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CPS Creates Warning List for Charters, Puts Six on Notice, Shuts Two Others

By Ted Cox | February 27, 2013 2:27pm | Updated on February 27, 2013 5:59pm
 Dr. Carol Lee pleaded for another chance for Betty Shabazz DuSable Leadership.
Dr. Carol Lee pleaded for another chance for Betty Shabazz DuSable Leadership.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — After CPS announced last week its recommendation to close two charter schools for underperforming, six more charters were added to a newly created warning list Wednesday.

At the Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced the warning for Ace Tech Charter High School, Aspira Charter High School Early College, Catalyst Charter-Howland, CICS-Basil, Galapagos Charter Campus and North Lawndale Charter High School-Collins.

The six Chicago Public Schools across the city's South, West and Northwest sides have not met their performance goals in at least two of the last three school years, according to a statement from CPS. They have until the end of this school year to show improvement.

 North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School is one of the schools placed on a new warning list by CPS because of underperformance.
North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School is one of the schools placed on a new warning list by CPS because of underperformance.
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If a school does not show improvement by the time data reporting is done in September, it must create and implement a "remediation plan," according to a statement. If the plan does not succeed by the end of the next school year, the charter could be phased out.

“I am committed to holding all schools accountable for providing a high-quality education to every child, and charter schools are no exception,” Byrd-Bennett said. “Our parents and children should expect nothing less than the highest quality from all schools.”

The warning list is part of a new "ongoing monitoring" program for charters, said Chief Innovation Officer Jack Elsey, adding that it wasn't sufficient to simply consider the charters' progress when they come up for renewal, typically every five years.

That renewal process is what led to the phase-out orders for Betty Shabazz DuSable Leadership High School and Aspira Ramirez High School. Both Betty Shabazz and Aspira received charter renewals for their other schools from the Board of Education, but those specific campuses will not be accepting freshmen in the fall, although current students will be allowed to complete courses to graduation.

Elsey said that was because they failed to meet basic standards, especially against "comparison schools," neighborhood schools serving the same communities.

Aspira administrators accepted the ruling and welcomed the renewal for its remaining schools, but Dr. Carol Lee, a founder of Betty Shabazz and chairman of its board of directors, pleaded for another chance, citing DuSable Leadership's high graduation and college-acceptance rates.

"Our concerns still stand," Elsey responded. "There's something that isn't matching up in the data."

He maintained that low test scores suggested that DuSable Leadership grads would be unprepared for college when they got there.

"They're late in the process," Elsey added, suggesting they had put on a push to win renewal from the board at the 11th hour. "Given the school's past performance, we need to make tough decisions."

The board formally voted to accept that recommendation, slating DuSable Leadership and Aspira Ramirez for phase-out in the fall, according to CPS officials.

While rejecting the idea that DuSable Leadership was being scapegoated to show CPS is toughening up on charters, in the face of public and union criticism of the schools, Lee said, "I think CPS has a bigger problem than these recommendations for phase-out are addressing."

She said other charters being renewed had no better test scores and that the board had to think in "more broad and fundamental ways" about meeting the education needs of children in certain areas of the city.

The board approved the five-year renewals for several other charters, including those of the United Neighborhood Organization. That came over the objections of Chicago Teachers Union organizer Norine Gutekanst, who drew attention to recent reports of UNO benefiting political friends and direct family by passing on state education grant money.

UNO supporters marched across the street from the Board of Education offices before Wednesday's meeting, chanting, "Five more years!"