Reporting Vince Gerasole
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CHICAGO (CBS) – As Chicago Public Schools deal with a mounting financial crisis, some decisions about which schools to keep open will be based on how successful they’ve been.
As CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports, the news is capturing the attention of the more than 90 charter schools in Chicago, which up to now have been given a great deal of freedom in how they educate their students.
When it comes to Charter schools, the Academy for Global Citizenship is a success story in and out of the traditional classroom.
It’s dedicated to teaching children about sustainability and world cultures. In just three short years, 80 percent of its students are now meeting or exceeding baselines on standardized tests.
Director of operations Dan Schnitzer said, “We’ve got a great sense of freedom from our teachers, who are risk takers and willing to go out there and just try new things.”
Chicago’s charter schools are funded by CPS – the Global Academy for example receives almost $6,000 per student – but their charters give them more freedom in how they teach and make decisions.
“With that comes a level of accountability. We still have to meet state standards, we still have to make sure that our students are learning what they are supposed to be learning when they’re supposed to be learning.”
CPS is evaluating all of its schools for academic performance, but at recent budget presentations it made a point of saying its relationship with charter schools in particular is under review.
Juan Rangel, chief executive officer of the United Neighborhood Organization – which runs a number of charter schools – said, “We strongly believe that, if charter schools are not performing well, they ought to be judged just like every other public school and if a school is not doing well, then it ought to close down.”
UNO operates 11 high-testing charter schools, in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods. UNO’s charter, this year for example, allowed it to easily extend the school year by 20 days to better educate pupils.
Rangel said he believes, with a review, CPS may learn some solutions that can work in all its schools.
“Up till now, in the last 13 years, I think charter schools have really been piecemeal and really been seen as an afterthought. I would like to see charter schools become the strategy for improvement of the entire system,” Rangel said.
Under-performing schools could be placed on probation or pre-probation, where CPS would work to move the school in the right direction.
In extreme cases the school could be closed. CPS said this holds true for all its schools, but it’s something relatively new for charter schools, which have had a lot of freedom in the past.