Friday, January 17, 2020
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Chicago charter teacher charged in sex assault

Chicago police have charged a teacher at a charter school in Chicago with sexually assaulting two students at the school, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Graduates from 2016 at Urban Prep Academy, a charter school in Chicago (school website)

A female science teacher at Urban Prep Academy’s West Campus, on the city’s West Side, was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bond in court today. Citing the police report, the paper said she had sex with a total of two 17-year-old male students, whom she befriended on Snapchat. Prosecutors reportedly charged her with having sex with one of the two boys in her classroom this fall during school hours.

According to the Illinois School Report Card, about 1 percent of students at the high school met or exceeded learning standards for their grade level on the most recent standardized tests administered by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC. The average ratio of students at Chicago high schools who meet or exceed learning standards on this test is 25 percent, which is about 8 percent below the rate measured for Illinois overall.

The four-year graduation rate at the school, 66 percent, is somewhat below district and state averages, but the five-year rate, 90 percent, is in line with district and state averages. The school enrolls a little more than 400 students.

The school is part of a charter school network of three campuses. All students have to participate not only in academic courses but also in at least one community service project and one extracurricular activity per year, according to the school’s website.

Urban Prep Academy recently fired quite a few teachers. Charges of sexual assault, while serious if true, are often fabricated and unfounded. Although I don’t know anything about the accusations in this particular case, Voxitatis is withholding the name of the teacher charged in order to allow a court to sort it out. A sexual assault charge is one way for schools to end a teacher’s career or just get rid of her if they’re unable to do it by other means.

The teacher is white, but of the 17 people that were fired at the end of the 2015-16 school year, 13 of them were African-American. “Some of these teachers consistently pushed their students to achieve the highest growth on standardized testing across the Urban Prep network,” wrote David S Woo, a graduate of the school and now an educator himself, on the Huffington Post.

Growth on standardized testing, of course, has no bearing on the lives of these young people, but standardized test scores are part of the reason charter schools have flourished in Chicago and other cities. It’s no wonder Mr Woo, an Asian-American teacher at the charter school, places such a strong emphasis on data, not so much on the artistic development or creativity these boys need. He does, however, emphasize the importance of relationship-building at the school:

Natasha [one of the fired black educators] taught me what it takes to educate black boys from marginalized neighborhoods. We had tough conversations about race and education by which I have been fundamentally changed. … Despite Urban Prep’s rhetoric of gratitude to its teachers, dedicated educators — including several African-American educators — were fired on one day. What did they do to thank Natasha Robinson? They told her that she was not wanted at Urban Prep. It seems suspicious that a dedicated educator like Natasha would be asked not to return shortly after our vote to determine whether we should have a union.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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