MEDIA WATCH: Chicago Mayor to host charter school publicity stunt at Noble Street charter 'Pritzker Campus,' a school which routinely dumps dozens of kids from its rolls in January, while keeping the dollars it has been allocated in October

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to stage another publicity stunt in a school on the morning of December 16, 2011. Following a vote by his hand-picked Board of Education to continue expanding the city's charter schools despite growing evidence that the majority of them are "failing" (by the usual measures of school success, such as scores on standardized tests) and that those that "succeed" (such as the Noble Street Network of charter schools) do so by forcing out students who endanger test score "gains," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has scheduled another in his long line of publicity stunts to push his version of reality.

Seated behind Chicago Board of Education Attorney Patrick Rocks, billionaire Penny Pritzker watched the beginning of the famous "Mic Check" during the December 14, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Although previous generations of the Pritzker family had provided some support for public schools (including the former Wicker Park Elementary School, which was renamed for patriarch A.N. Pritzker following a major endowment for the school, a real public school), the current generation of Pritzkers, led by Penny, has been utilizing all of its power to push privatization and union busting through massive support for charter schools. Since Rahm Emanuel became mayor and appointed Penny Pritzker to the Board of Education, an overwhelming effort has been made to promote charter schools, even as growing evidence shows that Chicago charters are largely failing, and those that claim success, such as "Pritzker College Prep Campus" of the Noble Network of Charter Schools do so by dumping their most challenging students each year. The Pritzker family, which has the resources to see through the lies told in their name, ignores the facts. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On the morning of December 16, 2011, Emanuel and his media team will host one of the mayor's "discussion" events at the "Pritzker Campus" of Noble Street Charter Schools.

Late in the evening of December 15, 2011, the Mayor's Press Office sent out the following announcement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. December 15, 2011

Mayor's Press Office, 312.744.3334,

The Public Schedule for Mayor Rahm Emanuel December 16, 2011

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will join CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for a roundtable discussion with students about ensuring that students across Chicago have access to the best education.

WHEN: 10:15 AM. WHERE: Pritzker College Prep, 4131 W. Cortland Street, Chicago, IL * (* There will be a media availability following this event.)

The event, coming a little over a year after the screening of the charter school propaganda movie "Waiting for Supermen," will be held at a school that has become notorious among real public high schools for its mistreatment of students who are most likely to lower its all-important test scores. The "Noble Network", since its founding in 1999 by former Wells High School teacher Michael Milkie, has deftly utilized its ability to require conditions for student continuation in the school to force out its least successful students. They then return to their neighborhood high schools, or drop out entirely, but the blame is usually placed on the real public schools, while Noble Street (whose motto is "Be Noble") continues to gather praise from Chicago's plutocracy — and the city's mayor. The students who are pushed out of Noble Street's schools are routinely listed as having "withdrawn" voluntarily.

During the 2011 election campaign, Emanuel tried briefly to claim that Noble Street charter schools were "more successful" than any real public high schools. Emanuel's media team, of course, left out the key fact: that since Milkie left Wells High School more than a decade ago and began a lucrative career as an "edupreneur", the nearest real public high schools have had to take those forced out by Milkie's schools (called "campuses") and their intricate sets of rules. Beginning with Wells High School a decade ago, teachers and counselors at the city's general high schools have informed Substance every January about the latest groups of "Noble Rejects" that Milkie and his team have sent back to them. As Noble Street has expanded across Chicago, behind a constant barrage of extensive marketing and corporate adulation ranging from the Chicago Bulls to the Pritzker family, the Rejects have grown, year after year.

In late 2010, Substance was told by administrators at Kelvyn Park High School, speaking on condition of anonymity, that Kelvyn Park would be receiving the Noble Rejects in january and have to adjust its programming accordingly.

In January 2011, Substance was shown, but not allowed to copy, a list of the six former Noble Network students who had just arrived at Kelvyn Park. Other north side and west side schools had the same experience, Substance was told.

Following the vote in favor of charter schools at the December 14, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Noble Street issued the following press release:

NEWS RELEASE Dec. 15, 2011. Chicago Benefits from More Options for Public School Students After Chicago Board of Education Expansion Vote Noble Network of Charter Schools to Grow—Chicago’s Largest and Highest Performing Public Charter High School Network

CHICAGO—Noble Network of Charter Schools (, Chicago’s largest and highest performing public charter high school network, is gratified by the confidence the Chicago Board of Education showed by approving its growth plans last night.

The board unanimously decided to allow Noble to add four campuses to its existing network of 10 public charter high schools. Two of the high schools will open in 2012 with two others slated to open in 2013. The schools will each accept 800–1,000 students.

“This is a victory for all of Chicago. Opening an additional four campuses over the next two years will give nearly 4,000 more students access to a world class high school education that Noble can provide,” says Michael Milkie, Noble’s co-founder and CEO/Superintendent.

The locations and names of the two schools to open in the fall will be announced in the coming weeks. Noble’s next step will be to continue to raise the needed private funds to renovate school buildings. Noble is undertaking a $30 million capital campaign to support its next phase of expansion.

Noble’s goal is to double the number of students it serves by 2015 by growing to 12,000 students across 16 campuses; this would equal 10% of the Chicago Public Schools’ high school population.

Recently released data shows that Noble’s high schools scored significantly higher on the Prairie State Achievement Exam than the CPS average. All Noble high schools with juniors also ranked in the top 10 of non-selective high schools in Chicago based on ACT scores.

Milkie and Noble’s board of directors attribute the achievement of its high school campuses to the following:

• A culture of high expectations for student achievement and student behavior; Talented teachers and school leaders who are given the autonomy and flexibility to meet their students’ needs; and an achievement driven culture in which principals, teachers, and staff are rewarded for student success.

A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll this year of American attitudes about education found that charters have an approval rating of 70 percent, the highest recorded since the question was first asked 10 years ago.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools ( is Chicago’s largest and highest performing network of public charter high schools. Noble is a non-selective, multi- campus network serving 6,500 students throughout Chicago. Since opening its first campus in 1999, Noble and its diverse group of students, teachers, administrators and supporters have demonstrated a common commitment to students’ success in college and beyond.

MEDIA CONTACT: Adam Shapiro 312-356-8000


December 17, 2011 at 8:55 AM

By: Jean Schwab

How 'Noble' is forcing dropouts?

Several years ago a friend of mine sent her daughter to Nobel. She had been an outstanding student at public grade school. During her time at Nobel she got sick(flu or something) and was out for a couple of weeks. She returned to school weakened and was given loads of makeup work, which she was supposed to do every Saturday at Nobel school. Her mother took her out because it was too overwhelming. She went to Clemente and was placed in honors classes and graduated and is now in college.

December 17, 2011 at 9:16 AM

By: Jean Schwab

Pritzker Campus...

Why is Pritzker deciding whether to expand charters when she has a Noble campus named after her? Isn't that in itself conflict of interest? Is there some sort of law suit that could be filed concerning this? We have a BOE who appears deaf, lining their pockets by voting for more charter schools which they have an interest in? Also, The mayor and BOE are all doing this kind of stuff publicly like there is nothing wrong. This is criminal!

December 17, 2011 at 9:24 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Noble Street's role in the bigger picture of things

What I have always found interesting about Noble Street Charter Schools is that despite the statistics on ACT scores and the fact that several of its campuses are located in areas of the city that have become increasingly white, there are few white families that see the school as an option. In 2011, the Noble network as a whole had only 1.9% white students, whereas the system as a whole had 8.5%. (The fact that CPS as a whole is now down to only 8.5% white merits a discussion in itself.) The network also had only 1.1% Asian students compared to the citywide average of 3.2%.

In 2011, the network’s composite ACT score was 19.9. The compares to one of CPS’s better general high schools Lake View that had a composite ACT score of 18.1 in 2011. But Lake View still managed to have 14.3% white students and 10.6% Asian students.

As all of us who have lived in Chicago know most middle class white families that live in the city are in search of high quality secondary programs and they apply in mass to every selective and optional program. Asian families are very educationally driven and seek out every possible good option for their children. The failure of the Noble network to attract both white and Asian students says something about perceptions and perspectives on the network that was clearly not reflected in the Mayor’s press conference.

Members of my extended family, who are white, college educated and middle class, live in Bucktown not far from a Noble Street campus failed to get their son into any CPS selective high schools. They looked at Noble Street as an option and did not select it, ultimately paying for a private high school. I asked them why? They were very reluctant to honestly discuss why, but finally told me some very interesting things.

Noble Street explained its curriculum to parents as being linked to ACT outcomes at every level. The curriculum in these parents opinion was remedially driven and in their opinion would not improve their child’s outcomes that were a little above average. They came away from looking at Noble Street thinking it might be a good school for hard working low income Hispanic students who needed pulling up by the bootstraps to get into college. But it would do little or nothing for a child who was on target to probably get a composite ACT score of 20, but whose family knew that a 20 would not even get you into a reasonably good college. I know it is easy to criticize this family as being elitist, but those of us who live in glass houses should probably not be throwing rocks and my youngest daughter graduated from Payton so I will not criticize them.

So effectively I would argue that our Mayor would never send his children to Noble Street charter nor would the CPS CEO for exactly the same reasons those members of my extended family did not see Noble Street as an option for their child. It is very disingenuous for the Mayor to heap the kind of praise on Noble Street he has given the reality of what the school is.

Noble Street to its credit is effective for a certain subgroup of students. But it reflects a social class based public education system in Chicago that is part of a sorting machine. It is designed to fit a niche in the social fabric of our city. But because public education in Chicago is presented to the poor as the pathway to equality as part of a social myth the actual role that a school like Noble Street plays can never ever be admitted.

Rod Estvan

December 18, 2011 at 1:23 AM

By: Melanie Wojtulewicz

School choice

If I had high school age children I would do everything I could do to get them into Whitney Young. There would be no other choice.8

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 2 =