Problem Chicago’s “open enrollment” high schools that have struggled for decades—graduation rates hover in the fifties, test scores rank far below national averages, and less than 6 percent of students earn a college degree. It is these schools that reform efforts have focused upon and often failed. It is in this light that Chicago parents should view with encouragement 2010’s ACT results.
Our Solution Back in 2008, the highest average ACT score for an open enrollment high school in Chicago was 19.1. By 2010, six open enrollment high schools scored at 19.1 or higher—five of those six were charter schools. Overall, seven of the top ten open enrollment high schools in Chicago are charter schools, and data from a new Illinois Policy Institute report suggests that the number of top ranked charter high schools will continue to grow.
Over the coming months, the future of Chicago schools will be debated between candidates vying to be the next mayor. Backtracking on charter school expansion cannot be an option for any would-be successor committed to school reform. Moreover, Chicago’s next mayor should take the following steps:
Invite successful Chicago charter schools to create more new high schools
Encourage inventive educators and community organizations in Chicago to create altogether new charter schools
Welcome new school proposals from charter school organizations that have been successful in other cities.
Why This Works Historically, when ranking open enrollment schools, the top test scores have belonged to schools with relatively modest enrollments of low-income students. No longer—five of the top ten high schools have low-income enrollments near or above the district average of 86 percent. All five of those schools are charter schools.