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The Geography of School Poverty in Chicago

Across the city, most public school children are eligible for free or reduced lunches—an 85 percent average across the city, showing distinct geographical patterns, and 30 percent higher than the state average. The highest eligibility? It can’t get any higher than in East Saint Louis.

The Raise Your Hand Coalition, a two-year-old school advocacy group, just released a report on school overcrowding in Chicago, finding that slight overcrowding (by CPS policy numbers) is widespread, and larger overcrowding is still frequent:

The first findings of “Apples to Apples,” an independent investigation of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) data released today, reveals 76% of CPS elementary schools examined had entire grades above the recommended class size limit set by CPS in 2011.  CPS recommended quota allocations on class size are 28 maximum students per teacher in grades Kindergarten – 2nd and 31 maximum students per teacher in grades 3-8.

[snip]

Of all of the classroom grades that were over the recommended limits, 49% of the grades had class sizes 1-2 students above the limit in each grade, 34% had class sizes 3-4 students over the limit in each grade, and 17% had class sizes that were 5 or more students over the limit in each grade.

It also includes a great data set, with all sorts of demographic information on the 2011 school year, which I couldn’t help but use for my own devices. Below is a map of CPS schools, indicated by the percentage of students eligible for free/reduced lunches. Blue is up to 20 percent; purple, 20-50 percent; green, 50-75 percent; yellow, 75-90 percent; and red, 90-100 percent.

Obviously there’s a lot of red. The average, across CPS (including charter schools) is 85 percent eligibility. It’s a sobering number—statewide, according to the most recent stats, it’s 54 percent, and the ISBE average for Chicago schools using the same source is still 85 percent—but nothing compared to East Saint Louis, where state data indicates that all 7,000 students in District 189 are eligible.

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