National News

The Chicago Sun-Times, September 3, 2004

Duncan Touts University-Run City Schools

By ROSALIND ROSSI, Education Reporter

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan challenged each of the city's universities Thursday to run a Chicago public school, following a passionate defense of the new Renaissance 2010 plan to create 100 new schools in the next six years.

Duncan said universities can join the new movement by operating charter or contract schools, which will comprise about two thirds of the new schools carved out of about 70 to 80 troubled ones under Renaissance 2010.

"Going forward, I'd like to see all the universities run a Chicago public school,'' Duncan told a gathering at the City Club of Chicago. "Run a charter. Run a contract. That's part of Renaissance 2010.''

Duncan cited North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School, operated by the University of Chicago's Center for Urban School Improvement, as one of the best charters in the city. It outperformed city averages on all state reading and math tests this year, and even beat the Illinois average in fifth-grade math.

But at Austin High, a regular school, Duncan said, the percent of students reading at national norms has languished in the single digits for years, illustrating the need for a shakeup. Although some say Chicago is biting off "too much, too fast,'' Duncan said, "we will not lose another generation.''

Under Renaissance 2010, the system hopes to place different kinds of high schools -- from selective enrollment to vocational education to, perhaps, single-sex education -- across the city, he said.

Duncan also said he expects a third of the new teachers hired for this coming school year to spring from alternative education programs often used by career switchers. As of three working days before school starts for kids, officials said, 27 percent of 1,650 new teachers were from alternative education programs. A total of 1,426 vacancies remain, down from 1,792 at the same time last year.

Timothy Knowles of the Center for Urban School Improvement called Duncan's university challenge a "wonderful idea" and said the center is interested in opening another charter at the old Donoghue School.

He said the U. of C. contributes about $250,000 a year to its charter, plus services from its staff, beyond the roughly $6,000 per pupil Chicago allots.

"If higher ed is willing to step up,'' Knowles said, "it's exactly the right direction."

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