Amandla Charter School Reports Impressive ISAT Gains


Principal loses bet, shaves head

CHICAGO, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amandla Charter School, which serves elementary students in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, raised their ISAT scores by 18% over the course of one year. In 2009, the Chicago Public Schools Office of New Schools reported 53.3% of students meeting or exceeding standards—that number jumped to 71.3% in 2010. Sarah Ferguson, Amandla's principal, made a bet with students that she would shave her head if students showed this kind of growth on test scores.

"We're all very dedicated to our students and our school," Ferguson said. "I'm so pleased with the test results that I don't mind not having hair for a while."

Amandla Charter School opened in the fall of 2008; just 10 people were responsible for everything from moving furniture to handling parent outreach. The school attributes its success on the recent test to a robust staff of dedicated teachers, including participants in the Teach for America program, ensuring a high quality education for the youth of Englewood. Amandla serves grades 5–7 with the goal of serving 5–12.

"Our school began as the vision of like-minded CPS teachers who wanted to make a difference," said Ferguson. "Sarah Brennan, several other high school teachers and I were tired of watching freshman drop out, fail out, or not be equipped to graduate college. Students are willing and able to learn, and parents are ready to support their children—we just needed a school that could give us the freedom to reach the kids in the most effective way we knew."

"We're very clear about our expectations for our kids," said Sarah Brennan, Assistant Director. "We have based our culture around achievement and graduating college, and the students have responded to it. The rules are the same for everyone, and everyone knows the rules. As an administrator, I'm very proud to see these kinds of results on the ISAT."

Amandla Charter School has a longer school day, double periods of math and English, tutoring, and a consistent discipline model. The school also boasts an impressive reading culture, with three after-school book clubs and a standing warning to students not to read books as they walk on stairs between classes.

"With all the attention public charter schools in Illinois have received about graduation rates and ACT scores," said Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, "we shouldn't forget that our elementary schools also provide students the support they need to thrive. Amandla has shown how the charter model allows for the establishment of great schools."

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) is dedicated to improving the quality of public education by promoting and invigorating the charter school concept. The voice of the state's charter schools, INCS advocates for legislation to strengthen charter schools, educates the public about the value of charter schools, and supports the dissemination of best practices throughout the system.

Contacts: Jim Publicover

312-235-0798 x14