By the Numbers

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STUDENTS WITH LIMITED ENGLISH
Median: 1.5 percent

This statistic represents the proportion of a school's student population that is eligible for funding for bilingual education.

LOW-INCOME STUDENTS
Median: 30.4 percent

According to state guidelines, this percentage shows the number of students who "come from homes that receive public aid, live in institutions for neglected or delinquent children, are supported in foster homes with public funds, or are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches." Note that just three schools claimed zero eligibility: Tinley Park High School in Cook County; Burlington's Central High School in Kane County; and Beecher High School in Will County. Many schools claim very low numbers of low-income students, but even well-heeled Lake Forest claims 4.1 percent, or 71 students. The 50 schools with the highest rates of poverty are all in Chicago.

AVERAGE YEARS OF TEACHER EXPERIENCE
Median: 13 years

Veteran teachers may be better able to handle a classroom of teenagers, but they are also more expensive to keep on staff. (Most school districts tie salaries to the number of years teachers have been on the job, as well as to their level of education.) Some school administrators are acutely aware of the balancing act this requires. "We prefer to bring on teachers with between three and ten years of experience," says Lawrence Wyllie, who, as superintendent of the Lincoln-Way district in the far southwest suburbs, fills roughly 20 new teaching slots a year. "Research tells us that age group of teachers is very efficient: They are experienced enough to manage a classroom well and innovate, but they keep our costs down a little, too." But many teachers in their mid-20s to mid-30s are also in their peak years of needing childcare; Lincoln-Way has daycare for its employees' children at all school sites.

The region's most experienced teacher population—with an average of 17.9 years in the classroom—is at Reed-Custer High School in Braidwood in Will County; the youngest can be found in several Chicago charter schools—new institutions with largely new hires—and in the outlying towns of Huntley and Plainfield. In Chicago's 2002 chart, Plainfield had one of the youngest groups of teachers, with an average 8.8 years of experience; five years later, the teachers are younger by half a year. That's because District 202 in fast-growing Plainfield continues to boom, adding 2,000 to 2,500 new students in grades K through 12 each year. Plainfield has opened one new high school (and several elementary schools) since Chicago last compiled the figures, and will open another in fall 2008. "We're aware that younger teachers cost less," says Tom Hernandez, the district's community-relations director.