Archives for category: Chicago

Charter schools regularly mobilize students and parents, put them on buses, and ship them to legislative hearings dressed in identical tee-shirts to lobby for more charter schools or more funding. This works to the benefit of the billionaire hedge fund managers who control these charters, as it expands their power to create even more racially segregated schools while boasting of their leadership in “civil rights” activism. These tactics also demonstrate that charter schools are not public schools. No state would allow a superintendent or a principal to bus their students and parents to demand more funding. This is nothing more than a cynical use of children as political pawns.

The article included a graph showing the rapid growth of charter schools, which was abetted by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top. States had to lift their cap on charters to be eligible for RTTT’s $4.3 billion in funding. To show how bipartisan this effort is to create more segregated schools, note that the CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Nina Rees, previously worked as a senior education advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The hearings occur with this backdrop: top officials at UNO, Chicago’s largest charter chain, resigned after disclosure of alleged nepotism and conflicts of interest in spending $98 million of state funds for new construction; the Chicago Sun-Times published a study showing that charters do not outperform district public schools; the Noble Network of charter schools, financed by some of the city’s wealthiest citizens, collected $400,000 in fines for minor disciplinary infractions from low-income families.

This story appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

Charter-School Fight Flares Up in Illinois

Protesters Rally at Capitol to Denounce Bills That Would Curb Growth of the Public Schools

April 8, 2014 9:16 p.m. ET

Hundreds of protesters filled the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday denouncing nearly a dozen bills that would curb the growth of charter schools—the latest scuffle over expansion of the independently run public schools, which are spreading nationwide.

The Illinois legislature is considering 11 bills that would, among other things, limit where charter schools can be located, ban them from marketing themselves to students, and abolish a commission that has the power to overrule local school boards and grant charter licenses. The skirmish follows recent charter flare-ups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got into a standoff over the schools.

Teachers unions often oppose charters—funded by taxpayers but run by independent groups—because they typically hire nonunion workers and, labor leaders argue, drain money from struggling traditional public schools. Proponents say charter schools offer parents a choice and are free to adopt innovations such as instituting a longer school day and year, or laying off teachers based strictly on performance.

Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said this year’s legislative session is the “worst session for charter schools in the history of Illinois” and said passage of the bills could be the “death knell” for charter expansion. “These bills…weaken the communities that charter schools serve, which, in Illinois, are mainly African-American and Latino.”

Others say the bills, many of which are being pushed by teachers unions, are necessary to boost accountability and provide a check on charter-school growth. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said charters exacerbate inequality and segregation in schools by “skimming off” more advantaged students. She also noted data showing Chicago charters, on average, have higher suspension and expulsion rates than other city schools.

“Charters are being used to destroy traditional public schools and, in this budgetary climate, we see no reason to open more of them,” she said.

In the past decade, the number of charter schools more than doubled to 6,440 nationwide and student enrollment more than tripled to an estimated 2.6 million, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit that advocates for charters. Still, that is only about 5% of total public-school K-12 enrollment in the U.S., according to the group.

Nina Rees, the group’s president, said charters’ rapid growth makes them a prime target for opponents, and she worries that a “union win” in Illinois could “embolden” those in other states. “It could send a message that if they [unions] gather enough momentum and coalesce, they can win,” she said.

Ms. Rees and others also are concerned that the recent skirmishes highlight a political divide among Democrats, who had been seen as increasingly supportive of charters. Both Mr. de Blasio, who sought to rein in charters, and Mr. Cuomo, who wants to see them flourish, are Democrats. The governor eventually negotiated a budget deal mandating that the city provide charters space inside traditional school buildings, but also included money for expansion of regular public-school pre-K programs, which the mayor wanted.

In Chicago, shrinking public-school enrollment and the budget deficit prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to close about 50 schools last year. But the board of education, appointed by the mayor, this year approved opening seven new charters, incensing the teachers union and many community activists. A few months later, the state launched an investigation into spending at one of the city’s largest charter organizations.

Charter tensions, which had been largely confined to Chicago, moved to the suburbs when a group tried to open an online charter school last spring that would draw students—and revenue—from 18 communities. Local school boards voted it down, but the group appealed to a new state commission with the power to overrule the local bodies. State lawmakers enacted a moratorium on virtual schools so the issue became moot.

But Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat who represents some of the suburban districts, said the specter of a commission trumping local wishes prompted her to file a bill to eliminate it, only a few years after she voted to create it. Ms. Chapa LaVia said she didn’t realize at the time the group would have “so much power” and said she opposes “an outside authorizer who can overrule a school board.”

Lucy Reese, who attended Tuesday’s rally and is the mother of two charter-school students, said parents should have the right to choose the best school for their children. “I am not going to get a lot of second opportunities when it comes to educating my kids,” she said.

Write to Stephanie Banchero at

A stunning article in the Chicago Sun-Times demonstrates that charter schools in Chicago do not get better results than public schools. Where differences exist, they are small.

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 neighborhood public schools, which will be replaced eventually by privately managed charter schools. But this article suggests that the results of the chaos and heartbreak in fragmenting communities and their schools will be minimal or nil.

Here is how the article begins:

“Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, Chicago has ordered the closings of dozens of neighborhood public schools while approving a new wave of publicly financed, privately operated charter schools, in a much-touted effort to improve education.

“Emanuel’s push continues an effort begun under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and supported by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that’s seen the number of privately run schools across the city grow from none in 1996 to more than 130 today, with more set to open later this year. Charters and other privately run schools now serve nearly one of every seven Chicago public school students.

“But even as many parents have embraced the new schools, there’s little evidence in standardized test results that charters are performing better than traditional schools operated by the Chicago Public Schools system, an examination by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University has found.

“In fact, in 2013, CPS schools had a higher percentage of elementary students who exceeded the standards for state tests for reading and math than the schools that are privately run with Chicago taxpayer funds.

“That was true for all CPS-run schools and also just for traditional neighborhood schools, which don’t require admissions tests or offer specialized courses of instruction.

“The analysis looked at the scores of every Chicago student who took the state tests last year — nearly 173,000 students at traditional CPS-run schools and more than 23,000 students at charter schools and the much smaller group attending so-called contract schools. Like charters, contract schools are run by private organizations with the authorization and financial backing of Chicago schools officials.

“The Sun-Times/Medill Data Project analysis showed:

◆ On the math portion of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, 7.3 percent of CPS neighborhood school students exceeded standards, while 5.3 percent of kids at the privately run schools did so.

◆ Among charter or contract elementary students, 7.9 percent exceeded standards on the ISAT for reading, compared with 9.8 percent of students at neighborhood schools. The ISAT in math and reading is given to third- through eighth-graders.

◆ Neighborhood and privately run high schools both saw just 1.6 percent of their students exceeding standards for reading on the Prairie State Achievement Examination, which is given to high school juniors.

◆ Charters and contract schools edged out neighborhood high schools — 1.3 percent to 0.7 percent — when it came to exceeding standards on the math portion of the PSAE last year.

A previously unreleased study in 2010 showed the same results, yet that did not stop either Rahm Emanuel or Arne Duncan from showering charter schools with praise and largesse:

“The analysis of the 2013 test results was similar to what CPS officials found in a 2010 study ordered by Terry Mazany, who was interim schools chief during the last six months of the Daley administration. According to previously unreleased records, that internal review found that charter students did far worse on the ISAT than students at CPS-run magnet schools and only slightly better than students at neighborhood schools.

“The results showed that they were virtually identical,” Mazany said of the 2010 study. “I found that surprising because charters are based on a model that they have greater freedom, opportunity to be innovative and be more flexible. So I would have intuitively expected they would have been performing much better than the neighborhood schools they were pitted against.”

A reader sent a brief summary of a story in today’s Chicago Tribune. I was unable to read more than the first paragraph because it is behind a paywall. Anyone who wishes to supply greater detail about the story, please send your summary or details. I have read elsewhere that the chain collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines every year from poor families for minor infractions.

This is the network with which gubernatorial candidate and hedge fund zillionaire Bruce Rauner is affiliated. If I remember correctly, there is a charter named for him and others named for other wealthy benefactors, like Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker, one of Obama’s fund-raisers and now Secretary of Commerce. (; (

The reader, Will Dix, writes:

“Today’s Chicago Tribune has a front page story about the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which controls every aspect of its students’ behavior, down to forbidding Cheetos, mandating sitting up straight, or being one minute late for school. Fines are collected after a certain number of infractions, with some students’ (mostly low-income) families paying up to $200 a year to cover them. Obsessive monitoring is justified by the school administration as necessary for good order, but it means there’s no room for just behaving…The priorities seem to be discipline, obedience, and control, which sounds remarkably like prison. In appropriate doses, these qualities make sense, but it seems you can’t turn around at a Noble school without getting fined for something.

“Teachers don’t have much discretion, either, it appears, since they are penalized for lax enforcement. The Trib reports that Noble kicks out well over the charter average of 61 students/thousand each year for disciplinary infractions, which is already way above the CPS average of 5 students/thousand.

“Here’s a link to the full story:”

David Sirota, who has become one of our nation’s top investigative reporters, here tells the story about how Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there is no money, that public pensions have emptied the city’s coffers, and that he has to close schools because of a huge deficit. But Sirota says that the Mayor has found plenty of money for favored projects, funded by his “Tax Increment Financing districts.” This is a shocking story though not many who live in Chicago are likely to be surprised. During the teachers’ strike in 2012, when the city claimed it could not afford smaller classes or libraries or anything that the schools needed, there were many complaints about the use of TIF funding for an unnecessary stadium. Read on.


Sirota writes:


This same story, portraying public employees as the primary cause of budget crises, is being told across the country. Yet, in many cases, we’re only being told half the tale. We aren’t told that the pension shortfalls in many US states and cities were created because those same states and cities did not make their required pension contributions over many years. And perhaps even more shockingly, we aren’t being told that, while states and cities pretend they have no money to deal with public sector pensions, many are paying giant taxpayer subsidies to corporations — often far larger than the pension shortfalls.

Chicago is the iconic example of all of these trends. A new report being released this morning shows that the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City – which for years has not made its full pension payments – actually has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more money each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago’s pension funds. Yet, Emanuel is refusing to use the cash from that slush fund to shore up the pensions. Instead, his new pension “reform” proposal cuts pension benefits, requires higher contributions from public employees and raises property taxes in the name of fiscal responsibility. Yet, the same “reform” proposal will actually quietly increase his already bloated slush fund.

But it gets worse: an investigation by Pando has discovered that Emanuel has been using that same slush fund to enrich some of his biggest campaign contributors.

How a “shadow budget” is bankrupting Chicago

The new report, from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First, shows how Chicago’s roughly 150 “tax increment financing” (TIF) districts divert property taxes out of schools and public services and into what is now known as Chicago’s “shadow budget.” That’s a slightly nicer term for what is, in practice, Emanuel’s very own sovereign wealth fund.

Living up to his billing as “Mayor 1%,” Emanuel has used the fund to (among other things) offer up $7 million of taxpayer cash for a new grocery store, $7.5 million for a proposed data center, $29 million for an office high rise and $55 million for a huge new hotel (and that latter project is on top of $75 million more in tax money Emanuel has offered up to build a private university a new basketball stadium). And these are just a few of the corporate subsidy proposals in a $300 million spending spree Emanuel has championed at the very moment he has pled poverty to justify pension cuts, property tax increases and the largest school closure in his city’s history.

Following Arne Duncn’s failed “turnaround” strategy, Chicago Public Schools plans to fire every staff member in three schools. This follows on the heels of closing 50 schools last year.

When will Rahm Emanuel end his reign of destruction?

Closings by Another Name

CPS Wants to Fire Every Adult at McNair,
Gresham and Dvorak Elementary Schools

On Friday, March 21, The Chicago Board of Education announced that it would fire every single adult in three of Chicago’s schools and hand over management of the schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership— a politically clouted private management group tied to appointed Board President David Vitale.

Calling this practice “Turnaround,” the Board claims it will help students. But studies show otherwise. This is an attack on Black schools that continues the assault carried out by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett last year, when she closed fifty schools (claiming they were the last closings for at least five years).

A community hearing will take place Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 p.m. in each of the affected schools.

McNair Elementary, 4820 W. Walton St.

Gresham Elementary, 8524 S. Green St.

Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th St.

Stand with these schools by signing up to support educators at one of the hearings for each affected school. By clicking the button above or below you can see other events that are important. Stand up and stand together. Our schools need every voice to ring out for them.




The Chicago Teachers Union is getting politically active on behalf of public education and teachers. It supported candidates who oppose school closings and privatization via charters. Note the lessons: The last one is: “This ain’t Wisconsin.”



IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   CONTACT:   Stephanie Gadlin

March 19, 2014                                                                                                                            312-329-6250




Incumbents seeking to erode retirement security in Chicago had better beware


CHICAGO – Throughout this primary season, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has been a strong and vocal advocate for voters on the South and West Sides of Chicago—many of whom have been most impacted by the foolishness of education deformers and pension thieves. It is time to stand up to the predatory corporate and political interests that seek to threaten the economic security of thousands of workers. Incumbents seeking to steal our retirement security, beware.

“The Chicago Teachers Union expressed people power this electoral cycle,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.  “We were most successful in creating a platform of educational justice and retirement security that was expressed by our endorsed candidates.  Representative-elect Will Guzzardi amplified our calls for an elected, representative school board, a moratorium on school closings and an end to charter proliferation.

“With our continued support and his ability to turn the issues we’ve long championed into a successful political campaign, he was able to take down the Berrios machine and strike a blow to the top-down political tradition of the Northwest Side,” she said.

While the 26th District race remains contested, it is clear that voters on the South Side have soundly rejected State Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell’s anti-working families’ platform. This contest, more than any other this Primary season, exposes the racial and economic fault lines for 2015.

School closings, the campaign for an elected, representative school board and retirement security are important issues that matter well beyond downtown Chicago. It is also clear that education deformers, such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand For Children, Lester Crown and the We Mean Business PAC will continue to spend millions of dollars to influence Illinois public policy and purchase the loyalty of politicians too compromised to stand up for their constituents.

The only way an incumbent like Mitchell was able to—possibly—squeak by a relatively unknown community leader like Jay Travis was by pandering to predominantly white wards through scare tactics and misinformation about imaginary tax increases. Travis, on the other hand, was able to secure the support of working families that want well-resourced neighborhood schools, retirement security and the right to self-determination thru an elected representative school board. It is also telling that despite having virtually no support beyond parents, students and working class people such as teachers, social workers, secretaries, lunchroom workers, janitors, firefighters, police officers and hospital workers, Travis showed impressive gains against a well-financed incumbent backed by the mayor, the Illinois Speaker of the House, the Cook County Board President, two U.S. congressmen, various aldermen, preachers and other paid political operatives.

Tuesday was only Round One in the 26th District. The die has been cast and the electorate has been energized. The CTU will continue to be dogmatic, clear and protective of publicly funded public education and retirement security. Because of our collective effort, Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell has been exposed as a puppet of the oligarchy who gave him nearly a half-million dollars in 2012 and a million dollars in 2014 to secure his pension vote. He continues to accept donations from a group that advocates for the shuttering of neighborhood schools and uses those funds to benefit charter operations and the businesses they run.


  • ·         LESSON ONE: The CTU also provided organizers and financial resources that helped secure the Will Guzzardi victory over Toni Berrios in the 39th Legislative District. The CTU’s campaigns echoed strongly in Guzzardi’s winning education platform of saving neighborhood schools and stopping pension theft. It has been more than a decade since a union-supported candidate unseated an incumbent in a primary.


  • ·         LESSON TWO: While pollsters and key influencers were predicting a Christian ‘Crown’ Mitchell 10-point–to 12-point blowout in the 26th Legislative District, CTU’s candidate Jay Travis trounced the incumbent in in the 4th Ward (where his political sponsors have the most influence) and she is within just over 400 votes of victory—this despite widespread incidents of intimidation and interference with the democratic process.


  • ·         LESSON THREE: The CTU sent a clear message: We will not sit by idly while threats are made to steal the retirement security of our members. The Union has turned nearly 30,000 members into a vast political army that is prepared to educate the public, work precincts, donate money and go to the polls on Election Day.


  • ·         LESSON FOUR: There is nothing dead about organized labor. With pundits and pollsters projecting a magnificent landslide for Republican charter booster Bruce Rauner, Kirk Dillard—backed by labor—came within two points of defeating him for the nomination. His near-loss shows that Rauner is an out-of-touch, right-wing billionaire who would put the wealthy, corporations and his special interest buddies ahead of the priorities of Illinois families—job creation and a stronger middle class.


  • ·         LESSON FIVE: The CTU extended its influence to Champaign, Illinois, where Carol Ammons has claimed victory in the 103rd Legislative District. Ammons will make equitable access to public education and pension protection pillars of her race in the fall against Republican Kristin Williamson of Urbana. She is also a strong supporter of Fair Tax and drug policy reform.


  • ·         LESSON SIX: Parents, teachers and voters in the 26th Ward soundly rejected a massive effort by the school district to convert Ames Middle School into an unnecessary military academy. This victory happened despite tactics used by Ald. Roberto Maldonado, which included mailings, persistent robo-calls, and having students dressed as Marines canvass door to door.


  • ·         LESSON SEVEN: The CTU gained valuable field experience, involved hundreds of members in field operations, increased the number of members donating political contributions, and intends to use these increased capacities in future contests. Through the Chicagoans for Economic Security PAC, working families will organize, pool their resources and actively participate in campaigns to defeat the status quo.


  • ·         LESSON EIGHT: This ain’t Wisconsin.



The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at



This is a wide-ranging interview with Salon that started as a discussion of the Network for Public Education, then went on to discuss budget cuts, high-stakes testing, Common Core, Race to the Top, privatization, and much more.

Michelle Gundersen, a veteran teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, here describes how the school system is harassing parents and children who try to opt out of unnecessary state testing.

Her own son, without her prompting, said he wanted to opt out of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), a test that will soon be phased out and replaced by a Common Core test.

But it was not so easy for other children to opt out, because their principals quizzed them about who prompted them to do it.

In one case, a child was asked to take a visual survey comprised of emoticons, to explain how she felt about opting out and who urged her to do it.

Funny, isn’t it, that our education policymakers prattle on about “choice,” but the one choice parents are not allowed to make is to say NO to standardized testing, even to totally useless tests.

No choice there.

From a reader in Chicago:

Teachers at 2nd Chicago school bravely boycott State ISAT tests
Also 1,000 parents in 57 schools opt out

Here’s a petition to share with your supporters on the “ICE the ISAT” movement. They need 500 more signatures.

An experienced researcher saw a story in the Economist about charter schools. It was, as is typical among news stories, incredibly naive. The writer didn’t ask the right questions. Maybe he already believed in the charter “miracle” story and didn’t ask any questions.

So my correspondent–who requires anonymity– decided that it would be helpful to reporters and members of the public to explain how to read stories about charter schools. Mainly it involves the ability to decipher false claims.

They do not have a “secret sauce,” the phrase once used by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to describe the Noble Network of Charter Schools, each of which is named to honor a very rich patron.

They do have a secret recipe, however, for manufacturing the illusion of success.

Be wise. Think critically. Read carefully.

Here is expert advice:

How to Read News Stories about Charter Schools

Reports and stories about charter schools are in the media every day. The majority of these stories praise charters, while often demeaning public schools. We propose that every reader of such stories ask the following questions before taking the claims of such articles seriously.

Does the story compare the demographics of the student population served by charter schools to the demographics of local public schools? Does it include data on the charter school attrition rate? Does it include data on how the students who leave the charters compare to students who leave public schools? Does it include numbers of students expelled? Does it include numbers of students suspended? Does the story focus exclusively on test scores? If so, has someone, with educational expertise, visited the school to determine if the school focuses on test prep at the expense of a rich curriculum? Are the test scores reported outside of school assessments such as the SAT/ACT or does the story only report test scores of exams that are proctored in-house? Does the story account for the fact that, due to the need to apply to the charter school, parents of the students at charters are, on average, likely to be more engaged in education than the parents of students at public schools? Does it exclusively or primarily cite reports funded by pro-charter or conservative think tanks? Does it include quotes from academic scholars or does it just cite charter school advocates? Does it identify advocates or simply call them “experts” or “researchers”? Does it compare the resources available to charter schools to those available to public schools? Let’s call this approach “identifying charters’ bogus statistics” or the ICBS strategy.

It grows tiresome to dispute every tendentious article written on charter schools.  But let’s see how the ICBS strategy would help us evaluate a sample story. The Economist recently ran an article praising charter schools and attacking Bill de Blasio for proposing to charge rent to charter schools that use public space in New York City.

The Economist presents the Noble Network of charter schools in Chicago as a paragon of charter school excellence. “Around 36% of the…children enrolled with Noble can expect to graduate from college, compared with 11%…city-wide.” What does the data actually tell us about the Noble Network?  As is, unfortunately, standard practice across many charter schools, the Noble Network does not serve equal proportions of the neediest students. In fact they serve 35% fewer English Language Learners and 22% fewer special education students than Chicago Public Schools. This lack of inclusivity extends to other areas too, such as their ban on a Gay Straight Alliance student group.

An op-ed by Congressman Danny Davis noted that the Noble Network suspends 51% of its students at least once during a school year. This includes suspending 88% of the African American students who attend its schools. It might be hard to understand why a school would want to suspend so many of its students…until you realize that this encourages students to leave. And it specifically encourages the more challenging students, the ones most likely to bring down test scores and college graduation rates, to depart. This is not the only such strategy they employ. One exposé revealed that the Noble Network’s “discipline system charges students $5 for minor behavior such as chewing gum, missing a button on their school uniform, or not making eye contact with their teacher, and up to $280 for required behavior classes. 90% of Noble students are low-income, yet if they can’t pay all fines, they are made to repeat the entire school year or prevented from graduating. No waivers are offered, giving many families no option but to leave the school.” The data show that this strategy works. The Noble Network loses over 30% of the students in each class that enters its schools.

As has become all too common, the public school district officials refuse to acknowledge these facts. The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools told a reporter that he’d turn over data showing that charters don’t “have policies that systematically weed out weaker students.” But as the story notes “the district didn’t keep that promise. WBEZ did obtain an internal CPS memo. It’s titled “Memorandum on Charter School Myths.” The four-page report actually finds that traditional schools held onto more kids than charters did for the year CPS examined.”

The other set of Chicago charter schools praised by the Economist had their contract shortened from 3 years to 5 due to poor performance. Despite the Economist’s claim that “charters have worked well in Chicago,” the actual data show that charters are not working well. As reported by the Chicago Sun Times, “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.” Even the Walton Foundation-funded CREDO report cited by the Economist, which did not account for the numbers-gaming we noted above, showed mixed outcomes by Chicago’s charters. “In reading, 21 percent of charters performed worse than traditional schools, while 20 percent did better and 59 percent showed no difference. In math, 21 percent of charters did worse, 37 percent performed better and 42 percent showed no difference. Black and Hispanic students continued to lag behind white students in reading, and received “no significant benefit or loss from charter school attendance” compared to students in traditional schools.”

And let us not even mention Chicago’s largest charter chain, called UNO, which received a state grant of $98 million to build new campuses. Its politically powerful CEO–who was co-chair of Mayor Emanuel’s election committee–resigned after revelations in the media of multiple conflicts of interest in the award of contracts and jobs.

But enough about Chicago. The Economist also claimed that “New York City’s charter schools generally outperform their neighbouring district schools.” The data do not support this. According to the data set on the New York City Department of Education’s website, when compared to similar elementary and middle schools, charter schools rank at the 46th percentile in English growth, the 41st percentile in English growth for students who start with scores in the bottom third, the 53rd percentile in Math growth and the 45th percentile in Math growth for students who start with scores in the bottom third. Not only do they not outperform they don’t even match. This past year charter schools saw bigger drops in performance on the Common Core exams than public schools. Additionally charter schools performed worse on average than public schools in English and the same as public schools in math. As do Chicago charter schools, New York City charter schools have extremely high suspension and alarming attrition rates. In fact a recent analysis by the NYC Independent Budget Office found that charter schools selectively attrite students with lower test scores. “The results are revealing. Among students in charter schools, those who remained in their kindergarten schools through third grade had higher average scale scores in both reading (English Language Arts) and mathematics in third grade compared with those who had left for another New York City public school.”

A school from the Success Academy network was singled out for praise by the Economist. What does Success Academy do? They seem to employ the same strategies as the Noble Network in Chicago. In one neighborhood, Success Academy serves 18% fewer impoverished students, 9% fewer English Language Learners, and 13% fewer team taught and self-contained special education students (at a negligible .01% of their student population) than the local public schools. What’s worse Success Academy seems to push out the few special education students that they do admit. Success Academy suspends students at rates well in excess of other public schools in the same district. According to one newspaper report “at Harlem Success 1… 22% of pupils got suspended at least once… That’s far above the 3% average for regular elementary schools in its school district.”

Success Academy has very, very high attrition rates. The data show that over half of each entering class disappears over time. The 2012 data reveal that there were 482 third grade students tested in 2012 but only 244 students were tested at the highest tested grade. The 2013 data reveal that 487 third grade students were tested in 2013, but only 220 students were tested at the schools’ highest testing grade. Assuming similarly sized entering classes at each school and only looking at schools for which we have data across years (i.e. excluding schools that have had only one testing grade which would not permit comparative analysis) over 55% of Success Academy’s students are lost from each grade. Success Academy’s strategy for “success” seems to be to get rid of students who are identified as not succeeding.

The Economist cites a report by “the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank” on the rent question. Bruce Baker, of Rutgers University, has debunked that report. His conclusion, “it makes little sense for the district to heavily subsidize schools [i.e. charters] serving less needy children that already have access to more adequate resources. It makes even less sense to make these transfers of facilities space (or the value associated with that space) as city class sizes mushroom and as the state indicates the likelihood that its contributions will continue falling well short of past promises.”

Using the ICBS strategy it appears that the claims made by the Economist are unsupported by evidence. Stories like this will continue to be published but, armed with the ICBS strategy, readers should not fall prey to such propaganda.


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