I totally agree with the person below: Lack of transparency, tons of inconsistencies, autocratic management.
- Fantastic location and campus.
- Great teachers.
- Parents are an asset to the school.
- Good curriculum, but it is compromised by the autocratic way in which the school is run.
- As an independent school, the school is competing in a marketplace where needlessly complex academic projects are the benchmark.
- Faculty spend too much of their time on matters unrelated to student achievement.
- The school suffers from a huge degree of arrogance, smugness even. The super rich have a big influence. On the other side of the spectrum, the administration scorn families who beg for financial aid.
- Students are not really taught respect, humility, or kindness
This is not a place you would want to send your child. Our children attended LFC for several years, and we loved it. Unfortunately, the school has been so poorly managed last year that I'm glad we got out when we did. Most of the teachers were very good, but the flip side was that the new administration was very bad. Terrible Head of School who discourages opinions from families or faculty. Besides, parents are encouraged to fundraise and donate frequently. Chicago has some exceptional private school options. Sadly, LFC is no longer one of them.
We can definitely not recommend the school. Self-censorship prevails among staff members thanks to various forms of direct or indirect threats. As parents we managed to obtain first-hand information of how teachers and administrators feel about their jobs, their working conditions, their pay, the treatment they receive, their job relationships, and so on. Provided below are some shocking elements consubstantial with the head of school’s vision for staff management and education. It highlights what the school truly is: a working environment which poses a significant risk to its future ambitions and long-term success, to the psychological and physical health of employees and to the well-being of students.
PROS: wonderful parent community, teachers are terrific, great location, nice facilities.
CONS: (1) Misleading communications regarding socio-economic & racial diversity, & community outreach. They *say* they want to be socio-economically diverse and want community members to attend the school, and then for the 2016-2017 school year refused financial aid to several families in that exact group. I think to the Administration & Board socio-economic diversity means, "give aid to teacher's kids and then we can justify that some middle-class kids attend." (2) Zero transparency to the financial aid process: It's close to impossible to get any information about how aid is calculated, how much was raised, and how it was distributed. There's no proper endowment! For 2016-2017, they considered retirement accounts and elder care as "disposable income" and admitted (this is an exact quote), "some parents consider their child's elementary school education important enough to dip into retirement." (3) Zero transparency and terrible communication in general. So many examples of this, but here are a few: the parents Facebook page as of summer 2016 is NOT allowed to discuss anything negative . . . so the school doesn't allow a private parents group to talk about everything from the mundane (a change in pickup times) to concerns over larger issues. That's just Customer Service 101: listen to parent's concerns and ADDRESS THEM. Don't pretend they don't exist. Additionally, if you attempt to speak with some key people in the Administration or Board, they won't return emails or calls unless you are considered worth their time (and it often appears you need to be very wealthy for that to happen). (4) Not enough french being spoken: if your differentiator from other private schools is french, then it needs to be spoken all the time. It was not spoken in after care, and i know several kids who needed additional tutoring on weekends. French parents want more english, english parents want more french, so they are trying to balance it. But IMO if it's a french immersion school, then speak french. (5) several teachers have told me how overextended they are.
Bottom line is they *say* they want to be a middle-range, more affordable option than Latin/British/Etc. But their actions speak otherwise. It was fine while we were there, But glad we're gone. Not worth the $.
Never do I see a more vigorous defense of the Lycee's tuition increases or financial aid program than from people who seemingly do not have any need for it, nor do they appear to have any personal experience with it. Since we first came to the school in 2005, the socioeconomic makeup of the school shifted immensely. There have always been some exceedingly wealthy families here; it is, after all, secular private school in a major city. However, there used to be far more of what the previous commenter has deemed "normal" families. These normal families are disappearing for a variety of reasons. The year before the baseline used below when 08-09 tuition was $13,100, tuition increased by 20% in one year, from $10,900 to $13,100. That year the school also went to a flat tuition structure. If a family has been at the school more than a decade, they have seen their tuition costs rise more than 80%. If you chose the school back then for the language immersion (which you were thrilled existed at a tuition you could stretch for) then you probably have a very different view about the reasonableness of the costs over time. The parents who can easily afford the Lycee and see it as a bargain in comparison to Latin et al are coming from a very different place than many of the committed and dedicated Lycee families who have expressed real frustration with what's been happening at the Lycee. As a family that *does* have to rely on financial aid to stay, we do have personal experience with what has been and is now available. And we were told that aid was over $1 million total the year before and barely reached $550,000 this year. We also learned that in our calculation of need the school considers some of our retirement account an asset; in other words we're supposed to cash out retirement to pay for some of tuition. The measures meant to help "normal" families *are not working* and the school is losing the middle-upper middle class because it has failed to create an effective plan to transition from the school it was to the one it wants to be. I haven't even spoken to the academics or character of the school--and there are many wonderful things about this place, terrific people on both the staff and in the parent community. But the way that the school is failing it's long-time families who have committed so much of our children's lives to this community is appalling.
Two of my children are attending this school. They love the school and so do we. My oldest child has completed three years at the school (she will be starting 1st grade) and my son has completed one year at the school. All of the teachers we have had have been amazing. They provided a supportive and nurturing environment that allowed our children to bond with them quickly. I really like that the Lycée seeks to instill a joy of learning in the children (as opposed to focusing narrowly on test preparation) through a diverse and engaging curriculum that includes art and singing and plenty of physical movement. We've been impressed with how quickly our children have picked up French. Our oldest child who is starting first grade this year already speaks French fluently.
Tuition has gone up a fair amount in recent years. I really hope that they can minimize future increases in tuition. I also wish that they had a better tuition discount for siblings. Currently they offer a minor tuition reduction for the third sibling, but nothing for the second sibling (or for siblings beyond the third). But I realize that a good education at a private school in Chicago is not going to be cheap, and we want those amazing teachers to be well paid. We plan to continue sending our children to the school so long as we can afford it.
Because it involves our children, I understand that some people can become overly passionate when discussing their school, but I think it is important that we stick with the facts. If we look at the changes in tuition over time (thank you Internet Archive!) we can see that the previous reviewer is incorrect. In 2008/09 high school tuition* at the LFC was $13,100. In 2016/17 it is $18,930, an increase of 44.5%. Not insubstantial, but not 70% either. Over the same period, high school tuition at Latin as gone from $23,285 to $32,535, an increase of 39.7%. And high school tuition at the Lab School has gone from $20,445 to $32,106, an increase of 57%. So the LFC increase is in the middle of this pack and overall tuition still more than $13K less than either school (not $7K as asserted below).
I don't have the details of the financial aid support offered by these schools but it stands to reason that if Lab/Latin are ~70% more expensive than the LFC, they have more total aid to give out. Based on my understanding from the School Board presentations at the LFC community meetings I attended, I don't believe it is correct to say that the financial aid pool is 50% less than previous years (I think it has remained stable or even increased) and I do know that the School has taken specific steps to try to ameliorate tuition increases for "normal" parents (e.g. by increasing the tuition charges for people who have their tuition covered by their employer as part of their expat package).
While we can all agree that tuition increases are a real problem at every level (don't get me started on college-level tuition increases), the facts make it clear that the LFC appears to be operating responsibly, at least in comparison with the other private schools mentioned here.
*I focused on comparing tuition since this was the information published on the schools' websites. It does not include additional fees for books & supplies, clubs, sports, field trips, etc. But I think one can safely assume these numbers are probably similar for the schools in question. I use the information for Latin and Lab schools because those are the schools that the reviewer originally referenced as a comparison to the LFC.