It wasn’t long ago that Urban Prep High School students—young black men in their signature navy blue jackets and red ties—first made waves in the Chicago education world. Banners boasting of the school’s 100% graduation rate decorated the campus in Englewood, where national leaders visited.

The charter school brought a sense of hope to a neighborhood burdened by disinvestment and violence.

Fast forward 15 years later, and Urban Prep’s two campuses – today – in financial troubleRegarding a sexual misconduct investigation, declining enrollment and complaints Lack of special education services and low numbers of certified teachers – are up for acquisition by the Chicago Public Schools.

Chicago and other cities where charter schools have proliferated have a lot to learn from the decline of Urban Prep.

rooting for its success

When I was a high school English teacher at TEAM Englewood, a small CPS school, we shared a building with Urban Prep. I was jealous of Urban Prep and the fanfare surrounding it. The school always seems to have more faculty positions and resources than our school, not to mention being championed by well-known donors like oprah winfreyencouraged by Chicago White Sox and visited many times Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel,

But jealousy aside, I wanted Urban Prep to succeed for one main reason: its students. Young Black Men as Data National Center for Education Statistics shows, has the lowest college graduation rate of any racial or gender group – 34%. And although CPS has seen a slight increase in black males’ high school graduation rates, the district is still No A beacon for his academic success.

Urban Prep’s mission was to change all that, creating a model that could be replicated across the country. But now, CPS has moved to revoke Urban Prep’s charter. What happened?

First, quite simply, enrollment matters. urban prep, like my former school, The “Renaissance 2010” emerged during the reform movement It was the brainchild of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and then-CPS CEO Arne Duncan. Many of the high schools built under this initiative were intentionally small. The theory was that smaller schools would allow for stronger relationships between teachers and students, so students would not “fall through the cracks” due to lack of support.

but these seem to be new schools to pop up every year in Englewood, even though others have closed, At one time, in the area where Urban Prep is located, seven high schools vied for students, even though the student-age population was large enough for only one high school. And these smaller schools had fewer teachers and extracurricular activities—so students got a less-intense high school experience.

To make matters worse, CPS also created a new, $85 Million High School In the region, the student-age population continued to decline. It’s tough for students to compete against a school in a shiny new building.

Second, educational leaders need to be mindful of fame and the problems that come with it. The former CEO of Urban Prep, the face and leader since its inception, is Tim King, who was once a People Magazine Hero of the Year. Now, embroiled in a sexual misconduct investigation, Urban Prep is having a hard time shedding its image.

And finally, as other charter operators have discovered the hard way, rules and regulations matter. Charter schools often play by different rules, and this sometimes leads to poor decision making that harms students. Acero Charter School Deliberately changed its name from UNO to Acero when its charter was about to be revoked due to lack of services for English learners. Often Herald Noble Prep Charter School The network has apologized for punitive discipline policies that harm students of color. and Urban Prep fiscal mismanagement This has prompted it to rely on loans, credit cards and cash advances to stay afloat.

These are problems that are usually associated with a budding business, not a school. But the moment education, a social good, followed the “business model”, schools succeeded or failed on corporate metrics. In the case of Chicago, schools competed for dwindling student numbers, and many schools failed, closed, or turned to drastic measures to stay open.

Let the collapse of Urban Prep serve as a wake-up call to district and school leaders: Charter schools must be held accountable just as much as traditional public schools. As we tell our students, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

Gina Caneva is the library media specialist for East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. He taught at CPS for 15 years and is National Board Certified.

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