Mayor Rahm has successfully pitted charters against public schools | Bleader

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mayor Rahm has successfully pitted charters against public schools

Posted By on 10.23.13 at 03:31 PM

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Mayor Rahm meets students at Willa Cather Elementary in East Garfield Park on the first official day of school.
  • Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times
  • Mayor Rahm meets students at Willa Cather Elementary in East Garfield Park on the first official day of school.

As you might imagine, I've been getting my fair share of abuse from charter school lovers who feel that last week's post was unfair to their beloved movement.

That was the post about Mayor Emanuel's proposal to essentially run Prosser high school out of business by sticking a charter school in the abandoned lumberyard across the street.

Anyway, the typical response from charter fans went something like this . . .

"The top 11 highest-performing nonselective Chicago Public Schools high schools are charter schools. You must admit that's true!"

Well, it is true that the Illinois Network of Charter Schools has made that claim in regards to ACT scores. But is that claim itself the truth?

Interesting question! And I suppose the answer varies according to how you define truth, to paraphrase President Clinton.

If by truth you mean an immutable fact that no reasonably sane human being would dispute—like the sun rises in the east—then, no, of course it's not true.

But if by truth you mean a Clintonian blend of fact and spin—then, sure, why not. It's as true as "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." To cite just one of President Clinton's more famous claims.

Let's start with the accuracy of the premise: that charters are "nonselective."

Of course that's not true. Good gosh, the whole point of charters is that they're free from many of the rules and regulations that hamper regular public schools—such as admission requirements.

To the point, regular public schools have to admit every child who lives within their attendance boundaries, whether they are good or bad students.

In contrast, the highest-scoring charters select from only those students who apply, thus almost exclusively limiting enrollment to children whose parents are actively involved in their education, a good base to start with.

To be fair to the charters, they do not limit applicants to only high test scorers, like such selective-enrollment schools as North Side, Payton, Young, Jones, etc.

In this regard, they're like magnet elementary schools that invite anyone to participate in their lottery.

Look, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this. I'm just saying you shouldn't pretend as though any old kid who walks in off the street is going to be admitted to your school.

So if you rank all of the high schools—selective included—how do charters fare?

Well, you've got to go through nine schools—including North Side, Payton, Young, and Jones—before you get to the highest-scoring charter.

Congratulations, Noble Charter UIC, which weighs in with an average ACT score of 21.7.

All told, there are ten charters in the top 24 schools—nine of which come from the Nobel network.

As you may remember, Noble runs a rigorous program in which they fine students for various infractions. It's not unusual for students who start at Noble to wind up at the good old neighborhood school that accepts all comers, even those who can't quite fit in at Noble.

I'm not knocking Noble. You're doing a great job, Noble teachers! I hope the honchos give you the raises you deserve.

I'm just saying it's not very classy to brag that the Nobles outscore the locals who take in the kids who don't quite make it at the Nobles.

Anyway, back to the list. How do they get away with claiming that charters account for the top ten schools, if you have to go through 24 schools to reach the tenth-highest-ranking charter?

Simple. They don't count noncharters with any kind of selective program. Thus, they weed out schools like Von Steuben, Washington, King, and Chicago Agriculture.

Like any of these schools are more "selective" than Noble.

As I've said before, it's not hard to be the best at anything if you exclude anyone who's doing better than you.

Why, if I applied these standards to bowling, I'd be the best bowler in the Monday-night Men's League at Timber Lanes.

Instead of the middle-of-the-pack bum that I am.

On the other side of the coin, the lowest-scoring school in the city is a charter. In fact, seven of the 12 lowest-scoring schools are charters.

If I wanted to be like the charter activists, I'd write, "Charter schools account for all ten of the ten worst-performing selective-enrollment high schools in the city."

But I'm not. So I won't. Even though I just did.

In a perfect world, none of us would be playing games with the test scores and all schools would work together to figure out what's best for the kids.

Alas, we don't live in Perfect. We live in Chicago, where Mayor Emanuel's making our school funding crisis even worse by diverting public money for his TIF schemes.

It's like a war out there, with charters fighting public schools for whatever funding they can get. As in any war, the first casualty is truth.

If you're interested in checking out ACT scores, click here and drop down to ACT score.

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