Chicago Neighborhood high schools losing students

Sarah Karp:

One of the justifications given for phasing out the West Side’s Crane High School is that most students in the attendance boundary are “voting with their feet” to go elsewhere. Only 17 percent of the students living in the neighborhood this year attend Crane, notes Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat.

But Crane’s situation is far from unique. In just the last five years, the percentage of students attending their neighborhood high school fell by 10 percent, from nearly half in 2006-2007 to about 37 percent in 2010-2011, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of CPS data.  

Five years ago, no high school enrolled fewer than 20 percent of the students in its attendance area.  Last year, nine schools did, and Hirsch and Tilden enrolled just 13 percent of students in their neighborhood.

Dyett High School in Washington Park, also slated for phase-out and eventually closure, enrolls 19 percent of its area’s students.

The flight from neighborhood schools is not just happenstance: It is the result of the district’s orchestrated policy to give students more choices. Those choices include magnet and selective enrollment high schools, which have been a mainstay for years. But over the past decade, the number of options grew significantly, with charter, military and contract high schools opening up. They now serve 26,000 students, five times the population these new schools enrolled in 2000.