At Chicago Charters, Secret Sauce Now Available ‘To Go’

A leaked document from the Noble charter chain reveals a key ingredient in secret recipe

Today we turn our attention to secret sauce™. Otherwise known as the elixir of excellence, this mystery ingredient is precisely what allows academies of innovation to produce miraculous results with the exact same students stifled by our achievement-gap widening public schools. But from whence does this secret sauce come? And is this condiment of outstanding-ness available to go? Reader: grab extra napkins and unfasten your eat belts. The education rephorm express is headed to Chicago.

To the things Chicago is famous for—wind, corrupt politicians, a notoriously ill-behaved cow—we can add a fourth: salsa secreta. This piquant achievement accompaniment is being churned out in bulk these days by the Noble Network of Charter Schools, a mini empire of excellence and innovation that bears the imprimatur of various members of the Chicagoland nobility. Noble’s schools include the likes of Chicago Bulls College Prep, DRW Trading College Prep and Pritzker College Prep, named for the fabulously-wealth-Hyatt-heirs-turned-education-rephorming Pritzers. And let’s not forget EduShyster’s personal favorite: Rauner College Prep, an achievement gap closing monument to leverage buyout king and rephormer bull dog Bruce Rauner.

Secret sauce—to go
It is Mr. Rauner’s academy that is our destination today. While the Noble charters keep their recipe for secret sauce hidden deep inside a locked chamber of excellence, the code of which can only be cracked by code-cracking insiders, Mr. Rauner’s academy may inadvertently have let the recipe slip. In this letter sent to a parent by a Rauner College Prep official, achievement gap crushers of the Noble network offer a struggling Rauner student some extra sauce—if he agrees to leave the academy of innovation and go elsewhere:

To Whom it may Concern,
NAME REDACTED is a student who was required to repeat the eleventh grade at Rauner College Prep because he failed to satisfy all of our promotion requirements. Because he is a reclassified student, the credits he earned during his first attempt in the eleventh grade have been deleted. If the student were to transfer to another school, those credits would be repopulated as earned credits.

EduShyster has helpfully uploaded the document for your personalized viewing experience. (Note to EduShyster premium members: wine box may be necessary to wash down indignation.) Now the document raises several questions, such as why is Concern capitalized? Also, is it the policy of the entire Noble Network of Charter Schools to offer struggling students incentives to leave the schools? And finally, might this be a key ingredient in the secret sauce to which Noble super fan Rahm Emanuel constantly refers?

Now, merely encouraging non-test-score-boosting students with poor posture and sagging pants to leave does not a secret sauce make. The Noble schools have some other ingredients up their uniform sleeves too, like their innovative approach to parent engagement. Earlier this month, Noble made headlines with the news that the charter chain charges low-income parents for their children’s disciplinary infractions—like untied shoes, unbuttoned polo shirts and failure to keep their eyes on the teacher. Here’s how a Noble spokeswoman broke it down:

“We do charge a fee when students get a detention,” said Angela Montagna, spokeswoman for Noble. “It’s a $5 fee, a disciplinary fee, and that goes to offset the cost of administering the discipline…It engages parents,” she said. “When it’s in their pocketbook, they’re much more involved. “It changes behavior,” Montagna added. “So what we see over a student’s four years is that the vast majority of detentions … about 80 percent of all detentions are given to freshmen, and then it goes down after that, where seniors are getting virtually none.”

No doubt Noble’s recipe for outstandingness, innovation and excellence includes a few more secret ingredients that we haven’t yet tasted. In the meantime though, the chain is racking up big sales. Next year Noble will take in close to $70 million from the Chicago Public Schools. That’s a lot of secret sauce.

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  1. What is a reclassified student? If he stays he repeats, but if he leaves he will get all the credits they took away. Is that correct?

  2. Looking at the “uploaded document”, it’s interesting to notice that the student started at the academy with A’s and B’s, but each consecutive year his/her grades dropped down by one, i.e. A’s & B’s became B’s & C’s which became C’s & D’s until the poor student is down to F’s. Makes me wonder what was happening in the school and classrooms that led this A & B student to become an F student.

    1. They are two charter schools in the Noble Network of Charter Schools: Chicago Bulls College Prep opened in 2009,: and DRW Trading College Prep just opened in fall 2012:

      Yep, corporate advertising now reaches into schools a la the charter movement. The Bulls don’t have a center named for them; they play at the United Center, named after THEIR corporate sponsor, United Airlines. As is so common, the school had been a public high schools that was “phased out”. It’s located near the United Center, which is one of the most blighted areas of the city –there are numerous empty lots where buildings were torn down years ago and have only very gradually been replaced.

  3. If you look closely at the transcripts, you will see another ingredient in the secret sauce:

    After the student failed a regular course in American Lit and Composition in 11th grade, the next year, when he was repeating the grade, he was enrolled in HONORS American Lit and Composition. Similarly, after failing a regular course in Advanced Algebra, the next year he was enrolled in HONORS Pre-Calculus.

    Who raises the bar to 10 feet when a student hasn’t demonstrated that he can make the high jump at 5 feet? Goals should be raised incrementally, especially when the student has such an erratic pattern of achievement. He should not have been enrolled in two Honors courses when he was supposed to be repeating a grade. That just brought him a step closer to being “counseled out.” The poor kid was railroaded.

  4. Of course detentions go down to virtually none by senior year – all the kids getting detentions have left the school.

  5. Did I read that correctly , like CT teacher? If the student leaves, he gets those credits for another school? Well, we all know the disciplinary fines. The senior population has few because all those children left. We get them each quarter at our neighborhood school, the kids who couldn’t/wouldn’t pay. We get the problem children because the charters don’t want them and then we’re the “bad teachers”. Why can’t we fine students also? Level the playing field so to speak.

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