For the first time, the state is releasing today new school report cards for charter campuses, with test scores and data on student and school characteristics compiled in the same format used for traditional public schools. 

With the test scores for individual charter campuses now more readily available, the new reports are likely to give ammunition to grassroots activists who oppose charters and school closings. CPS is slated to announce more proposed closings by Thursday.

According to performance guidelines established by CPS, 28 percent of charter schools are high- performing, 40 percent are in the middle range and a third are in performance level 3–making them eligible for closure under the guidelines.

However, no CPS charter schools will be on the school closure list, says CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. In the coming year, she says, district leadership plans to “create a system of measuring performance of all schools in order to hold all accountable for results regardless of what kind of school they are. “

Charter schools are given five year contracts and CPS must wait until they are up for renewal to decide their fate. CPS has closed only one charter school, in the 1990s, though a few have shut on their own because of low performance and financial difficulties.

Though CPS has long provided information on standardized test scores for charter campuses, the state had only produced school report cards for each charter network. A 2009 state law mandated that the information be reported for individual campuses.

CPS has 87 charter schools, but report cards are only available for 54 campuses because many are too new to have students in tested grades (third through 8th and junior year of high school).

In addition to test score data, the demographic, class size and teacher information on the report cards reveal some interesting differences between charter schools in the same network, and between charter schools compared to the district average.

Some of those points are:

  • Compared to the district average, charters have lower percentages of students in bilingual education or with disabilities. But some charter schools, such as Chicago International-Northtown, have a higher percentage of students with disabilities. In the same network, Chicago International-Loomis has a lower percentage.

  • The mobility rate at charter schools is far lower than the district average of 17 percent. Only three schools, Perspectives-Calumet Middle School, Noble Street-Englewood High School and Chicago International-Larry Hawkins Campus, which is in Roseland, have above-average mobility rates. 

  • The state did not include teacher or administrator salaries or other budget information in the report cards. But the report cards show that charter schools employ far more teachers with emergency and provisional credentials than district schools. Charters also have far fewer highly qualified teachers. At four of the Noble Street High School campuses, more than a quarter of the teachers are not highly qualified.

  • Charter schools have higher average class sizes than district schools. But LEARN Charter Schools tend to have lower class sizes, while United Neighborhood Organization campuses have mostly higher than average class sizes.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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