September 8, 2014

Welcome Back to School!

This is our favorite time of year at INCS. On behalf of the entire team, we welcome you back to school for what promises to be another exciting year for the charter school community!

As we kickoff the 2014-2015 school year, charter public schools are more in demand than ever. The recently released PDK/Gallup poll found that more Americans believe students receive a better education at a charter public school than other public schools, and seven out of 10 Americans responded that they support charter public schools.

These results hold true in Illinois. This year, charter public schools are serving a record number of Illinois families with more than 63,000 students enrolled in charter schools across the state. Empowering parents to choose a school that best meets their child’s needs is critical to improving academic outcomes for all students and is a catalyst for necessary changes to the public education system.

To help meet the growing parent demand for high quality schools, we’re thrilled to congratulate five new charter school campuses that are opening their doors this fall. Join us in welcoming the newest members to the charter school community:

  • Foundations College Prep
  • Great Lakes Academy Charter School
  • Horizon Science Academy – Southwest Charter School
  • Noble – ITW David Speer Campus
  • Noble – The Noble Academy Campus

Last year was quite a success story for charter schools and the students we serve. In Chicago, charter schools represented the 11 highest performing public high schools in the district on the ACT. Charter schools also moved the needle on student growth and represented 19 of the top 20 public high schools for academic growth, and an elementary charter school led the city with the largest math and reading growth among all school types, achieving eighty and ninety percent growth respectively.

But we all know what matters most, and those are the life changing outcomes for the students we serve. There are thousands of individual and inspiring stories happening in charter schools all across Illinois and even more on the college campuses where charter graduates have gone next. Newly released data from CPS include an exciting new milestone: over 70% of charter high school graduates in 2013 enrolled in college.  With a CPS non-selective school rate of 50%, it is clear that charters are a key part of changing life trajectories in Chicago.

There is no magic formula to improving academic achievement. This success is attributed to the thousands of dedicated, hard-working and talented school leaders and teachers at charter schools across the state. These educators are driven by a passion that runs deep to be the change that our students and communities need. They go to school every day knowing that all children can succeed. For this, we commend you for all that you do for our students, families, and communities. We look forward to seeing what this school year brings, as the charter community continues to build on the tremendous success of improving access to quality schools and raising academic achievement for all children in Illinois.

Get inspired – check out a collection of stories from the charter community below!

College Bound: 

Noble Street College Prep graduate Jose Serrano is attending Stanford University this fall on a full-ride scholarship. He was one of five Chicago area teens selected to be part of the 2014 Bank of America Student Leaders program. Jose was awarded a paid, eight-week summer internship at a local nonprofit and traveled to Washington D.C. in July to participate in the Bank of America Student Leadership Summit.

College Graduate: 

Urban Prep graduate Paris Williams, a member of Urban Prep’s first graduating class in 2010, earned his degree from Georgetown University this past spring. His parents traveled from their Englewood neighborhood to the nation’s capital and watched their son become the first in their family to earn a four-year degree. Paris’ story and three of his fellow Urban Prep classmates’ stories of hard work and determination in college are featured in the Chicago Tribune.

National Champions: 

CICS Prairie students Marquis Jackson and Joshua Houston are 2014 Little League U.S. Champions as members of the Jackie Robinson West Little League team. We salute them for all of their outstanding success and accomplishments. The team’s poise, hard work, dedication and sportsmanship both on and off the field made Chicago and the entire country proud!

In the Community: 

Perspectives’ student Razia Hutchins and hundreds of her classmates at Perspectives Charter Schools led their community in taking a stand against violence. Their “I Am for Peace” campaign included a peace march through the Bronzeville neighborhood, and they raised more than $35,000 to produce a youth documentary on standing up against gun violence. The documentary will be released later this fall. The students’ efforts gained  attention from national and local media, including BET, Chicago Tribune, ABC 7, and WCIU, just to name a few!

Parent Perspectives:

Recently, a couple of Chicago-area journalists, who are also charter school parents, published pieces about their families’ reasons for choosing charter schools.

  • Charter school parent Ray Salazar, a Chicago Public Schools English teacher and an award-winning and nationally-recognized blogger, wrote “Why my children attend THIS Chicago charter school,” discussing why he and his wife chose Namaste Charter School as the best public school for their children.

“We needed school choice.  All families do.  When districts assign students to schools by their home address, they perpetuate the segregation that forever halts students’ development and opportunities.  If a family chooses to enroll their children in their neighborhood school, they should be able to.  For my family, the local neighborhood school was not an option.”  – Ray Salazar, nationally-recognized blogger, CPS teacher, and charter school parent. 

  • John W. Fountain is a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University in Chicago, a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a charter school parent of a Southland College Prep Charter High School graduate. Recently, he published a piece in Illinois Issues, “The real issue is about justice,” where he recounts the anxious feelings of going through the lottery system to enroll his daughter at Southland College Prep that had 185 student applications for only 125 seats in its first year, and explores the topics of race, poverty, education and what schools must do to prepare all students to succeed.