Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
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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

    See extensive detail about charter schools in this section of our web site:
    Illinois Loop: Charter Schools.

  • 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.

  • Chicago International Charter Schools

    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 its schools."

    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:

    • American Quality Schools (AQS)

      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.

    • Civitas Schools, LLC

      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 Schools, Inc.

      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.

    • Victory Schools

      New to CCSF's stable of contracted companies is this New York- and Philadelphia-based operator. Victory 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). Victory provides 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 CICS-Basil campus (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 Schools

    • KIPP Ascend Academy, 715 S. Kildare, Chicago 60624. So far this is the only Chicago installation of the nationally admired KIPP program.
  • Galapagos Charter School

      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 Singapore Math program, but later grades were stuck with the dismal Everyday Math.

      But now Galapagos has seen the light and embraced Singapore Math whole-heartedly! 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 Charter Schools

      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.

      The current UNO schools are:

      • 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:

    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. In their 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

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