Alain Locke Public Charter School in Chicago

Uploaded by usedgov on 20.02.2009

When parents have more choice in their children’s education, students can attend the schools
that are right for them, and our entire society benefits. That’s why President Obama and
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are committed to providing parents with a range of high
quality and innovative educational choices to help all children succeed and achieve.
And, with over 4,500 in existence across the country and growing, charter schools are an
increasingly appealing option for parents. Charter schools receive public money but are
free of some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools
in exchange for accountability for producing certain results. Charter schools can be more
flexible, creating a partnership that allows administrators to innovate, parents to be
involved, teachers to be creative and students to achieve. And, many charter schools boast
strong test scores, along with impressive attendance and graduation rates, which are
the result of the freedoms that these schools offer. As a result, President Obama proposes
to increase federal support for charter schools, while also holding them more accountable for
their performance. Chicago’s Alain Locke Charter Academy, a
program of the Inner-City Teaching Corps, clearly demonstrates how innovative charter
schools can close the achievement gap and enable traditionally under-served children
to meet high standards and succeed. Pat Ryan founded the Academy in 1999.
“We had a vision for what public education could be in under-served communities and charter
law allowed us to create a public school, just an independent public school; one in
which you could envision the model and innovate in ways as if you were starting from scratch,
and that really allowed us to go further, faster to achieve that vision that allowed
our children and our families to achieve their vision for themselves and their potential.”
Named for the first African American Rhodes Scholar, Alain Locke serves about 500 students
who are predominantly African American--with over 80% eligible for free or reduced price
lunch. Yet the school boasts an attendance rate of 93 percent.
“I believe that students look forward to coming to Alain Locke each day because of
the Alain Locke family. And by that I mean teachers, staff members, parents, administrators,
board of directors and all of our partners have created such a beautiful environment
for our students.” Character education and discipline are at
the heart of the school’s approach. Students even receive a grade for citizenship. The
day is longer, from 8:30 to five, and school is in session year-round. The academic curriculum
is standards-based in reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and the students
round out their learning with regular classes in Spanish, technology, and music. And, at
Locke, all eighth graders must be proficient in Algebra I before high school.
“Assessment plays a role in helping teachers to assist students who are struggling because
each teacher employs both formal and informal assessments, and in this way they’re able
to determine immediately which children need extra attention.”
Alain Locke encourages community partnerships that have brought in tutors and mentors, as
well as created opportunities for students to learn through direct experience. But the
key partners are parents, who are encouraged to sign a commitment to excellence contract:
pledging to stay involved, to help with homework and to regularly communicate with the school.
“To sign the commitment to excellence contract is awesome. It gives me the feeling that they
actually value my opinion and they definitely want me involved as a parent. You don’t
see too much of that going around these days. For the school to reach out and want the parents
to be involved like Alain Locke, it does my heart great joy to sign that contract.”
Teacher accountability is a primary reason for Alain Locke’s success. Teachers are
encouraged and supported through ongoing professional development; and they are given sufficient
time to analyze assessment data so they can better plan and adjust their curriculum and
methods. “I believe that being a teacher at Alain
Locke has really given me such an opportunity to grow, with all the professional development
that’s brought in it makes us all better teachers, better people. And then, just with
the experience we have in the classroom, having all the supplies we need, being able to take
the children on field trips, I just feel that I’ve really grown a lot as a teacher because
of the opportunities that I’ve had here.” Since its inception in 1999, Alain Locke has
made great strides and continues to get better with each passing year. Locke students have
posted the largest growth in test scores in Chicago in the history of state testing. More
than eight out of ten Locke students meet or exceed state standards in reading and math.
And, many Locke students are admitted to some of Chicago’s most competitive college preparatory
high schools. “Alain Locke is one of the greatest schools
you could possibly attend. because it’s going to help you to prepare to get into those
high schools that you really want, that will really help you further your career, as in
college and afterwards, and help you become the most successful person you can be.”