Mapping 10 years of school closures

A history of school closings in Chicago, 2001 to 2011, and what has become of their buildings.

December 7, 2011

By Linda Lutton, Sarah Karp and Elliott Ramos

Nearly a decade ago, Chicago Public Schools announced it would shut down three chronically low-performing schools-Williams, Dodge and Terrell.  It was Chicago's introduction to "renaissance," to the hope that an entirely new staff- or even some entity other than the school district-could create a high-performing school from the ashes of a struggling one.

Since then, the announcement of school actions-turnarounds, closings and reconfigurations-has become an annual occurrence. Last week, CPS announced it wants to turn around 10 schools (firing all staff) and wholly or partially close eight others.

If the proposals are approved by the district's Board of Education, Chicago will shutter its 100th school since Williams, Terrell and Dodge. WBEZ and Catalyst plotted out annual school closings and turnarounds over the last decade in Chicago. The sortable chart and maps show where schools have been closed or turned around, what's become of the school buildings and how well new schools in those buildings are performing.

The closings and turnarounds have disproportionately affected African American schools on the West and South Sides. Humboldt Park and the Near West Side, followed by Grand Boulevard, have been the locations of the most school actions. Closings are also clustered around former CHA developments.

Very few of the schools shut down have remained vacant. Many house charter schools, magnets or selective enrollment schools. Almost all of the schools that closed were neighborhood schools with attendance boundaries. More than half of the replacement schools admit students by lottery or test scores.

Eighteen percent of the replacement schools (those schools located in buildings where either closure or turnaround has occurred) were rated "Level 1" by CPS this year, the highest performance level. Nearly 40 percent of replacement schools are Performance Level 3, the lowest rating CPS gives.

 

  • Under reconstitution, or "turnaround," students continue to attend their neighborhood school, but all staff is dismissed and must reapply for their jobs.
  • Turnarounds are operated by the school district or by AUSL (the Academy for Urban School Leadership). AUSL is the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit school management and teacher training organization.
  • "Stated reason" for closure was taken from CPS press materials, board reports or archived news articles. In some cases, the stated reason was not clear, or there were multiple reasons given.
  • This is a list of schools closed during the district's annual round of school closings, the vast majority for poor performance or low enrollment. The district has closed or transformed a handful of additional schools not included on this list over the past decade.
  • Performance Levels are determined by Chicago Public Schools. Level 1 is the highest level of performance. Level 3 is lowest.
  • This data set is posted on this page for download. See "EXTRAS" below.