Charter schools with failing grades still featured at quality schools fair

One-third of schools featured at New Schools Expo 6.0, mostly charters, are low achievers.

December 8, 2012

(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
Teachers, principals and other staff plug charter schools at the New Schools Expo in 2010. This year, one-third of schools being featured at the expo have been rated "Performance Level 3" by the district, the lowest grade possible.

A high-profile Chicago schools fair today is supposed to show off quality new schools, many of them charters.

The New Schools Expo at Soldier Field is sponsored by the school district and run every year by New Schools for Chicago, formerly the Renaissance Schools Fund, a group that has raised more than $30 million from Chicago’s business and civic community to open new charter schools and improve education by “radically shaking up the public school system.”

Schools set up tables with photos and marketing materials to try to entice students to enroll. Principals and teachers offer freebies like candy or balloons to kids. Thousands of parents typically attend the annual event.

But a WBEZ analysis of the more than 100 new schools featured at the expo this year shows 34 percent of them are rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest grade given. Schools receiving the designation include campuses run by some of the largest charter networks in the city, including UNO and the Chicago International Charter School. This is the first year the district has graded charters on the same scale as traditional schools.

In recent years, the district has closed neighborhood schools rated Level 3, citing poor performance.

New Schools for Chicago director Phyllis Lockett said she doesn’t agree with the way the district calculates performance levels.  She said low-scoring charter schools featured at the expo do a good job at things that aren’t necessarily measured—like getting kids into college. And Lockett said the new schools fair has a broader goal: to change parents’ thinking about schools.

“The purpose of the expo is really to give parents first and foremost this notion and the sense that they do have a choice, that they should do their research,” Lockett said.

She said parents will receive guides that help them figure out what questions to ask as they shop for schools.

While Lockett takes issue with how CPS calculates its school performance levels, her organization has built a campaign around them: the “123 Campaign” is meant to raise awareness of the 123,000 CPS students “stuck in failing schools,” the New Schools website said. The 123,000 figure is the total enrollment of students in Level 3 schools.

Lockett said she didn’t know that’s where the 123,000 figure came from. She said she got the number from the school district.

“We’ve just been quoting what the former superintendent had reported,” Lockett said.

Chicago Public Schools has been advertising the New Schools Expo to parents with robocalls and postcards sent home in students’ backpacks. Even the “hold” music on the CPS phone system has encouraged parents to “learn all about some of Chicago’s great school options, including charter schools, by attending the New Schools Expo on Saturday, December 8….”

Asked to comment on WBEZ’s finding that one-third of the schools featured at the expo are Level 3 schools, district spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler wrote that the expo is “a fair for parents to consider school options.” 

She said district officials will also set up a table for parents interested in learning about district-run schools such as magnets, selective enrollment schools, military schools or new IB programs. The district used to run a fair featuring those options, but that was cancelled due to budget constraints.

Ziegler said CPS does not spend any money on the New Schools Expo.

The following are all schools featured at the New Schools Expo 6.0 that have been assigned a performance level by Chicago Public Schools. Additional schools will also be featured at the expo that are too new to be assigned a performance level.

An asterisk (*) indicates that the performance level is based on preliminary data. Source of New Schools Expo 6.0 schools: New Schools for Chicago. Source of performance levels: CPS.

School NameSchool TypePerformance Level
ACADEMY for GLOBAL CITIZENSHIPCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
ACE TECH CHARTER HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2*
AMANDLACharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
BETHUNEAUSL SchoolsLevel 3
BRADWELLAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
BRONZEVILLE LTHOUSE CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
CATALYST CHTR - CIRCLE ROCKCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CATALYST CHTR - HOWLANDCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CHGO ACAD ESAUSL SchoolsLevel 1
CHGO ARTS CONTR HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
CHGO TALENT CHTR HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CHICAGO ACADEMY HSAUSL SchoolsLevel 1
CHICAGO VIRTUAL CHTR CAMPUS HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CICS - LLOYD BONDCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
CICS ELLISONCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3*
CICS-AVALON /SO SHORECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CICS-BASILCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
CICS-BUCKTOWNCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
CICS-IRVING PARKCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
CICS-LONGWOODCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3*
CICS-NORTHTOWNCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2*
CICS-PRAIRIECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
CICS-WASHINGTON PARKCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CICS-WEST BELDENCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
CICS-WRIGHTWOODCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
COLLINS ACADEMY HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
CURTISAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
DENEENAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
DODGEAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
DULLESAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
EPIC ACADEMY HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3*
ERIE CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
FRAZIER CONTRCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
FULLERBurnham Park Elementary NetworkLevel 3
GALAPAGOS CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
HARVARDAUSL SchoolsLevel 3
HOPE CONTR ESCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
HOWEAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
JOHNSONAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
KIPP ASCEND CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
LEARN CHTR BUTLERCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
LEARN CHTR EXCELCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
LEARN CHTR-CAMPBELLCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
LEGACY CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
MORTONAUSL SchoolsLevel 1
NATIONAL TEACHERSAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
NKRUMAH CHTRCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
NOBLE- Chicago BullsCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2*
NOBLE-Gary ComerCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-GolderCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-MuchinCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-NobleCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-PritzkerCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-RaunerCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-Rowe-ClarkCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NOBLE-UICCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1*
NORTH LAWNDALE CP-CHRISTIANACharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2*
ORR HSAUSL SchoolsLevel 3
PERSPECTIVES CHTR - LEADERSHIP ACADEMYCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
PERSPECTIVES CHTR CALUMET MIDDLECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
PERSPECTIVES CHTR CALUMET TECHCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
PERSPECTIVES CHTR IITCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
PERSPECTIVES CHTR JOSLINCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
PHILLIPS HSAUSL SchoolsLevel 3
POLARIS CHTR CAMPUSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
PROLOGUE CONTR HSCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
PROVIDENCE CHTR-BUNCHECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
ROWECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
SHABAZZ CHTR-SHABAZZCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
SHABAZZ CHTR-SIZEMORECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
SHABAZZ-DUSABLE LEADERSHIPCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
SHERMANAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
SOUTHSHORESkyway Elementary NetworkLevel 3
TARKINGTONAUSL SchoolsLevel 2
TEAM HSSouthwest Side High School NetworkLevel 3
UNIV OF CHGO CHTR-DONOGHUECharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
UNIV OF CHGO CHTR-NKOCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNIV OF CHGO CHTR-WOODLAWNCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
UNIV OF CHGO CHTR-WOODSONCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNO CHTR - MAJOR HECTOR P.GARCIACharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
UNO CHTR - PFC OMAR E.TORRRESCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNO CHTR - SPC DANIEL ZIZUMBOCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNO CHTR-DE LAS CASASCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
UNO CHTR-FUENTESCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2
UNO CHTR-MARQUEZCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNO CHTR-PAZCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 1
UNO CHTR-TAMAYOCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3
UPLIFT HSNorth-Northwest Side High School NetworkLevel 2
URBAN PREP-ENGLEWOODCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3*
URBAN PREP-WESTCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 3*
VOISE HSWest Side High School NetworkLevel 3
YOUNG WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP CHARTERCharter/Contract SchoolsLevel 2*

Charter/Contract schools are free, publicly funded schools that are privately run with private employees. AUSL schools are run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. They are publicly funded but privately managed using public (CPS) employees.