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Chicago’s Renaissance 2010: More Success with High Schools

Nearly seven years ago, Chicago launched a plan to create 100 new schools. On February 17th, WBEZ released a school-by-school update on how well those “Renaissance 2010” schools are performing on state tests. We compared them to neighborhood schools to ask: has the school district been successful in creating better options for families in those neighborhoods.

In our first story, we talked about elementary schools. Today we turn to the city’s new Renaissance high schools, which are more likely than elementaries to be an improvement over current neighborhood schools. In 65 percent of comparisons we did—the Renaissance high schools performed better.

We report from two new high schools—one that has quickly become the best option in the neighborhood, one that is not beating out even low-performing nearby schools. We start there.

The promise of what a new school can be for a community is felt deeply at Little Village High School, where residents went on a hunger strike to get the school built.

WEIDEN: This is a mural—it was created by students, staff and really represents the values of our school. The mural is called HOPE.

Chad Weiden is principal of Social Justice High School, one of four small schools inside the soaring, sunlit new building. Weiden says the neighborhood wanted a school that would get kids to college—and instill in them a commitment to come back to build up their community.

WEIDEN: They want an institution that just beams from the highway, that this is academic excellence.

Linda Sarate was one of the hunger strikers.

SARATE: What I really wanted was a school that was gonna pay attention to what was going on with the child and not let the children fall through the cracks.

Her son was in the first class of students to attend Little Village High. It still makes her proud to think of that. But he didn’t make it through the school SHE fought to create. She says he missed graduating by a credit and a half.

SARATE: And I feel like my son fell through the cracks. Like there wasn’t enough being pushed, or challenged enough.

In WBEZ’s analysis, the four schools inside Little Village High score about the same or worse as already low- performing schools nearby.

The high schools have other positive things going—attendance rates are good, their first graduates are in college. Students are taught a deep commitment to community. But principal Weiden admits: test scores help kids get into college, and HIS need to improve.

To Read More go to the Hechinger Report.