January 20, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 8

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    University plans to lead second charter school to success

    By William Harms
    News Office

    After demonstrating through the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School that outstanding educational research and innovative teacher training can boost academic performance, the University will build on that success with the opening of a second charter school.

    Tim Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement, said he hopes the new school will profoundly influence the lives of students and families throughout the South Side. “Both the University and CPS expect this school to serve as the nucleus of a network of new schools that contribute to the social, economic and civic vibrancy of Chicago’s South Side,” he explained.

    The University is the nation’s only major private research university to operate a charter school. The new school will be an additional campus to the already highly successful North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School, and will serve as a model for the city and a training place for teachers on the South Side. The proposal for the school, which the University plans to open in the fall of 2005, will be reviewed Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Chicago Public Schools board meeting.

    The new charter school would be the second to be operated as a partnership between the University and the Chicago Public Schools. While serving as a second campus to the NKO Charter School, the new school would be operated separately. Additional University charter schools are likely to open in future years.

    Operating since 1998, the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School has proven successful, with students garnering high test scores across the grades, consistently exceeding Chicago Public School averages at all grades. NKO Charter School students exceed Illinois average scores in writing at all grade levels and mathematics at the fifth-grade level.

    The new charter school, yet to be named, would open with pre-kindergarten and primary grades and eventually be expanded to serve pre-kindergarten- through eighth-grade students. Two classes of students would be enrolled at each grade level, with a maximum total enrollment of 500 students.

    The new school is planned to be located in the former George T. Donoghue School at 707 E. 37th St. and would serve a diverse student body, including families who currently reside in the neighborhood and families who will be new residents of the housing developments being constructed in the area.

    Arne Duncan, the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, requested a proposal for the charter school from the University in August 2004, and the Chicago Board of Education is expected to approve it next week.

    The University’s new charter school is part of its current efforts to engage in urban education. In addition to its established charter school, the University provides professional development to teachers and school leaders, offers an innovative teacher preparation program, designs technology tools to enhance teaching and learning, and generates knowledge about education through its Center for Urban School Improvement and through faculty research.

    “We are very proud of the University’s history of teaching and research,” said President Randel. “With these charter schools, we are now committing ourselves to making that scholarship and education available as never before to many of the children who live near our community. Chicago’s children are its future, and by developing these schools, we are pleased to be making an investment that will pay dividends to the children, Chicago and the nation for decades to come.”

    Like the NKO Charter School, the new school would have a college-preparatory curriculum, beginning with 4-year-old schoolchildren enrolled in the pre-kindergarten classes. In order to equip students for higher education, the school will stress reading and writing and will use the much-acclaimed University of Chicago Everyday Mathematics program.

    Additionally, the students would use technology throughout the program and take part in a project-based science curriculum that encourages critical thinking and collaboration.

    As a professional development school, the charter school also would offer a teacher preparation and enrichment program that encourages aspiring, new and veteran teachers to learn from master educators and provide opportunities for teachers to work together and learn from each other.

    One innovative feature of the school would be the establishment of an apprentice teacher program, in which master teachers serve as mentors of newly certified teachers. The arrangement also would provide time for the master teachers to work with visiting instructors from other schools in the district who seek to increase their professional knowledge and skills. The model could be adopted in other University professional development schools, Knowles said.

    “Over time, we envision that a continuous stream of apprentice teacher graduates would serve as master teachers to yet another generation of new teachers entering the University’s professional development schools and other CPS schools,” he said.

    The new charter school also would serve as a resource to its neighborhood, Knowles said. “We also plan to expand our partnerships with University and community organizations in areas such as health, technology, the arts, early childhood education, recreation and family literacy,” Knowles said. “We see the school as the hub of community building.”

    A national search for the new school’s principal is underway, and that administrator will work with a design team of University representatives on preparations for the coming school year, Knowles said.

    “I’m very grateful to the Center for Urban School Improvement and to the University for committing resources to the communities I serve. They currently operate a first-class charter school in North Kenwood, and we are fortunate to have another coming into Oakland,” said Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago 4th Ward Alderwoman.