Meet the 5 Best Elementary Schools in Chicago (Hint: they’re not the ones you expect…)

Moving to Chicago can be an intimidating experience, especially when it comes to finding the best elementary Chicago schools for your child! (We’ve written more about the Chicago Public School (CPS) system here…)

Many parents wonder to themselves “Can I send my children to a CPS public school?”.  At SchoolSparrow, we believe the answer to this question is an emphatic “Yes!”

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of best elementary schools in the Chicago area. These hidden gems are high-performing schools that get overlooked too often in typical school searches. 

These schools get an A+ rating from us because their students perform awesomely on standardized tests when you normalize for parent income. This means their scores aren’t just a result of socioeconomic status: the schools themselves are making the difference!

1. Durkin Park Elementary School – Chicago, IL

With test scores an average of 13.3 points higher than expected, Durkin Park ranks as one of the best elementary schools in Chicago, according to SchoolSparrow rankings! Students from all grades—but especially 3rd, 4th, and 8th—all score significantly higher than expected, when adjusted for parent income. 

Don’t write this K-8 school off just because GreatSchools rated it 5 out of 10. A closer look at its students’ performance suggests that the quality of education your child would receive should rate closer to 8/10!

Located half an hour away from the South Loop, the median home sale price in zip code 60652 is $197,700 and $172 per square foot, which makes it affordable in comparison to Chicago overall (with an average $243 psf).

Address: 8445 S Kolin Ave Chicago, IL 60652

Website: https://www.durkinpark.com/ 

Front view of the Durkin Park Elementary School building, home to one of the top Chicago public schools.
Image: https://www.facebook.com/durkinparkcps/

2. William C. Goudy Technology Academy – Chicago, IL

Situated right between Sheridan Ave. and North Broadway, Goudy is a perfect option if you’re looking for a home in the heart of Chicago! 

With a 16.8 student-to-teacher ratio and a high diversity score, Goudy promises a tight-knit, vibrant community for your K-8th grade student! What’s more, although GreatSchools awards Goudy only 6/10, its students from all grades score well above average when normalized for parent income. Special shoutout to the third and eighth graders, who both score A+ on SchoolSparrow rankings!

The median sale price for homes in zip code 60640 is $293,400 or $246 psf. And what’s better than going to school five minutes away from Lake Michigan?

Address: 5120 N Winthrop Ave Chicago, IL 60640

Website: https://www.goudy.cps.edu/# 

View of the beautiful Goudy Academy campus, home to one of the best schools in Chicago.
Image: https://www.goudy.cps.edu/#

3. Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School – Chicago, IL

Since Hayt scores only a 6 out of 10 on GreatSchools, it’d be all too easy to overlook this school. But when normalized for parent income, Hayt Elementary’s 3rd through 8th graders all score well above average, making it one of the best Chicago elementary schools!

Hayt Elementary is located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago with great access to the Red Line, the Lake, and tons of restaurants and shopping options on Clark Street. The median price of homes currently listed in 60660 is $250,000 (or $259 per square foot).

With the Loop only 20-25 minutes away, it’s a perfect location for those who love the city.

Address: 1518 W Granville Ave Chicago, IL 60660

Website: http://hayt.cps.edu/ 

4. John M. Palmer Elementary School – Chicago, IL

Don’t dismiss this school just because it only achieves a 6/10 on GreatSchools. Palmer’s 3rd through 6th grade students achieve far above average—4th graders are doing especially awesome—according to SchoolSparrow rankings. 

Located 12 miles away from the South Loop, the zip code 60630 boasts a $326,700 median sale price (roughly $249 per square foot), making it slightly more expensive than Chicago overall. Still, with a 19 student-to-teacher ratio and an impressive diversity score, Palmer would be a great elementary school for anyone searching in the Albany Park or North Park areas.

Address: 5051 N Kenneth Ave Chicago, IL 60630

Website: https://www.palmerpride.org/ 

5. Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary – Chicago, IL

Located in the culturally rich neighborhood of Pilsen, Perez Elementary finds its home among inimitable street art and colorful, family-run restaurants, and it’s only a 12-minute walk from the South Loop. GreatSchools gives Perez a rating of 5/10, but with its 13.5 student-to-teacher ratio and test scores 26.4 points above expected, this school is a real contender.

The median home sale price for zip code 60608 is $310,300, which comes out to $236 per square foot (slightly less expensive than Chicago’s average psf rate). Even better, the most recent test score data shows ALL Perez students scoring at A- level or above, according to SchoolSparrow metrics. Shoutout to the 6th grade teachers, whose students have scored at A+ level for two years in a row!

Sadly, enrollment at Perez is down due to increased housing costs as a result of gentrification, but new families in the area aren’t sending their kids to the neighborhood school. If these families are worried about school quality, they shouldn’t be. Perez is undoubtedly a hidden gem that beats expected test scores by nearly 100%.

Address: 1241 West 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608

Website: https://www.perezelementaryschool.org/

The front entrance to Manuel Perez, Jr, Elementary School displays a beautiful mural.
Image: https://www.perezelementaryschool.org/index.jsp

Bonus: Madison Elementary School – Lombard, IL

No list of Chicago’s hidden gems would be complete without suburban schools! Thirty minutes west of the city, Madison boasts above average scores for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, even without normalizing for parent income, but, since it scrapes only 6/10 in GreatSchools, it’d be easy to miss. 

When you adjust scores for parent income, the news is even better. Overall, Madison’s students score 13.4 points higher than expected! And with a diversity score of 30.0 (out of 40 possible points), you can be sure your child will be entering a vibrant, inclusive community in one of the best elementary schools in Chicago.

Located a 30-40 minute drive from the South Loop, the zip code 60148 has a median sale price of $253,400 and an average $185 psf.

Address: 150 W Madison St, Lombard, IL 60148

Website: https://md.sd44.org/

Madison Elementary School in the evening. This campus is home to one of the best elementary schools in the Chicago suburbs.
Image: www.md.sd44.org/

Want to learn more? Read about how school rankings are misleading parents, how Chicago Public School placement actually works, and so much more on our blog!

Plus, check out the raw data for schools in your area on our website!

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9 Comments

  1. Hello! I was hoping you could explain the “normalized for parent income” portion of your article. Thank you for your time!

    1. Hi, thanks for your inquiry. As it turns out, parent income is the most influential factor that impacts test scores at public schools. If you just look at the straight test scores like most websites do, then schools with high parent incomes are favored. Our ranking system normalizes for parent incomes by calculating the average or expected test score at every parent income level, then calculating the difference between the schools actual scores vs the expected scores. The extent to which a school has a departure from the expected scored on the trendline determines the rank of the school. Does that make sense? I’d be happy to do a screen share where I can show you how this works if helpful, just let me know. All the best, Tom

  2. I was born and raised in Chicago on the North side, I went to Goudy k through 8th graduated in 1979. At that time we had so many inter- racial play that were awesome! My hat goes off to honor the teachers and Principal Dr. McDonald & Mr. Goldstein.
    WHOOT WHOOT #2

    1. Thank you for your inquiry. In 60651 these schools are near or above expectations when normalized for parent income: Casals, Nobel, Lowell, and Cameron Elementary.

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