Where The Charters Are

For better or worse, Chicago seems likely to be home to more charter schools over the next few years.  Critics suggest that there are already too many, that they disrupt neighborhood schools, and their performance is mixed.  Race To The Top required that states get rid of charter caps in order to be eligible for funding.

This list (PDF) from NAPC suggests that, compared to many other cities with low-performing school systems, Chicago has relatively few charters.  The top ten:  1.  New Orleans 70%  2.  Washington, D.C. 39%  3.  Detroit 37%  4.  Kansas City 35%  5.  Flint, Mich. 32%  6.  Gary, Ind. 30%  7.  St. Louis 29%  8.  Dayton, Ohio 27%   9.  Youngstown, Ohio 24%  10. Albany, NY; Cleveland, Ohio ; Toledo, Ohio 23%

Then again, Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami aren't on the top ten list, either, and big foundations like Gates seem more focused on charter-district collaboration and shared approaches than on pure growth.


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  • Alexander your discussion of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools report is very loaded. By that I mean your statement "NAPC [report] suggests that, compared to many other cities with low-performing school systems, Chicago has relatively few charters" reads into the report things that are not there. There is no statement made by NAPC in the report correlating the relative low performance of any the urban school districts with high numbers of charter school students in those districts.

    The report does discuss school districts that had a 10% or more "market share" of students. It should be pointed out that it is interesting that the issue is discussed in terms of "market share," to start with, because in economics market share calculations are really only meaningful for oligopolistic firms. Oligopoly refers to a market structure characterized by a small number of large firms that dominate the market, selling either identical or differentiated products, with significant barriers to entry into the sector.
    Clearly in relation to public education we are not discussing a free or competitive market, but rather a completely regulated market whose standards for both traditional schools and charters are set by the state. To be honest it is similar to the concept of market socialism. I know that comment will disturb the free market ideologues, it was intended to.

    But as far looking at the market share of school districts for charter schools there are school districts with a higher percentage of charter school students than CPS such as the Oshkosh Area School District which has 13% of its students in charter schools that statistically out-perform CPS and others that are likely worse. The NAPC report also notes that in aggregate CPS has the fifth highest total of charter school students in the nation (page 2) and a much higher percentage of students than NYC public schools.

    But I am glad Alexander referenced this report because it shows as NAPC does point out correctly the growth of charter schools in our nation. I expect them to grow even more just as does the NAPC. But I think the result will in the long run be disastrous, because as state, federal, and local funding for public education contracts so will funding for charter schools. Operators will come and go, and each charter operator will be forced to educate children for less and less money in terms of real dollars over time. Because these operators, for profit or not for profit are not directly tied to the state they will be shuffled in and out. The ultimate low cost solution is of course a full voucher system, where poor kids can only attend schools that will accept them if they operate at the cost of the voucher and middle class or upper income kids whose families can subsidize the basic voucher amount are free to chose more expensive options. The future of public education in the US is so bright I have to wear shades.

    Rod Estvan

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    In reply to Rodestvan:

    Hello Rod,

    First of all I appreciate the expert dialouge that you and Alex offer on the subject of public education. I read and digest them from an informed observer stand point but am certainly no expert.

    However, finally something I can talk to with expertise - market share. I am in market research (consumer goods granted) and am very familiar with this kind of data analysis.

    I would repsectively disagree that you can't consider a Charter School analysis using market share. It is statistically and even idelogically accurate. Of course the first thing to consider before the share number is in fact the size of the market (size of the entire pie.) Then the share (slice of the pie) is put into more context. So comparing Oshkosh's Charter share to CPS' Charter share is more relevant when you also compare the entire "pie" - CPS is so much bigger. Additonally, while you make the point that Oshkosh Charter schools outperform CPS is apples and oranges. Compare Oshkosh public schools to CPS - you will probably have the same performance gap.

    On a personal note, my wife is a CPS teacher and until she has the same overall right to kick students out of her class that do not comply to the most basic rules of effort and behavior - you cannot compare performance. One kind of school has kids (and parents) that want to be there and the other has kids (and parents) who have to be there.

  • In reply to M Wesoloskie:

    I like to look at like this:

    Cps teachers have the responsibility for everything
    and the authority to do nothing.

  • I did not argue that the NAPC can not use the concept of market share, but rather I found it interesting that they did. Because effectively they are admitting that public education is an oligopoly and as such there is not either a free market nor real choice. The ideological foundations of the charter school movement are based on free choice, but effectively the choices are highly regulated.

    As M Friedman argued correctly the public education is a form of socialism. His arguments for vouchers were basically an attempt to allow market forces into this state sector to effectively modify it. In my opinion, it won't modify it, it will eventually destroy it. In how long I have no real idea.

    In stating this I am not advocating for either a massive flip to charter schools in Chicago nor other urban centers, nor for an eventual movement towards vouchers. But what is happening and rapidly as the NAPC report shows is that such change is happening and progressing rapidly.

    Rod Estvan

  • August 3 webinar, “Dr” J Cheatham can’t answer questions


  • In reply to district299reader:

    An unreadable mess.

  • In all fairness to Ms. Cheatham, (ahmm,) DR. Cheatham, in the Substance article, the questions should have been aligned to the common core standards, submitted in standard Lesson Plan form, and she should have had additional time, according to her IEP, to answer these questions!
    Sadly enough, almost all of the principals' questions were about testing and not about instruction. Even sadder, the people so handsomely paid to answer them, couldn't.
    May God have mercy on us all!

  • Want to know one reason charters continue to proliferate despite their lack of data proving their value? Their teachers don't attack their leaders. When was the last time you read a charter teacher attacking their leader like the coward above attacked Cheatham? Don't claim it's because the charter teachers tend to be non-union. This is an anonymous blog where the Union teachers troll without fear. Most top CPS brass aren't pro charter. Rahm is. It might benefit you if you tone down the rhetoric and stop tearing down anyone that is of higher rank than you. It's cowardly, childish, patahetic, and stupid because you only cause more turmoil in your own ranks. Soldiers know not to criticise their generals or else the enemies win. Continue to eat your own and watch your ranks thin as the charters continue to proliferate. Stay Calm and Carrion.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Aye, Aye, Commander. I faithfully pledge to follow the outstanding, competent, and wise leadership of Dr. Cheatham. Captain, my captain.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The blind will lead the blind....into a ditch. What you say really has no merit? Do you know any charter school teachers? I personally do and many have been asked to "leave the building" because they have spoken out against their leadership, for that and no other reason. Others see that and then refuse to speak out. Mr. Rangel and his team at UNO are particularly cut-throat. Your reasoning is seriously flawed, turnover at charters is very high (as it is elsewhere), so I do not see your view- charter teachers having this sense of allegiance to their leaders- as valid.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Yes, we should all march quietly...
    ...into a ditch.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Middle school teachers are expected to know the content of their subject. CPS ‘leaders’ should be expected to know the content of theirs.

    Jennifer “breakthrough results” Cheatham, seems to have a history of ‘not being able to answer questions.’

    It’s not asking too much to require that our ‘leaders’ practice what they preach.

    And by the way, does anyone have any data to support Cheatham’s wild claim of “achieving breakthrough results in student learning”?

    The 2012 ISAT results were apparently so ‘breakthrough’ that nobody wants to talk about them.

    Apparently, she taught, somehow and somewhere, language arts for a year or so. Nobody seems to know exactly where.

    How convenient for her that nobody has yet checked to see if she achieved “breakthrough results” in the classroom.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Speaking of CPS leaders... Becky Carroll is almost never in the office any more.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    General Cheatham (bwahahahaha) consider this mutiny.

  • News flash!! Jen Cheatham is the leader of the group of unfit leaders which includes Akeshia Craven and Jen Loudon. None of the 3 can answer key questions but they all have to play the boss role. its really a joke to educators because realistically speaking none of them have institutional knowledge which is key in leadership roles when questions must be answered. this is the price we pay when mayors run school systems and picks broad alums to run the day to day operations like a business. Of course she could not answer the questions. the other 2 are worse. these are outer leaders?

  • Outer space leaders

  • B. Carroll = Zero personality, worst communications person ever. Everything is a crisis when you have no knowledge, skills or leadership training.

    S. Gearing = Great rip-off of salary. Fake theories for the last 6 years with no results since Arne started flying him in from Kansas City. This says the present leadership knows nothing better.

    J.C. Brizard = Figurehead (or flunky)
    Mayor Rahm Emanuel took over the schools and began the Reign of Rahm and the Era of the MBAs (as some are calling it). The Reign of Rahm at CPS is based on the philosophy that anyone from outside Chicago is better able to run Chicago's reformed public schools than veteran insiders. Another tenet is that anyone whose training was outside education is the most qualified to hold the top executive positions in public education in Chicago in 2012. An MBA from the University of Chicago or Harvard is the highest qualification today to get any of the six-figure administrative jobs running the schools that serve the more than 400,000 public school children of Chicago. The fastest way to get vetted out of the vetting is knowing about Chicago and its schools. It's a twisted philosophy for sure. It's the same as a non-politician running for mayor. This is something we might see.

  • In reply to sammy:

    JC Brizard, fiqurehead and flunky!

  • The Chicago public education "stakeholders" are so busy pushing their pointy little stakes in each other that nothing ever moves forward. I include the unionistas, parent groups who believe themselves to be education experts, teachers vs. principals, principals vs. "Clark Street", etc., etc. Very sad indeed.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Yes, CPS Parent, amen! You are correct, everyone is fighting and the students are the big losers here. The union is just as much to blame yet pretends to be the victim. The only word the union knows is "No". The parent groups that pretend to know education and launch campaigns based on little to no research, have such huge heads that they can't fit through the double doors of a school. Wake up everyone, things need to change. Stop blaming each other and change!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It seems that you have been fooled by the reformer's PR. Education is too full of change already. In the 4 years I've been around CPS I've been through 3 different sets of standards to base curriculum on, countless different accountability measures, 4 CEOs with their own staffs, and a carousel of school administrators and colleagues. As teachers we're used to coming in to August PD and hearing what *this* year's new thing is and that we'll have to have that done by Tuesday. Education is already full of change for change's sake. Some stability would be nice for a change.

    To CPS parent, while I agree that everyone has their own agenda I don't think it's to the detriment of the students. I believe that, while it's not pretty, the outcome of collective bargaining actually benefits students. Take the longer day initiative. CPS says "we want a longer day". CTU says "no way it's going to be any good if you don't fund it". Parents say "enough school already we want family time". Now, the day is somewhat longer and extra teachers are being hired to make it work. I'm not sure how students would have benefitted if CPS would have been allowed to extend the day without funding it. It might be prettier if CPS was allowed to do whatever it pleased but the same could be said for our government if they weren't accountable to their constituents or had to bargain with the opposite party. I'll take democracy over dictatorship any day.

    Now, to the folks on this site who anonymously post disparaging comments about their principals, or central office staff, etc. you are creating a problem for the rest of us. I know it's been said here before but I think comments would be a lot more meaningful if we were required to post under our names. While it would decrease the number of comments I think discussions would be richer.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply Evan. While I could present counter arguments to your reasonable and valid points it would make me a "little stake pointer" as well.

    What I don't see are truly innovative, big picture, solutions (or discussions) for education change which I know exist - perhaps not here but definitely elsewhere in the world.

    Where is the school that incorporates age 0 to 5 daycare/preschool + K-6 elementary ed. + after school programming + an adult and student library + adult education/parenting programming in the evening? All under one roof with the shared expense of utilities, administration, technical/maintenance/security staff. These types of schools exist in poverty afflicted urban centers but not here...

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    You might consider reading up on the The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve (a positive agenda of the CTU, a far cry from just saying no) and looking into CPS disinvestment in the Community Schools Initiative, both of which address exactly the type of big picture questions you find so important. CPS has elected to discard them both.

    Not to mention the fact that it is wholly inappropriate to blame the workers for the ineffective and destructive policies of top level administration.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The Community Schools Initiative is indeed the type of approach that address both the educational and social problems that need to be fixed. Can you tell us what the status is of this program and whether it has had some success? You mention that CPS is dis-investing.

    I do indeed find issues such as this important and i'm sure i'm not the only one. For most Chicagoans this blog is one of the few interactive venues where one can learn from others actually knowledgeable about education issues.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    I can only speak to the status of this program at my school. Through a partnership with our neighborhood organization we have offered extracurricular activities in the arts, adult English language classes, GED classes, health and legal clinics, parenting support groups, evening and after school and weekend programming for K-8, leadership development opportunities for high schoolers, and on and on.

    Over the last 6 years CPS has cut funding for this partnership to the bone. I have seen program after program after program get cut. Sometimes our neighborhood group is able to find funding from elsewhere to maintain programs.

    So, sometimes the funding just goes away. But what is CPS investing in at our school in place of these important community school programs? After school ACT test prep - hndreds and hundreds of students enrolled in test prep. Mandatory highly priced curricula complete with six-figure consultants. Rubicon curriculum mapping - it took is 18 months to put it all together and then it was scrapped.


  • In reply to district299reader:

    Thank you for your response. In other countries I'm familiar with, this type of funding for broad based community school initiatives are also set up as partnerships between various entities with independent funding (private or public) for each group. It seems you are saying that funding for this Chicago initiative came from CPS and was subsequently cut by CPS or did funding for the partners dry up at the State level? I'm trying to move on beyond blaming the local "stakeholders", move beyond the vitriol, if you will.

    Given that CPS is the education component in a partnership school approach I can see the value in CPS spending money on ACT prep. My own experience with my two kids is that it moved them from 29 to 32 and 33 to 35 respectively. For kids who are contemplating college it has definite value considering that many universities (U of I Champaign included) admit strictly by grades and test scores.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    Fired CTC Attorney Kathleen Carroll On Corruption & Privatization At CA Education Agency. July 8, 2011


  • Headache299
    The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss
    Principals: Our struggle to be heard on reform


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