PURE debunks CPS 'new schools' claims

According to Julie Woestehoeff of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 schools severely limit parent influence in their buildings. In a separate report, PURE also challenges claims by CPS that the “Sherman School of Excellence,” the first of the “turnaround” schools under the Academy for Urban School Leaders (AUSL) can claim any positive results, despite Board of Education reports to the contrary.

In a recent study, PURE found that only five percent of the new schools boards, in 18 new schools, included parents. While these “pseudo local school councils” include plenty of “lawyers and businessmen,” parents have been largely excluded.

The corporate leaders who often run the boards also seem to condescend to parents, according to PURE. One non-parent board member from ACE Tech charter school, according to PURE, opined that “parents have no idea what to do with these kids.”

Even though PURE sent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to all 85 Renaissance 2010 schools earlier this year, only 18 schools responded.

Despite follow up letters from Arne Duncan and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, two-thirds of Renaissance 2010 schools never responded, even though they are legally obligated to do so. Substance has faced similar problems in getting what should be public information from Chicago’s growing number of charter schools and other “new schools.”

The PURE report also found that a number of Renaissance 2010 schools push low performing students into neighborhood schools and have problems retaining teachers.

At the KIPP charter school board meeting on March 11, 2008, there was an explicit discussion about “counseling out” undesirable students.

At a recent public meeting, representatives from the Noble Street Charter School network claimed that they were obligated to remove a student if they did not “jibe” with the culture of the school. The Nobel representative went so far as to claim that such an instance occurs when a student decides to chew gum against school rules.

As more scrutiny is placed upon Renaissance schools, larger questions are being raised about their performance. In its report, PURE concludes that although the district asserts that these schools face the highest levels of accountability, “there is very little direct public oversight.”

PURE has also challenged the claim that the “Sherman School of Excellence” — the first CPS school taken over by AUSL for “turnaround” — has shown the kinds of improvement the school and AUSL claim. According to PURE, Sherman got rid of many children during the year of turnaround, so there is no basis to claim that scores have improved, since a different population is now being served.

The time to shine the spotlight on the dark recesses of school reform in Chicago is long overdue. For the sake of the students, parents and teachers in the system, a open public expose is in order. The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) is working with PURE and other groups to hold a city-wide public hearing to air out these issues on January 10th, 11:00am, at Chicago State University in the library at 95th and King Drive. 


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