them toward college-- and the first to envision from scratch and try out, with parents and a community, what an ideal Middle School and its experience would be like. Using the pod setup, it stresses technology in the classroom and many excursions outside, and lots of student research projects and unusual, practical, learn-by-doing courses. It's heavily funded by the MacArthur and Walton Foundations.

University of Chicago Chronicle, October 23, 2008. By William Harms

Parents, students and members of the community will join President Zimmmer and the leaders of the Urban Education Institute on Wednesday, Oct. 29 to celebrate the opening of the newest campus of the University of Chicago Charter School -- Carter G. Woodson Middle School, 4414 S. Evans Ave.

"The Carter G. Woodson campus is a state-of-the-art middle school that provides a rich set of academic opportunities that allow students to experience themselves as intelligent, capable and powerful," said School Director Jared Washington.

Joining Washington as speakers at the opening event will be 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, charter school governing board member Andre Rice, Zimmer and students enrolled in the Carter G. Woodson Middle School. "I'm pleased that the young people in the 34d Ward who reside in the Woodson attendance area have another quality educational option," Dowell said. "The University of Chicago Charter School is making an investment in the future of our children."

Equipped with 21st-century technology, the school is named for the 20th-century historian, who was one of the first African Americans to graduate from the University. The school's curriculum goals reflect Woodson's active pursuit of education throughout his lifetime.

"Our program includes a rigorous core curriculum focused on literacy, math, science, social studies and multiple exploratory opportunities through weekly 'X Block' classes in cooking, quilting, swimming, fashion design and healthy living," said Washington. Students at Carter G. Woodson also will have the opportunity to participate in the 'X Cursions' program, which provides access to local, regional, national and international learning expeditions to museums, historical sites and cultural points of interest, Washington said.

Carter G. Woodson Middle School is located in the Bronzeville neighborhood next to an existing Chicago Public School, the Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, which serves grades kindergarten through eight.

The new middle school is organized into pods of five classrooms clustered together to serve as the home base for middle school teaching teams in literacy, mathematics, science and social studies, as well as academic support. "The pod design is especially appropriate for middle school students, as it cuts down the space they need to navigate and allows them to be more organized," Washington said. The classrooms have been upgraded with flat-screen monitors "Smartboards" in the mathematics classroom to add multimedia flexibility. In addition, the school has projection screens to create flexible workspaces for students adn teachers, and newly installed glass walls in the interior pods to increase the amount of natural light in the hallways.

The opening of the school coincides with the 100th anniversary of Woodson's graduation from the University of Chicago with an A.B. and A.M. in history. Woodson, the son of former slaves, was a one-time coal miner who went on to become an accomplished scholar and teacher. In 1926, he founded Black History Week, which 50 years later became Black History Month and is celebrated in February across the United States. He died in 1950.

The new middle school builds on the success of the University's first charter school, North Kenwood/Oakland, which opened in 1998 to serve grades pre-kindergarten through eight. "It is our goal to develop a unique school focused specifically on preparing youth in early adolescence for the future -- students who are highly literate and analytical, creative and innovative, and able to use media of all kinds to express their ideas," said Timothy Knowles, the Lewis Sebring Director of the Urban Schools Institute, which operates the charter school's campuses. "We want them to understand that effort is the best route to success and that they can become change agents in their schools and communities," he added.

The student body of the new Carter G. Woodson Middle School comprises 250 students from existing University Charter Schools and new sixth-grade students who are neighborhood residents. It will grow to serve 450 students over the next three years. Students enrolled in the University's North Kenwood/Oakland charter School, who are advancing into the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, will attend Carter G. Woodson Middle School. Also members of the student body are sixth-graders who have been admitted through a citywide lottery, which give preference to students living in a neighborhood attendance boundary.

Like all University Charter Schools, the Carter G. Woodson Middle School provides a rigorous academic prog dram to prepare students for success in four-year colleges. It also has a longer school day and school year than traditional Chicago Public Schools. "We expect all University of Chicago Charter School students to attend four-year colleges," Knowles said. "The Carter G. Woodson Middle School will be instrumental in achieving that goal"

Several programs and projects that enrich students' academic experiences will be available to them. The after-school Digital Youth Network, developed by Nichole Pinkard at the Urban Education Institute, encourages rigorous academic study through creative forms of self-expression using different kinds of digital media. Students compose original songs, publish books of poetry and compete in robotics competitions, among other activities. In addition to beginning early exploration into college options, students also receive expanded help in making the transition from middle school to high school.

n its studies, the Consortium on Chicago School Research has identified a lack of support for students in Chicago Public Schools during this transition as a major obstacle to continued academic success. The consortium is a part of the University's Urban Education Instate, which was established to create new knowledge and educational models that demonstrate how to produce reliable, excellent schooling for children growing up in urban America. UEI supports and sustains four charter schools , operates the Consortium on Chicago School Research, oversees teacher preparation programs dedicated to training outstanding urban educators and creates innovative approaches to urban schooling, such as the Digital Youth Network. The Institute draws together the intellectual resources of the University with expert practitioners who work daily with children to better clarify the practices, supports, tools and research necessary to ensure all children engage in ambitious, intellectual work.


Jane Averill, Julie Woestehoff write counters to charters saying the U of C should spend its money on existing schools and there is no evidence choice improves schools. In some of the articles, letters and coverage above, some of the proposed negatives of charters are elaborated, as well as how the U of C is putting resources (personal, financial, and programmatic) into existing schools and how what is being done in the charters is being fed directly into existing public and private schools.

Hyde Park Herald March 8, 2006

It is interesting to me and very sad that the University of Chicago is putting its education efforts into opening new charter schools that will serve very small numbers of students rather than put some of its enormous resources into saving and rebuilding schools slated to be closed. Would it be cynical of me to suggest that U. of C. finds the non-union atmospheres of charter schools more attractive?

It is clear to most people in education that No Child Left Behind scapegoats teachers for lack of student progress, particularly in inner-city schools. The Chicago Board of Education is taking advantage of this scapegoating by closing "failing" schools and setting up non-union charter schools.

There is no evidence to presume that charter schools are more effective in teaching. They are more cost-effective, however, since there are no pensions to fund, medical benefits can be reduced or eliminated, and teachers have no job protection, including limits to the number of hours they have to work.

Chicago Public Schools continues this scapegoating of teachers by claiming that teacher pensions are the cause of the current budget crisis. They are now trying to skip payments to the fund to help with the budget shortfall.

The idea that pensions are the main drain on the budget is ludicrous and demoralizing. The cause of the crisis is inadequate and unequal funding of education by the state, putting Illinois dead last in the country for school fund. The federal government has made it worse with further education spending cuts, particularly to poor schools. U. of C. would do better to help improve existing schools and work to reorganize how education is funded in Illinois rather than set up alternatives of questionable benefit to the people of Chicago.


Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education writes in December 20 2006 Herald that there's No evidence that choice improves schools.

What a shame that the Civic Committee chose to weigh down it otherwise solid school funding reform proposal with controversy by making it conditional on removing the charter school cap.

There is no evidence that "choice" and "competition" improve schools. The claim that Chicago's charters outperform traditional neighborhood schools is based on an unreliable, internal Chicago Public Schools report, which does not adjust its results for race, income, English proficiency, or learning disabilities, although CPS charters serve fewer at-risk students.

Meanwhile, Chicago continues to shut down community schools and scatter children across the city to provide buildings for new Renaissance 2010 programs. They have ignored calls from parents, teachers, the community and lawmakers for a moratorium on school closings until the impact of multiple school transfers on children can be studied.

Fair, adequate school funding is a critical step in improving all schools. Our children have waited far too long for the state to step up to its responsibility to provide a high-quality education for every child. It is truly disappointing that the Civic Committee proposes to hold school funding reform hostage to their own hobbyhorse.

And Julie Woestehoff notes Roger Ebert's 2009 review of "The Providence Effect" film that favors charters:

Thumbs up for Ebert review. Roger Ebert has once again demonstrated that he is the best journalist in Chicago with his review of "The Providence Effect," a documentary about Chicago's private Providence-St. Mel's High school and the newer CPS Providence Englewood Charter School.

Unlike most of his colleagues, Ebert cuts right to the heart of the issue: "This is a far from advantaged area where gangs and drugs are realities, and yet the school reports that for 29 straight years, it has placed 100 percent of its high-school graduates in colleges. Of course this figure benefits from the school's policy of expelling troublemakers...."

""The Providence Effect' is impressive, although not quite the film it could have been. It asks few hard questions. ...How do the students survive the toxic neighborhoods in their personal lives? What is the process by which a misbehaving or counterproductive child can be expelled? What is the selection process? How are non-Catholic students regarded? How do teacher salaries rank? Do gangs take a negative interest in the school or its children?"

"The film suggests that public schools spend too many resources on administration and bureaucracy, and not enough on education itself. Also, of course, they have to take all applicants -- those suited for school, and those already temperamentally not suited. "

That is the most coherent, fairest description of the difference between traditional neighborhood schools and Chicago's charter schools that I have ever read in either the Sun-Times or the Tribune. The fact that it was written by a film critic speaks volumes about the state of journalism in Chicago.


Note that charter schools will be the centerpiece in the city's Renaissance 2010 schools plan. Charter schools have much more latitude from union contracts, etc. and much weaker councils. In fact, the organization and operation of charter schools are all over the place. A major complaint of potential charter operators and funders against 2010 is that resources and autonomy will be woefully weak for schools period, especially for those located in CPS building. August 17 the New York Times reported that charter schools are lagging, a blow to President Bush's direction on education.

Number of charter schools reaching max?

The Hyde Park Herald, March 15 2006 (Erin Meyer) reports that CPS has close to the number of charter schools allowed by state law, but that legislators seek to amend the cap. Since collar counties and downstate have few charter schools, the bill would allow Chicago to fill from the rest of the state quota. Chicago now has 44 charter campuses run by 26 charter school providers.

In addition, the state has FOR 3 YEARS failed to appropriate the legislated $525,000 in charter startup, so 300 from 18 Chicago charters were in Springfield lobbying.

Stressed is that charters ARE public schools despite the differences. Elizabeth Evans of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) says the schools have made good strides and are among the top in yearly gains, attendance, and graduation rates, outperforming their "like" regular public schools one on one every time.

The proposed bill disturbs Julie Woestehoff of PURE, who contends that a lot more charters would draw too many resources from CPS at the expense of existing school when schools are being closed. Eventually there was compromise, although the timeframe for commission evaluation (with some stakeholder partiicpation) is short.

Another problem, critics say, is that the charter schools are non-union, often skip on pensions and other benefits, and every one has opted not to have local school councils--despite findings linking LSCs to improved and effective schools. Woestehoff says this takes the public a step or two away from power and involvement in the school, thence from the reform law's intent for public schools--and you can find where to go in the bureaucracy for regular schools, often not so with charters--where's the accountability? Charter proponents say there is no accountability problem and the schools are fully "public," denying the charge of crypto-privatization and money diversion to non-public agencies. U of C's Tim Knowles says the real issue is performance.

The Mid South seems particularly rich in charter schools, with more and more opening-- Bronzeville Lighthouse (using teaching-from-the-arts) for example (it, like several others, has a Board that includes community reps and parents in lieu of an LSC), U of C...