Chicago Public Schools

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Chicago Public Schools
CPS Logo 2014.png
Educate. Inspire. Transform.
42 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois, Cook County, 60602
United States
District information
Type Public School District
Grades Pre-K–12th
Established 1837 (1837)[1]
Superintendent Forrest Claypool[2]
Accreditation North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Schools 660 (2014–15)[3]
Budget US$5.69 billion (2015)[3]
District ID 1709930[4]
Students and staff
Students 396,683 (2014–15)[3]
Teachers 21,729 (2014–15)[3]
Staff 37,322 (2014–15)[3]
Student-teacher ratio 17.01 (2013–14)[5]
Athletic conference Chicago Public League
Other information

Chicago Public Schools (CPS), officially classified as City of Chicago School District #299 for funding and districting reasons,[6] in Chicago, Illinois, is the fourth largest school district in the U.S. (list of the largest school districts in the United States by enrollment).[3] For the 2014–2015 school year, CPS reported overseeing 660 schools, including 484 elementary schools and 176 high schools; of which 517 were district-run, 130 were charter schools, 11 were contract schools and 2 were SAFE schools.[3] The district serves over 396,000 students.[3]

Students attend a particular school based on their area of residence, except for charter schools and selective enrollment schools. The school system reported a graduation rate of 65.4 percent for the 2012–2013 school year.[7] Unlike most school systems, CPS calls the position of superintendent "Chief Executive Officer", but there is no material difference in responsibilities or reporting from what is traditionally a superintendent. CPS reported an average of 20 pupils per teacher in elementary schools and 24.6 pupils per teacher in high school.

Approximately 85% of CPS students are Latino or African-American. The student body includes 87% from low-income homes and 12.2% of students are reported to have limited English proficiency. Average salaries for 2008-2009 were $74,839 for teachers and $120,659 for administrators.[3] For the 2013-2014 school year, CPS reported 41,579 staff positions including 22,519 teachers and 545 principals.[3] In 2012 CPS reported a budget of $5.11 billion with $2.273 billion from local sources, $1.619 billion from the State of Illinois and $0.977 billion from the U.S. Federal Government.[3] Per student spending was reported at $13,078 in 2010.[3]


Children returning to class following a fire drill at a Chicago elementary school, 1973. Photo by John H. White.

As Chicago was started as a trading outpost in the early 1800s, it took several years for a citywide school system with adequate funding and instructional personnel to emerge. As early as 1848, during the first term of the 10th Mayor of Chicago, James Hutchinson Woodworth, the city's need for a public school system was recognized by the city council. A higher educational standard for the system was stated by the mayor, both to reflect his philosophy as a former teacher, and to add an attribute to Chicago that would continue to attract productive citizens.[8] In 1922, the school board voted unanimously to change policy that allocated library access based on color, "[extending] the same privileges to Race children to enter all the libraries as the white children enjoy", but maintaining segregated schools and specifying that "in each branch library all employees should belong to the race which attended the particular school".[9]

School closures[edit]

From 2001 to 2008, CPS, under Arne Duncan's leadership, closed dozens of elementary and high schools due to classrooms being at low capacity or underperforming. Despite claims that the closures would help underperforming students, University of Chicago researchers found that most of the students who transferred as a result of the closures did not improve their performance. These closures were fueled by corporate principles of competition and supported by billionaires, philanthropists, policy advocates, and local, state, and federal elected officials.[10] This is what led to the Renaissance 2010 initiative, which focused on closing public schools and opening more charter schools that were focused on one of the government structures: charter, performance, or contract.[11]

During this program's time, it has closed over 80 schools and plans to open 100 charter schools. This also include five military schools, three of which have Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs.[12][13] In response to CPS's announcements in 2013 that it was considering closing nearly 200 schools,[14] many Chicago parents, students, teachers and community activists voiced their opposition through the media and at hearings around the city.[15][16][17][18][19]

In addition, several Illinois lawmakers, including chairman of the Senate education committee William Delgado (D-Chicago), pushed for a moratorium on school closings in CPS, citing "the disproportion[ate] effect on minority communities, the possibility of overcrowding and safety concerns for students who will have to travel further to class."[20] On May 22, 2013, the school board voted to close 50 public schools.[21] However, the majority of the closed schools have been in poor neighborhoods with a black population, such as Bronzeville.[22] These areas are not only sites of demolished public housing, but now to closed-down schools. For every four schools that have been closed, three have been in these neighborhoods. Over 88% of the students affected by these closings have been African American.[23]

CPS teacher strikes[edit]

In 1983, CPS teachers went on a fifteen-day strike from October 3 to October 18 demanding a 10% salary increase. Superintendent Ruth B. Love offered raises between 1.6% and 4.8%, but the teachers' union rejected the proposal.[24] The strike ended with the teachers receiving a 5% raise, 2.5% bonus and a one-year pact.[25][26]

Chicago public school teachers went on a ten-day strike from November 23, to December 3, 1984 which resulted in a 4.5% raise.[27] In 1985, the teachers had a two-day walkout. CPS teachers went on a nineteen-day strike from September 8, to October 3, 1987.[28]

In September 2012, CPS teachers went on a nine-day strike, walking off the job for the first time in 25 years. The work stoppage, which began during the second week of the 2012 school year, culminated with a march on City Hall.[29][30] Striking teachers voiced complaints about pay, teacher evaluations, and benefits, as well as general concerns about the neglect of the city's public school system.[31] Soon after the strike, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard stepped down from his position.


For the 2011-2012 school year, CPS reported having 404,151 students including 24,232 in preschool, 29,594 in kindergarten, 236,452 in grades 1-8, and 113,873 in grades 9-12. Latinos were 44.1% of the student body, African-Americans made up 41.6%, 8.8% were categorized as white, 3.4% Asian/Pacific Islander and 0.4% as Native American.[3] Chicago Public Schools were the most racial-ethnically separated among large city school systems, according to research by the New York Times in 2012,[32] as a result of most students' attending schools close to their homes.


CPS headquarters from 1998 until 2014 in the Chicago Loop

CPS is a vast system of primary, secondary, and disability schools confined to Chicago's city limits. This system is the second largest employer in Chicago.[33]

Most schools in the district, whether prekindergarten-8th grade, elementary, middle, or secondary, have attendance boundaries restricting student enrollment to within a given area. A school may elect to enroll students outside its attendance boundaries if there is space or if it has a magnet cluster program.

Full magnet schools are open to citywide student enrollment, provided that applicants meet a level of high academic standards. Magnets offer a variety of academic programs with various focuses, such as agriculture, fine arts, international baccalaureate, Montessori, math, literature, Paideia programs, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). STEM Magnet Academy is the first elementary school in the state of Illinois, and among the first in the nation, to offer a STEM-focused curriculum.[citation needed]

The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) is the system's only audition based performing and visual arts high school. Chicago was the largest city in the country without a public high school for the arts until the establishment of ChiArts in 2009.

Selective enrollment[edit]

Elementary schools[edit]

Lenart Regional Gifted Center

The school system contains two levels of elementary-middle school programs which make selective admission only. Regional gifted centers have an area of focus (such as math and science) and require one type of assessment, akin to an IQ test. Classical schools, in contrast to regional gifted centers, take a liberal arts approach focusing on all areas. Classical school applications thus require a different type of assessment.

Secondary schools[edit]

At the secondary level, CPS operates ten selective enrollment high schools.[34] Selective Enrollment high schools work on a point system out of 900 points:,[35]

  • 300 points for the 7th grade standardized testing (NWEA, as of 2014)
  • 300 points for the entrance exam (tested in vocabulary, literature, math)
  • 300 points for 7th grade grades (A=75, B=50, C=25; D and below=0)

Competition is fierce, and many factors decide whether students are admitted or not:

  • Ranking: Students are asked to rank their top 6 high schools—the higher a school is on the list, the higher the chance a high school will choose to admit a student
  • Points from the point system mentioned above

Other high school options[edit]

In addition to the selective enrollment high schools, a number of other possibilities exist for high school students. These include military academies, career academies, and charter schools. Lincoln Park High School and Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center are neighborhood "magnet" high schools, which also offer various honors programs to students citywide. More specialized options, such as the Chicago High School for the Arts and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences are also available.

Military academies[edit]

Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville
Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville

In partnership with various Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs, six high schools are operated as public military academies:

Career academies[edit]

Dunbar Vocational Career Academy
Dunbar Vocational Career Academy

Some high schools have been designated as "Career Academies." According to CPS, these schools have "intensified resources to prepare students for careers in business/finance, communications, construction, health, hospitality/food service, manufacturing, performing arts, and transportation. Vocational shops, science labs, broadcast journalism labs and media/computer centers help students gain 'hands on' experience."[36]

Charter schools[edit]

Chicago has a growing number of charter schools under the Noble Network of Charter Schools which receive the majority of their operating budgets from the same tax sources as CPS. Charters in Chicago receive 10-25% less public funding than traditional schools, although most studies show their student achievement and performance metrics to be the same as traditional CPS results.[37][38]
In October 2014, the University of Minnesota released a study that shows charter schools perform worse than traditional schools in producing students that meet or exceed standards in reading and math. The study also showed that charter schools have lower graduation rates and "are much less likely to be racially or ethnically diverse."[39]


The structure of Chicago Public Schools was redefined after Mayor Richard M. Daley convinced the Illinois General Assembly to place CPS under the mayor's control. Illinois school districts are generally governed by locally elected school boards, where each district board hires a superintendent, who in turn hires administrators such as principals, who then must be approved by the school board. In contrast, CPS is headed by a Chief Executive Officer and school board appointed by the mayor. CPS is headquartered in the 42 West Madison building in the Chicago Loop, formerly headquartered in the 125 South Clark Street building from 1998 until November 2014.[40]

The main offices of Chicago Public Schools are in the 42 W. Madison St. building in the Chicago Loop. The district has offices in Bridgeport, Colman, and Garfield Park.[41]

The main offices of Chicago Public Schools were previously located in the 125 South Clark Street building in the Chicago Loop.[42] The 20 story building, managed by MB Real Estate, and originally built as the Commercial National Bank,[43] has 570,910 square feet (53,039 m2) of space.[44]


The April 21, 2006 issue of the Chicago Tribune revealed a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research that stated that 6 of every 100 CPS freshmen would earn a bachelor's degree by age 25. 3 in 100 black or Latino men would earn a bachelor's degree by age 25. The study tracked Chicago high school students who graduated in 1998 and 1999. 35% of CPS students who went to college earned their bachelor's degree within six years, below the national average of 64%.[45] Chicago has a history of high dropout rates, with around half of students failing to graduate for the past 30 years. Criticism is directed at the CPS for inflating its performance figures. Through such techniques as counting students who swap schools before dropping out as transfers but not dropouts, it publishes graduation claims as high as 71%. Nonetheless, throughout the 1990s actual rates seem to have improved slightly, as true graduation estimates rose from 48% in 1991 to 54% in 2004.[46]

In 1987, Education Secretary William J. Bennett called the Chicago Public Schools system the worst in the nation.[47] In September 2011, the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research published a report on the school system's performance over the course of 30 years of reform.[48] While the report evaluated three decades of reform, it measured the progress of such policies by "analyzing trends in elementary and high school test scores and graduation rates over the past 20 years." The authors of the report highlighted five of their central conclusions:

  • "Graduation rates have improved dramatically, and high school test scores have risen; more students are graduating without a decline in average academic performance."
  • "Math scores have improved incrementally in the elementary/middle grades, while elementary/middle grade reading scores remained fairly flat for two decades."
  • "Racial gaps in achievement have steadily increased, with white students making slightly more progress than Latino students, and African American students falling behind all other groups."
  • "Despite progress, the vast majority of CPS students have academic achievement levels that are far below where they need to be to graduate ready for college."
  • "The publicly reported statistics used to hold schools and districts accountable for making academic progress are not accurate measures of progress."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Schools and Education". Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  2. ^ "New CPS CEO Forrest Claypool begins today". WGN-TV. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Chicago Public Schools - Stats and Facts". Chicago Public Schools. September 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Search for Public School Districts – District Detail for City Of Chicago Sd 299". National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "District Details". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "CITY OF CHICAGO SD 299: District Profile". Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  7. ^ CPS press release
  8. ^ Mayor Woodworth's Inaugural Addresses
  9. ^ "No Jim Crow in District Libraries". Chicago Defender. 11 February 1922. p. 3. 
  10. ^ "Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools". Organizing for Educational Justice. NCRP. 
  11. ^ Banchero, Stephanie (January 17, 2010). "Daley school plan fails to make grade". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Sam Dillon, "Report Questions Duncan’s Policy of Closing Failing Schools ," "The New York Times," October 28, 2009
  13. ^ "A Look at Arne Duncan’s VIP List of Requests at Chicago Schools and the Effects of his Expansion of Charter Schools in Chicago", "Democracy Now!," March 26, 2010
  14. ^ "193 Chicago elementary schools not safe from closing". Chicago Sun-Times. 19 January 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "Call for action against CPS school closings". 
  16. ^ Bellware, Kim (29 January 2013). "CPS School Closing Hearing: Tensions Boil Over In Heated Meeting Later Called 'A Disaster'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  17. ^ "CPS School Closings: Hearing Heats Up Ahead Of Release Of Preliminary Closure List". Huffington Post. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Parents, teachers tout rising test scores to save Armstrong". 
  19. ^ "Why close Lewis when CPS is spending millions on renovations, advocates say". 
  20. ^ Street, Clout (11 March 2013). "Lawmakers threaten to push CPS closings moratorium". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "School Board Votes to Close 49 Elementary Schools, 1 High School". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  22. ^ Johnson, Brandon. "‘School Deserts’ Hit Chicago’s Black Neighborhoods". Labor Notes. Labor Notes. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  23. ^ Caref, Carol; Hainds, Sarah; Hilgendorf, Kurt; Jankov, Pavlyn; Russell, Kevin. "The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools". ctunet. Chicago's Teahcer Union. 
  24. ^ AS TALKS LAG, CHICAGO TEACHERS CALL FOR A STRIKE (New York Times: October 3, 1983)
  25. ^ 1987 teachers strike is an ugly lesson for Mayor Emanuel (Chicago Sun-Times: September 9, 2012)
  26. ^ 1983, 1984, 1987 In teachers' strikes, Chicago students suffer (Chicago Tribune: July 20, 2012)
  27. ^ CHICAGO TEACHERS ON STRIKE AS NEGOTIATIONS GO ON (New York Times: December 3, 1984)
  28. ^ Reform Before The Storm: A Timeline of Chicago Public Schools (A timeline of key events in the history of Chicago Public Schools)
  29. ^ "Chicago teachers union rally | Photos". Time Out Chicago Kids. 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  30. ^ "Chicago teachers vote to suspend strike". CNN. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  31. ^ Pearsen, Michael (11 September 2012). "Chicago teachers strike; students and parents scramble". CNN. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  32. ^ Ford Fessenden, "A Portrait of Segregation in New York City’s Schools" The New York Times, May 11, 2012
  33. ^ "Chicago's largest employers". ChicagoBusiness. Crain Communications, Inc. 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  34. ^ Chicago Public Schools Office of Academic Enhancement, "Selective Enrollment High Schools", Available online at, Cited September 21, 2009
  35. ^ Scoring Rubric: Selective Enrollment High Schools
  36. ^ Chicago Public Schools, "Career Academies", Available online at, Cited September 28, 2009
  37. ^
  38. ^ CREDO report, Stanford U
  39. ^
  40. ^ Chicago Tribune (October 21, 2014): Chicago Public Schools sold its headquarters at 125 S. Clark for $28 million
  41. ^ "Departments" ([ Archive). Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved on August 19, 2015. "Chicago Public Schools 42 W. Madison St. Chicago, IL 60602"
  42. ^ "Board meeting schedule" (Archive). Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved on November 7, 2009. "CPS Central Administration Building 125 S. Clark Street, 5th Floor Chicago, IL 60603 "
  43. ^ 1910 photograph of the Adams Street entrance during the 1910 Triennial Conclave of the Knights Templar Grand Encampment
  44. ^ "125 South Clark Street."[dead link] MB Real Estate. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
  45. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  46. ^ "Consortium on Chicago School Research finds graduation rates lower than typically reported". Consortium on Chicago School Research. University of Chicago. 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  47. ^ New York Times: Schools in Chicago Are Called the Worst By Education Chief (November 8, 1987)
  48. ^ "Trends in Chicago’s Schools Across Three Eras of Reform" (PDF). Retrieved 16 March 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]