Survey Recap: South Loop Education Priorities

 About the survey:

The objective of the survey was to gather feedback from stakeholders in the South Loop, including community residents, families who live within the proposed expanded boundary for South Loop Elementary School, and families who attend South Loop Elementary or National Teachers Academy.

The survey is similar in structure and scope to a survey used by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) in the spring, so that results can be somewhat comparable as the steering committee organized by CPS develops recommendations regarding the proposed plan.  The information below, as well as all open-ended comments, have been shared with the Near South School Steering Committee and local officials.  Many thanks to those who took the time to share feedback on this important topic.

The survey covered three topics:

  1. Neighborhood interest: how important is this issue relative to others facing our neighborhood? What are the qualities of a neighborhood high school that would attract families to choose it over other options within CPS?  What is the likelihood that South Loop families will choose a neighborhood high school if one is located in closer proximity to the neighborhood?
  2. High School programming priorities: what types of programming are most important, to make the school attractive to area families?  What facility improvements should be prioritized to support high school-level programming?
  3. Elementary School programming priorities: what programming is most critical to include when considering combining two elementary school populations?

Overview of results

Overall, there are many points of agreement across the community and when comparing individual stakeholder groups (SLES parents, NTA parents, parents of children who are not yet school-aged, parents of school-aged children who do not attend either SLES or NTA, and community members).  This is important to remember as the community dialogue on this topic continues.  There are a few areas where some stakeholder groups value specific programming more than other groups, and this should also be considered as plans are developed to ensure that the needs of all students are met to foster their success.

Who responded?

347 people responded to the survey, and 81% live within the neighborhood (defined as the new proposed boundary area for South Loop Elementary School).  Parents from South Loop Elementary School made up the bulk of the respondents (44%), followed by community members (20%).  Only 10% of survey respondents were parents from NTA.

You are best described as: All respondents % Live in neighborhood %
Parent of current SLES student (Neighborhood program) 129 37% 116 41%
Parent of current SLES student (Regional Gifted Center) 26 7% 8 3%
Parent of current NTA student (Neighborhood/Achievers program) 8 2% 2 1%
Parent of current NTA student (Regional Gifted Center) 29 8% 19 7%
Parent of a school-aged student who lives in the proposed SLES boundary area and does not attend NTA or SLES 40 12% 37 13%
Parent of an infant or toddler who would go to SLES or NTA as their neighborhood school 32 9% 30 11%
Student 2 1% 1 0%
Community member (South Loop resident) 69 20% 64 23%
Other (please specify) 12 3% 5 2%
347 100% 282 100%

 

Use of the above stakeholder data in the analysis:

For the remainder of the analysis, answers from the Student and Other categories are not presented separately due to the small number of responses from those groups.  Many of the responses from the Other category represent parents who have students at both schools, and for the purpose of the rest of the analysis those individuals’ responses were included in the aggregate responses from both schools.  Please also note that in graphs and charts the term “n count” refers to the number of respondents who answered the question.

Student grade level representation:

Respondents were asked to select the current grade level of any students in their home who are currently school-age and will be impacted by this plan (in grades K-7).  There was markedly more participation from parents of children in the early grades, and otherwise the distribution was fairly even.

The remainder of the analysis will examine responses from nine groups of respondents, to understand if there are differing priorities regarding K-12 education programming needs across these groups and where there is agreement on programming priorities.  The groups are:

  • All respondents: Everyone who answered the survey
  • Live in proposed boundary: All respondents who indicated that they live within the proposed new SLES boundary area
  • SLES parents (all): All respondents who indicated that they have a child attending SLES
  • SLES parents (in boundary): Respondents who indicated that they have a child attending SLES and live within the proposed new SLES boundary area
  • NTA parents (all): All respondents who indicated that they have a child attending NTA
  • NTA parents (in boundary): Respondents who indicated that they have a child attending NTA and live within the proposed new SLES boundary area
  • Parent of infant or toddler: Respondents who indicated that they live within the proposed new SLES boundary area and have a child who is not yet school aged
  • In boundary, do not send student to NTA or SLES: Respondents who indicated that they live within the proposed new SLES boundary area and do not sent their child to either NTA or SLES for school
  • Community member (South Loop resident): Respondents who indicated that they are a community member, rather than a parent in one of the categories listed above

When the responses of in-boundary vs. out-of-boundary parent groups within a school’s population were not substantively different, responses are presented as combined for each school.

Impact of the proposed plan on the neighborhood:

Question: Compared to other community issues (e.g. improved safety, business development, jobs, parks, elementary schools, sanitation, library services, quality of life, entertainment, etc.), how important is having a high school in the area?

 

Of those who responded to the survey, parents at SLES or who have children who will be entering elementary school within the next few years generally consider having a high school in the area to be more important or much more important than other community issues.  NTA parents and South Loop community members have a more varied opinion, with more individuals from these groups indicating that this issue is not any more or less important than other community issues facing the South Loop.

Question: To what degree does having access to high quality Pre-K – 12 education in the immediate South Loop neighborhood impact your likelihood to:

  • Recommend the neighborhood to others as a desirable place to live
  • Buy or rent a residence (or larger residence) in the neighborhood
  • Invest in small businesses (by shopping local and/or opening a small business or your own)

79% of respondents indicated that access to quality Pre-K-12 education in the neighborhood will increase their likelihood to recommend the South Loop as a desirable place to live.  73% of respondents indicated that they will be more likely to rent, buy, or buy a larger residence in the neighborhood, and 97% of respondents who identified themselves as the parent of an infant or toddler reacted positively to this question, which indicates that increased demand for larger units (3 or more bedrooms) may be on the horizon.  It appears that while local businesses may receive some benefit, with 58% of respondents reporting that their support for local businesses will increase, respondents to the survey did not appear to make as strong of a connection between having quality Pre-K-12 education options and increasing their support for local businesses.

If CPS builds it, will they come?

The main sources of competition for the proposed high school will be other CPS schools (Selective Enrollment HS and lottery-based Magnet and other specialized programs), private high schools, and suburban high schools.  Investment in public schools is dependent on having healthy student enrollment, so it’s critical to understand what programming and facilities are most important to neighborhood families and the degree to which neighborhood families are willing to commit to support the new school by enrolling their children there.

Question: What do you think should be the top 5 programming priorities for a high school serving our neighborhood?

Note: the responses of in-boundary vs. out of boundary respondent groups from both NTA and SLES were not notably different, so they are not displayed separately in the table below.

 

Responses in the “Other” category included partnerships with local universities for dual-credit programs, high-quality special education programs including low-incidence classrooms to support diverse learners, financial literacy, quality after school programming, transportation, and technology.

These results are encouraging, because there are several areas of clear agreement across all stakeholder groups.  Academics are clearly important, as areas ranked as a top 5 priority both overall and by each of the stakeholder groups included College Preparation (Advanced Placement and Honors programming), STEM programming, and foreign language and world cultures.  Music programs and extracurricular activities (clubs) were each ranked as one of the top 5 priorities by 3 of the 5 stakeholder groups, and social justice / cultural awareness programming and athletics were ranked as one of the top 5 priorities by 2 of the 5 stakeholder groups.

Parents of children who are not yet school-aged or who have school-aged children and do not send them to either NTA or SLES ranked extracurricular clubs higher than other groups, and NTA parents and South Loop community members ranked social justice / cultural awareness programming higher than other groups.  Dual-language immersion programming or vocational programming were the least likely to be ranked as a top 5 priority by respondents, however 28% of South Loop residents selected vocational programming as a top 5 priority.

Question: Which 3 of the below factors are most likely to influence your decision to choose a neighborhood high school instead of pursuing high school opportunities outside of the neighborhood?

 

80% of respondents indicated that a high level of academic performance / high CPS rating was among the top 3 factors which will influence their decision to choose a neighborhood high school instead of one outside of the neighborhood, with 54% indicating that rigorous curriculum options would be a significant influence in their decision.

47% of all respondents, and 51% of respondents who live within the proposed boundary area, indicated that proximity to home would be an important factor, with SLES parents ranking this as the second most important factor to them (after academic performance of the school).  41% of respondents selected school climate / culture, which was more important to NTA parents (54%) than to other groups.  SLES and NTA parents were equally likely to agree on the importance of having a high level of racial and economic diversity at all grade levels, with 41% of parents in those groups selecting that option as one of the top 3 factors which would influence their decision to stay local for high school.  Only 28% of respondents feel that having a shared high school experience with others in the neighborhood is a major factor for their family, although 38% of parents of students who do not attend either school indicated that this would influence their decision more than school climate / culture or diversity.

Responses in the “Other” category included factors such as school safety/security, not getting accepted into a Selective Enrollment high school, and the school having an established track record of student achievement and student acceptance into top colleges.

Question: If CPS’s recommended plan to convert NTA to a high school is approved, which of the below facility upgrades should be the highest priority?

Additional science labs and a computer lab were the highest priorities with 81% and 69% of respondents indicating that these were a top priority, followed by dedicated areas for arts programming such as band and choir facilities (50%) and upgrades to the library (50%).  44% of respondents prioritized improved facilities to support high school athletics, such as a multi-purpose room and/or second gym, and 37% felt that an auditorium would be a high priority.

Responses in the “Other” category included a larger cafeteria area, deeper pool, gym locker rooms, and upgraded bathrooms to accommodate upper-grade students.

Question: If the recommended plan moves forward, how likely is it that you/your family will choose to enroll at the new high school?

70% of respondents who live in the proposed South Loop Elementary boundary indicated that is it likely or very likely that they would choose to enroll their student at the new high school.  This number included 80% of SLES parents and 70% of parents who live within the boundary but do not send their student(s) to either NTA or SLES.  NTA parents who live within the proposed boundary were split, with approximately a third falling into the likely/very likely category, a third in the neutral category, and a third indicating it would be unlikely/very unlikely that their student(s) will enroll in the new high school.

Elementary (Pre-K-8) Programming Priorities

The proposed plan will combine two established elementary schools, each with their own unique programs, traditions, and school climate/cultures.  Understanding each respondent group’s priorities and what is most valued is important, especially for the South Loop Elementary community to understand where the NTA community’s priorities may differ from their own, in order to minimize disruption and ensure a welcoming environment as students from NTA are moved to SLES.

Question:  Which of the below programs do you think are the highest priority to be addressed/retained in the proposed combined K-8 school? (Select up to 4)

 

Responses in the “Other” category included small class sizes, a focus on academic rigor, foreign language programming, and ensuring a fair and equitable integration of the two schools based on varying student needs.  Several respondents requested additional support for learners across the academic spectrum such as dedicated classrooms and structured support for diverse learners (special education), and retaining and expanding the gifted program, such as offering additional accelerated learning programming for students who demonstrate that they can handle it but were not able to secure a spot in the RGC program due to the limited number of seats.

Similar to the priorities for high school programming, there were several areas of clear agreement across stakeholder groups.  All stakeholder groups ranked music arts and access to Park District or other affordable after school care on site to be a top 5 priority, with 71% of NTA parents selecting affordable after school care as a very high priority.  After school clubs, social justice and cultural awareness, and organized athletics were also ranked as high priorities overall and across multiple stakeholder groups.  Transportation among campus buildings before and after school is a high priority for NTA parents, with 47% selecting that option.  South Loop community members’ highest priority item is that students have access to free / low-cost after school tutoring or academic support.

 

What’s next?

The GSLA recognizes that this topic is incredibly important to the future of our neighborhood, and will continue to be focused on doing what we can to ensure that any proposal related to education in the South Loop considers continued population growth, contributes positively to our standing as a neighborhood of choice, and reflects the values of our neighborhood.  As additional information becomes available, we will continue to ask for community feedback and share that feedback on behalf of the community.

If you have questions or opinions to share with CPS, email transitions@cps.edu

If you have questions or opinions to share with the GSLA, email info@greatersouthloop.org

About the GSLA

The Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1998.  Our mission is to bring neighbors together to maintain and improve the South Loop as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.