Monday, October 13, 2014

Charter Schools in Chicago: No Model for Education Reform

Conclusions and Recommendations from the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School:

Chicago’s charter system continues to grow rapidly despite the fact little evidence supports the claim that students perform better in charter schools than in traditional counterparts. This study adds another piece to the pile of research that implies that students in fact perform at lower levels in charters than traditional [public schools]. The clear implication is that it is time to reevaluate where the system is headed and to ensure that all of the information needed to evaluate existing and proposed new charters is available.

Based on the evidence cited in this report, it is recommended that the Chicago Public School District institute a three-year moratorium on new charter schools and campuses and complete an impact study on how charter school policy has affected the district as a whole. It is also recommended that Illinois should move forward with the following statewide reforms.

1) The State Charter School Commission should be eliminated and policy and control decisions should be returned to local authorities who are vested with the education of students in their jurisdiction.

2) The charter school law (105ILCS 5/27A-5) should be changed to remove the provision that exempts campus expansions by charter schools established before 2003 for the purposes of maintaining the charter school cap in Illinois.

3) In light of the finding that charter schools increase racial segregation in a district already struggling with racial separation, the state should study this effect and design policies that charter schools must follow in order to ensure racial segregation is mitigated. At a minimum, charters should be required to more closely match district-wide racial diversity.

4) The training required of all school board members (105 ILCS 5/10-16a and 105ILCS5/34-3.2) should include a research-based review of the potential effects of charter schools on racial segregation and student performance.

5) School districts considering a charter school should be required to include as part of the public hearing a detailed analysis of the applicant’s performance in regard to racial diversity in existing schools and student performance in existing schools. The charter school applicant should be required to produce and data to ensure that information is unbiased. The data and information should be made public through posting on the district website 30 days prior to the hearing with notices of the posting going to interested parties, including affected bargaining units and nearby neighborhood organizations.

6) Charter schools should be held to the same reporting standards as traditional schools and districts, including financial reporting and reporting to Illinois State Board of Education for the Illinois State Report Card.

7) Existing and new Charter schools should be required to describe the educational practices or experiments that distinguish them from already-available programs in traditional schools (including special schools like selective schools and magnets run by the school district), set goals for improved student performance, demonstrate success in meeting those goals within five years, and continue to demonstrate success every two years in order to retain the charter.

For the complete report, Click Here.

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