A Noble Network of Charter Schools recruitment effort that used improperly obtained information on Chicago Public Schools students also targeted kids at other charter schools, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.
More than 28,000 students at 473 schools were sent a glossy mailer last fall inviting them to consider attending a Noble school, and about 2,800 of them — one in 10 of the recipients — already were enrolled at another charter school, according to records Noble released in response to a public records request.
CPS previously has said it sent letters in November to nearly 30,000 households apologizing for the privacy breach that gave Noble personal information about students. A CPS staffer was fired for leaking the student data to Noble.
Neither CPS nor Noble gave any indication that children outside of CPS-operated schools were affected.
But the newly released records show Noble also tried to poach students from 53 charter schools.
Though privately owned and operated, the charter schools are all publicly funded, their government funding based on the number of students they have.
Noble also sent recruitment postcards to students attending a private therapeutic day school for children with such severe behavioral or emotional problems that CPS can’t accommodate them, the records show. Students enrolled at a CPS school on the Southwest Side that serves only children with physical and learning disabilities also were targeted.
The privacy breach came to light when CPS parents complained last fall about receiving the recruitment pitch, which went to children in sixth and eighth grades, and named the students’ schools.
A Noble internal investigation found that a low-level employee of the charter operator was given the list by a CPS staffer who had improperly accessed and shared the students’ private records.
Some of the cards promoted Noble’s high schools. But others offered spaces for students to immediately transfer to Gary Comer College Prep’s middle school.
Noble has said it put letters of reprimand in the personnel files of seven employees for using the CPS student data. They included two principals. One of those who got the letter was promoted soon after, the Sun-Times previously reported.
Cody Rogers, a spokesman for the chain, declined to answer questions.
With CPS facing declining enrollment and a financial crisis, and the budget stalemate in Springfield shutting off additional funding, the competition for students in Chicago has grown intense. And both the budgeted amount per student and the total number of kids have fallen in recent years.
Not far from Comer is Amandla Charter School, whose CEO Jennifer Kirmes said her students got the Noble cards, along with mailings from other schools and CPS. The school had reopened last fall after the Illinois State Charter School Commission overruled a CPS decision to close it. One condition of reopening was hitting an enrollment target.
“Multiple parents were told their child must transfer to Comer now if they wanted to be sure to have a seat for next year,” Kirmes said. “Our parents were legitimately scared. They believed that if they didn’t do this, their child wouldn’t have a good school to go to.”