Concerns about Arts in Motion charter school application

Numerous aspects of the application for the Arts in Motion charter school intended for the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood concern us.

  1. Pedagogical and legal issues with Summit: No long term research studies of outcomes of students using these types of “personalized learning” platforms, and no results for schools outside the Summit chain. Significant issues with data collection and privacy: platform has never been independently vetted for security protections despite collecting and storing extensive data on students. Summit Public Schools no longer ask for parental consent as part of the use of the program, and partnership contract signed with schools to use the system limits liability to $10,000, requires arbitration in San Mateo Co, CA and bans class action lawsuits. The contract is a school-to-school contract, not a vendor contract, and Summit Public Schools has previously said they will not sign a school/district’s vendor contract or MOU in order to limit their own liability.

  2. Issues with doing more business with Joseph Wise: Connections to Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Gary Solomon, including: Sun-Times reporting that Solomon referenced a connection to Wise when introducing himself to BBB, Wise having served as a master teacher for SUPES and his firm Atlantic Research Partners purchasing remnants of SUPES; already doing millions of dollars in business with the district; Board voted on a $1.075M no-bid contract this summer even though additional ISBE-approved SIG lead partners are available; CEO of ERDI, recently highlighted in New York Times story about conflict of interest issues in tech purchases between BCPS and ERDI. Distinctive Schools provides a residence for at least two of its employees, Mary Stafford and David Sundstrom, according to their FY2016 990 (p.32).

  3. Quality of Distinctive Schools: in the summer of 2014, CPS altered the growth rates of numerous schools, the biggest recipient of positive changes were CICS schools managed by Distinctive. Currently, none of the four distinctive schools are rated Level 1+. (p. 104, prior ratings) Distinctive has run no high school campuses. What happened to the school in Rockford? Why is it no longer a Distinctive nor CICS school?

  4. Issues with Arts in Motion non-profit: governance, stability. Have they filed a 990 recently?

  5. Issues with second new arts school on South Side: since the prior application of New Life, an arts school has opened on the south side, Dyett Arts High School.  Why cannibalize from an existing speciality school? Distinctive has no track record of running arts schools.

  6. Plagiarism in application: Extensive use of text in history section (p. 7-8) from another website, Encyclopedia of Chicago. Citation is simply a link, no marking of quotations. Direct plagiarism from Whitney Young Course Registration and Academic Planning Guide. (Excerpts below.)

  7. Other quality of application issues: typos, lack of copy editing, recycled materials from other Distinctive School application and prior application; letter from former state rep, but no new letter from current State Rep Stratton; no updated letter from alderman; numerous mislabeled files

  8. Support for LGBTQ students: New Life Covenant Church’s pastors’ stances on sexual orientation were previously a political issue, and Ald. Maldonado was appointed to fill Billy Ocasio’s seat rather than Wilfredo de Jesus because of De Jesus’ stance on same-sex marriage. (Also mentioned here.) What is the standing of this with respect to New Life Covenant SE? How will LGBTQ students feel if school is directing students to church-provided resources including counseling and support groups, given this history? Will their Title IX rights be protected?

  9. Where will the 1200 students at this school come from? The district is losing students year after year, and though the rate of population loss has slowed in Greater Grand Crossing, it is still dropping.  (According to application, there are 23 indicated enrollments here. And 48 here, p. 26. Fewer than 113 here, p. 25.) Given limited district resources, why not support Hirsch High School, rather than paying for up to 8 additional school-level administrators and the additional costs of Distinctive Schools administration.


“High achieving students position themselves to be placed in rigorous classes which enhance their college acceptance and scholarship potential. Advanced Placement courses are available in all subject areas and are designed to provide high school students with a college-level experience while still in high school. Students may earn college credit for AP courses with scores of 3, 4, or 5 on the May AP exam. (Please reference college websites for college specific information on issuing AP credit.) Students are accepted into the AP program on the basis of academic achievement, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations. Whitney Young students are expected to take a minimum of one AP class before graduation. All students in Advanced Placement courses are required to take the AP examinations in May.  Whitney Young Course Registration and Academic Planning Guide  p. 5

Compare:

“Art in Motion will also offer Advanced Placement classes in 11th and 12th grade for high achieving students to position themselves to be placed in rigorous classes which enhance their college acceptance and scholarship potential. Advanced Placement courses are available in all subject areas and are designed to provide high school students with a college‐level experience while sll in high school. Students may earn college credit for AP courses with scores of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP exam. Students are accepted into the AP program on the basis of academic achievement, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations.” p. 73

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