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Comparing Private High Schools

On the heels of our October survey of 233 public high schools in the metro area, we present a comprehensive statistical breakdown of 56 local private high schools, examining such things as tuition, teachers’ salaries, and test scores.

(page 5 of 5)

TEST SCORES

Since Chicago last surveyed the private high schools—in April 2002—there have been some changes with the ACT and the SAT, the national college admissions exams taken, usually, by high-school students in their junior year. Since 2001, state law has required that every public high-school junior take the ACT (the acronym stands for the American College Test); there seems to be some spillover into the private high schools, where more and more juniors seem to be opting for the ACT over the SAT. Five years ago, nearly all of the private high schools that responded to our survey provided SAT scores; on this year’s chart, nearly half of the schools did not provide SAT scores. Principals report that fewer students take the SAT since significantly more colleges are willing to accept students based on their ACT scores. A perfect score on the ACT is 36.

In 2005, the College Board, which administers the SAT (originally an abbreviation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test), made some changes to the exam. The board revised the verbal component of the exam and renamed it critical reading; made the math component  tougher; and added an essay component called writing. The top score in each component is 800; a perfect score on the SAT is now 2400. When comparing test scores from one school to another, it is important to remember that some private high schools are far more selective than others. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that schools with a lower acceptance rate will tend to score higher on ACT and SAT tests.

The three schools on our chart reporting the highest average ACT scores are the Latin School of Chicago (29.0), the University of Chicago Lab Schools (29.0), and Chicagoland Jewish (28.7). Chicagoland Jewish had the top SAT scores in critical reading (678) and writing (681); Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy had the top SAT score in math (676).

In most instances, an N/A in either the ACT or any SAT column means that only a few students at a school took that particular test, and therefore the school was unable to provide a meaningful average score. There are some exceptions. Chicago’s Maria High School failed to provide any test scores. Guerin College Prep, citing the policy of the Archdiocese of Chicago, declined to provide any test scores. As a matter of school policy, Francis Parker also declined to make public its students’ test scores, while also pointing out that the school chooses not to rank individual students nor identify top quintiles of students, or students on the dean’s list. “We don’t even calculate the grade point average for students until they apply to college,” says Dan Frank, the principal at Parker. While Parker takes the testing policy seriously, he adds, the school’s focus is elsewhere. “We think the prime movers of thinking and learning take place in the classroom in collaboration between teachers and students,” he says.

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