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From A Distance It Appears Daley May Be Getting Something Right

By Sam Bakken in News on Jun 1, 2005 8:30PM

Waa! I hate homework!Running a successful school, let alone an entire school system, is a complicated thing. For centuries the best and brightest have wrestled with the issue. Over the years we've been told that the Chicago public school system is in worse shape than we thought (in February the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research reported that in 2004 only 54 percent of students at Chicago's public high schools graduated).

Because so many factors contribute to the failure (spending per student, parental involvement, curriculums, etc.) it's difficult to say exactly what is going wrong and why. However, politicians aren't hesitating to offer solutions. Gov. Gonad announced yesterday that he would sign Senate Bill 575 adding a third year of math, a second year of science and two writing courses to Illinois' high school diploma requirements. Also, with the budget state legislators approved yesterday, the state's spending on each public school student will increase to $5,164 (up $200). And today the Progressive Policy Institute released a report (PDF) on Chicago's charter schools praising Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 initiative.

The report says that Chicago charter schools:

--have stronger graduation rates in all but one school --are wildly popularity among families

--have higher attendance rates compared to the schools charter students would otherwise have attended in all but one charter school

--improved faster than CPS as a whole in seven of 10 Chicago charter elementary schools since 2001

--outperformed the average scores of public schools that charter students would have otherwise attended

The report does mention that key charter allies jumping ship, CPS's resistance and opposition in the community all threaten the plan. However that doesn't stop the report's authors from labeling Chicago "one of America's most charter-savvy big cities," and lists a number of things it says Chicago can teach school systems around the nation.

We could only skim the report, but it looks very thorough. It breaks down Illinois' charter school law, provides historical information about school reform in Chicago, compares test scores of charter schools and non-charter schools and gives a detailed explanation of Renaissance 2010 and its challenges.