A model of success: Chicago’s charter schools hold the top nine spots for 2012 ACT scores

October 7, 2012
By Ted Dabrowski

The problem
Too many of Chicago’s children don’t reach their full potential because traditional public schools are failing them.

Our solution
Chicago’s charter schools are proving, once again, that low-income children can succeed if given a chance.

Why this works
In 2012, charter schools held the top nine spots for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago. Another charter school ended up in a three-way tie for tenth. The Noble Network of Charter Schools led the pack, with a total of nine schools in the top 10, one of which was included in the tie. The average ACT score for charter schools in the top 10 was 20.6, with Noble Network’s UIC College Prep campus scoring 21.9 – the highest-ever average at an open-enrollment, non-selective CPS high school.

Not only are charter schools outperforming their peers on the ACT, a comparison of Chicago’s top 10 charter high schools to the top 10 open-enrollment, non-selective, traditional public high schools shows that charter schools’ pace of improvement is significantly greater. Since 2007, top charter school scores have increased by 17 percent, while the top traditional schools have gained nearly 5 percent.

Charter school students, like other students in CPS, primarily come from low-income backgrounds (91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch), represent mostly racial minorities (60 percent African-American, 35 percent Hispanic), and must overcome a range of challenges (9 percent English Language Learners, 12 percent special needs). They are not untouched by the violence plaguing many of the city’s neighborhoods. And, yet, despite all of these obstacles, they are succeeding.

Charter schools offer a real alternative for Chicago kids. A path to better education for Chicago public school students has already begun. State and local officials must work side by side to offer more options to Chicago parents eager to find a place where their children can truly succeed.