Illinois is giving $98 million to open more UNO K-8 charter schools in Chicago, reports Education Week in Nurturing ‘School Minds’. United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, a Latino advocacy group, runs eight charter schools — seven in Chicago, one in New Orleans — educating primarily low-income students.
Juan Rangel, the chief executive officer of the organization, preaches the value of a disciplined school climate. He came to appreciate the strong discipline of his traditional Mexican-American family and the Roman Catholic high school he attended in Chicago.
UNO leadership imparts that philosophy to students and staff, along with other goals it sets for the schools, from the top down.
The schools, which cater largely to Latino students, are expected to “assimilate” their populations into American society. In part, they do so by using an English-immersion approach rather than bilingual education for English-language learners.
UNO’s goal is 1½ years’ growth for every year a student is enrolled. Students consistently outscore Chicago public school students, and do much better than other Latinos and English Language Learners, concludes a study by the Illinois Policy Institute and the Lexington Institute.
Administrators at UNO headquarters handle the budgeting and manage the buildings so the directors—principals—are free to focus on academics. The curriculum is the same across the network, as is testing. For the past two school years, all network schools have been assessing students three times a year with benchmark tests to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses; teachers receive training on how to use the test data to improve instruction.
Staffers help graduating eighth graders get into good high schools so they can continue preparing for college.