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The Urban Prep charter school myth is yet another Chicago Public Schools deception

The lads at Urban Prep
The lads at Urban Prep
Chicago Tribune

It should be no surprise that the people’s republic of Chicago that has given the world the Sponge-Rob Blagojevich cartoon show, the republic’s longest running one-party political system, and the most Unconstitutional gun law in America, is also the home of the biggest public education lie of the year. After several weeks of excessive local jubilance and gratuitous nation-wide praise over the unexpected success of the virtually all-black Urban Prep Charter High School’s entire graduation class gaining admittance to college next fall, an unlikely source reveals the fact that this broadly disseminated feel-good story is a flat out lie.

Rachel Cohen of the Socialist Worker dot org website charges Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with cheating in a 15 July 2010 article titled: CHARTER SCHOOL COOKS THE BOOKS. Yes, yes I know it may seem strange that a retired Army Intel Officer reads a socialist-communist website, but I have also read the translation of Mao’s Little Red Book, the major works of Karl Marx, propaganda from the American Association of University Women, Mein Kampf, and al-Jazeera’s English website. I took General George Patton seriously when he counseled his warriors to read the books written by our adversaries. I also read the biographies of selected U.S. politicians that reside on a notoriously unAmerican section of the political spectrum.

Anyway, Ms. Cohen discovered that there was a glaring omission from within the guts of the glorious story of the 95-student graduating class of Englewood teen-agers in the first all-male/all-black charter school in the history of air, water, and dirt. Mayor Rich Daley’s publicists and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s magicians obscured, ignored, and buried a few facts. To begin with, the 2010 grad class of 95, started out with 166 young men in 2006. Last time I looked, graduation rates are determined by simple mathematics. You take the number of students that actually graduate after their senior year and divide that figure by the total amount of students that enrolled as freshmen four years earlier. Unless the malicious remnants of ‘new math’ are used in Chicago, the true graduation rate from Urban Prep is 57 percent. If I am accurate, Urban Prep graduated its young gentlemen at a rate lower than the official CPS figure of 62 percent.

Certainly at this point liberal bedwetters, Duncan acolytes, and assorted African-American apologists are sharpening their rhetorical knives and googling my address because I am shining a light on a very popular untruth. Frankly, if the manufactured success of Urban Prep (UP) were just restricted to the fishy and juiced-up graduation rate, I could easily have ignored it and let this beleaguered city of perpetual failures dwell in the glow of a rare touchie-feelie moment. However, the deceit goes deeper than the academic performance of these 95 lads, and has dire consequences for those who believe it. Rachel Cohen’s article directed me to the Illinois Interactive Report Card for public schools and I went there and analyzed the charts and numbers.

I was stunned to learn that the celebrated Urban Prep Charter School failed to make its state mandated Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goal. Furthermore, only 15 percent of its 450 students met state standards in reading and mathematics. I could pile on a bunch off other grim test statistics that paint a much more different picture of UP than their recent press coverage but there is no point in doing so. Why? Because those that prefer to live within the walls of a dark lie that is politically convenient here in Chicago will not be moved by the facts in this case anymore than they were moved by the facts in others. Chicago is a voluntary gulag populated by low intensity leftists that do not understand that corrupt government is not a midwest birthright. Furthermore, those who do want the truth have only to go to the Report Card website to verify the data for themselves.

What’s the point here and why should anyone give a fat flying fish? Again, Chicago School Reform even when it is statistically irrelevant since the 450 fellows at UP are just a microscopic drop in the CPS bucket of 460,000 students, is intentionally deceptive. The entirety of the Arne Duncan myth of school reform has to be uncovered and reported. Why? Duncan is the puppet master in charge of distributing billions in Race-to-the-Top education dollars. Those are our tax dollars. Duncan determines the criteria for dissemination of these monies, and those criteria are based upon his heralded ‘success’ at school reform during his tenure as CPS CEO under the tutelage of Mayor Daley. The bogus Urban Prep saga was thrown in our faces by a biased news media machine as single-source and easily digestible evidence to support the Duncan regime’s strategy of blowing up neighborhood schools and firing veteran teachers, then replacing them with charter units staffed with non-union faculty.

So far, evidence of Duncan’s successful school reform are as remote as signs of George Bush’s weapons of mass destruction. They ain’t there. Indeed, none of the promises and claims made by the current White House regime are anywhere to be found. It is time to put a stop to the big lie and get down to the business of really improving education for our children before Duncan squanders his multi-billion dollar slush fund on techniques, tactics, and procedures that do not work. 

Comments

  • Mike 4 years ago

    Mr Hayes:
    Urban Prep is not a Chicago Public School. They simply lease space for their institution within the building. Formerly they resided on Lindblom's third floor. Not only do tax payers not pay for their education, we profit from them. Also, I put forth the challange to you to spend a day among the matriculating studendents, and tell me if they are not better than C.P.S. kids. Compared to C.P.S.'s 47% graduation rate, even according to your math, 57% is better.

    obtusly:
    mike

  • Alice 4 years ago

    I was a principal of a Chicago Public HS and a charter high school that was under the auspices of CPS. The secret to charter schools is that they frequently kick students out that they cannot teach. Those students then attend Chicago Public Schools. How convenient for charter schools. That is how the class was reduced to 57%. Charter schools don't worry about graduation rates. When I was principal of the Chicago Public School, the grad rate was 81%. That was in a school of Latinos and Blacks with a poverty rate of 94%. BTW, the average ACT score of Urban Prep was 15. Maybe they got them in college, but how will they graduate? I hope I am wrong and they all do well. I have to agree with the harsh reality that Edward is presenting. Harsh, but true! If charter schools would keep their students and not expel all their problems, I would be impressed with their media coverage.

  • Alice 4 years ago

    I forgot to say that the grad rate for the first graduation class was 60%. the other students were kicked or pushed out. The school started with 150 students before I came and only 90 original students graduated. I discovered that the people running the school district had no clue how a graduation rate was formulated. Although charter schools leasing CPS property are not Chicago Public Schools, according to Obama, Duncan and Huberman, if they do not show much better data than CPS (making AYP), they will be closed by CPS.

  • Ed Hayes-Chgo Ed Ex 4 years ago

    Mike, thanks for your input. I would illuminate the comments from Alice, especially the fact that unwanted students are thrown out of Charter schools, a luxury that a neighborhood public school does not have. When I was Dean of Students at St. Martin de Porres (now Gwendolyn Brooks Academy on 111th Street), I tossed out the trouble makers like a bouncer in a Hell's Kitchen saloon, and the bad apples enrolled in Harlan, Hirsch, or CVS or some other public school that could not refuse them admittance. But let's not lose sight of the big picture here. Billions of school reform dollars will be misspent on false school reform unless the Duncan years at CPS are revealed for what they were, a real estate program to reverse white flight for Mayor Daley, and not a campaign to help Chicago students get a better education. Furthermore Mike, 47% or 57% is a long way from the 100% implied by the UP lie. And if UP is not a CPS school, why is Daley taking credit for it?

  • Scott - DuPage County Conservative Examiner 4 years ago

    Thanks for shining light on this, Edward. Unfortunately, I have learned to become very skeptical of any (nearly unbelievable) positive claims that come out of the government because too often there's a twist - as you have appropriately uncovered here. Anyone remotely familiary with professional education knows that a charter school, of all facilities, is not going to have the tremendous results the government claimed on this one. Charter Schools just don't get the students to get results like Duncan claimed. Does any school these days? Hardly. Thanks for the article, Ed.

  • Andrea 4 years ago

    Is it true they are all going to college? For me that was the only part of the story that actually mattered.

  • Ed Haye-Chgo Ed Ex 4 years ago

    Andrea: You ask if it is true that they are all going to college? Most probably not since their average ACT score was 15. Anything less than 18 is semi-literacy and the average 4-year college requires a minimum score of 21. However, community colleges will ignore the ACT score. Still the fact is, only 6% of all CPS students FINISH college. I understand your focus on the boys themselves but the reality is that Urban Prep's 2010 grad class is a political football kicked into our faces to further a larger agenda by untrustworthy people at the municipal and federal levels. It is our job as citizens to get informed and stay that way. Scott (previous comment) 'gets' it.

  • Andrea 4 years ago

    Thank you for your response Mr. Hayes. As I am a GA resident I can't speak to the political or financial ramifications of the way the CPS does business. Although I will say that in a time when the nation is looking for proven educational success it is deplorable to misrepresent the situation in such a manner. I was simply hoping that there was some element of truth, something good to take out of this mess.

  • ChitownStu 4 years ago

    I'd like to simply ask if comprehensive public schools are doing such a good job, why are charters gaining such traction around the country - not just in Chicago, but nationally? Are we so afraid of change, reform that we are blinded by who the messenger of that change is as opposed to the actual improvements? We're smarter than that.

    Even if 90% of the Urban Prep students go to college, that's still a significant number. Why denigrate positive improvements? And as far as the "kicking" out of students, please do not be fooled that CPS schools do not do the same thing. Especially around testing time. "Opportunity transfers," suspensions/expulsions are all ways of eliminating "trouble" students. We need to find ways of keeping all students in schools regardless of their type.

  • Ed Hayes-Chgo Ed Ex 4 years ago

    ChitownStu: To your question of why charter schools are gaining such traction, the answer is twofold. One: SEC-ED Duncan is dangling billions of dollars in front of cash-strapped school districts if they conform to his uninformed theory of school reform. So, they do. Two: Charters are an escapist mechanism for cowardly education professions to implement and buy time from scrutiny as they make it appear that they are doing 'something,' but that 'something' will take years to evaluate. And in that time, there is no real reform going on, thus children continue to lose and we squander billions in tax dollars on another unproven fad. The reason I help to expose the phony achievement of the Urban Pre lads is because it is an intentional diversion from the truth. If the government, at any level, is manipulating data and distorting the truth, it is incumbent upon Free Thinkers to point it out and then to ask themselves: Why? Focus, ChitownStu, on the big picture here, not the hype.

  • Chicago Teacher 4 years ago

    Graduation rates are a little more complicated than simply taking the freshman class and seeing how many make it to senior year. Anyone who moves out of the district or leaves a school "voluntarily" (many of these are coerced, but these kids are sent to another school) do not count against the graduation rate. Expulsions, drop outs and just plain failure to graduate count against a school.

  • Phyllis (Homeschooling Examiner) 4 years ago

    Thank you, Mr. Hayes, for shedding light and truth on the Urban Prep story. I was so proud when I first heard about it and knew that it was nothing short of a miracle. Now, I realize it was not a miracle but another lie, designed to deceive the people of Chicago. However, I m one that believes in facts, not fabricated fairy tales. I believe there are/were many young men at Urban Prep who want to do better, but they do not have the early educational foundation to prepare them for higher learning. By the time they get to high school, they would need more than four years of remediation to catch up. ACT scores of less than 18 are part of this sad story.

    Parents, wake up, and begin educating your children at home, i.e., read to them, teach them their ABCs, their colors and their numbers, and expose them to educational DVDs, experiential learning, etc. Even if you want to send them to public school, they should be ready to build upon the foundation you already laid when they get to kindergarten.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    It is really sad to hear comments like these in regards to UP. As a parent of a UP student, I have to disagree with the badgering of this school. MY son is a student at the new South Shore campus, and from what I see each day that I'm there, those teachers (non-union) are there to greet those young men, they speak to them like they matter, they treat them like young men and not just some student on a school log. The h--- with how many were in rolled. How many actually graduated? Maybe that's what it takes to get these schools where they need to be. What would you do with a basket of apples, if all but one was good, yeah you would throw away the bad one to save the rest of them. People get it together, our young black men see negativity all of the time, at home, in the neighborhood, at church almost everywhere they go, they are pegged with negativity.
    Instead of setting behind these computers, visit some of the charter schools. My son has never been to a public school and if I have anything to do with it he won't. My oldest son now 20 was in public school until 5th grade and I begged and pleaded with them to test my son for a learning disability and they never did. Instead they were going to fell him and I got a call from a charter school and instantly my son was tested and found to have ADD and was given the assistants he needed to be successfull through out high school. At Charter Schools there is always a principle to talk to, you don't have to go through 5 office staff members before getting to the right person.
    I have a daughter who graduated from a chicago public high school and it was a mess, students stood in line 4 hours to get their diplomas that they worked hard for and was told to come back another day. How unorganized is that? When my oldest son graduated from a charter high school, they gave him everything including his diploma and he did not have to go back. I have and will always recommend a charter school over public school any day.
    By the way, my oldest son is currently receiving assistance with his education. Thank you charter schools,

  • Profile picture of Edward Hayes
    Edward Hayes 4 years ago

    I hear you loud and clear and whereas I cannot disagree with you I have to re-direct you to the Big Picture. Urban Prep was used as a mini-example to say that Chicago School Reform under the Three Stooges (Vallas, Duncan, & Huberman) worked. It didn't. And one reason it has failed is that no one addressed what to do with what you call 'bad apples,' that infest CPS. Hurrah for UP, but there are 600 other schools that suck and they get lost in the hyped up acclaim for Urban Prep. Thus Daley and his flunkies escape rational public scrutiny. The result is that millions, even billions, of education dollars will be misspent while folks are swimming in the Kool-Aid. I have to stay with the Big Picture and not get diverted with microscopic and non-replicable feel good stories. Furthermore, UP leadership prostituted itself in permitting the spin doctors to use them by manipulating enrollment and graduation data. That is professional fraud and I cannot ignore that either.

  • Profile picture of CANDISS
    CANDISS 4 years ago

    I AM THE PARENT OF A STUDENT WHO IS CURRENTLY ENROLLED @ UP'S ENGLEWOOD CAMPUS. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE ! I AM IN THE PROCESS OF FINDING ANOTHER SCHOOL FOR HIM.

  • David Pearce 3 years ago

    Candiss, Could you give more details regarding your negative opinion of Urban Prep Englewood? What happened?

  • Yonnie 3 years ago

    Hi Candiss,

    I would also like to know what was your impression of UP?.....I am in the process of enrolling my child.

  • Chris 1 year ago

    SOOOO much misinformation. Urban Prep (as well as all charters) are indeed public schools, and funded with tax dollars at 100%. They are merely given the freedome to operate differently. I have worked at both for 15+ years. The point made about charters having the freedom to expell students they cant handle or dont want is completely correct. That is how they keep up numbers. They also call every school "College Prep" and parents fall for it. I will give them this...master marketers!!!

  • rickgas 8 months ago

    First of all though some charters outperform the public school counterparts some do no better and some do worse. The CREDO study showed no improvement initially and modest improvement when revisited later(likely due to closing of

  • Disgusted 8 months ago

    After reading everyone's comment, I can honestly say THANK GOD it's not 100%of our young black men graduating into the penal system! I encourage you to volunteer to work with children from impoverished backgrounds whose parents believe they're "beating the system" as they wait on government assistance and believe that education is an option, not a necessity!!! Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind." Robert Nesta Marley

  • jaytex in Bmt Tx 6 months ago

    The libs are so bent on subsidizing the Baby's Daddy/Baby's Momma subculture that they chose to do anything to create the illusion that the sytem is working.. I see young people every day who have graduated from one school or the other and who can barely read at the 2nd grade level..I have no use for them in my business.. the sad part is that the same subculture that sucks up so much money in the name of education also has no respect for those of any race who work hard and try to get a good education..4 generations on welfare should tell us that it is time to do something drastic . Something similar to the CCC camps of the depression era where young folks where aloowed to leave the unhealthy atmosphere they were in and got to work and school in a safe place ...

  • Emil 5 months ago

    this year I finished my freshman year at UP West campus. The truth is this: Urban Prep Charter Academies is not what people think.For one,their arent ANY AP classes. The classes that we take are extremely easy, which is why so many people are walking around with 4.0's. Freshman also do not take a foreigner language which i strongly dislike . UP likes to flaunt about there 100% graduation rate, but really it all a lie.Many kids get kicked out of UP before they get to their senior year,which greatly lowers the amounts of seniors. The ones who do stay long enough to become seniors enjoy an extremely simple senior year . They hardly do anything bbut go to three or four REAL classes a day.The majority of the year is spent on looking at colleges and compiling a bunch of scholarship money simply because of the reputation the school has. They give us minimum work to ensure that we graduate. They dress us up in suits and ties and make us memorize a long detailed Creed. It seems like they focus too hard on getting young black men to act civilized and ''white'' than they are with actually preparing us academically for college. When I talked to an alumni of Urban Prep who attends there prestigious college Northwestern, I asked him how did Urban Prep prepare you for college? He told me that they jump from UP to college was huge and he felt like he was behind. Urban Prep is not what people think it is.