Chicago Moves to Close Failing Charter Schools


Chicago Public Schools is pushing for the closure of four privately run charter schools at the end of this school year, all of which currently operate on the South Side, due to poor academic performance.

The closings, which would affect around 1,200 students, would need the approval of the Chicago Board of Education. Last month the board implemented a new method that would put underperforming charter schools on an academic warning list that would allow them to be shut down if they do not improve.

All of the schools suggested for closure had previously found themselves on a similar list and were being held under a higher level of scrutiny by CPS because of either being on the Warning List last year or being in the final year of their contract. According to the district, three of the schools will have their charters revoked, while the fourth, which will be at the end of its contract, will not be renewed.

One of the charters has already announced plans to appeal the district's recommendation to the state, saying they do not want to see their student's educational experience interrupted. A second has said it is considering its options.

The closures would happen faster than through the process used than in 2013, when CPS announced a plan that would result in the closings of two charter high schools after three years, allowing the students still enrolled the opportunity to graduate.

District CEO Forrest Claypool released a statement saying the closings should serve as a signal to other charters who are underperforming that they need to improve. He went on to say that the city would not tolerate weak charter schools any more, writes Juan Perez Jr for The Chicago Tribune.

According to state law, a charter contract can be revoked by the district if a turnaround plan is not effectively implemented within two years. The state's charter school commission has the ability to reverse any decision made by CPS.

Three of the schools, including Amandla, Shabazz-Sizemore and CICS-Hawkins, had previously been on a warning list. CPS said they had reviewed remediation plans made by the schools, but "determined they failed to adequately implement their plans and improve outcomes for students."

Those three had been operating on the second-lowest level of the district's five-level school quality standard. The fourth school, Bronzeville Lighthouse, was in the lowest level.

"Closing a school is always a last resort, but after reviewing the performance of these four schools, it is clear our students need and deserve better options," CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said.

The district changed its charter accountability policy just last week to allow action to be taken against those schools performing poorly.

CPS suggested that affected families enroll their children in a district-operated school by contacting the access and enrollment office. Open enrollment is currently set to end on December 11 of this year.

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