By Kelly Davis and Nicole Kim
Continuing our series of Hidden Gem Schools, we are pleased to present these 8 awesome Chicago high schools. These schools are underrated by traditional public school ranking websites. Previously, we published the top 5 hidden gem elementary schools in Chicago, and the top 30 hidden gems in the Chicago suburbs. When it comes to Elementary schools in Chicago, there is no shortage of high quality neighborhood schools, where families that live in the attendance boundaries are guaranteed free admittance to the school. It wasn’t always that way though. Chicago has seen a remarkable increase in the quality of public education, and you can read more about it here on our blog post.
But what about the high schools?
There are basically 4 ways for Chicago high school students to get admittance to a school. They can test in, apply, enter the lottery, or attend their neighborhood school.
Ideally, all students should have access to a high quality neighborhood school. There would be so many benefits if this were the reality. Not only would Chicago parents certainly have less anxiety about the high school situation, but also the school would be relatively close to home. Students would have friends from the neighborhood that attend the school as well. The school would become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. And bring together neighbors and civic organizations to one common goal: fostering a great learning environment for their kids. We’ve seen these factors come true for many of Chicago’s public elementary and middle schools.
But when it comes to neighborhood high schools in Chicago, families that are moving to Chicago (and even some families that live here already) have the perception that the list of good neighborhood high schools is very, very short. The real estate search portals out there don’t help the matter. They display low marks for every single neighborhood high school in Chicago. There are many high schools that have high ratings (above a 6), but those schools are selective enrollment and/or lottery schools. The neighborhood schools have low marks.
As a result, many parents of kids in Chicago experience anxiety wondering where their kids will end up going to high school. Some wonder if they should move to the suburbs where the “good” neighborhood high schools are located.
But the renaissance we’ve seen with Chicago’s K-8 schools is happening for the high schools as well.
School Ratings are biased.
If you are searching for a home in Chicago, and the high school is important, you will likely be disappointed with what you find. The high schools that are assigned to homes in Chicago score no better than a 6/10. But as it turns out, the school ratings that parents see on all the real estate search portals, such as Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com, actually don’t tell you much about the quality of the school at all. This is because straight test scores, which are a major component of the ratings, are a function of parent income (not the quality of the school).
Research has repeatedly shown that parent income is the largest factor in determining the average test scores of a school. And as a result, the school ratings are biased towards schools in privileged areas, often in the suburbs with longer commutes, less family time, and little to no diversity. At the same time, urban schools are sometimes unfairly underrated because of the socioeconomic diversity that exists at the school. And schools in racially isolated poor areas are given low marks across the board, with no real analysis about how well the school teaches kids.
Parents are being steered to privileged areas.
When parents are conducting a school/home search, they need a way to narrow down the schools, especially in a huge market like Chicago with literally hundreds of schools. Generally, there are two ways that parents narrow down schools: word of mouth and internet research. But word of mouth is an echo chamber. Your friends, colleagues, and yes even your realtor, all know of the same 4 or 5 schools that are “good”. And their recommendations usually mirror high scoring schools on the dominant ranking sites out there. Internet research undoubtedly leads to the biased ratings sites, and in the end, many parents are making location decisions based on incomplete and sometimes misleading data.
The benefits of students being part of a community with different cultures, races and ethnic backgrounds is well documented. These students receive distinct cognitive benefits, better teamwork skills, and are more accepting of people’s differences. There are organizations out there pushing for reforms in the admittance practices of higher education institutions, urging them to give preference to kids from diverse schools. So in the future, perhaps being part of a diverse school will impact college admissions as well.
But today many parents are sacrificing diversity in the name of attending the “best” schools, when in reality those schools have high ratings mainly because the school’s parents have high incomes.
SchoolSparrow’s Ranking System
That’s why SchoolSparrow has published school ratings that factor in parent income. Our ratings are more equitable, and they highlight hidden gem schools that you may overlook. Low scores on the real estate search portals may simply be due to the socioeconomic diversity at the school. In addition, the low scores may simply be an indication the neighborhood is predominantly low income. But neither of these situations means the school is necessarily a “bad” school.
Still, no school can be summed up with one grade. We view our rating system as the first step towards our goal of creating a school finding tool for parents that allows the parent to indicate the important factors that they think makes a school great. We envision districts uploading school survey data, and information about their curriculum, so parents can search based on the unique characteristics of their children.
Do you support our effort to provide more equitable public school rankings, and to diminish the focus on test scores? Then please sign up on our mailing list. We are soon launching a social media campaign to encourage the real estate search engines to include equitable school ratings. Parents should be able to make the biggest investment of their lives with a more balanced view of school quality.
Congratulations to the students, parents, and especially the hard working and dedicated educators and leadership at these 8 Hidden Gem High Schools in Chicago.Tweet
Chicago’s Top 8 Hidden Gem High Schools
Below is our list of the top 8 Chicago public neighborhood high schools that are hidden gems. Parents, don’t overlook these schools!
Note: When we talk about points, we are referring to the % of students that are deemed proficient on the reading/language arts section of the standardized test.
These schools are listed in ALPHABETICAL ORDER!
1. Amundsen High School – Chicago, IL – 5510 N Damen Ave, Chicago IL 60625
Amundsen has a diversity score of 30 out of 40, so you can count on a vibrant culturally and racially diverse school with all the proven cognitive and emotional benefits that come with such an environment.
Schools located in the Chicago area with similar parent income profiles score an average of 18.5 points.
Amundsen High School also exceeds this expectation by over 40% and earns a total of 29.7 points, making it one of the biggest outliers in the City of Chicago when it comes to parent income adjusted test scores.
SchoolSparrow awards Amundsen High School an A- (9/10), while all the real estate search engines report a 4/10. There is no doubt that students from all walks of life can get a great education at Amundsen High School. Don’t let the real estate search engines steer you away from Amundsen: find out if its a good fit for your family by taking a tour.
Moving to Chicago? The median home value is $401,534. Check out this listing of a nice townhouse that has 3 beds and 2 baths!
School website: https://www.amundsenhs.org
2. Hubbard High School – Chicago, IL – 6200 South Hamlin Avenue, Chicago, IL 60629
Hubbard High School is another school where hard working and dedicated teachers are making the difference for students. Chicago schools with similar parent income profiles earn an average of 11.7 points.
But students at Hubbard High School are one of the biggest outliers, exceeding the average by 68% with a total of 19.7 points. There are factors at Hubbard High that are causing students to perform well beyond expectations. Likely it is the teachers making the difference, but also community partners and parents can be helping to make Hubbard High (and all the schools on this list) potential Hidden Gems that parents should not overlook when looking for a high school for their kids.
Due to their achievements, SchoolSparrow awards Hubbard High School an B+ (9/10) while Greatschools unfairly grants them a 2/10. Hubbard High School is also trending upwards 8.9% from the previous year.
Considering this school? The median home value is $221,697. Look at this beautiful listing of a house for $220,000! It has 3 beds and 2 baths!
3. Kennedy High School – 6325 West 56th Street, Chicago, IL 60638
Kennedy High School earns a respectable 15 out 40 in diversity, making it a pretty diversified school!
Chicago schools with similar parent income profiles score an average of 29.1 points, meaning 29% meet or exceed the state standards on standardized tests.
Nonetheless, students at Kennedy High School surpass this expectation by 19%, earning a total of 35.8 points! The school is also trending upwards 9.4%, which means their parent income adjusted test scores have improved by this amount year over year.
For going above and beyond, SchoolSparrow ranks Kennedy High School with a rating of an B (8/10)! Meanwhile, Greatschools unfairly rates it a 3/10.
The median home value is $264,438. Check out this listing for $187,500! It’s a cozy house with 2 beds and 1 bathroom!
4. Lincoln Park High School – 2001 North Orchard Street, Chicago, IL 60614
Lincoln Park High School earns it a whooping 40 out of 40 in diversity — the highest score that can be achieved. 4 races are represented by at least 15% of the student body, or 3 races are represented by at least 20% of the student body.
But how do students do on standardized tests?
Well, students at Lincoln Park High School excel at them! Chicago schools with similar parent income profiles score an average of 36.9 points, meaning roughly 40% of students meet or exceed the state standard.
Meanwhile, high schoolers at Lincoln Park High School exceed this expectation by 47%, earning a total of 54.1 points! Lincoln Park High School is one of the biggest outliers in all of Chicagoland when it comes to test scores adjusted for parent income. There is little doubt that students from all walks of life can get a great education at this fine public high school in Chicago.
Due to their efforts, SchoolSparrow awards Lincoln Park High School with a rating of an A (10/10) while Greatschools only awards a 6/10.
Interested in moving here? The median home value is $620,179. Look at this listing of a beautiful townhouse for $395,000 that comes with 2 beds and 1 bathroom!
5. Mather High School – 5835 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
Mather High School has an incredible 30 out of 40 points for diversity. Students at Mather gain from all the cognitive, emotional and executive functioning benefits that come with a vibrant diverse environment.
They are currently performing very well on standardized tests, exceeding the expectation by 46% compared to other high schools in the Chicago area.
Chicago schools with the same parent income profiles generally had 15.7% of students meeting state standardized testing standards, as a comparison.
While Greatschools scores them at a 2/10, SchoolSparrow recognizes Mather High School’s efforts and gives them a 9/10!
Want to move here? The median home value is $362,777, and we’ve found this listing of a stunning two bedroom two bathroom condo only three minutes from Mather High School for $199,500!
6. Senn High School – 5900 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
SchoolSparrow awards Senn High School with a whopping 10/10, compared to Greatschools 2/10, and we can see why!
Another high diversity score of 30 out of 40 points for this school – an inclusive and rich education for your children.
In schools with similar parent income profiles, only 19.6% of students met the state standards for standardized testing. But how do students at Senn High School do?
42% of students meet the standards, which means they fare 114% better than the average school in their bracket! Senn leads the pack when it comes to outperforming their expected scores. Senn’s leadership, teachers, parents and the community in general is commended for their dedication to this school and it’s students.
Want to come to this school? The median home value is $269,646. We found an affordable $225,000 house with two bedrooms and one bathroom only two minutes away by car!
7. Solorio Academy High School – 5400 S St Louis Ave, Chicago, IL 60632
Solorio Academy High School is an underrated gem in the realm of Chicago High Schools.
Their standardized testing efforts are incredible. They rate at a score of 30.8, while the average expected score of similar income high schools in the area is only 13.0.
This means they perform on average 135% better than most schools in their bracket!
Because of this and many other bright factors, SchoolSparrow awards Solorio Academy High School with a 10/10, compared to Greatschools giving them a 4/10.
Interested in moving to this area? The median home value is $266,807. We’ve found an 8 bedroom multi-family property currently listed for only $310,000 in the attendance boundaries.
8. George Washington High School – 3535 E 114th St, Chicago, IL 60617
Washington G High School is the last school on our alphabetically sorted list of Hidden Gem High Schools.
They deserve the spotlight for their impressive efforts in changing young minds and lives.
Washington G has test performance that exceeds the average score by 10% when factoring in the % of economically disadvantaged students at the school.
Their student to teacher ratio is unmatched, at 16 students per teacher. This could give your child the personalized experience they need to thrive.
Interested in taking advantage of this opportunity? The median house price for the district is $144,010. We’ve found a great townhouse for only $99,000 made of beautiful brick with two bedrooms and two full bathrooms!
Thinking about moving and schools are important? Call one of our SchoolSparrow Certified Realtors who can help guide you with a more equitable view on school quality.
Chicago’s SchoolSparrow Certified Realtors
Carrie McCormick, @properties, email@example.com
Carrie McCormick, a leader in the Chicago Real Estate market, has more than 20 years of real estate sales expertise along with an unsurpassed reputation for quality and results-oriented service and support. Carrie constantly stays on top of sophisticated technology which has made her a forerunner in the marketing and selling of real estate, she has it down to a science. Her talents and on-target recommendations are always based on facts, reliable market analysis, and her vast knowledge of real estate and the market. Patient yet persistent, she is also highly detail oriented and a very determined negotiator. McCormick is available to clients 24/7. “I communicate often and educate them on the market,” she says. “My clients and I are a team. It is important that we work together to create a successful outcome.”
Selling real estate is about knowing what you are selling and articulating what the value is. Year after year, that focus has led to her placement in the top 1% for the Chicago Association of Realtors. She has also earned the association’s Bronze, Silver and Gold awards and been named a Top Social Media Contributor. Last year, she started a podcast to share tips and market information with her colleagues and clients. “My job is to provide a perfect real estate experience for my clients. I have built a support system that does just that”. Knowing that schools are an important factor when buying or selling a home, she partners with schoolsparrow.com and Chicago School GPS to provide additional resources and tools for clients.
She also has an extensive social media following, which results in extra online exposure for photos and videos of her listings. Paired with traditional marketing, it’s a winning combination. A certified luxury home marketing specialist, McCormick has an eye for design and assists clients with setting the stage to close the transaction. She is also trained in Relocation and is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Home Builders Association and Luxury Portfolio. Outside of work, she volunteers at Chicago Realtors to the Rescue, an organization that supports animals.