Hidden Gems High School Fair Sept 28th

That time of year is coming up… the time to start lookin’ at schools!  Yeah!

I don’t know what’s better than a fair with rides and corndogs, than a school fair with tables, flyers, and Principals!

Truly though, these school fairs are a great way to meet a lot of the leaders of some of the “off the radar” high schools.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that the key theme for parents when applying to high schools is “cast a wide net.”  That net will feel much more strategic and comfortable if you really get to know some of the high school options in the city.  I had a lot of great one on one conversations there last year.  The list ranges from neighborhood high schools to private, so take you pick.

I have more high school open house info, as soon as I get organized and find it.  If you know of other events parents should know about to tour the high schools, feel free to post in the comments.


“Hidden Gems” Chicago High School Fair presented by Chicago School GPS

Sunday, September 28, 2014 @ 2-5 p.m.

St. Benedict College Preparatory High School, 3900 N. Leavitt (enter on Bell, south of Irving Park Road)

RSVP online for reduced admission and a chance to win raffle prizes

Join Chicago School GPS at our 3rd Annual Hidden Gems High School Fair where we will introduce you to “hidden gem” public and private Chicago high school options.  This event is geared to middle school parents and students.  In addition to hearing from “hidden gem” high schools in a forum setting, parents can attend planned seminars on:

  • High school admissions process

  • Private school scholarships

  • Executive functioning for middle schoolers

  • “Mini boot camp” on entrance essays

  • Entrance test strategies, and

  • Peer to peer info sessions for middle schoolers.

Come learn how to “widen your net” and find multiple Chicago high schools to meet your family’s needs!

Participating Schools include public, charter, independent, parochial, and boarding schools.  The list so far:
St. Benedict’s Prep
Beacon Academy
Wolcott School
Chicago Academy for the Arts
Intrinsic School
Chicago Hope Academy
Chicago HS for the Arts(ChiArts)
Harbridge College Prep Academy
Westinghouse College Prep
DePaul College Prep (Gordon Tech)
Disney II Magnet
Resurrection College Prep
Alcott College Prep
Chicago Waldorf School
Rickover Naval Academy
Global Citizenship Experience
Senn High School
Luther North
GEMS World Academy
St. Patrick High School
Willows Academy
Lake View High School
Chicago Virtual Charter School
La Lumiere School
De La Salle Institute
British School of Chicago
Amundsen High School
Notre Dame for Girls
Noble Network
Scattergood Friends School
Von Steuben (Scholars)
Notre Dame College Prep



September 10, 2014 at 8:08 pm 54 comments

Sun Times/Blaine Principal Analysis shows neighborhood schools outperform charters on MAP growth

A very compelling piece was published in the Sun Times today (coinciding with the first eve of school starting) where the current Blaine principal (who has been outspoken about the system) reports some results from an analysis of MAP test that shows that neighborhood schools greatly outpace Charters in GROWTH over the past year.  this is different from attainment as it actually shows how much students improved compared to where they started the year.  Math growth is around the same and attainment levels are around the same.  (Not surprisingly selectives and magnets are better than other schools.)  The Sun Times has corroborated his data.  

Take a read and see what you think of his analysis.  Is this a reason to stop expansion of charters?  Some charters?  All charters?

The data is certainly compelling.  I ranked the charters and found that they break out to roughly 1/3 in the top 33% of growth nationally, 1/3 middle. 1/3 lower.  Perhaps the top 1/3 of charters are worth maintaining?  For students in some neighborhoods, even having the chance to attend a school with average growth is an improvement, right?  

My questions: Why isn’t math growth on track with reading?  Will this trend continue with neighborhood schools showing really strong reading growth?  What’s going on at some of these schools with low attainment (ie low scores) but huge growth?  Hopefully someone is CPS is finding out what’s happening there to see if its replicatable.

All in all, you have to admire someone who is willing to step up to speak publicly critiquing CPS from inside, using data to support the argument.



For original CPS MAP data, charts, graphs, and other data files, please visit http://schoolscomparison.blogspot.com/

By Troy A. LaRaviere                                                         

When mayor Rahm Emanuel recently heralded a small gain on the average Chicago Public Schools elementary “MAP” test results, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say. You see, this is the first year the MAP scores can provide a more decisive apples-to-apples comparison of charter schools and traditional public schools.

The result? Public school students learned far more in one year than charter school students did.

Until now, schools were judged on student attainment scores, not student growth. This is important because — like magnet schools — charter schools lean heavily on their ability to enroll students who are more likely to have higher attainment than their neighborhood peers by virtue of the degree of parent involvement needed to enter a child into a charter school lottery. Chicago’s charter schools also expel students at more than 12 times the rate of our public schools, which calls into question their own confidence in their ability to effectively teach the most difficult to reach children. When you consider those factors, the attainment of charter school students could be more a result of their admissions and expulsion policies than their teaching.

This is where the MAP assessment comes in. The MAP is designed to measure teaching and learning. In fact, CPS trusts it so much that it uses the results to determine teacher and principal evaluation ratings. It’s also used to rate schools on CPS’s five-level rating system.

If CPS can use MAP growth results so broadly to rate teachers, principals, and schools, one would expect CPS to use those same results to rate its school reform strategy, which is dominated by the proliferation of privatized charter and turnaround schools, where a private operator replaces all or nearly all of a school’s staff. How did Emanuel’s reform schools do? What kind of learning growth did they foster? Why didn’t Mr. Emanuel say anything about it? Surely he knew.

So I downloaded the publicly available MAP results and conducted a preliminary analysis. For the sake of consistency I am deferring to the Sun-Times results, which were similar to mine. The MAP report lists the “growth percentile” assigned to each school based on student results. If a school gets a growth percentile of 99, then the average growth of the students in that school is greater than the average growth of 99 percent of schools in the United States that took the MAP assessment.

In terms of assessing the effectiveness of charter schools I believe the most accurate comparison is to public magnet schools since both charters and magnets have lottery admissions processes that increase the likelihood of enrolling students with involved parents. In essence, charters are privately-run magnet schools and therefore should be measured against publicly-run magnet schools. I believe that turnaround schools should be compared to neighborhood schools since they both must accept students within their attendance boundaries. Using the Sun-Times results, the comparisons are as follows:


* The most dramatic performance gaps are in reading, where the public magnet school growth percentile is 83, while the charter score is 48.

* The public neighborhood percentile is at 75, while turnarounds are at 51.

* Although neighborhood schools must enroll any student in their attendance boundary, their students’ reading growth percentile is 27 points higher than that of lottery-driven charters schools. Neighborhood schools are at 75 and charters are at 48.


* In math, the public magnet school growth percentile is 67, while the lottery-driven charter schools are at 49.5 — over 17 points lower.

* The neighborhood school growth percentile is at 55 while the turnaround school percentile is at 43 — 12 points lower.

* Even with their admissions limitations, public neighborhood schools outperformed the growth in lottery-driven charter schools by more than five percentile points, with neighborhood and charter schools at 54.9 and 49.5 respectively.

A simple look at a list of the schools reveals even more. Of the 490 Chicago schools for which elementary grade MAP data was available, 60 of those schools are charter (12 percent), 24 are turnaround (5 percent), and 406 (83 percent) are traditional public schools. When sorted by growth percentile rank, I found the following:

* Although charters and turnarounds make up 17 percent of district schools, they account for none of the 60 schools with the highest growth percentiles.

* Of the 30 lowest performing schools in CPS more than half are charters or turnarounds.

* Of the 10 lowest performing schools in CPS, seven are charters or turnarounds.

* Nearly nine out of 10 charter/turnaround schools are in the bottom half of CPS performance.

In summary, charters and turnarounds are overrepresented among the schools with the lowest student growth, and not represented at all among schools with the highest student growth.

CPS testing and accountability officials told me their numbers looked similar to mine and that any minor differences may have been the result of the inclusion of one or two schools not included in the data available at the time of my analysis. This led to another striking revelation. Eight of the city’s charter schools — including five Learn Charter Schools — had no MAP growth data at all. When I asked how this was possible I was told these charters had not “opted in” to the MAP assessment. You read that correctly; CPS allows some charter schools not to participate in the assessment used to hold regular public schools accountable.

The 50th percentile represents the “average” for U.S. schools. The reading growth percentile scores of 83 and 75 for students in Chicago’s public magnet and neighborhood schools stands in stark contrast to the often-promoted picture of traditional Chicago public schools as “failing.” On the contrary, the 51st and 48th respective growth percentiles of turnarounds and charters clearly indicate that it is these reforms that are failing Chicago’s students. There may be a few exceptions, but exceptions don’t create good schools systems; critical mass does. Our public schools have developed this critical mass while charter schools have fallen short.

This situation sets up an inexcusably dire situation when considered in the context of the racial achievement gap. As large numbers of African American and Hispanic students are funneled into the low-growth charter/turnaround system, the high-growth public system is becoming increasingly Caucasian and Asian. The students on the low end of the achievement gap — the students who need the most growth — are being fed to a system that produces the least. In December, the Sun-Times reported that the achievement gap between white and black students was widening. It now appears we have identified a cause.

In the face of these results, the mayor’s next press conference on schools should be much different than his last. He should announce that CPS will cease its effort to divert funding from public neighborhood schools into his failed charter experiment. An immediate surge of investment in public neighborhood schools should follow. He should also announce an immediate publicity campaign to inform parents who made the charter “choice” of the learning growth disparity between these different types of schools so those parents can then make a more informed choice about where to send their children. Unfortunately many of the schools in those parents’ neighborhoods have been shut down. It is a tragic irony that a so-called “choice” system has left thousands of families with no choice at all.

In the past, when public school advocates have mentioned the difficulties of teaching in schools in low-income minority neighborhoods, charter and “choice” advocates have had a “no excuses” response. “Hold the public schools accountable!” has been the battle cry. Will the mayor now hold his charter schools accountable? Let’s hope Mr. Emanuel remains consistent with that “no excuses” mantra now that his own reforms have failed.

Looking forward to that next press conference.

Troy A. LaRaviere is principal at Blaine Elementary School, a parent at Kellogg Elementary School, a graduate of Chicago Public Schools and Chairperson of the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education (AAPPLE).


September 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm 52 comments

A walk in the PARCC?


Okay, that was a seriously cheesy headline but I couldn’t resist.

The PARRC test is coming to replace the ISATs as the standard test taken in all Illinois public elementary schools.

The assumption is that at some point, the PARRC scores will be used as the entry criteria standardized test component for selective enrollment schools.  For now, CPS is still going with NWEA MAP scores for admission.


Some parents on Facebook have taken some of the practice tests and shared their feedback.  Take a look and let us know what you think.  I personally have a hard time with computer-administered tests.  I don’t know if I was conditioned that was from growing up with Scantrons and a nice #2 pencil, or if it’s the way my brain works.  I tried the 6-8th grade math.  I could certainly have completed all the answers (correctly, I’m quite certain) but frankly I didn’t have the brain power to do it..  Oh… I am so happy I’m not taking middle school math right now.   I love me some math, but long laborious word problems make me turn into a 7th grader saying “when will I ever use this stuff????”  (For the record, I do use some of it my job.)

I found the “explain how you know this/show your work” portion to be challenging.  The software is difficult to use and my computer moves slowly.  I have no idea how the CPS computers work, but I feel bad if you’re the kid who gets the dud computer in the room.

I’m going to try an easier math year to see how the interface works when I’m not wincing about the problems I have to solve.





August 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm 42 comments

Back to School Sept 2014


This awesome logo makes ME want to go to school!

This awesome logo makes ME want to go to school!


They say that as you get old, time goes faster.  A summer now is a smaller percentage of your whole life than it was as a child so it feels like it passes faster.  That seems so unbelievably true.  The summer went by in a blink.

Back to homework and lunches.  And structure.  Wahhhhhhhhh.  

There may be a lot of activity this week in school offers and openings so I figured we could start a new post.

If you hear from any schools, feel free to post here so people can see what’s happening.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, CPS has a new logo and web site.  It’s more clean on graphics.  FINALLY, the OAE site is directly linked from CPS.  Finding everything else may take a little more time.  Find a School, which I use a lot is one extra click away now. 


Other CPS news – free lunch for everyone.  I’m not sure how the logistics will work, but it should save a lot of admin time collecting, counting and transporting the lunch money.  I understand that families will still be asked to fill out income forms to determine if the school gets “low income” funding, but I’m curious if parents will have the same incentive to submit the form if the free lunch program isn’t an incentive.

Anything else new going on in your school?

August 25, 2014 at 8:07 am 111 comments

Local Enrollment for Neighborhood High Schools

Thanks to HSObsessed for passing on WBEZ’s Tweet with this interesting data on the % of students at each neighborhood high school who live within the school’s boundaries.

I’ve included those with 1000 students or more and highlighted those with high and low local enrollment.  As HSO points out, on the north side, LVHS and Amundsen have a very low share of local students, while Senn seems to be attracting the neighborhood families (despite having selective programs (IB and arts.))

I think this is also interesting given the “sorting” article we just discussed.  that even aside from the SEHS, there is sorting going on.  Lots of kids are travelling out of their own neighborhoods to other high schools, meaning a neighborhood HS is not a neighborhood HS in the eyes of many Chicago families.  There is some kind of motivation to seek out a different (better) option.


cps hs 1

July 19, 2014 at 11:27 pm 385 comments

Alderman Pawar’s Note on Neighborhood High Schools (Lake View and Amundsen)

I attended a meeting last week at the alderman’s office North Center about Lake View HS.  The school has a new principal (imagine a young Ken Jennings) and he has the backing of the CPS district office and the local Aldermen.  Lots of parents from the Lakeview feeder schools attended, and there is great excitement about making LVHS into a desirable neighborhood high school option.  I’m hoping to get some time on the new principal’s calendar soon to talk more about his vision and I’m currently working on a meeting time with the Amundsen Principal.  That school just had a big improvement in their IB pass rate this year, which is a very impressive accomplishment for both students and staff.  So I hope to continue sharing more about these north side high schools.

Here’s is a post from Pawar’s Facebook page.  Links are below to the LVHS and Amundsen support groups.

By Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward: Lakeview and Amundsen HS)

Why building a neighborhood K-12 is important:

Last Thursday, my office hosted the rollout of the new ‘Lake View Partners’ with Principal Scott Grens, Lake View High School STEM partners (Northwestern University, DePaul University, Microsoft), Ald. Tunney, Ald. Cappleman, and over 70 of our neighbors. The event was a tremendous success! People had an opportunity to meet Principal Grens and learn more about the university and technology partnerships. Most importantly, everyone had a chance to hear about Principal Grens’ vision to make LVHS a solid choice for everyone in our community. In sum, complete ‪#‎GROW47‬‘s vision to build a neighborhood K-12 system in our community.

Neighborhood schools have been my ‘all-in’ since taking office – but I still hear some skepticism about neighborhood high schools. But here is what I know: People move to our community for elementary schools, but move to the suburbs for high schools when their children reach the sixth or seventh grade (sometimes much earlier). Why? Families and students are living in a pressure-cooker. If you live in Tier 3 or 4 of the CPS Tier system, your child has to get straight A’s, never miss a day of school, and test in the 95-99% percentile to test into a selective enrollment high school. For many families, the stress is just too much and they move to the suburbs. What do they get in the suburbs? Suburbs make schools the starting point for everything they do. Property values, economic development, and community sustainability is tied to the school districts. So one tax bill nets a family an entire K-12 system. This means there is no stress about getting into the right high school to get into the right college as everyone goes to the same high school. There is more stability and equity for all kids. And this allows kids to be kids and families to live with some peace.

To combat the suburban outflow, I launched GROW47. The goal: give families in the City what they seek out in the suburbs — a neighborhood K-12 system.

The completion of a neighborhood K-12 system in our community begins with you and me. And it begins with shaping our perception of neighborhood high schools. Everyone has to get involved-parents, homeowners, renters, business owners, etc. It doesn’t matter if you have children. You can do your part by running for Local School Council. Or join your school’s parent organization. Volunteer at an event or put a sign in your window. At a minimum, spread a positive message about your neighborhood school. How does this help? Because performance follows perception.

If you and your family are tired of living in a constant state of stress, I urge you to take a second look at Lake View High School and Amundsen High School. Both schools have transformative principals, vision for excellence, and great programs. What’s missing? Buy in.

Shaping school perception begins with you. And again, performance follows perception. So what can you do? Get involved. Here’s how:

- Join the new Lake View Partners – http://lakeviewhs.us8.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=cb51e2b34351d231690903b9a&id=d0061444cc
– Join the Friends of Amundsen https://www.facebook.com/groups/196286870490599/

- Work with both principals to set up school tours

- Begin a dialogue on your block about neighborhood schools – and name the time and place and I will do my best to be there to give your neighbors my pitch on building a neighborhood K-12 system. Email schedule@chicago47.org to make arrangements.


July 13, 2014 at 3:49 pm 107 comments

WTTW Digital Series on Selective Enrollment High School Admission – 5 students


I’ve been meaning to post this for a while – WTTW has done a nice web series on the SE enrollment process, following 5 kids from different elementary schools through the process.   The episodes are a nice length – 15-18 minutes each, so it’s easy viewing.


The episodes are also on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfIA-s73kCM

Most of us know about the process already so that part won’t be as newsworthy, but the fascinating part is getting a glimpse at some of these schools (both elementary and high school.)  I’ve noted a few episodes that are particularly interesting and some quotes/thoughts on them.  This was really my first time seeing the Disney pods! charter schools, a turnaround school, and some of the SE High schools.

Episode 2 highlights the 5 students’ elementary schools:

Wilmette Junior High: “Every single kid in our class is a masterpiece.”

UNO (Charter:) “There’s a strong expectation of behavioral compliance.”

Disney (Magnet:) “You have 7 classrooms in a pod, without any walls. It’s essentially an open space.” (See the principal and the open spaces)

Marquette School of Excellence (AUSL/Turnaround:) We are in a very data-driven mindset because we want the students to grow. But data doesn’t just come from test scores, it comes from natural observation too.”

District 149 STEM, Calumet City – 1 building with 3 “small schools” within it: “What I want to do is make you the most employable kids in the country.”

Episode 6 shows several high school options (could be a great preview for 8th graders to understand what to expect a bit on the tours)

Lane Tech


Whitney Young

New Trier


Golder College Prep (Noble Charter)

Episode 7 is about the administration at the elementary schools:

AUSL – Teachers have an open door policy for observation, teachers share feedback with each other to help each other improve, share best practice

UNO – I’m sorry, I can’t get past the principal phrasing everything like it’s a question?

Wilmette Junior High – just skip past the stuff about their arts program and new science lab or you’ll cry

Disney – Arts CPS-style, looks fun

STEM Cal City – The superintendent discusses Urban Prep wanting to open a charter in the district


I haven’t watched through the end yet to see what happens with the kids.  If you comment, please remember that these are real kids/families, so no judgy comments about them.

July 6, 2014 at 10:51 pm 46 comments

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