Chicago Public Schools should not slow growth
CHICAGO, March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In response to the Chicago Tribune story, "Interim CPS chief plans for the long haul but hasn't talked to Rahm Emanuel," we, the Chicago International Charter School and United Neighborhood Organization charter school networks, are surprised by the proposal of a "moratorium" on charter schools. We also continue to find the line drawn between traditional public schools and charter public schools disconcerting when, by definition, we are all Chicago Public Schools.
As the leaders of two of the highest-performing charter public school networks in Chicago, representing more than 12,000 students and families, we are an integral part of the city's educational landscape. We are schools of choice, and like traditional public schools, we require no admissions exams, we do not charge tuition, and we must adhere to state testing standards. Unlike traditional public schools, we offer longer school days and longer school years and have been granted some additionally flexibility for responding to student needs as long as we continue to deliver results.
Those results are evident. Charter schools currently represent 7 of the top 10 performing non-selective high schools in the city, and have closed and even reversed the achievement gap at a number of our elementary schools. The majority of our schools are significantly outperforming their neighborhood counterparts, and have become important options for families seeking out a great education for their children.
If implemented, a "moratorium" on charter schools would do more harm than good, as its most significant effect would be to reduce the number of Chicago's high-performing public school options. The plan would take away a parent's choice in her child's future, potentially forcing her to consider lower-performing schools or move outside of the city and into a higher-performing school district. Consider the 2010 census results, which show a 7% decrease in the city population (a loss of 200,000 residents). What would this number look like if every family had the means to relocate in search of better options?
Across the city, more than 40,000 students attend charter public schools, while 11,000 students' names sit on charter school waiting lists. If you talk to parents across Chicago, from Gage Park to Roseland, South Shore to Edgewater, you will find they all want the same thing: a safe, supportive, academically rigorous school where their children will be loved, challenged, and provided the opportunity to attain an excellent education. For too many parents in our city, this is not the current reality. As part of Chicago's public school system, charter schools are working to fix this.
Charter schools are not alone in this effort. We work closely with CPS, neighborhood organizations, local parent groups, and like-minded nonprofits to provide students with the support they need to do their best. We value our ability to collaborate with the district to achieve these goals.
Our two charter school networks educate more than 12,000 Chicago students. Again, the majority of our schools are the best-performing education options in their neighborhoods. Our goal is to serve more families in Chicago, which requires network growth. But we can only do so when district leadership recognizes the importance of expanding high quality schools of choice, not limit them. In a city where the traditional public high school graduation rate currently hovers around 50%, does it really make sense to consider halting the growth of charters, whose kids are graduating at a substantially higher rate? Reversing CPS's course on school reform or even slowing down would be a tragic loss for the families of Chicago.
SOURCE Chicago International Charter School; United Neighborhood Organization