Depending on who’s asked, there’s not much difference between a charter school and a traditional one.

Depending on who’s asked, there’s not much difference between a charter school and a traditional one.

At least that’s what a recent report, "The Charter Difference: A comparison of Chicago Charter and Neighborhood high schools," concluded. Eric Gutstein, Jane Fleming, Andrew Greenlee, Pauline Lipman and Janet Smith from the University of Illinois-Chicago wrote the report.

Some differences were stark.

Charter high schools enroll fewer special education, limited-English and poor students.

Additionally, they average nine more days of attendance a year and 40 more minutes of classes a day than traditional public schools do.

But the study found that charter schools do not perform any better than traditional ones. As well, in 2008, charter high school students on average scored 16.71 on the ACT compared to a 15.82 score by students attending traditional high schools.

At their core, charter and traditional schools share similarities.

Both are public schools and under the auspices of the Chicago Public Schools.

They are free to attend and are funded by tax dollars. Generally though, charter schools are managed by a non-profit organization.

Jitu Brown with the Grassroots Education Movement, a Chicago non-profit education advocacy organization, recently held a news conference to discuss the report’s findings.

Brown said, based on the report, Chicago charter schools have not improved the overall quality of, or equal access to, education for all Chicago high school students.

“Basically, there’s no difference other than the name. A student at a charter school has not fared any better than a student at a neighborhood public school, so what’s the big deal when it comes to a charter school,” he said.

But the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, an advocacy group for charter schools, disagrees with the report.


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