Turns out the alternative education system Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to as a model for Chicago Public Schools has problems of its own.
State achievement test data released Wednesday for the 2010-2011 school year shows Chicago charter school chains are struggling right along with CPS, some scoring below district averages.
Noble Street for example was the only one of nine charter networks to beat state-average test scores in each of the chain's schools. On the other hand, a majority of schools in Aspira and North Lawndale charter networks scored below average.
In other cases results wildly varied from school-to-school. CICS Hawkins high school was among the bottom high schools in the state with an 8.9 percent passing rate. CICS Northtown saw 38.7 percent passing.
David Berliner, education professor at Arizona State University, told the Chicago Sun-Times the results should signal to parents that not all charters are equally replicated, like a McDonalds or Holiday Inn.’
Noble Street charter network CEO Michael Milkie agreed, telling the publication student performance levels and the strength of teachers can vary school-to-school within a chain.
Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, suggested to the Chicago Tribune that 12 or more underperforming schools need "substantial actions" and possible closure.
But Juan Rangel, president of the UNO charter network touted by Emanuel, maintains that charters, which aren't subject to some of the rules enforced at other public schools, are working and pointed to strong student growth. But Rangel told the Tribune it's "do or die" for certain schools to get better.
He announced in June that UNO schools are adding 30 more days to the normal 170-day school year and lengthening the school day to seven-and-a-half hours, something Emanuel praised. And the schools are growing, he said.
"We have long waiting lists," Rangel said.