C4C Schools
Advocacy by Connecting4Communities for comprehensive public education planning is closely linked to its advocacy work in housing and economic development because schools, housing and economic opportunity are closely linked. Our advocacy for public education planning is also informed by the lack of education planning during the concurrent planning of the UIC South Campus development and that of the Chicago Housing Authority’s ABLA Revitalization (Roosevelt Square), both of which formally began in 1996. Our Central City High School Proposal has been well vetted in the community and with CPS, and elected and other governmental, education and business leaders. In May of 2014 we entered into a new round of advocacy to identify funding for Central City High School with the help of three very bright, experienced University of Chicago Booth School of Business graduate students thanks to one of our Public Education Task Force members. Our successful advocacy for the Chicago Housing Authority to procure professional master planning services for the remaining undeveloped seventy-five percent of the large Roosevelt Square development, procured in fall of 2014, is part of our comprehensive community planning and development strategy.

Access to quality public primary and secondary education is a core C4C goal. Chicago parents navigate an assortment of neighborhood schools, classical schools, selective enrollment schools, magnet schools, regional gifted centers, charter schools, small schools, contract schools, special education schools, and career and military academies, all with different student selection criteria, methods of student selection, and academic concentrations. While many argue that choice is good, it’s clear that Chicago parents have plenty to deal with in finding the right primary and secondary schools for their children. Read about our Education Task Force Facilitator and C4C board president Jeff Rosen.

Public Elementary Schools

Fortunately, our area has some of the best elementary school options in Chicago. The Andrew Jackson Language Academy, located on Harrison Street, has for years been the top non selective elementary school in Chicago (as measured by ISAT scores). The Mark Skinner School, located on Adams Street, continually tests among the city’s best. Skinner has a neighborhood boundary for West Loop residents and accepts students who test into their classical program. The STEM Magnet Academy, located on Fillmore, had an incredibly strong first year in 2011-2012. It is now among the most desirable schools in the city offering an innovative program in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The Galileo Scholastic Academy, located on Carpenter Street, was recently listed by Chicago Magazine as one of the city’s up and coming schools. Galileo serves many neighborhood children, offers a Math and Science program and has long been a strong school with a great teaching staff. While we have these great schools and while our residents participate in a proximity lottery for a portion of the kindergarten seats each year, it has proven to not be enough. Year after year, we hear from large numbers of residents who do not get access to one of these excellent schools. Parents and families are driven away from the area because they aren’t satisfied with the guaranteed neighborhood options they have and they cannot get a seat at one of the magnet schools in our area. Our neighborhood options (we mentioned Skinner) include John M. Smyth School located on Blue Island Avenue and Washington Irving, located on Oakley Boulevard, in Tri Taylor. Both of these schools have had challenges in the past, but both have seen considerable improvements in recent years. Smyth students have steadily achieved academic gains under the leadership of Principal Dr. Ron Whitmore and his staff but have recently achieved a remarkable increase in ISAT scores and in other measures of academic performance. We worked with our Illinois State Senator, Dr. Patricia Van Pelt, to establish a strong partnership between Smyth and the Illinois Math & Science Academy, one of the best high schools in the country. C4C and Dr. Whitmore have also proposed to the University of Illinois that John M. Smyth become the UIC John M. Smyth IB World Laboratory School. Our residents have guaranteed access to Smyth and Washington Irving, but as of yet, we have not seen large numbers of middle class families choosing these options. C4C will work with the neighborhood programs to continue their improvement and will work with CPS to address the lack of access to the prestigious magnet programs in the area.

Andrew Jackson
Washington Irving

Public Secondary Schools

As challenging as the elementary situation is for near west side parents, the high school situation is far more difficult. For years, the neighborhood high school for most of our area has been Richard Crane. Historically, very, very few families have chosen to attend Crane. Incremental change is happening. Charter schools (many that are excellent) are popping up all over the area. There is word of some accommodation for local residents at the new Jones High School in the South Loop. But the high school situation on the near west side is, simply put, dire. All the desirable high schools nearby accept students through testing criteria or by lottery. And the options are very, very few. Whitney Young is close, but the criteria for admission are getting more difficult every year. Navigating the high schools in Chicago is a stressful and aggravating experience for our families and this needs to change. Interestingly, even the excellent magnet schools we have in the area are challenged by the high school situation. These schools routinely send their graduates to 15-18 high schools all across the city which makes it difficult for the schools to prepare children and creates an issue for the schools to deal with each and every year. C4C will work with all parties to create guaranteed access to high quality secondary options.

Private Schools

Due in large part to challenges in gaining access to high quality public education, a subset of families in the area send their children to private schools. Below are some great private schools in the local area.

C4C Education Goal

Connecting4Communities looks forward to working with Mayor Emanuel and the CPS administration to continue improvements at our neighborhood schools, address the lack of access to secondary education, and find ways to bring our city wide schools together in common activities. Our goal is to create a vibrant, integrated K-12 educational community on the Near West Side that attracts residents from around Chicago and the region.