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Taft Earns High CPS Rating For 3rd Year, But It's More Crowded Than Ever

By Alex Nitkin | October 20, 2017 4:27pm | Updated on October 22, 2017 9:30pm
 Taft High School students during a pep rally this year
Taft High School students during a pep rally this year
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Facebook/Taft High School

CHICAGO — Taft High School maintained its status as one of the city's highest-rated high schools for the third straight year, while Steinmetz College Prep High School notched up its ranking, according to CPS officials.

Taft achieved a Level 1 quality rating — the second-highest CPS academic ranking — and Steinmetz jumped from Level 2 to Level 2+, according to rankings released Friday.

The system gives schools one of five ratings to evaluate whether a school is successful in preparing students for colleges or careers.

The top rating is Level 1+, awarded to schools that “demonstrate above-average performance that far exceeds expectations,” the district says. Level 3 is the lowest rating, and those schools could face action from CPS officials.

The ratings are based on a mix of factors, including standardized test scores, the growth of those scores, attendance rates and graduation rates.

While Taft's 7th- and 8th-grade academic center earned a Level 1+ rating, the high school came within 0.2 points of earning the highest possible score, according to principal Mark Grishaber.

The rankings are "the direct result of the hard work of our teachers, administrators, [Local School Council] and staff as well as our 3,357 students taking responsibility for their own education," Grishaber said.

Schurz High School in Old Irving Park fell to a Level 2 rating from Level 2+ last year, making it the only Far Northwest Side school to see its ranking fall this year. Level 2 is the fourth out of five CPS academic rankings, meaning that district officials believe Schurz needs "provisional support."

Foreman High School in Portage Park was also listed as a Level 2 school.

Chicago Academy High School, which is run in Portage Park by the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership, is rated Level 1.

Elementary schools on the Far Northwest Side are rated among the city's best, with all schools considered to be in good standing. Every school northwest of Cicero and Belmont avenues boasts at least a level 1 rating, with most sporting the highest possible rating.

Reinberg Elementary School in Portage Park ascended to Level 1 from Level 2+ last year, and Edison Park Elementary School jumped from Level 1 to Level 1+.

Meanwhile, Taft continues to stretch its status as the city's most overcrowded school, enrolling 3,372 students this year — 75 more than last year. The school was built to accommodate 2,184 pupils.

City officials presented a plan Thursday to build a new high school in Dunning with enough room for 1,200 students. District leaders are "leaning very strongly" toward opening the school in 2019 as a satellite campus for Taft's freshmen and academic center students, in an effort to relieve the crowding, they said.

The Norwood Park school owes its packed halls in part to its sprawling attendance boundaries, which reach as far as Mayfair to the east and O'Hare to the west. The boundaries would stretch even farther, swallowing the entire Dunning neighborhood, if the freshman campus opens.

"You can't find anything in the city close to how vast [Taft's] assignment zone," CPS demographics director Jim Dispensa said at a public meeting Tuesday night. "There are some parts of the city where you have 12 high schools in the same area size."

But the school's growing enrollment also means it's due for more funding. And this year, principal Mark Grishaber will funnel an extra $100,000 into teacher overtime so he can spread students into more rooms, he said earlier this month.

"We don't want any more super classes with 35 or 36 students in them," Grishaber said.