FocalPoint A Chicago International Charter School Publication
Respected. Refined. Realized.
VOL. 02 NUM. 2 SPRING/SUMMER 2009
Responsible Growth Our Journey to Provide Better Choices in Education Director David Lewis Points This Campus in the “Wright” Direction Chicago International Expands its Network Outside of Chicago CICS West Belden “Taps” into Teacher Advancement Program
www.c h icagointl .org
Friends, In March, I celebrated my sixth year as executive director of Chicago International. Much has been accomplished since I joined the organization. To name a few of those accomplishments:
Executive Director Chicago International Charter School
• The number of students served by Chicago International has doubled. • The number of Chicago campuses approved to open has grown from six to thirteen. • A new educational management partner, Victory Schools, has joined the network. • The number of full-time central office staff increased from four to fifteen (I understand that some readers may see this as a bad sign, but with increased staff comes increased capacity to support schools). • The Board has added new members (and said goodbye to others). • The network implemented student information and accountability systems to better understand student performance in “real time” and to judge ourselves in terms of increased student learning. • With an outside partner, Chicago International is opening a K-12 charter school in a city other than Chicago. Along with making positive changes, staff and board members must constantly evaluate and address the enormous challenges that accompany responsible growth. The articles in this edition of FocalPoint outline the difficulties we encountered as we grew into new neighborhoods, new cities, and new areas of school reform. Despite the many positive outcomes of my tenure, it is the less-than-positive outcomes that I hold closest to me. During the past twelve months, we have learned much about responsible growth. We did not succeed in our attempts to open a school in Waukegan. We made the painful decision to close ChicagoRise before the first school opened its doors, even after almost two years of careful planning. A two-year delay in completing the construction of the Ralph Ellison Campus forced teachers and students into three school homes in as many years. When the Loomis Campus opened at full capacity, Longwood was forced to admit 500 new middle and high school students at one time. All four situations affected students and teachers, sometimes negatively. We are not alone in these struggles. Our colleagues in school reform across the city and country share the same challenges. Urban schools that show only moderate success are encouraged to replicate by district partners, private funders, and parents who desperately seek choices better than those provided in their neighborhood schools. The push to grow is enticing, even exhilarating. If those “in the know” think an organization is good enough to replicate, shouldn’t it? If parents want their children to attend a school, isn’t it the school’s responsibility to provide more opportunities? If one school is a little bit better—and a little bit safer—than the alternative, isn’t that enough? The answers to these mostly rhetorical questions are never easy and may change depending on the community and the context. When you finish reading this issue of FocalPoint, I ask you to share your answers with us. We, in turn, will share them with others, as we continue our efforts to grow responsibly. Sincerely,
Dr. Elizabeth D. Purvis | email@example.com
VOL. 02 NUM. 2 | SPRING/SUMMER 2009
06 Making A Wrong Turn Right
Lessons learned in Waukegan and Rockford, about growing beyond our comfort zone.
photos by Joshua Dunn
12 Proper Growing Conditions Not just any growthâ€Ś the right growth. The importance of smart, well-considered choices.
20 Growing Pains
How a rocky start at this campus produced a gem.
We invite our readers to create a dialogue with CICS. Please share your comments and stories with us. We may feature your comments in our next edition of FocalPoint. Thank you.
Chicago International Charter School p (312) 651-5000 f (312) 651-5001 e firstname.lastname@example.org (see below for mailing address)
FocalPoint MAGAZINE A Chicago International Charter School Publication 228 South Wabash Avenue, Suite 500 Chicago, IL 60604 www.chicagointl.org
CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Kaiser, Mary Kaiser Jonathan Oglesby, Christine Poindexter Dr. Elizabeth D. Purvis, Marvin Smith Dr. Andrea Brown-Thirston
DESIGN MORRIS w ww.thinkmorris.com PRINT Haapanen Brothers w ww.hb-graphics.net
PHOTOGRAPHY Joshua Dunn Photography
This year, West Belden began the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) as part of a three-year grant. TAP is an ongoing professional development program that focuses on improving student achievement through the implementation of best teaching practices. In the fall of 2008, two West Belden teachers were promoted to lead teachers while three others were promoted to mentor teachers, giving classroom teachers the opportunity to assume leadership roles without having to leave the classroom or take on administrative responsibilities. Kristen Baldino, Director, CICS West Belden
How has your school grown during the 2008-2009 school year?
We all grew smarter this year. Our staff learned that opening a new school requires patience to let the paint dry and determination to power through each day. Our students learned that PolyVision interactive whiteboards are more than just a fun surface to draw on and that itâ€™s important to share our beautiful campus with our resident geese and their newly laid eggs. Our parents learned that their voice really does count, for a lot.
I think the best thing that happened so far at CICS Longwood this year, would be the principals and I getting into the classrooms more and having more meaningful discussions with teachers about how they engage, challenge, and stretch students academically. The difficult part of our growth comes from new Longwood parents who are confrontational and oppositional to the way school is governed.
Robert Lang, Director of Schools, CICS Longwood
Lindsey Bixby, Associate Director, CICS Loomis Primary
Overall, Ralph Ellison has grown during the 2008-2009 school year in student achievement, cultural events, staff development, and connecting parents to our mission. Eboni Wilson, Director, CICS Ralph Ellison
I think that we have grown as a staff in terms of thinking about how we do things at Northtown. We have realized that as the size and culture of our school changes, we have to change, too, in our perspective and our policies. James Steel, Assistant Dean, CICS Northtown Academy
A Fresh Perspective Why Illinois needs an independent charter school authorizer
by Marvin Smith, Policy Manager, Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS)
Charter schools are non-selective public schools open to all students. Here in Illinois, they serve a population that is 84% low income, 65% African-American, and 29% Latino. Since the charter school law passed in 1996, these innovative schools—given freedom in budget, schedule, curriculum, governance, and hiring of teachers—have proven successful in improving student outcomes. In fact, the latest Chicago Public Schools Charter School Performance Report notes that students in 40 of 44 charter schools posted higher composite scores on the 2008 ISAT than their neighborhood comparison schools—that’s 90%!1
Education Reform also makes the case for independent authorizers: “There are the fewest number of charters and the least education opportunities in states where the only authorizers are the local school boards.”2 In Illinois, we lag behind other states because local school boards are the only allowed authorizers. Too often, school districts are reluctant to open charter schools for a variety of reasons. Illinois needs a statewide independent authorizer whose sole purpose is opening high-quality charter schools. This will help ensure that Illinois charter schools build upon existing, best-practice success stories. Most importantly, it expands Illinois’s ability to provide more school choice, serve more children, and serve them well.
President Obama recently urged the states, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to devote more attention to expanding education reform initiatives and specifically charter schools. He said, “Now, that leads me to the fourth part of American’s education strategy—promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools. One of the places where much of that innovation occurs is in our most effective charter schools.”
The next logical question is: What exactly would an independent charter school authorizer look like? In some states, an independent authorizer is a university, a statewide commission or other state-appointed group. The Illinois Network of Charter Schools recommends that Illinois’s independent authorizer is a statewide board composed of appointed members—education experts with responsibility for approving charters, overseeing school performance, and renewing charters. They could also share their expertise with local school districts in their own authorization plans. An independent authorizer provides quality assurance as the charter sector expands across the state, and keeps charters opening in communities that really need them.
Illinois’s Charter Roadblocks
How do Illinois’s students get more of these high-performing charter schools? Well, understanding authorizing of charter schools is crucial. An authorizer is a public body responsible for approving charters, monitoring performance, and evaluating academic and operational performance of charter schools. An attentive authorizer, one that enables a charter school space to implement innovative teaching strategies while carefully watching school performance, is key to charter school success. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the nation’s leading expert on charter authorizing, states: “The presence of an independent authorizing board has created a more robust charter sector and increased the opportunities for innovation and systemic impact.” Further, of the 4,150 U.S. charter schools, 80% are in states with multiple authorizers. The Center for
What an Independent Authorizer Looks Like
There are over 880 school districts across our state. The largest of these, Chicago Public Schools, has already authorized its limit of charters. In other districts, school boards are often hesitant or unprepared to approve charters, even in communities that really need better schools.
An independent authorizer would:
Charters are one of countless priorities that school boards must consider, and sometimes it is just not the most pressing. In some cases, political influences have plagued districts attempting to authorize and open charter schools. A statewide independent authorizer would have the nimbleness to stay insulated from local politics and focus on what’s best to create charter schools. Therefore, several states have allowed additional authorizers to accomplish what school districts, for whatever reason, cannot.
Building new routes to charter school authorization gives students, teachers, and communities more local public school choices.
Support current, active, and effective authorizers
Assist communities with school districts working to improve local authorizing activity
Lead the authorizing effort in inactive communities
Chicago International is just one of the many charter schools closing the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students. For charter school impact to broaden, more avenues for charter growth must be created. If concerned community members let Illinois’s decision-makers in Springfield know they want to create an independent authorizer, our government will understand that high-quality public school choice is a top priority for Illinois families.
Chicago Public Schools. Office of New Schools. 2007-2008 Charter School Performance Report.
Center for Education Reform: National Charter School Directory and Annual Survey of America’s Charter Schools
MAKING A WRONG TUR
LESSONS LEARNED ON THE ROAD TO EXPANSION by Jennifer Kaiser
IN ROCKFORD AND WAUKEGAN LAST YEAR, CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL WELCOMED THE CHALLENGES OF EXPANDING ITS NETWORK OUTSIDE ITS “COMFORT ZONE” OF METROPOLITAN CHICAGO. IN EACH COMMUNITY, CICS WAS INVITED BY LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ESTABLISH A CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL. IN ROCKFORD, THE EFFORT SUCCEEDED. IN WAUKEGAN, IT DID NOT. COMPARING THE TWO EXPERIENCES, THE LESSONS LEARNED NOW SEEM BOTH SIMPLE AND ALMOST OBVIOUS. COMMUNICATION WORKS. EXERTING PRESSURE—EVEN WHEN THAT PRESSURE IS OVERWHELMING PARENT AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT—DOES NOT.
WAUKEGAN A lesson in cooperation Lake County United (LCU) in Waukegan approached Chicago International in the spring of 2008. A community organization, LCU was interested in providing school choice for Waukegan’s students beyond the community’s underperforming public high school. Since LCU enjoyed wide support from local families and churches—a key factor in charter school success—Chicago International decided to partner with LCU and submit its charter proposal to the Waukegan school board. At a public hearing with the board in July, LCU introduced Chicago International to the board for the first time. With CICS’s successful track record in Chicago and LCU’s 800 community supporters attending the meeting, both organizations presumed this showing would make the charter initiative attractive and undeniable. Instead, the method backfired. Board members felt beset by the crowd of supporters, some of whom stood up to criticize the board’s job performance instead of focusing on the charter issue. This crucial group
of decision-makers perceived Chicago International as big-city outsiders trying to impose an urban method in their smaller community.
It also became clear that several school board members opposed charter schools in general, and the July hearing only underscored their position.
This hearing resulted in a complete breakdown of communication among the decision-makers; board members, superintendent, and school leaders. And the grassroots supporters; LCU, parents, and community members. Chicago International suddenly found its proposal mired in a political battle that it was not equipped to resolve. Suddenly, this effort no longer resembled CICS’s model for establishing new charter school campuses where working hand-inhand with decision-makers is integral to the process.
Regardless, CICS submitted its proposal in the fall but was not provided the opportunity to correct problems or inconsistencies in the proposal. In December 2008, the Waukegan school board denied the charter application by six votes to one. A “campaign” at the grassroots level certainly has its place in our society. Extensive cooperation is often required for success. The trouble is that the campaign approach tends to pit the decision-makers against the campaigners, who too easily come across as protesters rather than willing partners. According to the board’s remarks, the Waukegan charter initiative failed not because anyone was unconvinced it would provide a better education for Waukegan students, but because they were so opposed to the campaign to convince them of that fact.
CICS learned the hard way that sometimes, it is more appropriate to stay in your comfort zone. Its core approach to charter approval— cooperation and communication with all stakeholders —is one of those zones that it will not soon outgrow. ABOVE: LAKE COUNTY ADMINISTRATION BULIDING LOCATED IN WAUKEGAN. LEFT: WAUKEGAN’S ELECTRICAL PLANT
MakingAWrongTurnRight ROCKFORD Conversations make better campaigns In Waukegan, the importance of evaluating the local political landscape before initiating expansion became crystal clear. Chicago International is an academic organization rather than a political one. Therefore,
efforts must focus on towns where community members and political decision-makers are already developing partnerships. Enter Rockford, Illinois. Rockford’s public schools, criticized as “drop-out factories,” have long been inadequate to serve the needs of its children. Recently, Rockford’s business and community leaders have begun to push for improving Rockford’s schools. In the process, they have recognized the potential of charter schools to accomplish that goal. When Adam Smith, Education Director for the City of Rockford, contacted the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) for referrals, INCS connected him with Chicago International. In May 2008, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey came to meet with Executive Director Beth Purvis and key CICS staff to explore options, and tour several CICS campuses. After that meeting, the mayor asked the Rockford Charter School Initiative (RCSI) to take up the charter school issue. RCSI Executive Director Laurie Preece did everything right. She built relationships with prominent business leaders, had conversations with school decision-makers, held informational meetings in neighborhoods all over town, and invited established charter school organizations, including Chicago International, to submit proposals. Before submitting its proposal, CICS searched for a few months to find the right local partner as well as a facility. In Zion Development Corporation (ZDC)—another group working to bring charter schools to Rockford—it found both. ZDC is established and committed to serving Rockford for the long-term, and they owned a community center in a neighborhood very much in need of a high-quality school. 08
In October, Chicago International submitted its proposal with ZDC as its communitybased partner and eventual landlord. The advance conversations and relationshipbuilding with RCSI, the community, ZDC, and decision-makers, all prepared the way for a different process than the Waukegan experience. Not all school leaders were immediately convinced, but they remained open and interested in working on the issue.
They raised questions that helped refine the proposal, including a statute issue CICS was not aware of, and they provided the opportunity to correct it. When they voted in February 2009, their approval of Chicago International’s Rockford charter was unanimous.
The advance conversations and relationship-building with RCSI, the community, ZDC and decisionmakers, all prepared the way for a different process than the Waukegan experience.
This working relationship with decisionmakers was not a given; it was carefully cultivated through conversations. Because of RCSI’s meticulously planned meetings, forums, tours, news interviews, and articles (even advertisements), all of Rockford was talking about charter schools in largely positive terms. No campaign was required. Instead, a gradually expanding flow of communication reached all members of the community, wherever they sat, until it was no longer a question of whether to approve charter schools, but when and which ones.
This conversation’s model for charter application and approval is one CICS will replicate wherever it goes. OPPOSITE PAGE: FUTURE SITE OF ROCKFORD CHARTER SCHOOL. FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: ROCKFORD’S WELCOME SIGN, CORONADO THEATRE IN DOWNTOWN ROCKFORD, JEFFERSON STREET BRIDGE
“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca
photos by Joshua Dunn
photo by Joshua Dunn
GOOD PARTNERS ARE KEY ZDC AND CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL “Our meetings with key staff from Chicago International went favorably. We felt that they had the capacity to do the work and the passion to see it through and do it well... We appreciate the expertise that Chicago International brings to the table. They know how to do this process because they’ve been through it twelve times before. We ...are impressed by their commitment as well as their credentials... They have both the intelligence and the motivation to get the job done, and we’re pleased that they insist on high quality at all levels. That’s been our approach to doing things as well.”- Brad Roos, Executive Director, Zion Development Corporation ABOVE: FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Dr. Loren Nielson, Interim Pastor Zion Lutheran Church; Brad Roos, Executive Director Zion Development Corporation; Jim Flodin, Executive Director Patriots’ Gateway Center
STATS CICS ROCKFORD GRADES:
• K–4 August 2010 • New grade each year after • High School 2012*
CICS Rockford Charter School Organization is the combination of ZDC and Chicago International that will hold the charter contract and establish a local office. * beginning with 9th grade
LESSONS AFFIRMED BY A ROCKFORD PARENT AND STUDENT Kris Wagner, a parent of four in Rockford, was one of Chicago International’s biggest supporters there. Like most parents, she wants the best education for her children. She found many educational choices in her former community in Colorado. Unfortunately, after her family moved to Rockford several years ago, she discovered just how limited a parent can be when relying on public schools. In the process of trying to find affordable alternatives such as home schooling, Ms. Wagner discovered charter schools. She actually researched starting her own charter school. However, once she discovered the work of RCSI, she joined their effort. Ms. Wagner offers valuable perspective on the role of parents in the success of charter schools. She reaffirms the importance of early and ongoing community outreach. “I see what can happen in charter schools. Innovative curriculum. Flexibility. Parent involvement. If you come and see what’s going on in the public schools—kids are being undereducated. Parents want other choices. They just need to understand what charter schools offer. Something charter schools can do is have a local contact person to inform parents in the neighborhood, to organize meetings and tours, and make that personal connection. Otherwise, parents might hear something negative on the news or in a commercial, and they won’t know what to think; they’ll stay out
of it. But if you have that local person who goes to them and talks to them, then they’ll understand what the charter school can do for their kids, and they’ll rally around it.”
morning of the fourth grade when I went to a Rockford public school… [W]e learned some thing new every day… good… but then we never reviewed a thing. I’ve always liked to write, but I had trouble in spelling and grammar, mostly because they never corrected any of my papers…”
I’ve always liked to write, but I had trouble in spelling and grammar, mostly because they never corrected any of my papers... Ms. Wagner’s daughter, Summer Wagner, also joined the effort to bring charter schools to Rockford. She wrote and shared her own comment at the public hearing for Chicago International. Her words are a simple and powerful reminder that the primary role of charter schools in educational reform is to create institutions where kids who want to learn, do learn. “My name is Summer Wagner. I’m 12 years old and I’m home schooled. I’d like to tell you about why I’m in favor of Chicago International’s charter school proposal. How many kids have you heard say ‘I want to go to school; it’s so much fun?’ Think about it. Now, how many kids have you heard say the words, ‘I don’t want to go to school! Who needs math?’ That’s what I said every
“After one year of public school, my parents decided to home school me. I’ve learned a lot home schooling, but I’d really like to go to a great school with other kids where I could excel in every subject. I want to go to a school where children of all ages can be acknowledged for their ability to learn in different ways. I recently heard a wise phrase: ‘Not all great minds learn alike.’ If you authorize Chicago International Charter School—who can help kids learn in different ways—then I strongly believe Rockford’s children would flourish in learning and maybe even wake up in the morning and say ‘I can’t wait to go to school!’ I know I would!”
CICS ANSWERS TOUGH QUESTIONS TO ENSURE RESPONSIBLE GROWTH
In 2008, two new school projects, ChicagoRise and Altgeld Gardens, taught the Chicago International team an important lesson about expansionâ€”expanding school choice for families only works with careful consideration about how, when, and where to expand the organization. by Jennifer Kaiser | photos by Joshua Dunn
Responsible Growth An essential part of the Chicago International mission is to give families, who live in neighborhoods with limited education choices, the chance to attend an academically rigorous school. Chicago International is organized as a charter network in order to offer the choice of a high-quality education to many communities, not just one. What this requires, then, is preparing students for college by supporting their academic success in varied ways. That has been very clear from the beginning. What has been less clear, and is now apparent from recent expansion efforts—is that before opening a new campus—Chicago International must be sure it can support both individual student success and campus success within the neighborhood and the larger educational community.
Altgeld Gardens The Altgeld Gardens neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago is where President Barack Obama started out as a community organizer. This community is home for families who are predominantly AfricanAmerican (97%) and have limited incomes. Isolated geographically by highways and lack of public transport, getting in and getting out of Altgeld is difficult. Only 50% of the homes in the 64-year-old Altgeld-Murray Homes public housing development are occupied currently, but the homes are under renovation. When restoration is complete in 2014, an estimated 7,000 residents will move back into the area. Neighborhoods thrive or stagnate, however, based on the quality of their schools. In June 2009, Altgeld Gardens’s best elementary school, Our Lady of the Gardens, will close its doors. Maryville Academy, a Catholic charity, operated Our Lady of the Gardens for many years until they recognized they could no longer underwrite the school. Rather than abandon the community, Maryville decided to find a charter school 14
to take over. Chicago Public Schools recommended a few organizations, and one of those was Chicago International.
As staff considered the idea, the positives were obvious. Here was a community desperately in need of quality schools. Here also was an established partner ready and willing to collaborate. Equally important, here was an available facility. But there were challenges, too, that required serious consideration. Challenge one is the short-term and long-term financial viability. Will enough children enroll in the early years to meet the budget? What is the long-term enrollment outlook? If the current student body remains at an enrollment level of 250 to 260 children, the cost-per-pupil ratio would be untenable. If instead, the building is enlarged to accommodate 340 to 350 students, the new Altgeld Gardens school qualifies as a “small school” in Chicago, receiving $300 in additional funding per pupil. At that level of enrollment and funding, the school does become financially viable.
Since Chicago International is accustomed to student waiting lists, the full enrollment question was a new one. As residents return to the neighborhood it should be easy to fill enrollment to capacity, but the current population of K-8th graders is low during the community transition. Also, because many of Our Lady’s children lived outside of the city limits, almost 40% of the current Catholic School students are geographically ineligible to attend a Chicago public charter school. Challenge two is the facility. Can Chicago International afford to renovate and expand the building? As is true for many of Chicago’s Catholic schools, the facility required updating of mechanicals, systems, and roofing. In addition, expanding enrollment to 350 is an increase of almost 60%; this site would need more physical space in the form of a significant addition to meet its needs. Challenge three is the timeline. When Our Lady of the Gardens closes its doors in June 2009, will Chicago International be prepared to reopen by August, less than three months later? This timeline demands a Herculean
effort. The building must be renovated and expanded, the community leadership and residents engaged, and an educational management partner must be selected to hire faculty and staff to educate over 300 students. It’s a big job.
Putting all assumptions aside, the answers fell into place one by one.
“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”
2010 Announced in June 2004 by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the City of Chicago, the Renaissance 2010 initiative calls for the development of 100 high-performing public schools in communities at risk by 2010, using one of three models.
-H. Fred Ale
The only other elementary school serving the area is not a quality option, so Chicago International took the initiative to inform local parents about the new charter school. As a result, Day-One enrollment is projected to be close to 340. Maryville agreed to pay half of the $1.2 million facility expansion cost. Edison Schools has stepped up as the Educational Management Organization (EMO). Meetings with the alderman, police commander, and Chicago Housing Authority have garnered promises of support from within the community. After all the hard questions were asked and answered, it turned out to be a match. So, on August 17th, CICS Altgeld Gardens will welcome children to Chicago International’s 13th campus!
CHARTER SCHOOL An independent public school operated by a nonprofit organization with complete jurisdiction over facilities, staff, curriculum, and financial management under Illinois Charter Law.
CONTRACT SCHOOL Also called a “turnaround school,” an independent nonprofit organization employing a new principal, teachers, programs, and culture to turn an existing low-performance into a high-performance school under contract with CPS in accordance with Performance Agreements and Illinois School Code.
PERFORMANCE SCHOOL A CPS school employing its own staff to operate with more flexibility and freedom under district guidelines.
ChicagoRise Chicago International’s charter school network is an important part of the Renaissance 2010 initiative in Chicago. Its model demonstrates a number of best practices for high-quality public education. In 2008, the “turnaround school” or contract school model, seemed a natural growth avenue.
The problem became clear only at the very end of contract negotiation. Apparently, initial conversations between Chicago International and CPS had missed many of the legal hurdles remaining before contract turnaround schools could function in a way that is aligned with the mission and vision of Chicago International.
Both contract and charter schools are managed by nonprofit organizations. The difference between them is similar to the difference between building a new house and renovating an old one. Many Chicago International charter campuses are a kind of “renovation,” established in former parochial school buildings and serving the same neighborhoods. Academically, it seemed that a contract school would fit comfortably into the charter school model, with some modifications.
If Chicago International moved forward with ChicagoRise, it would no doubt have advanced the cause of school reform in a powerful way, but the board and staff were unsure of the end cost to Chicago International, its campuses, and its students.
Therefore, Chicago International established ChicagoRise to manage its first contract school in fall of 2009. While still hammering out the contract with Chicago Public Schools, Chicago International hired ChicagoRise’s leadership team, posted a website, sent announcements, and even featured ChicagoRise on the back cover of FocalPoint.
Twenty-four hours before signing, however, Executive Director Beth Purvis made the difficult choice to pull out of the contract. At the eleventh hour, she discovered that contract schools do not fit the Chicago International model and could in fact jeopardize the organization’s larger mission. Though similar in some ways, charter schools and contract schools are governed differently. Charter schools operate under Illinois Charter Law. Contract schools are a new creation by the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and operate under the CPS contract and Illinois School Code.
The answer was simple: it would cost too much. Chicago International’s mission is to provide a high-quality education to today’s students, making it an organization that is both missiondriven and mission-constrained. Creating quality school options now and preparing today’s students for college this year are what Chicago International teachers and staff do every day. What works for Chicago International is the charter school model. While the organization might have produced a high-quality turnaround school, it could not have done so by replicating its proven charter model, forcing the organization to develop different models of education, governance, and business. Indeed, some educational organizations exist to operate in ways that invite actions that lead to policy change. As Beth Purvis says, “Reform at the legal level is important. But that’s not what we do.” In the end, Dr. Purvis and the Board of Directors made the very dramatic but necessary choice to withdraw Chicago International from the turnaround school project. “Our primary responsibility,” Purvis concluded, “is always to the students already enrolled in our schools.”
LESSONS LEARNED Ask the difficult questions to make the right choices for expansion. 1. What is the short-term and long-term financial viability of this expansion project? 2. Will the community support it? 3. Will the budget and facility allow us to conduct our activities and meet our goals? 4. Will the expansion project be self-supporting or will it require cutting other projects and programs? 5. Is this expansion mission-driven under the current mission statement, or does it require reconsideration of purpose and identity? 6. How will this expansion affect the future of the organization?
TAPping Their Potential Teachers and students reap the rewards by Mary Kaiser | photos by Joshua Dunn
“Chicago is on the cutting edge of a movement to reward teachers for taking on more challenging assignments and getting results. It’s up to all of us to help this movement grow.” U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is talking about Chicago TAP (Teacher Advancement Program), an innovative program that Chicago International West Belden joined this year after a rigorous application and interview process. Research shows that outside the home, the most important factor in a child’s academic success is a great teacher. But the odds of retaining a talented person as a teacher are pretty low. The pay scale doesn’t change much. Student academic needs are complex, but the time and expertise to address those needs are scarce. Often, the only option for career advancement is to leave the classroom and become an administrator. What if schools could reward good teachers as other professionals are rewarded—with compensation for results and opportunity to improve and advance in their careers? Chicago TAP, funded by
the U.S. Department of Education and several Chicago funders, is a five-year program that provides the right support of teachers, and then measures what happens with their students. Using a customized version of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching’s TAP model, the goal is simple—help Chicago’s students learn more by supporting and rewarding good teachers.
Chicago TAP utilizes several elements to accomplish this goal: Value-added achievement gains measure and reward teacher and school success. Success is determined by how well students improve over the year, rather than the percentage of children “meeting” or “exceeding” one-size-fitsall state standards.
Multiple career paths in teaching, from career teacher to mentor teacher to lead teacher. With each step up, qualifications, responsibilities, and compensation increase. Mentor and lead teachers partner with the principal to set school achievement goals and guide other teachers.
Professional growth opportunities in school. The school schedule is restructured to allow teachers up to 90 minutes per week to meet, plan, mentor each other, share best practices, and educate themselves further. Accountability for student results. Regular in-classroom observations by trained teachers help assess value-added achievement and identify growth areas. Performance-based compensation. Mentor and lead teachers receive compensation beyond their normal salary for their added responsibilities and higher qualifications. Career teachers also receive additional compensation based on their students’ academic growth. School-wide achievement compensation. Believing all adults in a school make success possible, Chicago TAP pays additional compensation to a school’s entire faculty and staff based on its value-added achievement gains. This aspect was customized specifically for Chicago’s program.
From Left to right: WEST BELDEN TEACHERS Evan Banks (6th Grade), Andy Parker (TAP Lead Teacher), Gina Biondi (5th grade), Teri Levich (5th grade)
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: ANDY PARKER GINA BIONDI, TERI LEVICH GINA BIONDI AMY NAUMOWICZ, ANDY PARKER
Chicago International understands the connection between high-quality teachers and student success. The budget, however, allows Chicago International to operate schools during school hours, but teacher incentives are often outside the budget. We are delighted that West Belden has joined this much larger effort to demonstrate nationally how supporting teachers translates into improved learning for students. FocalPoint
WRIGHTWOOD’S TURBULENT TRANSFORMATION by Jennifer Kaiser | photos by Joshua Dunn
Chicago International’s Wrightwood campus had a rocky start. The interim period from campus establishment to school opening was only six weeks long, in the summer of 2005. There was barely sufficient time to hire staff and prepare the facility, so the fundamental jobs of community outreach and relationshipbuilding with the alderman and neighbors went undone.
With the Catholic school of St. Thomas More already closed, area residents were fearful of the changes a new school might impose. Once it opened, the Wrightwood campus struggled to reach Chicago International’s high standards. Over its first three years, the campus had three directors and a 70% turnover in staff. As one might expect, student academic progress was mixed in this shifting environment.
The Board of Directors and leadership of Civitas Schools (educational management partner) recognized the need for some remedial work, so they recruited dynamic new leadership. Finally, the organization developed the positive relationships with residents and area leaders that are critical to the success of a neighborhood school. As with our students, the Wrightwood campus started achieving community relations targets as soon as it put forward the right effort and received the right support. Now under the direction of David Lewis, Wrightwood stands out as a stable, safe, and effective school. Its neighbors accept and value its contribution to their community. The campus today meets academic targets, and its first eighth grade class graduates this June, ready for the challenges of high school. OPPOSITE PAGE: DIRECTOR DAVID LEWIS AND STUDENTS ARE DEDICATED TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT CICS WRIGHTWOOD. BELOW: WITH THE HELP OF A STRONG LEADERSHIP TEAM, TEACHERS AND STAFF ARE HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION OF POSITIVE GROWTH.
Wrightwood so values these subjects, in fact, that they have established a new department for them: WHAMM (Writing Health Art Music and Media). These subjects are integrated into classroom learning and beyond the school day. Students produce a play or musical once every quarter, with one major production each year, such as last year’s The Lion King and this year’s The Wiz. These shows bring the whole community together—children, families, staff, and neighbors—immersing the students in a network of support.
The early problems experienced at Wrightwood taught Chicago International to always prioritize school quality over rapid growth.
David Lewis Campus Director
Charon Bradley Humanities Team Leader
Joseph Dolan Junior Academy Team Leader
“I’m proud to work with a committed team of professionals who buy into the mission of doing what we have to do to provide the best educational opportunity for our students—who buy into closing the achievement gap in urban education by any means necessary.”
“We are a campus that’s able to speak to the children’s needs. We don’t teach over their heads. We go down to their level to raise it up through curriculum, through assessment, but also through music, dance, and movement. We collectively give each student the attention that’s specific for their needs.”
“I’m most proud of our eighth grade students. They are our first eighth grade graduating class, and they set a high precedent for all the classes that will follow them. They’ve raised the bar with their test scores, particularly in reading. They made great strides in just two years.”
Dramatic improvements in test scores testify to the school’s academic rigor, but the leadership team goes beyond test scores to educate the entire child. This campus is strongly committed to after-school programs, student clubs, parent engagement, and the “extras” that many public schools have had to eliminate from their budgets: creative writing, health and physical education, and the visual and performing arts.
At the same time, the Wrightwood campus represents a sweet kind of success as the students at this once-struggling school learn, grow, and shine!
LEFT TO RIGHT: DIRECTOR DAVID LEWIS, PRIMARY TEAM LEADER Bertha Nunez, INTERMEDIATE TEAM LEADER Melinda JeanBaptiste and HUMANITIES TEAM LEADER Charon Bradley
What makes you most proud about CICS Wrightwood?
GRADES Kâ€“8 (3 of each!)
EMO (Educational Management Organization) Civitas
STUDENT BODY 690 = 98% African-American, 2% Latino
OPENED August 2005
NEIGHBORHOOD 8130 S. California, Chicago by Catherine Montgomery, class of 2009
DIRECTOR David A. Lewis
We, the students of CICS Wrightwood campus, believe we can never be over
educated. We receive
excellent grades in every class. We are
all great and powerful
no matter how hard they seem. We are all strong, intelligent leaders. We overcome all struggles,
people. We are all important people. We all live great lives. We are all the best
we can be. We are successful in everything we do!
Mapping Student Success One goal at a time
by Christine Poindexter | photo by Joshua Dunn
As you have read before in this publication, the mission of Chicago International is to provide, through innovation and choice, a rigorous college-preparatory education that meets the needs of today’s student. This mission requires that, regardless of a child’s current achievement level, Chicago International staff focuses on each student’s academic growth. To do so in an environment where individual performance varies widely within each classroom requires innovative thinking and the implementation of all available resources.
Teachers are vital in helping create a learning environment in which the student is willing to take intellectual risks. 24
One such innovation is the way Chicago International
staff set student-by-student academic goals. Teachers do not solely focus on student achievement at the state benchmark level; more than that, they work with students to become successful in reaching their own performance targets —targets they have set collaboratively with their teachers. To encourage students to take ownership of their learning, most Chicago International students set an individual performance goal at the beginning of the academic year. They work with their teachers to analyze their own performance data and then set challenging yet realistic goals. Chicago International teachers follow best practices in fostering learning in their students by (1) adjusting their teaching methods to fit each child’s needs, (2) allowing student choice within the classroom, (3) building
relationships with students, and (4) providing a platform for discovery and exploration.1 Elaine Glasper, a special education teacher at the Wrightwood campus, is the perfect example of a successful “goal setting” teacher. She has done a phenomenal job helping her students not only set, but also exceed, their personal goals. Ms. Glasper believes that some of her greatest teaching moments have come when supporting students with specific learning challenges. Chicago International teachers try to establish a positive learning environment in which students set personal goals and are provided with curricula that will
support achievement. Research suggests that successful learning environments simultaneously support autonomy and challenge learners. This differs from more traditional instructional environments for at-risk students, which are often teachercontrolled and provide only low-level routine tasks.2 Teachers are vital in helping create a learning environment in which the student is willing to take intellectual risks. With the assistance of teachers, parents, and students, Chicago International is committed to encouraging our students to achieve their own, ever-more challenging goals. LEFT: Teacher, Elaine Glasper, working with CICS Wrightwood students
Staying on Track Elaine Glasper shares tips that will help position students for success
Meet one-on-one with children weekly. “Goals should be set to improve weaker areas and to build upon the strengths of the student.”
Have open dialogue about what performance scores mean to the student in the classroom and at home, not just in school. Encourage each child to set challenging yet realistic goals. “Students should be honest with themselves about their strengths and needs, and set goals based on their achievement level, not another student’s levels.” Ensure that each child understands where they are in meeting their goals and where they aren’t. “Have regular discussions with students regarding their progress towards their goal.” Use story maps, or mind maps, to integrate subject material. Involve the parent in the discussions about student performance.
Source: Daniels, E., & Arapostathis, M. (2005). What do they really want?: Student voices and motivational research. Urban Education, 40(1), 34-59.
Source: Dicintio, M. J., & Gee, S. (1999). Control is the key: Unlocking the motivation of at-risk students. Psychology in the Schools, 36(3), 231-237.
When is it My Turn? Technology and differentiation in the classroom
by Dr. Elizabeth D. Purvis | photos by Joshua Dunn
All teachers face challenges, but the diversity of skills and knowledge possessed by a group of students in first grade can be daunting to the most veteran of teachers. Today, I spent some time in Colleen Collins’s first grade class to understand how she does it. It’s just after spring break, so there is a bit of spring fever in the air. At first glance, there is a lot going on. Ms. Collins is at the front of the room sitting on the floor with a group of six children working on math facts. Rosalia Lopez, the classroom teaching assistant, is sitting at a child-sized table reviewing written sentences with four children. Two other small groups of children are sitting at tables working independently with what teachers call “manipulatives,” objects that are used to help little ones internalize math concepts. Then, on the south side of the room under the windows, there is a bank of four computers. Two girls and one boy are busy at three of them, each child wearing a headset you are more likely to see in an air traffic control
tower than an elementary school. At first glance, it looks like the students are playing video games. On the fourth computer is a picture of first-grader Delila, who sees it and makes her way over to the computer, eager for her turn to play. Differentiated instruction isn’t new. In the early years of America, most community schools, especially in rural America, were taught by a single teacher in one large room that housed schoolchildren of all grade levels. Teachers were expected to use whatever was available to support students as they mastered literacy skills, mathematics, and history. Although the goal of the one-room schoolhouse hasn’t changed, the definition of differentiation has become more complex. Dr. Tracey Hall, Senior Research Scientist with CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) defines differentiation this way:
To differentiate instruction is to recognize students of varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, and interests, and to react responsively. Differentiated instruction is a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process.1
The question for the teacher is, how? Over the past three years, the Chicago International campuses managed by American Quality Schools have used a number of different techniques to support teachers as they individualize instruction. None is more popular with children and teachers than the Waterford Early Learning computer program. The Chicago International West Belden and Bucktown campuses use the Waterford Early Reading Program™ to deliver an individualized program of early reading skills—including phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, language concepts, and phonological awareness— on the computer. Structured much like popular video games, the program is individualized and sequenced for each child, 1
requiring skill mastery before moving to the next level. Once Ms. Collins taught Kaevon how to use the program, his interest and skill in reading just took off. The children love the program. Kaevon reports, “It’s fun. There are songs. It teaches me how to read and how to learn better.” Delila said about Waterford, “I like the ABCs because it tells you what sound each letter makes. I can make flowers on it, too!” It’s not just the little ones who are enthusiastic. In addition to the instruction the children are receiving, Lisa Blake, the Chicago International West Belden lower team leader, said, “Because each student rotates through the program daily, it allows Ms. Collins and Ms. Lopez to work with
smaller groups of students throughout the rest of the day. They are strategic about the groupings, too. Students of similar abilities work on the program simultaneously. This allows Ms. Collins and Ms. Lopez to more smoothly work with groups of children by ability level as they address specific content and skill development.” Modern urban classrooms. Rural 18th century classrooms. Who would have thought that both demonstrate differentiation at its best!
One Size Doesn’t Fit All Charter schools provide choice beyond the status quo by Jonathan Oglesby, Director of Public Relations, The Center for Education Reform
At least 100,000 children around the country have an opportunity to attend a quality school of choice that they did not have last year, thanks to the 355 new charter schools that opened their doors for the 2008-2009 school year. According to our research at the Center for Education Reform (CER), the number of charter schools operating in the U.S. has grown to almost 4,600 and serve more than 1.4 million students. Nearly 18 years since the first charter school opened, individual state data indicates that charter schools are outpacing their conventional public school peers with fewer resources and tremendous obstacles. Waiting lists for charter schools throughout the country far exceed the available slots in many schools, proving year in and year out that parents want a choice in their child’s education, and that charter schools are filling that void. Last year, CER’s annual survey of the country’s charter schools showed a 33 percent increase in the size of applicant waiting lists over 2007. In Texas, almost 17,000 students remain on waiting lists. In New York City, that number is 39,629 (twice as many as last year). Even in Rhode Island the ratio of applicants to available slots is six to one, with some schools experiencing a ten to one ratio. Kevin Chavous, noted charter school champion and CER Distinguished Fellow, recently discussed the importance of embracing charter school growth as a remedy for an ailing education system, writing:
“The winds of change are blowing as it relates to education in this country. National opinion polling, focus group studies, and the proverbial word on the street suggest that everyday people are sick and tired of the growing deficits they see in the children who are being educated in our traditional public schools. Folks are no longer accepting of the status quo—nor should they be. The status quo is frightening and the statistics don’t lie. Against this backdrop, charter schools have emerged as a beacon of hope for parents and students alike. The beauty of a charter school is that it grants authority to a handful of community members to give shape to their creative vision. For this reason, charters tend to have widely diverse missions and approaches to education, and to some extent these varying approaches have led to their success. The
photos by Joshua Dunn
diverse, yet focused, curriculum designs offered by many charters also explode the one-size-fits-all paradigm by meeting kids where they are academically and according to their individual interests, as opposed to force fitting kids into a system that may not meet their needs. Indeed, some of the most stunning examples of charter school success are precisely those that have figured out how to adapt to the individual needs of individual children.
At the same time, many successful charter schools have striking commonalities in the underlying principles that contribute to their overall success. These core principles, grounded in a culture of accountability and high expectations, create an environment conducive to learning and to kids fulfilling their potential.” Despite the continual growth of charter schools in the United States, both special interests and a lack of awareness in some areas still work against their widespread availability. By definition, though, charter schools are great public schools. Some, like Chicago International, are already there. Some are still working at it. Like any relatively new innovation, however, the kinks are part of the experience that can make all aspects of schooling better. And that is perhaps the most salient reason that charter schools now serve students in larger percentages than any other single reform of public education to date. This great public education innovation is delivering on the promise of what makes a great public school.
The winds of change are blowing as it relates to education in this country. A successful charter school makes sure to… • • • • •
Meet and exceed parents’ expectations Be large enough to have variety Be small enough to create the kind of community culture that has been linked to successful education Serve those who are most in need Make no excuses
BOTTOM RIGHT: A CICS Northtown teacher assists students with homework questions. Remaining photos: Students hard at work in their study hall session.
“Often young women set their sights too low just because that is what they know, but if we continue to expose young women to successful women and the path they took to be successful, I think we will help the younger generation stretch themselves to get even farther than we have.” -Erin Cline, Mentor photos by Michael Barnhill
Reflections on Mentoring Accenture mentors partner with CICS
by Dr. Andrea Brown-Thirston
The Accenture/CICS Mentoring began as a pilot program in June 2008 with just ten high school girls from CICS. These ten girls were matched with female Accenture executives to experience a full day of job-shadowing and related activities. The girls and their Accenture mentors had such a rewarding experience with the job shadowing that we decided to expand the program in Fall 2008 to reach about 50 girls and include mentoring and goal setting. As the program expanded, so did the need for planning and coordinating the logistics of such a partnership. With almost 100 participants from CICS and Accenture, it was important that the coordinators from both organizations set a realistic timeline and discuss expectations with both the potential mentors and protégés. To this end, the Accenture coordinators and their team created a thoughtful pre-survey which they distributed to all participants to assist with more effective matching. In October 2008, the Accenture mentors and their CICS protégés met and spent an entire day learning about the various functions of Accenture, listening to panelists, and setting goals for their mentoring relationship beyond the one-day event.
The outcome was outstanding. CICS Northtown protégé Consuelo Teresi said about her Accenture mentor, “I was either lucky or the survey really helped. Our personalities are so much alike that it’s very easy to connect with her. She listens to my opinions and respects them.” Just days after the October event, CICS Ellison protégés Mi’chele Johnson and Kehinde Oshun both expressed gratitude for being selected to participate in the mentoring program: “We really want to thank you again for choosing us to be a part of the Accenture program. Our mentors are really nice and we have already planned to meet with them.” The partnership between Accenture and CICS has been critical to the expansion of the program. The Accenture coordinators have provided support and feedback that has been invaluable to the success of the program. Our own CICS coordinators at each school have also supported the program by hosting campus visits and supporting the vision of the program at the school level. Program Coordinators Diona Kelly of CICS Ellison, Zoraida Martin of CICS Northtown, and Carmen Purham of CICS Longwood also attended Accenture’s International Women’s Day event with at least one protégé from each campus. The theme of this inspiring event was “Stretch Yourself,” the perfect message for our most talented
CICS high school girls. CICS Longwood protégés Aja Hunter and Jade Mackey took copious notes as an Accenture board member discussed the characteristics of a leader. Displaying leadership qualities themselves, both Aja and Jade later submitted pointed questions to the panelists that demonstrated their attentiveness. CICS Ellison protégé Brooke Ray commented, “I thought all of the speakers were very interesting. I liked how they all were successful and I learned that I can some day become successful like them.” Mentor Erin Cline shared, “International Women’s Day was very enjoyable for me and my protégé (Brooke Ray). It was important for me to bring her to the event to give her more examples of what is possible for her future. Often young women set their sights too low just because that is what they know, but if we continue to expose young women to successful women and the path they took to be successful, I think we will help the younger generation stretch themselves to get even farther than we have.” As CICS continues to grow and expand, the Accenture/CICS Mentoring program will provide an exemplary model of programming which further supports the mission of a college preparatory education for all students. FocalPoint
WATCH FOR US! CICS Rockford Charter School Organization OPENING AUGUST 2010
ien Or nt
lO tio ca
p el na lH so Pe r
lit ua Q m
e bl a ur
m ve o pr
Ac hie ve me
iro nv E g
eP g e l ol
K–4 and growing! On February 24, 2009, the Rockford School Board passed a resolution authorizing CICS Rockford Charter School to open for the 2010–2011 school year. Beginning in August of 2010, this school will serve grades K–4, adding a new grade each year after—with additional plans to open a high school (9th grade) in 2012.
For more information, call: (312) 651-5000
FocalPoint is a magazine published by the Chicago International Charter School. This magazine was launched as a place where educators and ad...