Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools

More on Chicago from Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools:

The news from Chicago is even more compelling than your email suggests.  Fortunately, Rahm and Jean-Claude are taking some long-overdue steps to correct structural problems that have disadvantaged students for generations.  Consider:

·         Under the current union contract (which is set to expire in June of next year), Chicago K-8 schools begin at 9:00 and release students at 2:45, making for a 5:45 school day, the shortest among the largest 50 urban districts in the country.  With lunch, transitions, and similar non-instructional time, the actual instructional time is substantially less.

·         Chicago schools are only in session 170 days a year, 10 days fewer than the national average.  More than half of all states mandate at least 180 instructional days as a matter of state law.  When the length of the school year is combined with the criminally short school day, students in Chicago have the shortest cumulative instructional year in the nation among major districts.

·         The result:  8% of Chicago high school students are college ready based on 2011 ACT results (which all students in Illinois take as part of the PSAE), a figure that doesn't include the roughly 45% who drop out prior to 11th grade.

·         Under the major's proposal to add 10 more instructional days and 90 more minutes per year, Chicago would be average among the 50 largest urban districts, while our beginning teacher salaries are tops in the nation.  We should be proud that we have made teaching compensation a priority, but it simply has to be balanced by real accountability and a focus on results

·         Most egregious:  if you draw a scatter plot diagram with poverty on one axis and length of school day on another, the trend line across Illinois shows a direct relationship.   Thus, the poorer the school district, the shorter the school day.  The shortest school days are in Chicago, East St. Louis, Rockford, and similar districts with astronomical poverty rates.  We provide students who need the most the least.

·         The 50,000 students in charter schools in Chicago get the benefit of 180 instructional days and an average school day of 7 hours and 25 minutes.  All students should have access to a similar benefit. 

In short, we provide our neediest students the shortest school year, the shortest school day, the least prepared teachers, the least adequate resources, and then ask them to pass a high-stakes exam.  Just stunning.  Fortunately, the rumblings of discontent have created a real opportunity to get serious about turning around the system in the very near term.

A piece we released after Jean-Claude's appointment that sets out our vision for the system is posted here:

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