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UNO Set to Become Big Charter School Player in Chicago

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 22, 2009 1 min read

In Houston, we have YES Prep charter schools serving a predominantly Hispanic group of students. In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, we have IDEA charter schools. In Chicago, we may soon associate charter schools with UNO, which stands for United Neighborhood Organization, Chicago’s largest Latino community organization.

UNO just received a $98 million grant from the state of Illinois to run charter schools, according to an article published today in the Chicago Tribune. The organization already runs eight charter schools and plans to use the funds to double that number to 16. UNO’s eight charter schools serve 3,450 students, of whom 91 percent are Hispanic.

What’s also interesting is that UNO takes advantage of the flexibility that charter schools have not to offer bilingual education. In Illinois, regular public schools are mandated to provide bilingual education, that is, instruction in students’ native language, if they have 20 or more English-language learners who speak the same language.

The Tribune says students in the UNO charter schools, started in the mid-1990s, do better on standardized tests on average than students in regular Chicago public schools.

One more thing: UNO unabashedly says its goal for Hispanic students is “assimilation.” (See my earlier post, “Immigrant Integration, or Assimilation?”)

Readers, if any of you have insight about how this experiment is playing out in Chicago, please hit the comment button.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

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