City of Chicago
Progress in almost all lines of endeavor is first initiated in our larger
centers of population. This applies to education as well as to commerce and industry.
The history of educational progress in the United States makes it clear that
in our larger cities particularly, new departures and new methods of teaching
which bring about modifications and changes in school organization and policy
are far in advance of legislation which makes them legal and protects boards
of education in authorizing expenditures of public funds in support
of progressive movements in education.
-- H. Wallace Caldwell, President, Board of Education of Chicago,
"The Chicago Public Schools: Their Story Traced from Log-House Era," 1929
In 2008, the Chicago Public Schools system had 435,000 students and a budget of $4,930,000,000.
That is $11,333 per student, Kindergarten through high school.
By 2014, CPS enrollment had dropped to 400,545 students but the budget zoomed to $5,590,000,000.
So per student spending averages $13,996 per student, a 23% increase since 2008.
Good News About Chicago
The city certainly has many problems in some of its public schools. But it is very
important to recognize that Chicago also has some terrific schools within its public system.
You want your child to get a "classical" education?
There is only one school district in the Chicago area that offers that -- Chicago.
One of the consistently highest scoring schools in the state of Illinois is the
Stephen Decatur Classical School, a public school, at
7030 North Sacramento Avenue in Chicago. Click, or phone them at (773)534-2201 for more info
on what classical education can provide for your child.
- Three other classical schools in the city of Chicago are:
McDade, Poe and Skinner.
Thinking about a Core Knowledge school?
Well, you have a choice of seven
CK schools in the city. Oh, you're in the suburbs? Too bad -- You're out of luck again!
Charter Schools in Chicago
Are Charters Better?
Are all charter schools great schools?
Nope. Some may be, but others surely are not.
Read why by clicking here: Charter Schools Are NOT All the Same.
The largest charter organization in the city of Chicago is the
Chicago Charter School Foundation, which operates schools under the name
"Chicago International Charter Schools" (CICS).
CICS has enjoyed some excellent results, and thus some excellent press coverage. For example:
Editorial, Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2002
"... by some measures, several Chicago charters are seriously outperforming
neighborhood schools. At the three elementary campuses of Chicago International
charter schools, for example, math scores are off the charts compared with the
neighborhood schools the kids likely would attend if the charter didn't exist.
Officials there suggest it may have to do with the
Saxon Math program used at all
Sounds great, right?
But note! Not all schools operating under the
CCSF and CICS name have the same great curriculum! Here's how it works: The
Chicago Charter School Foundation
is the umbrella authority for all of the
"Chicago International Charter Schools" (CICS). The CCSF provides
a host of business functions.
But the actual operation of the schools, including curriculum and instructional design,
is conducted by some
very different independent companies. It's all explained
here on their website. These current CCSF operator partners are:
Those schools which are operated by AQS within the city limits of Chicago offer
a terrific educational package! These city schools all embrace a curriculum that includes:
Terrific!!! These AQS schools include:
CAUTION! We are watching carefully to see what programs AQS offers for its first charter school
outside of the city. It is possible that they will not offer the same high level of quality programs
for their suburban school.
Citivas runs this CCSF grade school:
Like those CCSF schools that are run by AQS, Civitas grade schools are built
on a wonderful foundation, including:
Civitas also runs these CCSF high schools:
Edison uses the "Success For All" program for reading (ugh!), a "project-based proprietary program
emphasizing children's literature for 'social studies'" (ugh!!), and
Everyday Math for math (aaaccckkk!!!)
In Chicago, Edison runs the K-12 CICS-Longwood school for CCSF.
New to CCSF's stable of contracted companies is this New York- and Philadelphia-based
describes its curriculum here, and it appears to be a mix of good ideas and bad ideas.
That description starts with a
headline that Victory uses
Core Knowledge but then adds mystery by saying that their program "is based on" Core Knowledge,
and in fact is "proprietary." In reading, Victory claims use of
Open Court and
Direct Instruction (yea!).
But in math Victory warns that their program
"makes use of student writing logs and requires students to write out
explanations for how they arrived at their answers to math problems" and employs such programs as
Everyday Math (aaack!),
Math in Context (ugh!) and Impact Math.
Science veers to the fuzzy as well, with Victory saying,
"Inquiry-Based Science: Victory's students don't just read about science in a textbook, they discover it for themselves"
(that is, constructivism)
in "a hands-on approach that provides students with authentic learning experiences." (Learn why that's
troublesome in our page on science.)
To coordinate its rollout and efforts in Chicago, Victory has created a aubsidiary
"Chicago School Performance Group" (CSPG).
this press release discussing its Chicago operations and managers.
Victory's first Chicago location opened in September 2007,
at the closed Immaculate Heart of Mary school
near Irving Park and Kedzie. In a breathtaking display of ignorance of the neighborhood,
Victory originally called this campus "Avondale" until local residents
pointed out that the school wasn't in Avondale. It is now known as
"CICS Irving Park".
Students at this school are burdened with the notorious
Everyday Math program.
We haven't learned why, but at the same time in 2007, CICS transferred management of its
(1816 West Garfield) from Civitas to Victory. We do not know how this will affect the curriculum at Basil,
although we are alarmed by this statement about Basil on the Victory website:
"In the classroom, teachers use student-centered and creative approaches to instruction". Uh-oh!
KIPP Ascend Academy, 715 S. Kildare, Chicago 60624.
So far this is the only Chicago installation of the nationally admired KIPP program.
Galapagos has made a terrific migration from bad to great in their math program!
First, they dropped their use of the
uber-fuzzy Math Trailblazers.
They replaced that program in early grades (K-2) with
the highly praised
program, but later grades were stuck with the dismal
But now Galapagos has seen the light and embraced
What about history, geography and the other "social studies"?
Galapagos has announced the extremely good news that they have
"adapted the Core Knowledge Curriculum to provide the framework for its social studies program.
Scholars are introduced to concepts in an organized, thematic manner which allows for scholars
and instructors to share a common knowledge base as they explore the world in which they live."
UNO is the United Neighborhood Organization, a grassroots political group
formed in 1984 and modeled on an Alinsky style of community organizing.
UNO has been particularly involved in efforts
to grant amnesty to illegal aliens, assisting illegal aliens in filing paperwork
to apply for citizenship, and in registering new citizens to vote.
UNO has also been very active in initiatives in the Chicago school system,
going so far as to organize its own charter schools.
Regarding curriculum, the
UNO website provides the extremely good news that
the excellent Saxon Math program
is used in its schools.
On the other hand, at some point in the past the UNO website also
carried the good news that their schools used the similarly excellent
SRA Direct Instruction Program (K-5th Grade)
and Open Court Basal Reading Series (4th -5th Grade).
However, those references now (November 2008) have been dropped from the website,
which is discouraging.
- Bartolome de las Casas School,
1641 W. 16th St.
- Carlos Fuentes School,
2845 W. Barry Ave.
- Esperanza Charter School,
4407 S. Carrollton Ave.
- Octavio Paz Primary Campus,
2651 W. 23rd St.
- Octavio Paz Intermediate Campus,
2401 W. Congress Pkwy.
- Officer Donald J. Marquez School,
2916 W. 47th St.
- Rufino Tamayo School,
5135 S. California
- UNO Veterans Memorial Campus,
4248 W. 47th St.
A very disturbing aspect of the UNO charter school system is that their own website provides (as of November 2008)
no email addresses, no postal addresses, and no phone numbers for contacting the
UNO charter school umbrella organization. This is odd, to say the least.
Also, the UNO charter schools website formerly provided links to websites for the individual schools,
but those links now (November 2008) have been dropped.
Other Charters in Chicago
Other charters in the city of Chicago include:
- Academy of Communications and Technology
- Alain Locke Charter School
- Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Technical Charter High School (ACE Tech)
- Betty Shabazz International Charter School
- Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School:
Uses Saxon Math (yea!) and
Open Court reading (yea again!). They also claim to employ
"selections from the Core Knowledge sequence" although they do not claim to meet the full CK standard.
- Catalyst Charter School
- Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy:
- Chicago Virtual Charter School:
"Chicago Virtual Charter School is proud to use an outstanding curriculum from K12. Developed by a team of leading experts, including veteran public and private school teachers, the K12 curriculum is known as one of the most researched and effective learning programs in the nation."
- Choir Academy: OK, so we understand that the children
get lots of music. Swell. What we're not sure about is whether they get anything resembling
a useful K-8 academic experience. A terse write-up on their website claims the "special feature"
that kids use the "written word" and "cooperative study" in math class (uh-oh!), a woo-woo graphic and text on
language arts never mentions phonics (ouch!), science is "hands on" (on, no!) and social studies is a mishmash
with such solid academic undertakings as "creating life-sized models of historical figures."
All in all, sounds pretty grim, but we'll bet they sing great!
Update: due to collapsing enrollment (we wonder why?), Choir Academy will close in June 2009.
- Erie Elementary Charter School:
The website makes heavy reference to belief in Howard Gardner's fanciful theory of "multiple intelligences."
Lawndale Educational And Regional Network (L.E.A.R.N.):
The school's website says
it has a "humanities based focus dedicated to teaching literature,
history, and fine arts" and that it "uses Houghton-Mifflin textbooks,
which have a literacy-based learning program for all subjects, including science and math."
- Legacy Charter School
- Mirta Ramirez Computer Science Charter School (MRCSCS)
- Namaste Charter School:
Namaste has avoided the typical fuzzy and chatty math programs
used in Chicago schools, by choosing an atypical fuzzy and chatty math program,
Math Trailblazers. Too bad.
- Noble Street Charter High School
- North Kenwood/Oakland:
- North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School
- Passages Charter School:
Associated with "Asian Human Services:
Helping Asians, Immigrants, & Underserved Communities", the Passages Charter School says it "focuses specifically on the needs of
immigrant and refugee students."
- Perspectives Charter School
- Polaris Charter Academy:
This school is based on something called "Expeditionary Learning", which is yet another variant
of the same old, worn out, constructivist/progressivist theory of education.
- Providence Englewood Charter School:
The last line of the school's "philosophy" statement is an eye-opener:
"Providence Englewood Charter School is nothing if not counter-cultural. In the midst of a society which may be characterized by chaos, we stand for academic excellence, order and discipline."
They also seem to live up to that goal, teaching their students with the respected SRA Real Math program.
- Triumphant Charter Middle School
- Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men
- Young Women's Leadership Charter School
- Youth Connection Charter School:
Also see the section of our web site about charter schools
for many more insights
to this educational alternative within the public system.
Magnet Schools in Chicago
"Magnet" schools provide customized educational environments, but only for a limited
number of children and only after a selection process.
Official CPS website on magnet schools
- Read more in
Winning The Chicago Magnet School Lottery
by Mary Galligan, Chiocago Parent, December 2003.
Getting Into Magnet Schools
by Rosalind Rossi, Chicago Sun-Times, December 11, 2005.
"Thinking of applying to a Chicago elementary magnet school? Brace
yourself for some heavy reading.
The latest directory of Chicago public elementary schools tips the
scale at 2 pounds. It's a whopping 336 pages, all of them oversize.
The directory contains two different magnet applications, including a
new one that requires parents to fill in ovals with a No. 2 pencil."
Getting Into One of Those Great Schools
Part of the puzzle is figuring out just what your options are in the city, and what route to
follow to get your kids into the environment that is best for them and for you.
One parents organization that has done a good job in helping parents understand all this
is the Northside Parents Network.
While they focus on schools and issues
on the north side, much of their information would be valuable to parents anywhere in the city.
September 2002 newsletter (click to get a PDF doc of this issue)
they provide a thorough explanation of charters, classical schools,
magnets, and other options, and what it takes to get kids into each of these.
News About the CPS
Education 299 -- a fascinating blog on schools in the city of Chicago,
conducted by Alexander Russo
Catalyst Chicago: An important source of information on what's going on with
the bureaucracy in the Chicago Public Schools, especially in its attempts at flavors of "reform."
- Substance News:
This website run by George N. Schmidt is solidly in favor of the union-dominated
status quo and sees "school reform" as a "smokescreen". Nonetheless, it can be an interesting
source of commentary from those who want to stop change at all costs.
Math in Chicago