You might remember reading about William C. Goudy Technology Academy on our top 5 Hidden Gems in Chicago article. This K-8th school made our list of Top 5 Chicago public schools— and it’s not hard to understand why!
With a 16.8 student-to-teacher ratio and a an impressive 40/40 diversity score, Goudy Technology Academy promises a tight-knit, vibrant community for learning of all kinds. What’s more, although GreatSchools awards Goudy only 6/10, its students from all grades score well above average on standardized tests when normalized for parent income. Our analysis shows that Goudy should score more like a 10/10.
But raw test data has its limits. What does it feel like to be part of the Goudy community? How do teachers here collaborate with each other and with their parent base? What makes Goudy’s location unique?
To learn the answers to these questions (and many more), we sat down with Goudy’s assistant principal, Mr. Bill Yeh. He gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the community, curriculum, and character of this one-of-a-kind school.
Goudy’s Address: 5120 N Winthrop Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Goudy’s Website: https://www.goudy.cps.edu/
Goudy Technology Academy’s Neighborhood
Let’s start with location, one of the most important factors for families in the school and home search.
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. The Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods both lie within Goudy’s attendance boundaries, as well as some other areas east of Broadway.
(To find out if a home falls within Goudy’s boundaries, check out this School Locator Tool from Chicago Public Schools.)
Homes or apartments to the west of Broadway fall outside of Goudy’s boundaries, but since this academy is an option school, you can still choose to apply from outside the neighborhood!
The median sale price for homes in Goudy’s zip code (60640) is $293,400 or $246 per square foot. And what’s better than going to school five minutes away from Lake Michigan? You can search for homes for sale in Goudy’s attendance boundaries at this link.
As Assistant Principal Yeh put it, Goudy Technology Academy is cozily tucked away in the neighborhood. The school building doesn’t jump in your face— one reason the staff call it a “hidden gem.”
Demographics of the Student Body
If you’re looking for a diverse and inclusive educational environment for your child (and we hope you are), you won’t want to miss Goudy.
The student population at this school is very diverse. In fact, it has the highest possible diversity score on SchoolSparrow’s system: 40.0 / 40.0. This means at least three races or ethnicities each represent at least 15% of the student body.
According to Yeh, at least 46 different languages are spoken by Goudy students, and almost half are English Language Learners. Around 86% of Goudy’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Research has shown that culturally diverse learning environments enhance all students’ learning, and Goudy’s rich cultural diversity is certainly no exception. Plus, the socioeconomic diversity at Goudy suggests that the school excels at serving students from all income levels, contributing to greater educational equity in Chicago and beyond.
Goudy’s History and Character
Today Goudy ranks as one of the top Chicago elementary schools, but it hasn’t always held this reputation.
“If you do a little bit of research into Goudy’s past, there is an article in The Tribune from 1988 where the secretary of education, William Bennett, called Chicago Public Schools the worst school system in America,” Yeh said.
“And he actually cited Goudy and called Goudy ‘the worst school in America.’ The Tribune at the time embedded a reporter here for several months, and the reporter wrote a scathing expose about Goudy and about how terrible of a school it was.”
But all that changed when Principal Patrick Durkin arrived. A former firefighter, Durkin held to old-school values and traditions.
“He was the type of principal that, if a kid wasn’t at school, he would go to their house and drag them out of bed,” Yeh said.
The kids and parents at Goudy loved him, and he completely turned the school’s reputation around. After many years of service, Durkin passed on the leadership to an interim principal and finally to Ms. Pamela Brandt, who has led the school for the past 15 years.
“Goudy has been lucky to have a pretty good transition from a really beloved principal to Ms. Brandt— who is beloved as well!” Yeh said. “Our unofficial motto is ‘Love lives here,’ and she personifies that.”
Yeh describes Goudy as a technology-focused, neighborhood school. Goudy isn’t a charter school. It aims to serve the community where it makes its home, but with an extra twist: excellent technology.
Currently, Goudy features SmartBoards or Smart TVs in every classroom. Students in grades 5th through 8th each have a school-provided iPad, and the academy is currently establishing a 1-on-1 Chromebook program for all K through 4th graders.
Curriculum: A Perfect Blend of Structure and Creativity
How does Goudy integrate this technology into students’ learning experience? Through the curriculum, of course.
Goudy teachers and staff work with a standard curriculum across the board. In fact, Brandt and Yeh ask teachers to share their bi-weekly lesson plans for review and feedback.
“This allows us to keep a pulse on the pacing of the curriculum and how students are being assessed,” Yeh said.
But, Yeh said, Goudy teachers are also encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to their teaching. The standard curriculum is only a starting point.
“There is no perfect curriculum that covers everything, so they’re constantly pulling things in,” Yeh said. “And we generally try to keep people teaching in the same grade level so they’re not always trying to reinvent the wheel, learning new curriculum every year.”
Keeping a steady curriculum benefits the Goudy students as well. After all, if a student stays within the same curriculum year after year, they encounter concepts repeatedly within the same framework and are more easily able to build on previous knowledge.
Still, curriculum doesn’t mean anything without dedicated teachers and staff behind it. And this is another area where Goudy really shines.
Goudy Staff: One Happy Family
Goudy is a family, and every staff member who walks in the door becomes an immediate part of that family, Yeh said.
“We like to call it a ‘happy school.’ The majority of the teachers have been here a long-time,” Yeh said. “One of my pre-k assistants finally told me this year is her last year. She’s retiring and she’s been here since 1977.”
Yeh himself has been at Goudy for 13 years, 5 of which he spent teaching 8th grade.
“Having been here as long as we have, there is that continuity and stability that I know a lot of schools don’t have, because they have changes in leadership and turnover all the time,” Yeh said. “I started off in the West Side, where every year, a quarter to a half of the staff left. The kids were constantly seeing new faces, new teachers.”
The low staff turn-over rate at Goudy contributes to the strong community that teachers, students, and parents feel when they walk in the school doors. And when they experience this community, then they want to stay, too!
“People have been here a long time because they want to be here. And then people then stay here a long time because of the culture that we’ve built,” Yeh said. “So they go hand-in-hand together.”
But Goudy leaders are careful not to let stability slide into stagnation. Brandt and Yeh are always looking for opportunities to help their teachers grow.
Each year, for example, the staff participate in a “Professional Learning Community” book discussion around hot topics in education. This past year, they read and discussed Rick Wormeli’s Fair Isn’t Always Equal, a thoughtful analysis of differentiated learning and assessment practices.
Other times, professional growth takes the form of continuing education. Each year, for instance, ten Goudy teachers spend six days training with the Gust Foundation on special education inclusion practices.
A few years ago, Goudy Technology Academy partnered with the Gust Foundation to achieve 100% SPED integration at Goudy— meaning that students with individualized education plans (IEPs) learn in the same classroom as their peers.
Now, many classrooms have two teachers, a general education teacher and a special education teacher. (The SPED teachers still have their own classroom on each floor to give accommodations for extra testing time or quiet studying, on an as-needed basis.)
Achieving 100% SPED integration at Goudy was a milestone moment, and the change benefitted students across the board.
“There’s no stigma that everyday at 9 o’clock [students with IEPs] need to leave the classroom,” Yeh said. “That took us about three years to re-write everybody’s IEP’s and put that in place, and the Gust Foundation has been a great partner.”
Last year, Goudy’s staff and administration also applied to become an IB school, though their focus for the coming year has now changed because of the pandemic.
“Ms. Brandt and I, every year we want to do something to improve the school,” Yeh said.
Community and Parent Engagement
This growing-together mindset shines through Goudy’s interactions with its parent base as well.
“Anything we do, Ms. Brandt and I, we always seek teacher and community input,” Yeh said. “Any new curriculum, we bring the teachers and parents in to vet it so that everybody is on board.”
Instead of taking a top-down leadership approach, the Goudy administration actively includes all the stakeholders in their major decisions.
What’s more, school-sponsored programs like a pre-k fashion show (where pre-schoolers make and model their own clothes), a STEM reading night, and regular theater performances offer parents the chance to engage with other Goudy families. A monthly school paper, paired with regular calls and emails to Goudy parents, ensures smooth communication between the Goudy staff and parents.
Maybe that’s one reason that families who come to Goudy tend to stay at Goudy. Yeh estimates that ⅔ of each year’s 8th grade class have attended Goudy since kindergarten. Once you enter the Goudy family, you’ll never want to leave.
And just like all good families, the members of the Goudy family help each other out in a crisis.
Early this spring, when one Goudy family was displaced from their apartment due to an electrical fire, Yeh and Brandt immediately reached out to the academy’s staff for help. Within three days, they had raised almost $4,000 in cash for the family.
“That’s just the type of culture we have here,” Yeh said. “We look out for each other. We look out for the kids. The kids always come first.”
So, what about those test scores?
The primary reason Goudy Technology Academy was on our top 5 Chicago public schools list was because of its amazing test scores. What does Goudy’s score profile look like? And how did the school achieve these results?
At SchoolSparrow, we set test score expectations based on the largest contributing factor to scores: parent income. Chicago schools with parent income profiles similar to Goudy’s tend to score around 24 points. This means 24% of their students meet or exceed state standards on the Reading/Language Arts section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress standardized test.
Goudy students exceed this expectation by an average of 12.3 points! In fact, 3rd and 5th graders score at A level, according to SchoolSparrow metrics, since they both exceed expectations by almost 100%.
According to Yeh, these incredible results come from a combination of factors at Goudy.
The first is teacher stability. We’ve already mentioned the low staff turnover rate at this school. As teachers work with the standardized curriculum year after year, they become experts in the content they’re teaching— which translates to better learning outcomes for their students. This curricular stability also provides extra time to think outside the box. Teachers feel comfortable enough to add new activities and try out creative learning techniques.
The second factor has to do with students. Goudy clearly communicates its high expectations for each student but never abandons a student when they struggle in the learning process. In fact, after transitioning to a 100% SPED inclusion format, all kids (including the ones without IEPs) have benefitted from having two teachers in the classroom, since that means there are more hands on deck to attend to their learning.
As we talked with Assistant Principal Yeh and heard stories about the history and culture of Goudy, we’ve seen hundreds of other reasons why this school is one of the best elementary schools in Chicago.
Test scores are only one indicator of this academy’s educational excellence. Goudy’s unique location, carefully chosen curriculum, motivated staff, and warm community all set this school apart. We hope you consider it as an option for your family!