The Top Private Schools in Chicago and the Suburbs: Methods and Sources

Where we got the data and how we prepared our charts

Three schoolgirls
School belles: On the first day of class, three smiling students at Evanston’s Pope John XXIII School clutch their textbooks
 

Related:

The Top Private Schools in Chicago and the Suburbs »
We rate 70 private elementary schools in Chicago and the suburbs

CHART: How Your Private School Stacks Up (pdf) »

Best Elementary Schools »
Our October 2010 story on the top schools in Chicago and the Suburbs

These charts provide a statistical sampling of 70 private elementary schools in the six-county metro area. Chicago requested information about the 2010–11 academic year from more than 300 private elementary schools; all the schools that responded have been included on the charts, though, as the charts reveal, some of the schools did not provide all the information requested. The anomalies submitted by particular schools are explained in the annotations below.
 

FUNDAMENTALS The four columns following the name of the school indicate the town where the school is situated, the school’s religious affiliation, the school’s grade range, and the percentage of applicants that the school accepts. Hyde Park Day School has campuses in two cities—Chicago and Northfield—and Frances Xavier Warde School has two Chicago locations: Old St. Patrick’s campus (120 South Desplaines Street), for pre-K through third grade, and Holy Name Cathedral campus (751 North State Street), for grades four through eight. For Warde and Hyde Park Day, the charts combine data from both campuses.

Most of the schools are coeducational. There are a few exceptions: Chicago Jesuit Academy in Chicago and Northridge Preparatory School in Niles accept only male students, and Willows Academy in Des Plaines accepts only female students. Kindergarten at Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago is coed, but beginning in first grade, male students attend Hardey Preparatory for Boys and female students attend Academy of the Sacred Heart for Girls. Many denominational schools accept children from other backgrounds.

Most of the schools have classes from pre-K through eighth grade. Again, there are a few exceptions: Four Chicago schools—Latin School, Lycée de Français, Morgan Park Academy, and St. Benedict Preparatory—as well as Marquette Manor Baptist Academy in Downers Grove and Universal School in Bridgeview, also have grades 9 through 12. Chicago Jesuit Academy has only grades 5 through 8. Northridge Preparatory in Niles and Willows Academy in Des Plaines have only grades 6 through 12.

Several newer schools—among them, Academy of St. Priscilla at Divine Savior in Norridge, Chicago Grammar School, and Montessori Academy of Chicago—are expanding, adding a grade with each new school year. Because Chicago gathered information from the 2010–11 school year, those schools currently have one more grade in addition to those indicated on the charts. Chicago Grammar, for example, added sixth grade for the 2011–12 school year, expects to add seventh grade in the fall of 2012, and should have its first graduating (i.e., eighth grade) class in the 2013–14 school year.

Fifty schools on the charts accept 90 percent or more of the children who apply, with ten of those schools accepting all applicants. (St. Clement School in Lincoln Park accepts 98 percent of applicants who are parishioners at St. Clement Church but only 70 percent of nonparishioners.) Five schools declined to provide their acceptance rate; here and in other instances on the charts, the symbol N/A (no answer) indicates that a school declined to provide the requested information. Situated on 150 acres in the southwest suburbs, Glenwood School for Boys and Girls provides a residential learning environment for disadvantaged children; it accepts only 2 percent of its applicants. (The charts do not include information about the school’s newer St. Charles campus.) The remaining 14 schools have acceptance rates ranging from 88 (Da Vinci Academy in Elgin) to 39 percent (Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago).

COSTS The three columns in this category indicate a school’s tuition, the percentage of students who receive some financial aid, and the average amount of any financial aid package. Annual tuitions range from $35,906 at Hyde Park Day—which serves children with learning disabilities with the goal of transitioning them to mainstream schools—to nothing at all for families at Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Downers Grove who are members of the adjoining church. Many schools have a different tuition plan for children in pre-K and kindergarten; the charts do not indicate those differences. In most instances, the charts do not indicate the tuition for students in grades 9 through 12. At the Latin School, however, students in grades 5 through 12 paid the same annual tuition: $27,985.

At some schools, families who have more than one child enrolled pay a smaller amount per child. At Chicago’s Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School, for example, families with only one child at the school pay an annual tuition of $2,850; families with two children there pay a combined tuition of $3,800, and families with three children pay $4,200. For Our Lady of Tepeyac and schools with similar tuition plans, the charts indicate the tuition for only one child.

Some denominational schools have a different tuition rate for parishioners and nonparishioners. At St. Joan of Arc School in Lisle, for instance, families who are members of St. Joan of Arc Church pay $3,645; nonparishioners pay $5,845. (As at Our Lady of Tepeyac, a family’s tuition at St. Joan decreases for each additional child attending the school.) On the charts, where schools have provided the information, the tuition for parishioners is followed in parentheses by the tuition for nonparishioners. Again, those figures represent the cost of sending only one child to the school.

At some schools, the tuition varies depending on the grade a student attends. At Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Lake View, for example, the annual tuition for a first-grade student is $20,900, while a seventh grader’s is $24,035. Where schools have provided the information, that range of tuition is indicated on the charts. Three schools—Country Meadows Montessori in Gurnee, Maternity BVM in Chicago, and Seton Montessori in Clarendon Hills—noted that the cost “varies” by program; that language has been incorporated into the charts.

To lighten the tuition burden for qualified but needy students, all of the schools provide some measure of financial aid. Last year, each of the 85 students at Chicago Jesuit Academy—where the annual average cost to educate a student is $17,500—received a $12,000 scholarship, which was provided by an individual, a corporation, or a foundation. (The school’s annual fund provided the remaining $5,500.) The Latin School, where 12 percent of the students get financial aid, provides as much as $17,787 to some pupils. At the other end of the spectrum, St. Peter Catholic School in Geneva provides aid to only 1 percent of its students, and the school indicated that the amount of that aid varies.

STUDENTS The five columns in this category indicate a school’s total enrollment and the average class size in kindergarten and the first, third, and sixth grades. Keep in mind that six of the schools—such as the Latin School, with 1,107 students—also include grades 9 through 12, which accounts for their larger enrollments. Several Montessori schools were unable to provide an average class size because they intermingle students from different grades.

TEACHERS These two columns indicate the ratio of pupils to teachers and the number of full-time teachers employed by the school. Again, it is no surprise that the school with the largest number of full-time teachers—the Latin School, with 160—includes grades 9 through 12.

TEST SCORES The 70 schools rely on six different standardized tests: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), Educational Records Bureau (ERB), Iowa Test of Basic Skills (Iowa), Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), Stanford Achievement Test (Stanford), and TerraNova. The number in the Average Test Score column indicates the national percentile rank for a school’s entire student body on those tests. (Some schools give additional tests that are not indicated on the charts.) These test scores, of course, are not the final arbiter of a student’s progress or a school’s success. At Chicago Jesuit Academy, students take the NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test each quarter, in addition to the annual TerraNova exam. The results from the NWEA test indicate that the students—who, on average, begin the fifth grade performing at a third-grade level—graduate at an 11th-grade level in reading, language arts, and math. To Matthew Lynch, the school’s president, this indicates that his students made “eight years of progress in only four years of study.”

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