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5 charters schools fail CPS academic standards, make warning list

Updated: December 2, 2013 12:17PM

Five charter schools have been placed on the Chicago Public Schools academic warning list for failing to meet academic standards, CPS officials announced Wednesday.

The schools are: Catalyst Circle Rock, Catalyst Howland, Chicago International Charter School Longwood, EPIC Academy and UNO Tamayo.

If those schools don’t improve their academic performance by June 2014, they could be closed, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told reporters in an afternoon conference call.

“I’m confident that our overarching process to identify low-performing charter and contract schools is going to result in increased accountability and, I think, higher quality schools for all of our children,” she said.

Catalyst Howland is the only school to be on the warning list for the second year in a row, said Jack Elsey, CPS’ chief officer of innovation and incubation.

On top of Howland, seven additional charter schools were on last year’s list, officials said.

Of those, five met academic targets and are no longer warned. The school board voted to close two.

“Catalyst owns its results, accepts the challenge of being on the CPS warning list and remains absolutely convinced none of its schools will be on the list at this time next year,” Catalyst Schools CEO Gordon Hannon said in an emailed statement.

UNO also released a statement stating that Tamayo being on the warning list is “unacceptable.”

“Earlier this year, UNO made changes at the school, which we expect will positively impact its performance, removing Tamayo from the watch list at the end of the school year,” the statement said. Changes include new leadership at the school and intensive teacher training.

The chief executive of UNO is Juan Rangel, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 campaign co-chairman.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began to investigate UNO after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that it used state construction grant funds to pay companies with ties to the group.

Maggie Morrison, the chief development officer for Chicago International Charter School, said the charter school system has already started making changes at Longwood.

She said CICS brought in a new management company — Charter Schools USA — in July 2012 and hired a new principal for the school in February 2013. She said some professional development for teachers may be in the works.

Andrew Broy, the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, pointed to the success of some of the schools on last year’s warning list. He said some measures that were taken by those schools include replacing the principal and focusing on the subjects in which students performed poorly.

“We’re going to work with these schools to help them get better,” Broy said of the charters on this year’s list.

The schools that are on the list must submit a remediation plan by next month, officials said.

Michael Harrington, a spokesman for the Chicago Teachers Union, said the union is “suspicious” of the small number of charter schools on the list and said “Only five, really?”

He added accountability for charters should go beyond academic performance and said they should answer: “Where is the money going?”

Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos

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