Chicago Public Schools’ proposal to turn around or close several chronically failing schools has paved the way for Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) to open a second charter school on the city’s West Side.
KIPP, a nationwide network of open-enrollment college-preparatory schools, is proposing to open a second location in the annex building of Nash Elementary School, 4837 W. Erie in Austin. KIPP will take over the space left by Academy of Community Technology, which closed a few years ago.
Schools Chief Jean-Claude Brizard announced the news Wednesday while discussing CPS’s school action plans to improve chronically underperforming schools at an editorial board meeting with Austin Weekly and the Chicago Journal.
Under the proposed action plans, CPS wants to turn around 10 underperforming schools. The Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) will oversee the turnaround efforts of six of those 10 schools while the CPS Office of School Improvement will oversee the remaining four. Additionally, CPS has proposed to close two schools and phase out several others, including two high schools.
The proposed KIPP school is part of a strategy to have under-enrolled schools share facilities. KIPP is among three schools that will co-share facilities under the CPS action plans.
The other two schools are Chi Arts High School, which would share facilities with James R. Doolittle School, 535 E. 35th St. Richard T. Crane High School would cohabitate with Talent Development High School. CPS plans to phase out Crane High School along with Dyett High School on the South Side.
April Goble, KIPP’s executive director, expressed excitement about the prospect of opening a new school on the West Side. Though currently just a proposal, Goble said KIPP officials are “hopeful that the board approves the charter.”
The success of KIPP Ascend, 1616 S. Avers, prompted KIPP officials to pursue the long-desired goal of an opening a second campus, Goble said. The yet unnamed school plans to open with a single class of fifth-graders as did its predecessor. In 2007, KIPP Ascend reached full capacity, serving over 350 students from fifth through eighth grade.
“We saw the success of our founding class and were very interested in continuing the work that we started here years ago,” Goble said.
Opened as a college preparatory middle school in 2003 with a single class of fifth graders, KIPP Ascend saw 90 percent of its fifth-grade class enroll in college, including Chicago’s Columbia College, Alabama State University and Clark Atlanta University.
The high percentage of KIPP alumni attending college stems from the school’s academic philosophy. Although students come to the school in the fifth grade, the goal is have them leave prepared to go to high school and then college, Goble explained.
Students are immersed in a college-bound culture where classrooms are named after different colleges. KIPP students take several college prep courses and are introduced to math classes that will prepare them for high school.
“We do a lot of work around what it takes to go to college,” Goble said. “We want them to understand that they have the opportunity to go to college.”
That work has paid off for students. High percentages of KIPP’s eighth-grade students typically meet or exceed state standards in reading and math. Additionally, 100 percent of students matriculate in top college prep high schools. KIPP alums boast a 96 percent graduation rate from high school compared to 55 percent for CPS students. Goble noted such success stems from a longer school day and a “smaller school model.”
KIPP also supports students beyond eighth grade. The school provides academic assistance for students while in high school and even in college. The school evaluates students’ high school choices to ensure they “are going to high schools that we think have a proven track record of making sure that kids get access to college,” Goble said.
The Chicago Board of Education will vote on all proposed action plans in February.
Other West Side schools impacted by CPS’s plans include Lathrope Elementary School, 1440 S. Christina and Herzl Elementary School, 3711 W. Douglas.
Lathrope will close this academic year. In 2009, CPS voted to phase out the school, which has seen its student population dwindle since that decision. The remaining 83 students will be absorbed into Johnson Elementary School, 1420 S Albany Ave.
CPS targeted Herzl as a turnaround school where the school’s entire staff is terminated and replaced. AUSL will lead the turnaround. According to CPS statistics, Herzl has been on probation for five years, and one out of two of Herzl’s 500 students are not meeting state standards.