'It isn't Noble to push out students...' PURE, other groups challenge Noble Street charter schools calling the 'Noble' discipline policy 'predatory'

Three groups — Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), and the Advancement Project — held a major press conference at the headquarters of Chicago Public Schools on the morning of Monday, February 13, 2012. At the press conference, the groups exposed the hypocrisy of the claims made by Noble Network of Charter Schools and political leaders, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on behalf of the Noble Street charter schools.

For the past ten years, CPS has been expanding the "Noble Network of Charter Schools" on the basis of the claims that Noble does better than neighborhood schools. Since his inauguration as Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly claimed that Noble Street is the "best non-selective high school" in Chicago and proposed that it replace the city's general high schools, which he claims are "failing." But a closer look at Noble Street shows that the charter school has a ruthless disciplinary policy which results in a huge "push out" rate. And the result of the Noble Street push outs is that Noble Street makes its statistics look good, while nearby neighborhood high schools, which have to take the kids Noble rejects, get blamed for the results if the students undermined by Noble Street later drop out or provide test scores that are lower than those of the kids left at Noble Street.

Emanuel is not the first major Chicago official to promote Noble Street. In fact, the school has been a darling of Chicago's wealthiest families, including the billionaire Pritzkers, for several years. Before he became U.S. Secretary of Education, former Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan provided Noble Street with a promotional hosting then U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings at the School and praising Michael Milike, the schools chief, for the media, while snubbing or slandering the city's real public schools. As late as December 2011, Duncan's successor (by three) Jean-Claude Brizard joined Rahm Emanuel for a publicity stunt at the Noble Street "Pritzker Campus."

The factsheet distributed by PURE, VOYCE, and the Advancement Project at the February 13, 2012 press conference.The statement by Julie Woestehoff of PURE follows:

Statement by Julie Woestehoff, executive director, Parents United for Responsible Education, 2-13-12 Press conference, Predatory Noble Discipline Policy We're here today because parents and the public need to know what's really going on in schools run by the Noble Network, a charter school management company that has been called “a miracle,” a model that all schools should copy. Noble is a private school management company that was just given contracts by the Chicago Public Schools to open four more schools and which hopes to double its number of campuses in another year, from 19 to 38. Recently, in a video touting National School Choice Week, Mayor Emanuel praised Noble for having “the secret sauce.” Well, just like the fast food equivalent, people need to take a closer look at what's in that secret sauce.

PURE has gotten complaints about Noble since the first school opened. Like parents at other charter schools, Noble parents call us because they have nowhere else to go to complain if there's a problem. And one of the big concerns parents have had with Noble is its discipline policy, so we started to look into it. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Noble and learned from the data we received that the charter company is profiting to the tune of some $200,000 per year from a discipline code that can only be called predatory. Students are fined $5 for any infraction on a list of prohibited conduct as long as my arm, a list that pretty much describes the full gamut of teen-age behavior including such minor issues as having a shirt button unbuttoned or being seen with a bag of chips or sharpie. In addition, Noble imposes the “Acting SMART” system in which students are supposed to:

S = Sit up straight in chair and ready to learn

M = Make eye contact when addressed

A = Articulate in standard English and speak in proper volume

R = Respond appropriately

T = Track the speaker

As the Fact Sheet we have provided shows, when students receive more than 12 detentions, they have to pay $140 to attend a “behavior class.” And if they receive more detentions, they have to take two discipline classes, costing a whopping $280.

Noble will not waive these fees, even for low-income families, and about 90% of Noble students are low-income. While Noble says they will set up payment plans for families who struggle to pay these exorbitant fees, ultimately, if a student fails to pay, they will be HELD BACK and forced to repeat the entire school year, regardless of their academic status.

We took this information to the Advancement Project and asked for their legal advice. Together we wrote a letter to Michael Milkie, CEO of the Noble Network, describing our concerns. We later met with him and several of his staff. They promised to consider the issues we raised and get back to us, but in the end they made no real changes in their policy.

Noble claims that they need the $5 from students to pay people to staff the discipline room (they call it the LsSalle Room, and a detention is called a “LaSalle). They say that they would not be able to afford their reading program otherwise. We wonder how they can run a 19-school network if they have to balance the budget on the back of low-income families like that. Noble also claims that their discipline policy is the only way to keep students safe. Well, that sounds a lot like the excuse the dictator gives for imposing martial law or a totalitarian regime, where every aspect of a person's behavior is monitored and punishable. We say...

* It isn't “noble” to treat teenage students like two-year olds. * It isn't “noble” to impose an arbitrary discipline system in which anyone can be punished and fined for almost anything.

* It isn't “noble” to pick the pockets of families who are already struggling with fees, fines and taxes that go higher and higher every day in Chicago.

* It isn't “noble” to treat your predominantly African-American and Latino students as though they are all potential criminals whose every movement must be harshly controlled. All parents want safe schools that prepare their children for success in life.

Parents overwhelmingly want those schools to be close to home. But when local neighborhood schools are starved for resources, closed or taken over, some parents feel they have to look around for alternatives, and the charter and turnaround schools are right there with glossy brochures and expensively-produced videos promising great things.

The reality is not so rosy, as parents like Donna Moore, who is about to speak, found out. At Noble, the price of safety is a dehumanizing discipline system that looks a lot more like reform school than college prep. It's not what parents want for their children, and it's not a model for the way young people in Chicago ought to be educated. There is a better way.

FACT SHEET: Noble Street Profiting from Predatory Discipline Code

“They [Noble Street Charter Network] have the secret sauce down. They have the combination to the lock.” – Mayor Rahm Emanuel

How it Works

* Any time a student receives four demerits within a two-week period, they must pay $5 and attend a three-hour detention. You can receive four demerits for chewing gum, bringing chips to school, or forgetting your belt.

* When a student receives more than 12 detentions, they have to pay $140 to attend a required behavior class over the summer. With more than 24 detentions, they have to pay $280 to attend

two behavior classes. * Students who cannot pay all fines in full are not promoted to the next grade. No need-based waivers are provided.

* Clearly this is not affordable for many families. At the start of the 2010-2011 school year, 473 Noble students did not return (out of the 3,683 students enrolled the year before).

Profits Made from Putting Families in Debt and Youth on the Street

* Since 2008-2009, Noble has collected $386,745 from detention fines and behavior classes.

* In the 2010-2011 school year alone, Noble made $188,647 from detention fines and behavior classes.

“A Future Where the Majority of Students Are Educated at Campuses Like Noble”

Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Emanuel are enthusiastically expanding the Noble approach under the direction of Oliver Sicat, the CPS Portfolio Officer and founding principal of a Noble campus.

“We could run certainly 20, 30, 40 schools…I foresee a day where — I hope — where a majority of [Chicago] students are educated either in Noble campuses or campuses like that at the high school level.”

- Noble Street Superintendent Mike Milkie

Today, Noble is five times larger than it was in 2007-2008. In December, the Board of Education approved a four-school, 3600-student expansion over the next two years.

* Just this year, Perspectives Leadership Academy adopted a discipline code that is very similar to Noble’s. What We’re Doing

* We've looked at cities like Baltimore that have raised their graduation rates and improved school safety by ending their over-reliance on out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, transfers and arrests.

* We've met with CPS officials to re-write the Student Code of Conduct, but they have refused to make any changes that would keep more students in school and off the streets.

* We want an end to the growing use of extreme and ineffective discipline policies at all publicly-funded Chicago schools, and investments in the support systems needed to make our schools safe.



For Immediate Release

February 13, 2012

Parents, Students: Noble Street Profiting from Predatory Discipline Code Practices spread as Mayor Emanuel promotes a hidden education tax on Chicago’s Black and Latino families

FEBRUARY 13—With Mayor Emanuel expanding the Noble Street Charter Network as a model for public education throughout Chicago, community groups today released original data on the profits that the growing charter network is making from disciplinary fines imposed on low-income families.

Hundreds of students, parents and supporters from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), and Advancement Project marched from Chicago Public Schools to City Hall to demand an end to these and other appalling discipline policies at Chicago’s neighborhood and charter schools, calling Noble a prime example of what’s wrong with school discipline in Chicago.

Noble’s discipline system charges students $5 for minor behavior such as chewing gum, missing a button on their school uniform, or not making eye contact with their teacher, and up to $280 for required behavior classes. 90% of Noble students are low-income, yet if they can’t pay all fines, they are made to repeat the entire school year or prevented from graduating. No waivers are offered, giving many families no option but to leave the school.

The groups pointed to a recent Illinois State Board of Education report showing that 473 students, or 13% of the previous year’s student body, transferred out of Noble over the summer of 2010. “Noble is forcing low-income parents to choose between paying the rent and keeping their child in school,” said Donna Moore, parent of a student at a Noble school. “This is a hidden tax on Chicago’s Black and Latino families, and it’s wrong.”

The original research released by the groups today showed that Noble has collected $386,745 from detention fines and behavior classes over the past three years. As the charter network has expanded, its annual revenue from these fines has grown - last school year, Noble made $188,647 from its discipline code.

Since August, students and parents have pressed Chicago Public Schools to write a smarter, safer discipline code that would end the use of extreme and ineffective disciplinary policies at all publicly funded Chicago schools. However, not only has CPS refused to make any policy changes that would keep more students in school and off the streets, but Mayor Emanuel has in fact endorsed the expansion of disciplinary codes like Noble's, touting them as having the “secret sauce” to a quality education. In addition to the four-school expansion of the Noble network approved in December by the Board of Education, other schools are beginning to replicate Noble’s approach.

“Our school modeled its discipline code after Noble and only made our school culture worse,” added Johnny West, a student at Perspectives Leadership Academy. “Who’s next?”

With CPS re-writing the Student Code of Conduct this year, students and parents are calling for an end to the growing use of overly harsh disciplinary policies at all publicly funded Chicago schools. “Noble gets its test results from forcing poor families out of its schools,” said Jasmine Sarmiento, a student at Kelvyn Park High School. “Does Mayor Emanuel really want more families in debt and more youth in the street? That’s not a model that Chicago should be following.”

Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) is a youth-led organizing collaborative for education reform made up of six community organizations throughout Chicago: Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) is a parent advocacy and education organization that empowers parents to be advocates for their children: Advancement Project is a next generation, national civil rights organization that combines law, communications, policy, and technology to create systemic solutions to inequity:


‘Flaming hot’ chips, gum, other ‘infractions’ costly at some schools

By ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter February 13, 2012 8:34PM



Julie Woestehoff, of Parents United for Responsible Education speaks at a rally and march to call for an end to what they call “appalling” disciplinary policies at some schools. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times


Noble costly mistakes

Updated: February 14, 2012 12:10AM A Chicago charter school franchise often touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pocketed some $387,000 in fees over three years by issuing demerits for “minor infractions” ranging from not sitting up straight to openly carrying “flaming hot” chips, parents and students charged Monday.

The list of forbidden conduct at the Noble Street Charter Network is “as long as my arm’’ but adds up to a “dehumanizing discipline system that looks a lot more like a reform school than a college prep,’’ Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education charged at a news conference Monday.

At Noble Street schools, four demerits within two weeks triggers a three-hour detention costing $5. More than 12 detentions lands students in a behavior modification class costing $140.

Twenty-five to 36 detentions in one school year: two discipline classes, carrying a $280 pricetag. More than 36 detentions? Kids have to repeat the grade.

The stringent disciplinary code that Noble Street officials say many parents find attractive netted up to 10 Noble campuses $386,745 over the last three school years, according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act by Parents United, the Advancement Project civil rights group and a student group called VOYCE.

The biggest windfall, the FOIA showed, was garnered at Noble’s Rowe-Clark Campus, which raked in $28,935 last school year alone amid an enrollment of 538.

Noble Street officials said they merely charge a “fee” — not a “fine’’ — to partially cover the cost of supervising detention or behavior classes.

Detention classes go back decades and in some Catholic schools were referred to as JUG, or Justice Under God. However, the Chicago Archdiocese doesn’t charge for them, said a spokesman for its Office of Catholic Schools.

The Advancement Project has been researching student disciplinary policies for more than 10 years, and worked with dozens of districts on them but has never seen “financial penalties for day-to-day disciplinary issues,’’ said Advancement attorney Alexi Freeman. She called the policy “pernicious and harmful’’ to youth.

Chicago neighborhood schools for years have seen resources for all students diverted to programs for those who misbehave, Noble CEO Michael Milkie said. Noble’s policy ensures that “those who generate the costs are the ones who end up paying the fees,’’ Milkie said.

Payment plans are available for the truly needy and in some rare cases, fees are waived, Milkie said.

“Far more students stay because of our discipline policy than leave,’’ Milkie said. “And far more students leave neighborhood high schools because they are not strict enough.’’

“It isn’t ‘noble’ to pick the pockets of families who are already struggling with fees, fines and taxes that go higher and higher every day in Chicago,’’ countered Woestehoff. “If you’re going to penny-ante students for every little thing that happens then, yes, you’ll have to pay staff. But that’s their choice.’’

Donna Moore labeled the fees a “hidden tax.’’ She said her son was forced to repeat freshmen year at one Noble Street high school based mostly on minor infractions — like running a pencil along the edge of a desk and not “tracking the teacher’’ with this eyes -- that did not endanger school safety or disrupt class.

Moore said her son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and a stress syndrome that make some Noble rules oppressive. Especially unrealistic, she said, are Noble demerits for violating its SMART policy, which stands for “Sit” up straight, “Make” eye contact when addressed, “Articulate” in standard English, “Respond” appropriately and “Track” the speaker with your eyes.

Milkie said SMART and other disciplinary policies merely promote “basic, common-sense citizenship things, which you know teenagers need.” Noble — which is allowed tougher disciplinary policies than Chicago Public Schools because it is a charter — sets high promotion standards both academically and behaviorally to prepare students for the world after high school, he said.

Noble Street was the only Chicago charter franchise last year to produce higher test scores than the Chicago average at each campus. Emanuel recently hailed it as having the “secret sauce’’ to success.

Noble’s disciplinary policy is “not a secret, but it’s part of our sauce,’’ Milkie said Monday.

VOYCE students, meanwhile, donned chefs caps to poke fun at Emanuel’s comments, chanting during the news conference that “Zero tolerance should not be allowed. Oooh, that’s not the right sauce.”

Carrying signs reading “It isn’t Noble to push out students,’’ they then marched on City Hall, demanding a fairer disciplinary policy from Noble Street and Chicago Public Schools.

— Contributing Art Golab


Parent, student groups criticize charter schools' student fines... Noble Network raised nearly $200,000 last year from discipline penalties, protesters say

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune reporter, February 14, 2012

A charter network praised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for its academically competitive schools is charging students $5 for minor disciplinary infractions like having untied shoelaces, bringing chips to school or dozing off in class. Critics say the network is using the fines to push out troubled students so it can boost graduation rates, but school leaders say tougher discipline has led to a safer school environment.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which runs 10 high schools in the city, has raised nearly $200,000 from the disciplinary fees last year and almost $400,000 since the 2008-09 school year, according to three parent and student advocacy groups who held a joint news conference Monday at Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

"It's nickel-and-diming kids for literally nothing that really matters," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education.

But Noble Network CEO Michael Milkie said by sweating the smaller disciplinary issues, the charter operator manages to keep a lid on school violence.

"If you have rules, you have to enforce them," Milkie said. "We maybe have one fight per year, per campus. It's an incredibly safe environment from a physical and emotional standpoint, and part of it comes from sweating the small things."

And he said students who behave poorly should be forced to pay.

"For far too long in the city, students who behave well have had their education diverted to address students who behave improperly," Milkie said. "We have set that fee to offset the cost to administer detention."

Students with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, who have called for a new student disciplinary policy across the district, called Noble's rules draconian and totalitarian. They marched to City Hall carrying signs like "Secret Sauce Shouldn't Cost $200,000." The mayor has said the Noble Network, with its 86.2 percent graduation rate, has the "secret sauce" to providing a high-quality urban education.

At the Noble Network, which will be adding another four campuses in the next two years, that "secret sauce" includes a strict student code that issues a detention for infractions such as chewing gum, possessing soft drinks or energy drinks like Red Bull, eating chips, not tucking in a shirt after being warned and carrying a permanent marker. The three-hour after-school detention comes with a $5 fee and can include silent study period, behavior improvement work or cleaning and maintenance chores.

The costs rise if the behavior doesn't change. More than 12 detentions lands students in a discipline class priced at $140.

Critics are also concerned that the behavioral problems of students with disabilities are not being taken into consideration when doling out discipline.

"It's exploiting the parents," said Joan Blackwell, who said she has had to pay for night behavior school for her son, a student at Gary Comer College Prep who has been punished for things such as declining to shake a visitor's hand. "I don't see how it has anything to do with discipline. (Her son) was not disciplined for hurting or kicking anyone, or cursing or doing drugs. These were minor things that could've been dealt with."

Charter schools are public schools run by private groups and often have their own rules and enforcement policies.

Milkie said the network takes disabilities into account when deciding whether to discipline students and offers waivers and payment plans for low-income students. Still, last year the network lost 473 students — more than double the previous year. Milkie said the higher number takes into account more students — two new schools opened, and additional grades were added. He said the network's 91.3 percent retention rate is better than the district's. CPS could not provide its retention rate.

CPS said it's working on revamping the district's student code with input from student groups like those at VOYCE.

Some Noble parents, though, have seen the discipline policy work.

After paying more than $300 for behavior classes and detention fees, Kimberly Davis said her daughter is now on track to graduate from Comer.

"You have to buy into the program," Davis said. "For (her daughter), it worked."

CATALYST REPORT AND COMMENTS AS OF FEBRUARY 15, 2012 BELOW HERE. Intro. Catalyst's report drew many comments (including from this reporter) at

Here it is, with all the comments that were up as of early on February 15, 2012:

Charter discipline policy under fire

By: Rebecca Harris / February 13, 2012

Tags: discipline Noble Network of Charter Schools suspensions and expulsions

Parent Donna Moore says Noble Network of Charter Schools' strict discipline code caused her son, a student at Gary Comer College Prep, to rack up more than 30 detentions during the 2010-11 school year. As a result, he is currently repeating his freshman year.

The civil rights advocacy group Advancement Project is considering a legal challenge to the discipline policy of Noble Street Charter School campuses, which charge students $5 each time they are issued a detention.

“As civil rights lawyers, we are exploring our options to challenge this practice,” said Advancement Project staff attorney Alexi Nunn Freeman.

Critics of the Noble Street schools – which include Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Parents United for Responsible Education – said at a Monday news conference that the practices push students out of school and asserted that Noble does not accommodate families that can't pay.

They also announced the results of a Freedom of Information Act request showing that the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which is a nonprofit organization, collected more than $188,000 in detention and behavior-class fees during the 2010-11 school year -- and nearly $387,000 since 2008-09.

Detention rates were highest at Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, which averaged 16 detentions per student in 2010-11 and collected nearly $29,000 from detention fees -- or more than $80 per student, according to an analysis of data provided by Advancement Project. They were lowest at Gary Comer College Prep, where fees averaged less than $4 per student.

Catalyst Chicago and WBEZ reported in fall 2010 that charter schools hold on to fewer students than non-selective magnet schools, and have an expulsion rate three times higher than neighborhood schools. Though some parents appreciate the strict discipline, others feel their children have been pushed out of charters. (CPS policy allows charters to write their own discipline codes.)

The Noble Network, which runs Noble Street Charter School campuses, is one of the district’s biggest charter networks, with 10 campuses serving 6,543 students.

Donna Moore, a parent whose son is in his second year at Gary Comer College Prep, said he racked up more than 30 detentions last year, sometimes being issued one detention – or even a suspension – for falling asleep during a previous detention. Moore says none of the detentions were related to her son being disruptive or threatening school safety.

In addition to receiving detention (and, thus, having to pay a fee) for violating rules like having their shoes untied and bringing potato chips to school, Noble Street students can rack up demerits for failing to sit up, make eye contact, articulate clearly when talking or track a speaker with their eyes.

“My son began to spiral [down] both emotionally and academically,” Moore said, after learning that he would have to repeat freshman year because he had garnered so many detentions.

VOYCE members dressed in chef’s hats to poke fun at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s promotion of Noble schools as having a “secret sauce” for student success.

“Just like the fast-food equivalent, people need to take a closer look at what’s in that secret sauce,” PURE director Julie Woestehoff said. She called the school’s methods “a dehumanizing discipline system that looks a lot more like reform school than college prep.”

Waivers, payment plans for families in need

However, Noble Network officials – including Kimberly Neal, the principal at Muchin College Prep in the Loop – say their schools make accommodations for families who can’t afford the fees. In all, 82 percent of the students at Muchin, and 89 percent of Noble Network students citywide, were eligible for free lunches during the 2011-12 school year, according to CPS data.

“It’s very few, because most of our parents can pay,” Neal says, even if they can’t do it right away. “Throughout the year, most of our parents are working or have some source of income.”

Neal says that the fees are a necessary part of the school’s focus on student success.

“An example we always give our parents is, if you’re late every day to work, would you still have a job?” she says. “We want to teach our scholars the skills needed to be successful in the workforce.”

Michael Milkie, superintendent of the Noble Network, says the group does not keep data on how many parents receive accommodations for the fees and that the network has no specific cutoff for when a family qualifies for a waiver.

He says hundreds of families received payment plans every year. However, only a few receive fee waivers for detentions.

“It’s not many families that have an issue with a nominal fee like that,” Milkie says, though he added that the waivers were more common among students with more than 12 detentions who are required to enroll in a $140 summer behavior class.

“We don’t have students who are not promoted for inability to pay,” Milkie says.

He estimates that at most 1 percent of the network’s students are retained each year after hitting a set number of detentions (which was 33, and has now been changed to 36).

“We have high expectations for students in terms of academics, in terms of fitness, in terms of behavior. We believe what we’re doing is legal,” Milkie says. “For too long in this city, the students who behaved well have had educational dollars diverted from them to address the behavior of students who behaved poorly. We are diverting fewer dollars from those students who behave well. And therefore, you have very high performance in terms of test scores, attendance.”

A revamp of student discipline?

Several speakers at the press conference said there is a district-wide problem with harsh discipline, and called on CPS to rewrite its discipline code. (CPS says it does not have jurisdiction over charter school discipline rules.)

“Noble schools, like all of CPS, are still in the dark ages when it comes to how they treat students,” the Advancement Project’s Freeman said. “CPS, it is time for a change for all your schools, charter and neighborhood alike.”

VOYCE has been working with CPS in an effort to get changes to the student code of conduct, but organizer Emma Tai said the group was disappointed with the district’s response.

In an email, Chief Family and Community Engagement Officer Jamiko Rose told VOYCE that the goals of the policy revision would be to improve its “readability and accessibility” and increase schools’ “preventive and proactive options” for dealing with low-level violations.

Rose also indicated that the district would try to make changes “at all levels of the organization” to decrease reliance on suspensions, expulsions, and law enforcement and increase the use of restorative justice and skill-building interventions. (Despite being one of the first cities to include restorative justice officially in its discipline code, the district has long struggled with implementing such programs.)

Tai notes that the code already includes significant language about restorative justice for low-level behavior problems. VOYCE had hoped for more substantial changes, such as shortening the length of suspensions prescribed for each offense.

"CPS wants a student code of conduct that is both fair and just and is currently working to revamp its policy with the input of student voices," the district said in a statement. "As part of that process, we have convened a working group to assist us in the development of a new student code of conduct policy that will ensure consistent district-wide expectations, positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior, and tiered supports for students that are struggling with behavior issues."


#1 Anonymous wrote 1 day 2 hours ago

Does Strict Discipline Equal a Superior Education?

While these concerned groups and parents are questioning the fees, they also need to question the quality of education their children are receiving at these schools. Are they really being prepared to enter college and compete well enough to be successful in college?


#2 Anonymous wrote 1 day 13 min ago

discipline at uic college prep-noble street charter school

As retired cps principal with grandson in school here, I object strenuously to the mistreatment of black and hispanic males at this school via the discipline policy. The majority of infractions leading to detentions are minor and not disruptive at all. In fact, the consequences are detrimental to the self-image of the students because they far outweigh the infraction. I am convinced that some of the teachers are unprepared to work with teenagers and overuse the discipline because they cannot handle the students as their classroom management skills aren't effective. Further,the discipline policy is definitely not consistent with regular cps policy which tries to ensure the rights of students via monitoring by the courts. I applaud Julie Westerhauf for looking into the frequent violation of student rights. I think that black and latino civil rights organizations should look into this matter. I believe that if these students were upper middle class, the parents would have tossed the administration out of office.


#3 George N. Schmidt wrote 12 hours 43 min ago

Noble Street's hypocrisy... And Rahm's

I helped review the original "Uniform Discipline Code" of Chicago Public Schools, worked with it while I taught at Amundsen High School and then used it every day when I was teaching and "security coordinator" at Bowen High School during the worst years of gang violence on the Southeast side (seven murders of our students or recently former students during one school year -- 1997 - 1998). My job was to write up the suspension paperwork on all major discipline problems. I am probably one of the few teachers in the USA who wrote up a discipline referral for murder (victim was Antwan Jordan in December 1997; there were four "shooters" all of whom we identified and had to suspend... I watched him die as part of my job and called in the "187" on the walkie talkie I carried...).

Every charter school should be required to follow the CPS Uniform Discipline Code (now called the "Student Code of Conduct"), not some exotic nonsense like Noble Street has been utilizing for ten years. The six categories of infractions outlined in the Code provide school administrators with enough flexibility to deal with real teenagers in the real world, not the fantasy world created — at the expense of children and Chicago's real public schools — by Rahm, his media script writers, and the hypocrites at Noble Street and among the millionaires who Ooooh and Ahhhh about Noble Street. That includes the Pritzkers.

Most schools will never see a "Category Six" discipline referral (which requires police action and a suspension), and most "Ones" and "Twos" should be handled as dealing with the silly stuff that children will do from time to time. Having written up students for suspension under just about all of the categories that were then in force under the Code, I can attest to the sanity of the approach that evolved over time in it.

The fact that Chicago's charter schools (not just Noble Street) have been allowed to get away with these hypocritical attacks on sanity for more than a decade is another example of why deregulation does not work. Charters have avoided almost every kind of so-called "accountability" in Chicago, and they are being exported across the USA based on the lies that originated here in Chicago. Whether it is a charter that segregated and excludes black kids (like most of the UNO charters), pads almost all of its data (Aspira), or covers up for some of the worst offenses (Perspectives), the charters have proved that, like Wall Street, these "free market" experiments were a mistake, and careful regulation is necessary.

The worst thing about what Noble Street has gotten away with (for more than ten years, by the way; they began forcing their kids out and back to Wells High School within two years after Michael Milikie left Wells and cherry picked the best kids) since the late 1990s is being part of the teacher bashing and union busting that became CPS policy by the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century. The recent escalation of Milkie's pushouts (most of whom have been landing at schools from Wells all the way west to Kelvyn Park, Grant North, and Steinmetz) should have been stopped years ago.

But it took Rahm Emanuel's crazy attack on accountability and the city's real public schools to finally bring together this tip of this iceberg. Thanks to everyone who is now beginning to report this scandal, but let's not forget that it's much bigger than Noble Street and that, since the "Chicago Miracle" has gone toxic across the USA thanks to Arne Duncan, we need to warn everyone else that when there is a Big Lie in corporate "school reform," it usually begins in Chicago and should be quarantined before it goes viral across the country and into the territories.


#4 Principal wrote 8 hours 51 min ago

They Knew

Charters Schools should be able to discipline students with demerits. Parents had a choice to send their children elsewhere. They should do so if not satisfied. What were the parents saying to their children when they were racking up the demerits. Too little, too late.


#5 Red Emma wrote 7 hours 31 min ago

What's so bad about red-hot chips?

What I'm hearing about the Noble disciplinary code baffles me. It seems to cover some things that make sense in a disciplinary code, like being on time (which, as one school official pointed out, is essential in the real world to keeping a job.)

Another batch of stuff seems useful in helping the student make a good impression (like sitting up straight, and making eye contact when talking), but doesn't have much to do with discipline, and would be better taught in a "life skills" class.

Some of it is just the same old petty stuff we all grew up with, that never made much sense but that we ultimately got used to, like the ban on chewing gum, and the insistence on having one's shoes tied and one's belt buckled.

Some of it, like putting quotation marks around someone else's words, is actually a matter of academic ethics, and would be better taught in a more general course on that subject.

And some--like the ban on "openly carrying red-hot chips" makes absolutely no sense at all, so far as I can tell. What's so bad about red-hot chips? Is this a blow against too-conspicuous black culinary culture, like having a preference for watermelon or fried chicken? Is the administration concerned that the chips could be ground to powder and used as a weapon to be thrown in somebody's eyes? Or is this a health issue, in which case, how are red-hot chips any more fatty and salty than any other kind of chips?

Lumping all of these concerns together under the heading of "discipline" will only give discipline a bad name among students with a keen eye for nonsense, and trivialize genuinely serious issues like plagiarism. Most of the protestors seem indignant mainly about the monetary fines for breaches of this code. I'd like to see more serious analysis of the code itself, even if the fines were removed.


#6 Rod Estvan wrote 4 hours 31 min ago

I would just add sitting up

I would just add sitting up straight and paying attention is simply not alway possible for some students with disabilities. There has been trouble in at least two cases over the years that I know of where students with ADHD issues combined with Learning Disabilities have been issued demerits at Noble street schools.

There are however some students at Noble street with LD who the school has accomodated and educated. But the school has great difficulty working with students with disabilities who cann't comprehend all of the rules the school has.

Rod Estvan


#7 Anonymous wrote 4 hours 29 min ago

Let's focus on the real issues

The real issue is why are students getting so many detentions? My son goes to Noble and not once has he paid a fine or served detention. I set expectations for him and he follows them, it's as simple as that. People expect the schools to raise their children. It doesn't work like that. Thats the reason why CPS in now in a crisis situation. Anyone who's ever stepped foot in a Noble school can immediately feel the difference between CPS and Noble. The hallways are orderly, there are few disruptions in the classroom, and for the most part students are very well behaved. If students aren't doing well there, parents need to take a look in the mirror. My kid is soaring there!


#8 larry martin wrote 3 hours 36 min ago

Let's take some responsibility for our actions

I have two daughters that attend GCCP. And eventhough I don't always agree with some of the actions taken at the school. We must instill in or childrenthat there are consequencesfor ouractions. It's not a prerequisite to understand nor agree with the disciplinary rules set by Noble Street Charter but once you signed the sheet that'sgiven out at orientation in the beginning of the school year that explains the schools expectations of both parent and student you should not have a problem abiding by them. Both of my daughters are in the top five of there classes. And rearly have had issues as far as discipline. Parents we can't continue to run and defend our children when they break the rules. It may be chewing gum or talking back to teachers now. But if we don't drill them with the fact that there are indeed consequencesfor there actions only God knows what or who we may be standing before trying to make excuses for them later.


#9 xian barrett wrote 2 hours 56 min ago


It's probably just a quirk of the ordering of comments, but I really am disappointed to see the follow-up to Rod's comments with the idea that we need to "focus on the real issues".

The fact that the norms that students must agree and conform to at Nobel St. schools are culturally and physically difficult for some to conform to, and it's Nobel's way or the highway IS the issue.

The crisis situation in Chicago Public Schools cannot be blamed on the children. It's a beautiful recipe of elitism, antipathy, patronage, hubris and corruption that has gotten us to where we are, and Nobel Street does its part to contribute to that recipe.

I say this not to make excuses for children, but as an educator who has gotten far more out of many youth that these so-called "every child can learn" advocates have already pushed out and deemed failures than they get out of their ranks of conformists.

The "ability" to blindly follow authority is not a virtue, it is the height of human folly.


#10 Mr. Johnson wrote 2 hours 44 min ago

Be forthright

I understand the above parents sentiment. I do think that it is a shame that many students who are able to behave properly, are interested in learning, and are motivated are often held back by their peers who disrupt the class and make it difficult to learn in some public schools. At the same time, I feel this article brings up some valid points. I don't think the Noble schools are a bad thing, persay. But I do believe that Noble, CPS, the mayor, and many others need to be HONEST about how Noble schools are able to achieve the high test scores/graduation rates, etc. The strict discipline standards are central to this success - without it they would not be nearly as successful. Noble schools are basically selective retention schools where kids who cannot adhere to their rules are pushed out. For example, if you get a certain amount of detentions you will not be promoted to the next grade regardless of your grades in your classes. Students in this situation could either repeat their grade, or they could take the credits from the classes you have taken to a non charter school and continue at grade level. Which choice do you think most of these students choose?

What we basically have here is a another level of selectivity in CPS. First you have the selective enrollment schools who skim the cream off the top in terms of test scores. Then, you have charter schools like Noble and others who are able to get rid of students who are unable or unwilling to adhere to the schools own student code of conduct that is many times more strict than the CPS code of conduct allows in a neighborhood school. Whoever is left is goes to a neighborhood school who need to accept EVERY student.

Now, if you want to have a multi-tiered system, fine. We can have that debate. But it is unfair to judge open enrollment neighborhood schools against charter schools like Noble. What would happen if Noble ran every school in the city, and there was no one for them to kick kids out to? Then what? Furthermore, Noble school teachers are non-unionized, and the schools' achievements are used to justify closing unionized schools, and in general to serve the argument that bad tenured teachers and their corrupt, self serving union is the problem with education in Chicago

But the fact that charters like Noble play by a different playbook then neighborhood schools doesn't stop CPS and Mayor Emmanuel from touting Noble and other charters as an example for neighborhood schools to follow. Take this quote from the mayor:

“You’ve got a school system [Noble] that is giving you graduation rates we would marvel at — almost double the system-wide [rate]. A college acceptance and a college attendance [rate] that we would actually call a touchdown in the city. Those are the results and the data you should also look at. When you want to have a perspective, I’m not gonna look through one peephole.”

That's fine, Mayor Emmanuel, but YOU are looking through a peephole yourself, one that blocks your view of HOW Noble achieves their results.

Charter schools should not be used to justify the closing of neighborhood schools, nor the vilification of honest, hard-working teachers in Chicago's neighborhood schools, nor should they be used as to weaken the Chicago Teacher's Union. We need to remember that public schools are meant to teach ALL students.


#11 Schools do everything wrote 37 min 11 sec ago

Our regular--no extra funded, CPS neighborhood school will begin

to follow the Noble Street Charter discipline fines system--Do not worry CPS—we will still follow the UDC, but we will charge for infractions—it costs us to do in-school suspension; it costs us to pay for someone to monitor detention. And we have to fundraise all the time—this will be our fundraiser now—$$$ payments for infractions. Great idea Noble! Our LSC is all for it. We will raise more money than Nobel and we will translate the rules in Spanish too. We will also rewrite the rules so all of our special ed students understand them too.

(CPS— gives charters their money from our county taxes collected and taxes from Illinois—Noble is a PUBLIC school under CPS jurisdiction.) Neighborhood schools should get to do the same!

We begin at the end of this month. We will let you know how it goes.


#12 Schools do everything wrote 36 min 10 sec ago

How does Noble’s Milkie get to call himself SUPERINTENDANT?

maybe banker is more like it.


#13 Anonymous wrote 1 min 40 sec ago

All Noble Street campuses

All Noble Street campuses except for Rowe Clark had an average ACT composite scores of 20 or above.


#14 Curioser wrote 4 sec ago

“You’ve got a school system

“You’ve got a school system [Noble] that is giving you graduation rates we would marvel at — almost double the system-wide [rate]."

CPS system-wide rate? 73.8%.

Noble's graduation rates are 140%? That's education reform we can ALL believe in!


February 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

By: Chris Rudzinski

Predatory discipline policy?

I am not a charter schools supporter.

At this time, I would like to remind that the C P S is failing in part because of the ineffective enforcement of the code of conduct.

I praise Noble, because they did what should be done a long time ago. Please compare with the Texas law. In Texas, students could be arrested for a minor violation of the discipline policy. Students are not affected, assuming they behavior is up to standards.

Where is a problem? All teachers at the C P S are dreaming about an effective discipline. What are you complaining about?

February 14, 2012 at 11:10 AM

By: Bob Busch

Uniform Discipline Code.

Dear Chris.

The problem is that charter schools want to have it both ways. As I read the UDC, the word "fine" does not appear anywhere. This means regular schools cannot charge for infractions.

While the Charter schools claim to be public schools, they also seem to be able to create their own rules. Everyone knows the theory behind this is to get the parents to stop bad behavior since they pay the fines for the students. This might work in a situation where the parents are able — and willing — to pay the fines, but a lot of parents do not provide even necessary funds for gym suits, or school supplies. This is just an example of these New Parochial schools screaming they are public when in fact only want the public money, but not the public problems. Even as i write this the charter school push outs are arriving at public school doors. After all, it's that time of year. Can a school keep transcripts until fines are settled?

February 20, 2012 at 5:07 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Why parents argee to Noble Street rules

Over the last 5 years I have had two cases involving discipline and Noble Street charter school relating to kids with IEPs. I asked both the parents the same question that have recently been raised by some commentators about about the Noble Street handbook.

Both parents told me close to the same thing. They thought the root of their children's past discipline problems before going to Noble was a lack of control in the elementary schools their children attended. They believed a highly ordered and structured school was what their children needed and their children would realize they couldn't fool around.

Unfortuately, they were totally wrong. Things got worst for both students and the demerits just keep coming. Many families do not understand or simply cannot believe their own children cannot follow clearly laid out rules. Both of these students were diagnosed with what is called "Oppositional Defiance Disorder" (ODD) along with other disabilities. Their formal IEPs listed them as LD, not behavior disordered.

There is some evidence that genetic influence plays a role in ODD. But there is also evidence that frontal lobe functioning, including decreased glucose metabolism, the neurotransmitter serotonin, and the hormone cortisol, environmental toxins, such as lead has been repeatedly associated with forms of ODD. Lastly the literature aspects of childrearing practices, such as degree of involvement, parent–child conflict management, monitoring,and harsh and inconsistent discipline, have been correlated with ODD.

The reality is that the families of some repeat offenders of even simple rules like Noble Street charter has may have problems in themselves and are in some cases in denial over there problems. But guess what folks this is the reality of urban education, we have to teach these students.

Noble Street charter school's repeated fines against the two students I dealt with did nothing for the students, nothing for the families, and clearly did not restructure the students frontal lobes.

Rod Estvan

February 21, 2012 at 5:20 PM

By: Oy Johnson

fines are dumb

So long as the fines are issued fairly and consistently, I don't see a problem with them. The issue arises when they are issued arbitrarily and capriciously. Everyone knows what they must do to avoid the fines, and we're not talking about walking on a balancing beam 100' in the air - button your shirt, sit up in the chair, speak properly, do your homework, don't chew gum, etc...

Do it the proper way, or suffer the consequences for your actions. Sounds like life to me. Just because someone is poor doesn't mean they should receive any consideration or a waiver at all - if that means they have to work twice as hard as some kid who's parents can afford to pay, then that's what it means to them. If they don't want to be poor their whole life, then work as hard as you need to, work 2x as hard as everyone else if you have to. Get the education, and be able to make enough money to not be poor - whether it's owning your own business or working for someone else - doesn't matter.

Just stop whining, and claiming everything is unfair because some people have more money than others. If you think that's unfair, then look at communism and see how that's working out...

April 11, 2014 at 2:23 AM

By: Andrew Sword


What I understand from the information provided above is that a student has to violate the code of conduct 4 times in the span of two weeks to receive one detention and a $5 fine. 12 total detentions incurs a serious fine and a long class. While this punishment seems severe, it is in response to the extreme circumstances. Reaching twelve detentions means a student has broken the rules 48 times in a relatively short period.

Statistically speaking, it seems as though Noble schools have demonstrated improved graduation rates, ACT scores, and college scholarships/acceptance in these areas. It seems logical that the price paid is a strict enforcement of a distraction-free learning environment that demands students' attention.

This is an important issue, as Chicago public schools have come in well below national averages in the aforementioned categories. I, for one, am glad schools like those in the Noble network exist, and if you look at how much they demand from their teachers and staff, I think they've discovered something about raising the bar.

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