Chicago charter schools produce wildly uneven results on state tests
By Rosalind Rossi and Art Golab Staff Reporters November 30, 2011 12:02AM
Michael Milkie Superintendent Noble Network of Charter Schools, looking over Raquel Ibarra's work, while Principal Tressie McDonough looks over Yazmine Carbajal's work in an AP Calculus class at the UIC College Prep High School 1231 S. Damen. Wednesday, November 23, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: January 1, 2012 8:22AM
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.
Four other chains — Betty Shabazz, Perspectives, North Lawndale and Chicago International — saw the majority of their campuses with over-all pass rates that were below the citywide average. In fact, one Shabazz high school campus — DuSable — had a passing rate that put it among the bottom 30 high schools in the entire state. One of its elementary campuses placed among the bottom 40.
And the passing rates of individual campuses within the same chain sometimes differed by nearly 20, 25, 30 or even as much as 37.5 percentages points on the same test, new state report card data showed. The least variation between campuses occurred at some of the worst-performing charters.
The findings, said David Berliner, education professor at Arizona State University, mean “parents need to be very, very careful in selecting charters because they do not replicate like McDonalds or the Holiday Inn. ... Expecting to find consistency like at a Holiday Inn or a McDonalds is not in the nature of large human interaction.’’
Michael Milkie, CEO of the standout Noble Street charter network, agreed that belonging to a charter franchise doesn’t ensure the same results across all campuses. The performance level of incoming students and the strength of principals and teachers may vary across a chain, he said. A new charter may need time to gain steam before it rises to the level of a mature one.
At least charters, which are freed from many rules governing traditional public schools, can move more quickly to replace principals and teachers who don’t produce, charter advocates say.
“You can’t go to every Lettuce Entertainment restaurant and assume they are equal just because of the name,’’ Milkie said. Even with charters, parents “still have to do their research. I think they realize that.’’
But up until Wednesday, parents—– and the media — were unable to see campus-by-campus state report card results of Chicago charter operators who were allowed multiple charter campuses — presumably because their first charter site was successful. For years, the State Board of Education only released the average score across all campuses, something that obscured the variations evident in Wednesday’s data.
“There’s this spin out there that charters are better, and we should expand them while closing neighborhood schools,’’ said Wendy Katten of the Chicago parent group Raise Your Hand. “There should be more rigorous examination of what’s going on in these schools before we expand them.’’
If tech-saavy parents drilled into a certain section of the Research and Evaluation website of Chicago Public Schools, they could find some campus-by-campus numbers, but even some of those results are different from the official numbers finally released Wednesday — nearly a month after state report cards for traditional public schools were released. CPS officials blamed the numerical differences on the fact that the district and the state calculate some numbers differently.
And state officials still have yet to share campus-by-campus results for Chicago’s Youth Connections Charter network — a chain of alternative schools for dropouts whose average passing rate places it among the bottom 50 high schools in the state. Although Youth Connections’ executive director Sheila Venson said YCC operates 23 sites, each managed by a different group, State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said the Chicago Public Schools “considers it one school,’’ so, thus far, no campus-by-campus figures have been produced.
“That may change in the future,’’ Fergus said. “This is the first year we’ve developed and released campus-by-campus data and it is a new and evolving process.’’
Rhonda Hopps, executive director of the Perspectives charter chain, said charters should be judged on test score gains more than overall test results. Longterm indicators, such as Perspectives’ graduation and college persistence rate, beat CPS averages and prove the Perspectives model is a success, Hopps said.
Raise Your Hands’ Katten said poorly performing Chicago charter campuses should be held to the same closure standards as traditional public schools — something Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has vowed to do
“All people want is the truth and real information,’’ Katten said. “It’s great this information is now out there. Hopefully it can help parents make accurate decisions about where to send their child.’’
Some charter operators say they are aggressively doing their own closures and shakeups. The city’s biggest charter franchise — Chicago International Charter Schools — has taken a unique approach to its 15 campuses, hiring four different companies to run them and firing two others over the last 14 years for failure to produce desired results. The companies dumped included one founded by former State Schools Supt. Michael Bakalis. Over the last year alone, Chicago International moved in to change principals at three campuses that beat most surrounding schools but didn’t outpace city averages, said Beth Purvis,the franchise’s executive director. One principal was replaced just this week. Teachers have or will be given pink slips at the three campuses, she said. Despite its varied operators, Purvis said, Chicago International has tried to establish a “CICS brand” of common themes across all sites — a college-prep curriculum, a disciplined environment, a dress code, regular tests to assess mastery and “the fact that if there are problems, we try to fix them before they become critical.’’ As a result, Purvis said, “There are a lot of things associated with CICS’ brand that parents like.’’
The city’s biggest charter franchise — Chicago International Charter Schools — has taken a unique approach to its 15 campuses, hiring four different companies to run them and firing two others over the last 14 years for failure to produce desired results. The companies dumped included one founded by former State Schools Supt. Michael Bakalis.
Over the last year alone, Chicago International moved in to change principals at three campuses that beat most surrounding schools but didn’t outpace city averages, said Beth Purvis,the franchise’s executive director. One principal was replaced just this week. Teachers have or will be given pink slips at the three campuses, she said.
Despite its varied operators, Purvis said, Chicago International has tried to establish a “CICS brand” of common themes across all sites — a college-prep curriculum, a disciplined environment, a dress code, regular tests to assess mastery and “the fact that if there are problems, we try to fix them before they become critical.’’
As a result, Purvis said, “There are a lot of things associated with CICS’ brand that parents like.’’
Elementary Charter Campuses
|Campus name||% passing ISAT||Difference from city avg. of % passing ISAT||Percent low income||Enrollment|
|ASPIRA Chrt - Haugan||70.1||-3.2||95.2||560|
|CICS - Avalon/So Shore||78.6||5.3||94.4||426|
|CICS - Bucktown||83.1||9.8||79.5||657|
|CICS - Hawkins||57.4||-15.9||91||431|
|CICS - Irving Park||92.5||19.2||67.7||499|
|CICS - Lloyd Bond||55||-18.3||97.1||349|
|CICS - Longwood||84.3||11||81.7||1,471|
|CICS - W. Belden||88.2||14.9||85.2||500|
|CICS- Washington Park||64.3||-9||95.6||434|
|LEARN Chrt - Butler||85.7||12.4||93.6||579|
|LEARN Chrt - EXCEL||76.6||3.3||92.9||295|
|LEARN Chrt - North Lawndale||74.8||1.5||97.9||328|
|LEARN Chrt - South Shore||60.7||-12.6||95.6||159|
|Perspectives Chrt - Joslin||79.2||5.9||85.2||365|
|Perspectives Chrt - Calumet MS||72.7||-0.6||92.2||384|
|Perspectives Chrt - IIT Math/Scie||76||2.7||81.8||501|
|Shabazz Chrt - Sizemore||50.9||-22.4||91.5||284|
|U Of C Chrt - Donoghue||72.4||-0.9||81.9||431|
|U Of C Chrt - North Kenwood||83.6||10.3||80.4||337|
|U Of C Chrt - Woodlawn||75.2||1.9||83.2||537|
|U of C Chrt - Woodson||77.1||3.8||81.8||402|
|UNO Charter - Gage Park||69.5||-3.8||95.5||550|
|UNO Charter - Marquez||80.8||7.5||96||576|
|UNO Chrt - Fuentes||78.4||5.1||84.7||557|
|UNO Chrt - Las Casas||72.7||-0.6||94.1||286|
|UNO Chrt - Paz Campus||58.3||-15||98.9||437|
|UNO Chrt - PFC Torres||80.1||6.8||93.9||640|
|UNO Chrt - SPC Zizumbo||79.3||6||89.8||639|
|UNO Chrt - Tamayo||76||2.7||96.5||287|
High School Charter Campuses
|Campus name||% passing PSAE||Difference from city avg. of % passing PSAE||Graduation rate||Percent low income||Enrollment|
|ASPIRA Chrt - Early College||19||-9.3||85.7||75.9||523|
|ASPIRA Chrt - Ramirez||14.9||-13.4||77.4||95.6||408|
|CICS - Ellison||13.2||-15.1||93.1||81.3||545|
|CICS - Hawkins||8.9||-19.4||91||431|
|CICS - Longwood||17.8||-10.5||91||81.7||1,471|
|CICS - Northtown||38.7||10.4||94.4||78.3||817|
|Nobel St Chrt HS - Comer||45.9||17.6||86.1||518|
|Nobel St ChrtHS - UIC College Pre||59.5||31.2||81.5||594|
|Noble St Chrt HS - Clark||39.6||11.3||77.6||92.6||538|
|Noble St Chrt HS - Golder||50.6||22.3||90.6||90.1||545|
|Noble St Chrt HS - Pritzker||55.8||27.5||94.6||94||680|
|Noble St Chrt HS - Rauner||46.3||18||76.4||85.5||587|
|Noble St Chrt Hs -College Prep||51.4||23.1||91.3||91.7||593|
|North Lawndale Chrt - Collins||15||-13.3||97.1||91.6||419|
|North Lawndale Chrt -Christiana||17.5||-10.8||96||93.9||462|
|Perspectives Chrt - Joslin||25.7||-2.6||93.2||85.2||365|
|Perspectives Chrt - Cal Tech HS||18.3||-10||84.5||88.1||512|
|Perspectives Chrt - Calumet HS||10.1||-18.2||89.8||93.4||488|
|Perspectives Chrt - IIT Math/Scie||30||1.7||81.8||501|
|Shabazz Chrt - DuSable||7.4||-20.9||89.7||93.9||407|
|U Of C Chrt - Woodlawn||18.5||-9.8||89.4||83.2||537|
|UNO Charter - Major Garcia||37||8.7||95.7||438|