BOARDWATCH JANUARY 22, 2014... '...Weve seen an alarming number of students being admitted to the hospital with depression, severe anxiety, and increasingly with actual suicide attempts all directly tied to these (charter) schools discipline, academic, and retention policies...'

[Editor's Note: For more than ten years, Substance he been following the stories about how Michael Milkie, founder of the "Noble Network of Charter Schools," has been forcing his "failing" students to return to the city's real public schools based on rules which no decent public school -- or teacher -- would impose on children. On January 22, 2014, Katie Osgood exposed part of this bullying campaign in remarks before the Board meeting. The Board voted to add two more "Noble" campuses to Chicago's schools at the end of its meeting.

Teachers Katie Osgood was one of several witnesses who have been exposing the psychological abuse of students at the "Noble Network of Charter Schools." Above, Osgood is shown speaking during the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Earlier in the meeting, a student from Steinmetz High School had told the Board that a fellow student had left Noble charter schools because of the pressures and that the 'race to the top' version of reality promoted by the Noble Street schools divided children from one another, while in the real public school it was possible to act like "family." George N. Schmidt, editor].

Board Meeting 01-22-14: Noble St Charter Schools and Student Mental Health

Hello. My name is Katie Osgood and I am a teacher at a psychiatric hospital here in Chicago. I am here today as a concerned citizen and an educator.

In my hospital, we are seeing a disturbing pattern among patients coming from the Noble St Charter School Network of schools. Weve seen an alarming number of students being admitted to the hospital with depression, severe anxiety, and increasingly with actual suicide attempts all directly tied to these schools discipline, academic, and retention policies.

Local, state and national officials have been promoting the Noble Network of Charter Schools for more than a decade, and under the national administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been both a propagandist and a a protector of the Noble Street charters since his 2011 election. Above, Emanuel staged a propaganda event at the "Pritzker Campus" of the Noble charter schools in December 2011 for TV and other media. The mayor even had street crews cleaning the streets for three blocks around the event prior to the arrival of the cameras. Emanuel's rabid support for the charter privatization movement (he claims that Noble charters have the "secret sauce" for school reform) has allowed the continuation and expansion of the kinds of psychological abuse outlines by a growing number of parents and former students. The mayor's promotion of the schools has led a growing number of those who know the actual facts to compare Rahm Emanuel's cover ups for Noble Street with the Catholic archbishops cover ups of the more serious abuses by priests. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Over and over, we are hearing the same stories from students-stories of constant stress from overly strict discipline, exhaustion from unreasonable workloads, and the very real fear of repeating a school year regardless of academic progress or IEP status. These students report cultures of shaming and humiliation. They speak of feeling beaten down from constant punishment over the most minor infractions such as not coming to school with a belt or not looking a teacher in the eyes. Kids who struggle academically or have disabilities are especially vulnerable, but these schools refuse to change to meet their unique needs. Students come to us hopeless, in despair, because they feel they have NO CHOICE but to wake up every day and endure more long hours of the severity of Noble St. And some are turning to suicide as a way out.

Angelica Alfaro, above, has been helping build the "Noble" narrative for more than five years, since she became a paid employee of the charter school. The narrative, which is repeated over and over, is a form of the salvation stories so popular in mythology, but leaves out the psychological brutality that has been part of "Being Noble" from the year of the school's founding by former Wells High School math teacher Michael Milkie. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.When I speak to the school social workers, they admit that, especially among freshman, they see high rates of depression and anxiety. These schools know they are causing these dangerous mental health disorders. Noble St gets attention for their higher test scores, but their secret sauce has a dark underbelly of push-out, shaming, and abuse. As struggling students and students with disabilities are shed, scores may go up, but countless young people are being damaged as a result. And far too many are ending up in a psych ward.

I wish to speak to all the current Noble St students. I want you to know that you are not alone if you are experiencing these feelings of extreme sadness, stress, or fear. And to the BoardI ask for a full, independent investigation of the Noble St Charter School discipline and retention policies. There are too many kids suffering in these schools to allow this system to continue unaccountable. When kids would rather hurt themselves than go to a school, then there is serious a problem. Do not vote for new Noble St campuses today. You will be responsible for more damage to Chicagos young people. Vote no to Noble St.


January 23, 2014 at 12:53 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Katie Osgood's comments are powerful and honest

I don't know what hospital Ms. Osgood teaches at, but her observations are consistent with a number of complaints Access Living and Equip for Equality have received over the years relating to Noble Charter Schools. I would add that there have been students with disabilities that did not involve ADHD, or behavior disorders that have survived and to a degree succeeded at Noble Street schools.

It never ceases to amaze me that after parents consult with me over whether or not Noble would be a good fit for their disabled student and we discuss the discipline issues that Ms. Osgood pointed out they often still proceed to enroll their disabled child at Noble.

The most common reason is a belief among many working class and poor parents that their child with attention and behavior issues will benefit from Noble's discipline and structure. Noble makes no claim to be a therapeutic day school designed for these students, but none the less these parents ignore our advice.

The problem Ms. Osgood articulated so well is effectively a double edged problem. Noble Street fails to accommodate these students and parents of these students more often than not believe harsh discipline and strict academic requirements will benefit their children. Then it all blows up and these kids fall apart.

Rod Estvan

Access Living of Chicago

January 23, 2014 at 2:18 PM

By: Denise Delgado

Noble Network of Charter Schools has changed my life.

My name is Denise Delgado, and I am a graduate of Nobles class of 2011. Attending Noble was the best decision I have ever made. From the minute a student is admitted into Noble, college is the goal yes for each student. It doesnt matter the type of kid you where before you go there, test scores, GPA, parents income or education; college is the goal for each student. You know the saying, Reach for the stars so you can land on the moon. Yes, it is about time I was in environment with high expectations, every single adult in the building believed in me! Yes it was tough after being in a K-8th environment with the opposite expectations for nine years.

Noble helps prepare students for college, in other words the real world. Discipline is needed in a classroom to build a learning foundation. Class time is learning time and interruptions in the classroom can take away from that. For example, the lack of simple eye contact in a classroom can lead to no eye in other environments such as college or after, while in our careers. Yes, it is possible for 1st generation, low-income, minorities to graduate from college and come back to serve their communities- Noble is just preparing us for that.

When I first arrived to my college campus, I was surprised to see that many students were careless; they were constantly on their phones and laptops. In other words, they were not paying attention to the professor. I know I no longer received demerits in college obviously but I knew what respect was and how I need these skills to make it in life. People who think that Noble is too strict therefore too stressful do not know what it really means because they have not lived it and for the students who are stressed it is important they are not surrounded by people that also have low expectations for them. It seems so black and white.

The pressure that students feel due to the amount of work they receive at a Noble School is probably because these students were never challenged before or they were never used to receiving daily readings and writing assignments. High school is supposed to prepare students for college. Noble challenged us as students with a heavy load of homework assignments in order to prepare us for college. I try to understand the protesters and I cannot how else are we supposed to succeed: Enter high school-get caught up-be prepared for college-graduate from high school- enter college- persist in college- GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE real work needs to put in. Thank you for Noble for always keeping those high expectations, I will be graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign next year. Keep on doing what you are doing because it is working

January 23, 2014 at 4:38 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Re: Denise

I am glad Noble worked for you, but it doesn't necessarily work for students who may have attention related disabilities or psychological problems. As I have stated I don't recommend Noble to parents of these students, but more often than not they don't take my advice, because the hope for outcomes like yours Denise.

About 11 percent of adolescents in our country have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. A large, national survey of adolescent mental health reported that about 8 percent of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care.

The truth is Denise since Noble has in its majority students from families under the poverty line and this raises the stakes for the school. A study from Boston College and Tufts University published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology found that conditions found inside rundown houses and apartments hinder children's emotional and educational development. Data drawn from 2,400 children, teens and young adults in the six-year study "found emotional and behavioral symptoms of anxiety, depression, lying and aggressive behavior were closely connected to poor housing quality and the related stress placed on parents, children and families."

The issues raised by Ms. Osgood are very legitimate ones for many students and cannot be explained away by arguing "these students were never challenged before or they were never used to receiving daily readings and writing assignments" and therefore broke down. Noble Street charter has a legal obligation to provide accommodations for students with these issues, including modifications in its disciplinary process.

Rod Estvan

Access Living of Chicago

January 23, 2014 at 4:49 PM

By: Valerie F.Leonard

"Noble" Network of Charter Schools

I am an engaged North Lawndale resident, and I am deeply troubled by conversations I've had with parents whose students attend the school. The discipline policies are excessive, and children are reportedly suspended for very minor infractions like chewing gum, or missing a session to make up homework. Children are assessed demerits for infractions. Every 5 demerits leads to detention. Parents are charged $5.00 for every detention. This money reportedly goes towards teacher salaries. One very low-income child I know has nearly $300 worth of detentions. Another child I know was suspended so many times he has spent more time away from the school than in school. This child is a B-C student, but seems to have some behavioral issues that the school has yet to address, except through detention and suspension. His parents have tried to transfer him out for 2 months, but DRW refuses to release his records. His parents have also indicated that the child is starting to exhibit signs of depression. DRW did not allow him to take his first semester finals, so he has no grades. The child will have to start all over at his next school. There are several students who have been held back. While Noble can boast of student achievement, I have to ask, at what cost to the students who have been marginalized, and pushed into what could potentially be a pipeline to prison?

January 23, 2014 at 6:44 PM

By: Karen Fraid

Noble Schools and discrimination

As a concerned taxpayer and community member, a longtime school volunteer, non traditional educator and student of human behavior studies, as well as the mother of three elementary students (including one with special needs), I am concerned that while public schools must meet the education needs of children with disabilities and special needs, charters like Noble seem to be able to discriminate against children with disabilities--all while still accepting tax dollars. Whether students with special needs are simply made to feel unwelcome or suffer to the extent of Ms. Osgood's students, neither case should be acceptable to the taxpayers of this city, nor should it be acceptable to any citizen who values our city's reputation for justice. For CPS to look away in the face of this ever-growing chorus of concerns puts the safety of children in jeopardy and the reputation of our city on the line.

January 25, 2014 at 2:27 PM

By: Juanita Ariola

Noble Network has changed our family

As a resident of the North Lawndale and 28th ward community I'm a proud parent of 1 Noble graduate and 2 children currently enrolled at Muchin College Prep and i'm glad that my tax dollars can now follow my child when it comes to education in Chicago the fact that my children had to travel away from the Lawndale community and into the loop to receive high quality PUBLIC education is ashame!!Noble does it's best to accomodate children with disabilities. I can say that Noble has a strong accountabilty policy across the board and a rigorous curriculum .As a resident of Lawndale I felt trapped that I didn't have options for my children other than one small over crowded grammar school with trailers in their playlot and another non performing HS that couldn't work its way off of the watch list !!For my children Noble provides a very safe structured learning environment not having to wait to in a line every morning to go through metal detectors ,a place where bullying b/c you wear thick glasses or hearing aids isn't allowed ..If homework isn't complete yes my children do stay after school till the work gets done just like in the real world ..I'm sick of everyone saying we are taking THEIR money???WHO is THEIR??Our children and families aren't taking anyone's money instead we are being offered a CHOICE for our children which for many happens to be a GOOD PUBLIC EDUCATION I'm also tired of hearing the word PUBLIC SCHOOL verses CHARTER SCHOOL when indeed they are both PUBLIC I don't understand what the big threat is to everyone why cant us high paying tax payers at the least have a CHOICE for our children .Everyone has a story I've seen many children w disabilities leave Noble then turn around and request to return!!

January 25, 2014 at 2:43 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

What Lawndale school is being slandered here?

The comment above, from a real person, will remain up at because it conforms to our policy, which is that a comment can be made -- even if semi-literately -- if the person provides our readers with the commenter's real name. However, we are going to begin demanding that those who sing this Salvation Song for the Noble charter schools tell us at which public school (and in which years) the child (or children) were facing all those terrors. I taught at Collins and Manley high schools, and at the Industrial Skill Center, all in Lawndale, during my 28 year teaching career. I have checked out some of those singing the Noble Praises only to find out that they never set foot in a real public school, but simply shared the slanders. So it's going to become more put up or shut up every time some "parent" or "student" talks about those foul public schools. To read these hypocritical stories you would think that by simply walking into a public high school in Lawndale the child would be raped and mutilated. Tell that to the thousands of students and teachers who were part of those schools before they were destroyed by corporate "school reform."

From now on, every time a charter proponent talks this stuff, our first question is going to be to figure out who this person is, where the terrible things happened, and when.

January 25, 2014 at 6:33 PM

By: Juanita Ariola

Noble Parent Lawndale 28th ward resident

ok I can tell you this I AM A REGISTRED VOTER OF THE LAWNDALE AREA and a HIGH paying property tax payer SPECIFICALLY THE 28th ward and my traditional school is Plamondon and my HS was and/ is Collins my daughter attended Plamondon and was actually bullied and stabbed there she has been scarred for the rest of her life!!So don't tell me that my facts are wrong!!No need to check me out b/c I know how hard I work to pay my property taxes however the bigger question is have YOU ever stepped foot in a noble school your self??Also why would it make a difference to you what my daughter has suffered and what year is what I can tell you ...during the normal school year these kids get out of school and spend their evening playing in the street till it gets dark w their uniform on why aren't they at home doing homework and studying Manley HS??theres NO structure at that school my tenant is a security guard there and sure comes home w horror stories these are the same good old failure stories my own former alderman shared w us ..So I will continue to praise Noble for helping me w my children don't blame Noble for ALL those schools that are failing in one way or another and that includes the financially failing and academically failing schools Charter or traditional I'm just for good quality education there are many schools that took themselves off the watch list look at John Hancock and Juarez ..for instance why should I shut up when 28th ward is my community not everyone should take the blame for the poor choices that many in this community make ..

January 25, 2014 at 6:38 PM

By: Juanita Ariola

ward resident

one thing to rectify I was 28th ward now im 24th ward:)

January 25, 2014 at 9:26 PM

By: Kenyetta Crawford

Noble Network

Noble was ok academically but they did cater more to the latino/Hispanic students since they were the majority. Some of the rules could be stressful but not to the point where it should cause depression or anxiety. I graduated in 2004 and I'm fine.

January 26, 2014 at 4:35 PM

By: Katie Osgood

Re: Noble St supporters

Regardless of your own experiences, there are dozens and dozens of kids who are being seriously hurt by the rigid and often completely inappropriate discipline, academic, and retention policies in place at Noble. What I'm seeing at my hospital is not right. I believe we can all unite around protecting children.

What makes me truly sad is how charters divide us. How we should be hand in hand fighting for more resources for ALL kids. Chicago Public Schools are criminally underresourced, causing serious problems. And charters simply shift those scarce resources around forcing parents into a Hunger Games-like battle for the scraps. Kids have become assets or liabilities in this system. And the kids who end up at the bottom are more scarred and ill than ever before.

A school that pushes undesirable students out should be called out. A school that refuses to properly serve students with special needs should be called out. A school that repeatedly sends kids to a psych hospital should be called out. I am calling Noble St out.

Our students need real reform:

January 27, 2014 at 12:41 AM

By: Anne Ward


Katie should be commended for speaking out on behalf of diverse learners.

Thank you

January 27, 2014 at 8:23 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Depression and school

Kenyatta Crawford's comments reflect a real lack of understanding of depression in adolescents. The students Ms Osgood, myself, and others are generally discussing have clinically diagnosed mental health issues. Tough discipline polices or heavy academic loads do not create mental health problems. These students have organic reasons for these issues and there are pharmacological and therapeutic interventions for these students.

However, very often these students simply can't take a heavy academic load which in turn can require actual modifications to their programs. So some of these students have academic load limitations written into their IEPs/504 plans. Advocates for students with disabilities, including myself have seen some of these students come out of 8th grade with academic load reductions written into plans and have seen Noble either ignore the plans and even issue detentions for issues that are inherent to their disabilities.

Other situations are equally the fault of Noble charter schools and parents who are deeply frustrated with the lack of academic progress for their children in traditional schools. Many lower income parents confuse depression and laziness, I have seen parents encourage holding their children to the same standards as all other students, only to complain once their child breaks down.

What is most disturbing in the comments of Noble charter school supporters in relation to Ms Osgood's courageous public statement is an obsession with total support for the institution. No institution is perfect, but one would think that Noble charter is from these comments.

Rod Estvan

January 27, 2014 at 10:19 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Charters and Cults... The zealous cult-like realities of Noble charters (and others)

It was said very well by one of the aldermen who spoke against further charter expansion last Wednesday, but I will rephrase it: You can't substitute a business plan for an education plan. After listening to the majority of Chicago charter schools (there are one or two exceptions, but I'm talking about the majority) organize their zealots to preach their version of reality to the Board of Education meetings for well more than a decade as I've covered those meetings, it's becoming boringly repetitious, and then I realized it:

They are organizing a cult -- as in Jonestown and stuff like that -- and are being given a blank check to operate it at public expense thanks to the public policies of the Obama administration and other plutocrats. That became clear when the swarm from the Noble Cult surrounded Katie Osgood outside the Board chambers last Wednesday. They were as angry as a bunch of believers who had just had their latest visions debunked by someone pointing out it was just an oil stain under an expressway.

What's becoming interesting to me in these days of Paid Protesters and Paid Preachers -- etc. -- is how many of these people actually "saved" their alleged children from the alleged failing alleged public school. I've taken to asking them (as we did above) "Which school precisely was your child raped, murdered and mutilated at before he/she/it wound up finding salvation at the Nobility place?

The most ridiculous answers are coming in, usually in the "None of your business..." mode (in other words, they are simply making stuff up) but also with examples like the one earlier, where the attack was a "stabbing" at Collins High School, or was it Plamondon, or whatever. After that one went viral.

I talked to a former (public school) Collins principal, who is checking out how many stabbings there were reported at Collins before it was closed by CPS as part of the charter juggernaut. As public school people remember, the renovated (sound familiar) Collins building was turned over to the murderers from "North Lawndale Charter" (those three dead kids on the poorly chaperoned charter school camping trip are still a low point in charter unaccountability in Chicago...) seven years ago, with the connivance of Michael Scott, Danny Davis, and other corrupt guys.

Before I was fired and blacklisted by Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, and the corporate reformers more than a decade ago, one of my many public school teaching jobs was discipline and security, finally at Bowen High School. We NEVER had an attack on a student that wasn't prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It was one of our primary jobs -- student safety.

I even helped in the prosecution of four students who wound up pleading guilty to murder (outside the building in December 1997... long story for anyone who wants to hear it, but not now). We also locked up (and sent to the penitentiary) a Latin Dragon who fired several shots into a car carrying three or four Latin Kings behind the school one sunny day. The deal was always the same: You file a complaint and get to court, and we back you.

Every time I heard one of these salvation narratives from the Nobilities it's blurring into sameness. I'm waiting for the "parent" who claims that her daughter was raped and murdered in a public school, but then brought back to life because of Rahm's (and Bruce Rauner's, and Penny Pitzker's) favorite charter schools and its "secret sauce..."

All we have to do now is begin asking -- under oath if necessary -- the Who, What, When, and Where of these vicious libels against the city's real public schools. And we will, thanks to the organizing that is going on and Katie Osgood's attempt to bring the facts before a craven group of Rahm's servants last Wednesday. Jesse Ruiz's lawyerly attack on Ms. Osgood will go down in Chicago history as one of those moments of servility to be treasured forever. Meanwhile, as Rod Estvan has been reporting, too, it's time to stop this particular version of child abuse -- and its public and plutocratic subsidies, even if they go all the way to the wealthiest people in the USA and the White House.

January 28, 2014 at 4:36 PM

By: Julie Woestehoff

Katie's story is so important

Noble is not the only charter school chain that uses this form of abusive discipline, and like Noble, these chains are growing. Please also see my new post about the ways that Noble incentivizes its staff to punish students.

February 1, 2014 at 2:11 AM

By: charles lawrence

Noble and CPS

I hate to say this but what that psychologist said about the noble students actually could describe the career of a CPS teacher in a regular public school. There is such a push for excellence from the top, yet they themselves cant seem to create ANYTHING. When I watched the Tale of two missions documentary

I was very disturbed by the way our Mayor was foaming at the mouth about this school and its special sauce. I was also very disturbed that the school was being run by husband and wife. It also goes out of its way to find the most distressed teachers and make us look like we were some type of union death squad..I cant believe Rahm would even allow this video to show him. It was shameless.

Unfortunately, these new rigor police are running so many CPS schools right now. Every meeting and curriculum meeting we have at my cps school is feeling more and more like I am in some corporate board meeting. We dont talk about children and their needs, but rather how fancy and rigorous we can make our lessons. Its all about some show that they hope will please the almighty Rahm and the local constable (area officer). Our area officer seems to be a complete phony!

I feel sorry for any teacher, with just a little sensitivity, must feel working at a school like Noble. It is tough enough working at a Union School with our new Reach into your soul evaluation system. BUT at least our principle still has to honor our contract. I cant imagine if your worked for a school that can just push you around like a pinball. I would last about a week. I know a Noble teacher will say how wonderful it all isbut I really doubt it after watching that Noble video. However, I am sure after our next contract will take about any dignity we have left. Right now the Reach evaluation basically, at our school, is used to see if you are following the principals rules and act as her loyal soldier.

Like the old song should say mamma dont let your children grow up to be teachers

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