Notes on the Political Economy of Chicago Charter Schools

The exploitation of teachers appears to be a national priority. A quick glance at the history of chronically under-funded public education and its over-worked labor force—teachers, administrators and staff—seems to prove this. Because it is generally recognized that high degrees of teacher professionalism, commensurate compensation and a sane work schedule mean better-educated kids, increased funding is seen as the first step on the ladder to progressive educational reform. With more money to pay our teachers and staff, the argument goes, and with more money to spend on each student per year, we’ll prove that with the right educational model, low-income urban kids of color can achieve results just like their white suburban counterparts. Along with struggles for increased funding, there have been numerous attempts to produce educational models that could be replicated across the Chicago Public Schools system and—since Chicago is a kind of national policy laboratory—in other cities around the country. Charter schools, which in Chicago have their roots in the small schools movement, are an important experiment in the ongoing battle for ideas about how to reform public education.

NOTE: Several teachers I interviewed for this article spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, in part because contract renewals are currently underway, a process that charter school teachers must negotiate individually with their directors. Because of this I have chosen not to use direct quotes from either teachers or administrators. I have also chosen not to refer to the schools by name, but instead to speak of them as an aggregate.

The charter school system, which first began in the early 1990s, teaches over one million students in nearly 4,000 schools nationwide. In Chicago, charter schools make up approximately 1.5% of the total CPS student population of 409,000. Chicago charter schools have some combination of pre-K to 12th grade, and are located in low-income, non-white neighborhoods, from which the majority of their students come. Illinois charters have not-for-profit boards whose primary purpose is fundraising, but who also have degrees of influence over pedagogy, though no two schools are exactly alike in either their approach or administrative structure. The schools are given a “charter” to operate by the Chicago Board of Education and approximately 60%-80% of the school’s budget. Unlike regular CPS, charter schools must pay for a building, utilities, and maintenance out of their per-pupil funding. The 20%-40% of their budget they don’t receive from CPS must be raised from private donors by the school’s board. This connection through funding with the private sector, the fact that they control their own budget, the degree of accountability to CPS, are what make charter schools quasi-public institutions within CPS.

Of the 34 charter schools in Illinois, almost all are in Chicago. A handful of these are what I’m calling community or “mission”-based models, and are the focus of this article. These are in contrast to the more numerous “corporate” models. While these categories cannot explain all the complexities within the charter system, they are useful in representing some of their key differences in approach, and to a lesser extent, structure. Both models have similarities, but it is their differences that advocates of the “mission”-based models point to when explaining their role and results. They are “mission”-driven in the sense that they place emphasis—and market the type of education their school provides—on the specific social backgrounds and needs of the students they serve. In most cases they were started, and continue to be run, by a very dedicated and “visionary” director with years of experience as a professional educator. Because of this, they have been compared with “mom and pop” stores, in contrast with the “corporate” models that tend to have a top-down structure that is based less on the backgrounds and needs of the children they serve and more on codifying an educational model and franchising it out, much like a chain-store does. Both models have to achieve certain testing and assessment benchmarks (e.g., No Child Left Behind‘s Adequate Yearly Progress) in order to continue to receive funding. In many ways both models resemble an Alinsky model of political organizing, whereby those from outside a community—typically of another race and class—with access to resources, knowledge and power, enter disenfranchised communities to help them help themselves.

On the whole, “mission”-based schools comprise a very small number of students and teachers within the entire CPS system. Why is this small minority significant? First, because they appear to be developing progressive models that are achieving results many of the “corporate” charter schools and the rest of regular district schools with similar demographics, are not. Second, if charter schools are, as some suggest, the “most important education reform ongoing today,” [1] “mission”-based charters constitute a vanguard at the front of the charter movement, and have the eyes and ears of educational reformers and policy makers. And finally, because of their quasi-public structure—a not-for-profit, private board with varying degrees of accountability to CPS—they are an example of a public/private educational partnership that is being studied and advanced to justify efforts to privatize public education. Whether this is as a short-term solution or a long-term goal remains to be seen.

The history of charter schools is fraught with controversy. Depending on whom you talk to, there are strong feelings about their intentions, purpose, efficacy, and social value. There seems to be consensus among scholars and researchers that charters are too much a mixed bag to represent anything conclusive. Some are great, some are terrible, and many are no different than regular district schools. Measuring their performance is tricky because the methodologies and criteria advocates and detractors use to judge them are often quite different. There is a contentious debate about just what is meant by “results.” Approximately 85% of all CPS students are non-white, low-income, and have traditionally lacked access to economic mobility and political representation. Advocating on behalf of these students, these schools’ missions challenge the assessment-centric mandates of programs like NCLB and Renaissance 2010 that do not take social background into account and thus seem geared to failing these students. Standardized tests, they argue, cannot adequately measure things like community knowledge and involvement, the development of critical thinking skills, or the emotional growth and a sense of security and belief in oneself and the future that are often prerequisites to intellectual growth.

In general, the “mission”-based charters are the ones many educators I spoke to call the “good” ones. The arguments FOR these schools go something like this: In the absence of a national re-prioritization and the commensurate funding of public education, we should be developing educational models that provide traditionally under-privileged students, on a community-by-community basis, with an education that meets their specific needs. We should do this with a faculty that is not hindered by a vast, impersonal, overly bureaucratic administrative structure that measures results with standardized testing only. In a large city with a history of failing public schools, we cannot get adequate funding from federal/state/city taxes to achieve these goals, so we must rely on the contributions of private philanthropies. This relationship gives the private sector an opportunity to fulfill their responsibility to invest back into the public sector. All benefit: better-educated kids mean a more innovative and productive workforce/society. An emphasis on social justice curricula means increased historical consciousness and the potential for greater social change. These charters prove that, with this approach to education and the appropriate funding, schools will succeed.

The arguments AGAINST charter schools tend to cohere around an ideological critique of the right’s neo-liberal crusade to reconstitute wealth and power. The privatization of schools is seen as part of a steady process of disinvestment in the public sector aimed at fragmenting and repossessing the value bound up in owning and operating what was once large-scale public infrastructure—education, housing, transportation—set up during the Keynesian welfare state economy in the wake of the great depression. The quasi-private structure of charter schools, the lack of collective bargaining, and the emergence of for-profit educational management organizations testify to the continuing erosion of public education. These schools have exchanged freedom from CPS regulations and collective bargaining agreements for the promise of high levels of achievement (along with progressive sounding premises?), but these results have not materialized. Instead, charter schools sap funds from the public system and naturalize market-oriented ideologies—narratives of self-improvement and consumer choice—that are more concerned with the principles of competition, profit, and providing economic mobility, than educating children that will one day question the injustices of the system. The whole process results in an unjust and unhealthy democracy.

The reality is not as clear-cut as either of these arguments would suggest. When you begin to look at some of the ways in which “mission”-based charters are structured and the self-understandings of their administrators and faculty, advocating for or dismissing them on the basis of whether they are “private” or “public,” obfuscates rather than reveals some of their actual complexities. “Mission”-based charters would like to prove that their educational model is successful and could/should be replicated throughout CPS on a community-by-community basis. But replication raises questions about the ability “mission”-based charter models have to sustain themselves in three key areas: their funding structures, the degree autonomy they have from the rest of the district, and the labor practices that are required to maintain them.


There are some charters that operate almost entirely on public money. Studies have found that many states under-fund charter schools. In some cases, student funding per year is $4,000 less in charters than the rest of the district. [2] The fallout from continuous protracted battles with teachers unions, which I explain later, created an atmosphere in which it was difficult for charters to gain the broad political support they needed to get adequate funding. In order to make up for their funding shortfalls, those charter schools that need more money to meet their educational goals, have a not-for-profit board whose primary function is to raise the 20%-40% of their budget from the private sector. After three or four years, when a lot of the substantial seed fund grants from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have dried up, it becomes increasingly difficult to raise money in the private sector. Without the private donations, most of these “mission”-based charters would probably close.

Many of these schools’ founders and directors understand the dangers of continuing to operate with high percentages of private funding. They recognize that it opens public education to the capricious ebb and flow of financial markets and the money-for-access trade off that allows profit-driven corporate structures of accountability and assessment to influence how children are educated. They also recognize that this structure is, in part, what gives them a necessary degree of autonomy, allowing them to create the innovative curricular programs and the more one-on-one learning environments their missions seek to embody.

Some view the pact they have made with the private sector as an interim solution, one that will provide them with the necessary resources to prove that smaller, community-centered, mission-based schools that are properly funded can generate results. They see their schools as experimental models that, if they are able to sustain long enough, could be replicated citywide. Many are attempting to increase the ratio of public to private funding, with the goal of being fully publicly funded at some point in the future.

A director told me starting a charter school was a “reactionary” move, given a long history with and dedication to improving public education, but that given the present environment of stasis in the district, this was the best way to give low-income kids of color—no matter how few—an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have. One teacher said they see a contradiction in opting to teach in a quasi-public school because they are aware of the larger implications this might have for the future of public education. However, in sharp contrast to their experience teaching in regular CPS, they believe these schools are really making a difference in kids’ lives, and therefore are worth the compromise.


The issue of autonomy functions in three ways. First is the degree of autonomy these schools have vis-à-vis CPS. Unlike regular CPS, charter schools control their own budgets. This freedom from the rest of the district is what allows them to develop the kinds of curriculum that best fit their specific demographics. In exchange for this freedom, they are supposed to be held accountable to district-wide standards through things like testing and assessment, upon which their public funding is contingent.

Second is the degree of autonomy the administrators have vis-√†-vis their board. Because the board raises a significant percentage of the school’s budget there is a quid pro quo relationship of money for influence. In “mission”-based charters there is more autonomy than in the “corporate” models. “Mission”-based boards are comprised mainly of individuals from the private sector, many of whom have little or no experience in either education or the realities of inner-city youth of color. This funding structure establishes a dependent relationship that translates into the board having a certain amount of power in administrative and pedagogical decisions. For example, this influence could take the shape of the board demanding that the students’ behavior be more disciplined or “business”-like, or it could mean there is more emphasis placed on a pedagogy aimed at giving students access to social capital, over developing critical thinking skills to challenge the foundations on which that social capital is based.

Third is the degree of autonomy teachers have vis-√†-vis their director. Depending on the school, “mission”-based teachers have a lot of say in determining what and how they teach. Because most teachers share the vision and goals of their directors and have good personal relationships with them, there is an ideological cohesion that prevents serious disagreement. Each recognizes the other as deeply committed to similar values (e.g., social justice, creativity, personal responsibility and accountability). For directors, running a school is in many ways not their job but their life. This means regular 14-hour days. Although they don’t demand these hours of their teachers, there is an implicit understanding that this is what it takes to get the job done. And, larger social truisms—all teachers are under-paid and over-worked—support these justifications. This leads to the most important factor in the sustainability of these “mission”-based models: the labor practices that are necessary to maintain them.


Most educators recognize that good teachers get that way after years of experience in a vibrant environment that fosters communication and innovation. Some feel that this should happen in a sustained setting, in which teachers can develop strong pedagogy over the course of their career, without having to move from school to school, constantly changing their pedagogical approach to fit new curriculum requirements and student demographics. Everyone agrees, adequate funding is absolutely necessary to provide a setting in which teachers can achieve high levels of professionalism. One educator I spoke with said that, like all professionals, teachers must accept a certain amount of uncompensated labor—if funding was commensurate with needs, teachers would be fairly compensated and not over-worked.

In regular CPS, contracts typically start new teachers at lower salaries than the “mission”-based charters. But, the percentage increase over time (based on experience), is higher in regular CPS than these charter schools. On average, teachers with equivalent experience can make $10,000-$15,000 more per year in regular CPS than in “mission”-based charter schools. In regular CPS schools, union-negotiated salary increases paid to teachers do not come out of other school money, so a school could keep the same teachers year after year, without ever going over budget. Because the money charter schools receive from CPS is a fixed amount per pupil with no allowance for salary increases, if they keep the same teachers and raise their salaries they will eventually have to cut funding somewhere else (e.g., programming). This makes it increasingly difficult for charter schools to maintain the same faculty and programs year after year.

Shorter summer breaks (about half that of regular CPS), more time devoted to professional development, detailed narrative outcomes and report cards, regular communication with parents and teacher/student/parent meetings, weeknight and weekend activities—all these factors contribute to more direct relationships that build trust, help create a strong sense of community, and develop a supportive environment in which students can excel. Add lower salaries to these working conditions and you have the recipe for burnout. Typically, teachers begin to suffer from exhaustion after four or five years, or when they decide to have families and find it increasingly difficult to put in 60-70 hours a week and maintain the same degree of professionalism and commitment to their students.

For teachers with children, these long hours mean less time with their family and a heavy reliance on someone else—a partner, family member, or friend—as the primary caregiver. If a teacher is a parent, especially a single parent, without a social network of caregivers, they will have to pay for childcare, which can be upwards of $15,000 per year. This amount is equivalent to the difference that union-negotiated salaries help to provide in CPS and yet it still is not adequate to cover the amount of uncompensated labor that sustains the charter model. The problems of over-work and inadequate compensation are not specific to “mission”-based charters. In fact, when one begins to consider the value of the labor required to sustain the lives of teachers outside of the working day, the similarity of the structuring of labor across all forms of education becomes apparent. Across the educational spectrum, various kinds of this family and friend initiated social reproductive labor is necessary to support teachers’ rigorous schedules. This form of social value, which is also a form of uncompensated labor, and just as important to maintaining the workforce, is not usually factored into the equation.

It appears that “mission”-based charters may have less trouble recruiting and keeping teachers than the “corporate” models. Like the “corporate” models, “mission”-based teachers tend to be younger and less experienced than their regular CPS colleagues. This has a lot to do with the fact that charters are at a competitive disadvantage in hiring because they receive less public funding. However, “mission”-based teachers are more likely to hold a master’s degree or National Board Certification, and have backgrounds in social justice activism. Increased levels of professionalism and the commonly shared visions of directors and their teachers help to create a sense of solidarity and a strong commitment to the school’s mission. The hard currency “mission”-based charters trade in is an ethos of “giving,” of helping those less fortunate, whether it’s the corporate donor giving to the school, or the committed teacher giving to the student. The ethos of giving, and what this collective giving might yield, becomes the self-justification for teachers’ continued exploitation.

Unions and Charter Schools

In the absence of something like a union, that might help organize collective ways to reduce the amount of work necessary for a certain level of achievement, teachers’ individual passion and commitment seem to be the qualities that ensure the best educational environment. These affective qualities translate into real results. Aside from funding, what constitutes the difference between a better or worse education is precisely what the market—and it would seem, “progressive” educational models—demands: the continued exploitation of labor. “Mission”-based charter teachers are painfully aware that it is their long days at school, their evenings and weekends at home that are “making the difference.” However, some teachers who formerly taught in regular district schools said the difference between regular district schools and “mission”-based charters isn’t really how much time is spent working each day, but rather the kind of work they do. The quantity is similar, it is the quality, its value and applicability to their students’ lives and education, that teachers say is the biggest difference. Larger average class sizes, “stifling regulations,” “overly bureaucratic procedures” and “more paperwork” in regular CPS hindered the ability for these teachers to adapt and innovate their pedagogy based on individual or class needs. After a few years teaching in a district school, they felt they were unable to make a substantial contribution to the improvement of their students’ education. They were willing to take a pretty significant cut in salary to work in a charter school because they believe in the vision and purpose of the school’s mission, and see results they didn’t see in regular CPS.

By law, charter teachers are not allowed to join the Chicago Teachers Union. This means that if teachers want to organize, they must create their own union. But do “mission”-based charter teachers want to organize? Many of them are first-time teachers and have no experience with organized labor. Some of the teachers I spoke with say they are simply too busy to seriously think about how collective bargaining might improve their situation. They point to the time and trouble it would take to implement a union as distracting from their ability to be good teachers. And because of the close relationships they have with their director—who is also over-worked and under-paid—they feel that it would be a personal affront to say they are unable to meet their needs in the existing, one-on-one communication and negotiation structure. One teacher, who had previously taught in a regular CPS and was an active CTU member, said she believed that if it wasn’t for the CTU’s prolonged struggle for better contracts that charter salaries would be even lower than they are. Asked about the possibility of creating a teachers union in her school, she said she wouldn’t be against it, but believed her director was, and didn’t see much enthusiasm to organize expressed by other colleagues. A director told me that because there are so few teachers (somewhere between 15-60) in “mission”-based charters, there really isn’t a need for unions, implying that collective bargaining becomes a valuable tool only when the size of an organization precludes more direct communication. There is a sense among younger teachers, many who have grown up in a era marked by the decline of the political power of organized labor, that they are more adapted to flexible labor markets and do not view long-term, career-oriented job security as given, or even desired.

Some administrators and faculty in “mission”-based charters see the teachers union as a blunt device for making schools better places to work, but neglecting the quality of education. They feel that too much focus is placed on teaching as a job and not enough on the goal of educating kids. According to some of these faculty and administrators, the capacities and demands charter teachers have are better met by more direct, less bureaucratic structures. They feel that formalizing the labor practices of teachers hamstrings their ability to develop and implement the kinds of educational methods necessary for a good education. They feel that values like small over large structures (re: not bureaucratic), direct relationships (re: immediate not mediated), individual agency and innovation over representation and standards, cannot be easily reconciled within large collective structures. This seems to have been confirmed by an organizer with The Alliance of Charter School Teachers and Staff, currently engaged in a campaign to organize Chicago charter teachers, who told me they are getting better reception in the “corporate”-based models.

It is necessary here to briefly mention something about the history of organized labor and the charter movement. It was Albert Shanker, a former president of the American Federation of Teachers (a 1.4 million member union) who first introduced the idea of charter schools back in the late 1980s. He was responding to what he saw as the failure of a mass approach that produces mediocrity in favor of a smaller, ground-up approach that would put teachers’ ingenuity and professionalism at the front of a revival of public education. The first charter laws that passed in the early 1990s stipulated that charter schools were independent educational corporations (this varies from state to state) with autonomy from districts and exempt from pre-existing collective bargaining agreements, leaving it up to teachers to organize their own independent unions. The unions viewed this as a way of fragmenting unionization and stripping collective labor of its political power. This issue, and the conservative forces pushing for further privatization, like the emergence of for-profit educational management organizations, led Shanker and the teachers unions to eventually pull their support for charter schools. Teacher unions then began actively fighting the establishment of charter schools in districts across the country, in some cases challenging charter schools’ constitutionality in court. [3] This contentious atmosphere made it difficult to develop broad political support, leading to compromises that “force charter schools to operate within a framework of broken policies characterized by inadequate funding, a dependence on private philanthropy, and politically generated barriers to human resources.” [4] After years of fighting, and as a way to re-enter a period of reform they had largely been excluded from, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers switched tack and decided to found two charter schools. The models they chose met their progressive criteria and worked within the terms of the teachers union’s contract and the school district. Eventually, the UFT’s charter initiative won the support of the AFT. This reversal signaled a change in the debate. No longer was it about the validity of charter schools but about how they should operate. The idea that really took hold in the national discussions that followed, and has been implemented in a few schools, primarily in New York, is school-based collective bargaining. Because collective bargaining is the lynchpin of the union’s effectiveness, “school-specific arrangements, in the tradition of reform unionism, may offer a ‘“new institutional arrangement”’ that is consistent with the conception of charter schools as a vehicle for teacher-led innovation.” [5]

Is something like school-based collective bargaining the key to ensuring that these models can sustain themselves into the future? Maybe it is the missions themselves that aren’t actually sustainable. By placing all the emphasis on developing social justice curricula, critical thinking skills, and access to resources for disenfranchised kids, without dealing with the unsustainable labor conditions of their teachers, these missions have ignored the fundamental source of their “results:” the life-force of their teachers. Do short-term, concrete solutions aimed at circumventing the bureaucratic morass of the district compromise the longer-term goals of systemic change, or move them forward? If we view these “mission”-based charters as symptoms, as a response to the problems that arise from the disinvestment in public infrastructure, they become means to an end, not ends in themselves. But what are they a means to?


Like so many other debates around the dismantling of public infrastructure, “mission”-based charter schools offer a screen onto which we can project a whole host of structural problems whose sources lie in the larger socioeconomic system. Most educators will tell you there is still a lot that can be done to reform the current system. The material conditions and consciousness of our children, their infinite imagination and creativity, their future access to social capital: a career, a family, a house, insurance—and perhaps even their ability or desire to challenge the structure that social capital is based on—are all at stake in these educational experiments. What doesn’t appear to be at stake is questioning the presuppositions the reform-based politics of education are predicated on. They do this within a conception of what is “right” and “good,” in a system that measures these qualities only in terms of their productive value for keeping the system going. This is most visibly reflected in the arguments for and against charter schools that I mentioned earlier, and would like to return to now.

Both arguments have a conception of the dominant form of socioeconomic organization and production—capital—as objectified, made concrete in a person or organization, by the particular decisions they make and how those decisions affect society as a whole. In this way, a binary paradigm is established in the logic of “good” and “bad.” The former, the private sector, which is normally out for its own profit, does “good” by contributing to public education. The latter, neo-liberal capitalists, are “bad” and those that fight against them, advocates of fully public education, are “good.” This leads to the conclusion that one class uses their power (in a conspiratorial sense) to expropriate wealth from another—the exploiter and exploited, the parasite and the host—whereby the exploiter can be persuaded, usually through public shaming, or forced, usually through some sort of regulation, to reform themselves, and by extension, their class. This is one way we characterize “progressive” reform. But what these paradigms conceal is a conception of capital as a social dynamic, an abstract form of social mediation that we all share, that structures our relationships, and cannot be reduced to, but only takes the appearance of “good” and “bad,” “progressive” or “regressive.” My point is that if we recognize the problem as one of being or doing “good” or “bad,” we will continue to react to the symptoms—which in this case are perennially failing public schools AND the forms of discontent they give rise to: educational experiments like “mission”-based charters—at the expense of understanding and dealing with what might, on a more fundamental level, be generating these symptoms.

This is not an argument to jettison reform-based models that have the potential to ameliorate the consciousness and material conditions of thousands of kids. Rather, this is an appeal to educators to use these contested sites of educational reform to reflect on the incessant sapping of their life force, on the “strange sensation” of feeling more, and simultaneously less free—a feeling that seems only to increase in more flexible labor markets. This is an appeal to reflect on the contradictions our form of social organization produces, and which we increasingly seem able only to respond to. ♦


1. Richard D. Kahlenberg, “The History of Collective Bargaining among Teachers,” in Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today’s Schools, Jane Hathaway and Andrew Rotherdam, eds. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge MA, 2006.

2. Bryan Hassel, Michelle Godard Terell, Sheree Speakman, Charter School Funding: Inequitites Next Frontier, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Progress Analytics Institute, and Public Impact, August 2005.

3. Lydia Rainey, Andrew J. Rotherham, and Paul T. Hill, “A One-Day Ceasefire: What Charter School and Teacher Unions Say When They Meet,” in Hopes, Fears, and Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2006, Robin J. Lake and Paul T. Hill, eds., National Charter School Research Project Center on Reinventing Public Education, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, December, 2006.

4. Jonathan Gyurko, “The Grinding Battle with Circumstance: Charter Schools and the Potential of School-Based Collective Bargaining,” Program in Politics and Education*Teachers College, Columbia University February 2008.

This paragraph on a brief history of charter schools and teacher unions is taken primarily from this text. 

5. Ibid.


further reading

The ideological foundations of market-based school reform were pioneered by the now notorious John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe in their book Politics, Markets and School Reform (The Brookings Institute, Washington D.C., 1990). These two are generally seen by many who oppose charter schools as the “Milton Friedmans” of neo-liberal educational reform. For a more recent take on Terry M. Moe’s views see “Union Power and the Education of Children,” in Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today’s Schools, Jane Hathaway and Andrew Rotherdam, eds. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge MA, 2006.

Chester E. Finn, Jr., “All Aboard the Charters? The State of a Movement,” National Review, October 9, 2006. And, “Sources of Charter School Mediocrity,” The Education Gadfly, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, December 13, 2007.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the battles over schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy, Columbia University Press, 2007.

Julia Koppich, “The As-Yet Unfilled Promise of Reform Bargaining: Forging a Better Match Between the Labor Relations Systems We Have and the Education System We Want,” in Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today’s Schools, Jane Hathaway and Andrew Rotherdam, eds. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge MA, 2006.

The state of Illinois publishes an annual report with demographic and performance data on all charter schools, available at:

CPS has a High School Scorecard, which includes things like graduation rates, number of graduates enrolled in college, attendance rates, parent satisfaction, etc. CPS rates all CPS high schools by these same criteria, ranks them relative to one another, and publishes the results online and in the annual CPS Choice Directory, available online at: