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What school districts have the best reputation in or around Chicago?


Miriam August 14, 2008

What school districts have the best reputation in or around Chicago?

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Starwww September 7, 2008

Elementary Schools:
Middle Schools :
these sites give the rankins of the schools. While all schools have problems some tend to do well than others.


drjohnson September 7, 2008

In general, the districts with the best reputations are the suburban districts to the north & northwest and quite a few to the west. This can be misleading however, because you will note in the school rankings which Starwww linked, some of the very highest performing schools are in the same district as some of the very lowest performing schools.

Also, the more heterogeneous the population of a given school, the more challenging it is to achieve overall high scores.

So, as anywhere else in the country, the best performing schools tend to be the ones with the wealthiest populations in the most expensive neighborhoods.

Perhaps a very high performing school may crop up in a generally low performing district because it is a selective magnet program. Or an excellent school may score low in the rankings because it draws from a very challenging population. This is particularly true in a large urban area like Chicago, which attracts many immigrants, both internationally and within the country. A difference of a mile in any direction can radically alter the make-up of schools in neighboring attendance areas. Meanwhile there will still be a large number of high achieving students in both schools. Just not enough to bring up overall averages in one of the schools.

Our local school is technically the attendance area for group foster home. Many of these children don't even attend the local school, or only do so for a matter of months. But their standardized scores are averaged in with the local school.

When it comes to high schools, for instance,there is a long standing rivalry between New Trier which draws students from some of the wealthiest zip codes in the state and perhaps the country, and Evanston Township High School which is the one high school in the much more diverse city of Evanston.

I have heard tales of people who move or go to great lengths to make sure their Evanston child attends New Trier. It's considered an extremely high achieving, high pressure school. It's one of the highest performing schools in the whole country. It's also supposed to be very rough on students who don't fit in or can't afford all of the luxuries that their classmates take for granted. I've heard that conformity is grueling.

On the other hand, I've also heard of New Trier attendance parents who paid tuition for their child to attend ETHS. This school also has a reputation of producing stellar graduates who win many national prizes and attend the top universities. However it also has many students who are gang members, middling performers, and members every other category you might name. There is a place for anybody in this school. But it can also be overwhelming for a shy sheltered kid. It's known for it's leadership position in trying (not too successfully so far) to close "the gap".

So what does it mean to be a good school? What are you looking for for any given child? You ask a seemingly simple question, but the answer is very complex.

The city of Chicago proper is it's own school district which in general has a lousy reputation. And I mean truly horrible achievement with stupendous drop out rates. But it has many many exceptions which can be difficult to sort out. It also has some highly reputed magnet schools.

Here's the short answer: If money is no object, and you're not worried about social diversity, then choose to move to Winnetka, Glenview, Arlington Heights, Naperville or Wheaton.


ultrafelicity September 22, 2008

Unfortunately, drjohnson's answer stinks of the truth about Chicago's public school's. The suburbs and private are your best answer. I figure that if you are on this website you are looking for something better than the average. Once you have dissected all of the ratings for a school I would say the best way to find out about schools are to read the parent reviews. That is where the real truth lies. I have found that with schools like New Trier and Naperville many parents complained of bullying from other students and even from the teachers. Also a lack of experience from the teachers was reported. Going to the website of the school can also be misleading because it is only going to showcase it's best attributes.
My daughter goes to Oak Park River Forest HS. We had to move there in order for her to attend and prove residency. She is in all of their honors classes. The curriculum is rigorous, but the teachers actually teach. There are some low performing students at the school, but there are legions of high perfoming students and middlings that balance the school out. The faculty truly cares about the students and there is a humongous amount of parent involvement.
It would really help to know what grade/s your child/ren are in. If you can afford to live in a middle to upper middle income area, that's great. Personally I am glad that I didn't move to an upper crust community. Remember you still want your child to "fit" in. Oak Park/River Forest is a diverse community of all races, all incomes. But be careful because it is surrounded by the worst part of Chicago and other suburbs that aren't so hot. The Oak Park police are top notch. They succeed at keeping things safe. Good luck.


maduck4 July 11, 2009

Dr Johnson may be right about the suburbs but as a Chicagoan I am really annoyed by his 'portrayal of the chicago schools being terrible. I have four sons all of whom are pure public school products (as am I) - my oldest just graduated from the US Air Force Academy & is going to Pilot training. my second is in his Sophmore year at Univ Illinois - Chicago. If they want to learn & excel they can.....


drjohnson July 11, 2009


I'm sorry your were annoyed by my assessment of Chicago public schools. But please note that half of my reference was

"But it has many many exceptions which can be difficult to sort out. It also has some highly reputed magnet schools."

It's important to point out to anyone who is moving to Chicago, that the best schools are usually magnet schools. You cannot guarantee your child will be enrolled in a magnet school when house hunting.

There are also local attendance schools with good reputations, but there are really very few and the line of attendance can be tricky to figure out.

There is no denying, however, that Chicago Public Schools, in general, are pretty bad. Many are more than bad.

My parents both attended CPS through high school, and I also attended Mary Lyon School through 5th grade. But that was many, many administrations ago.


pyrotech October 1, 2011

I realize this feed is a little dated, but it really did provide some good insight for me. I am looking to relocate to the Chicago area sometime next year and finding a progressive school district is my top priority. Funny that I have already been referred to look into north shore suburbs such as Wilmette and Winnetka as well as the Oak Park and River Forest areas. Do any of you have any additional information or referrals updated from this past conversation. I appreciate all your advice. My children are currently in middle school. (Money is an object though we live in general comfort.)

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