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Rahm Emanuel: Noble charter schools’ results speak for themselves

Updated: March 16, 2012 8:15AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday offered a spirited defense of one of his pet charter school franchises amid allegations that it is maintaining student discipline by sticking it to parents — to the tune of nearly $387,000 in fines for “minor infractions” over a three-year period.

Emanuel said he is “interested in results” and the results produced by the Noble Street Charter Network are “incredible.”

According to the mayor, Noble Street students graduate at a 90 percent rate, compared to 54 percent for Chicago Public Schools as a whole. One hundred percent of Noble seniors are accepted to college, 91 percent of them go to college and 76 percent of them attend a four-year institution.

And the mayor noted that the parents of Noble Street students vote with their feet. The charter network has 8,000 applicants for 2,600 slots.

“My goal is to give parents the ability to make a choice of where they want to send their kids. I think those are impressive results,” the mayor said.

“You’ve got a school system that is giving you graduation rates we would marvel at — almost double the system-wide [rate]. A college acceptance and a college attendance [rate] that we would actually call a touchdown in the city. Those are the results and the data you should also look at. When you want to have a perspective, I’m not gonna look through one peephole.”

Earlier this week, parents, students and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) charged that Noble Street has pocketed nearly $387,000 in fees over a three-year period by issuing demerits to students for “minor infractions” that included not sitting up straight and openly carrying “flaming hot” chips.

PURE’s Julie Woestehoff charged that Noble’s Street’s list of forbidden conduct is “as long as my arm” and amounts to a “dehumanizing” disciplinary system fit more for a “reform school than a college prep.”

Noble Street officials countered that it merely charges a “fee” — not a “fine’’ — to partially cover the cost of supervising detention or behavior classes.

Emanuel has long been a cheerleader for charter schools in general and Noble Street in particular.

On Tuesday, he argued that the results speak for themselves. The stringent disciplinary code is obviously something that parents find attractive, and it apparently works to keep kids on the straight and narrow, the mayor said.

“Facts are a stubborn thing. Parents can make a choice. If they don’t want to do it, they don’t have to go there. They choose to go there and they choose to resend their kids year-in, year-out. ... More parents — almost by a ratio of 4-to-1 — want to send their kids to this school [because] it has incredible results,” the mayor said.

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