Get the Facts

Charter public schools change lives. Here’s how.

What are charter public schools?

Charter schools are free, independent neighborhood public schools open to all children, including students who are English language learners and students with special needs. Charter schools do not have special entrance requirements and have the freedom to be innovative, while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.

Each charter public school is unique – both inside and out. Some may focus on college preparation, math and science, and others integrate the arts into each subject. While the possibilities are endless, charter public schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child’s needs.

Charter Public Schools in Illinois

60,853 students served throughout Illinois
8.7% of students are enrolled outside of Chicago
Icon 64 elementary schools
Icon 57 high schools
Icon 16 combination schools
122 charter schools in Chicago
15 charter schools outside of Chicago
137 charter schools in Illinois

Of the Illinois charter school population:

are students of color* *African American, Asian, Native American / Alaskan, Hispanic, Multi-racial, Pacific Islander / Hawaiian
receive free or reduced lunch
are enrolled in special education

Charter Schools in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) District:

114 charter public schools in the CPS district
54,375 charter public school students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools
1 out of every 4 high school students in CPS attends a charter high school
1 out of every 10 CPS elementary school students attends a charter elementary school

Student Enrollment in CPS

Charter Schools

District-Run Schools

Pencil Tip
  • 98.7% *identify as students of color
  • 97.8% students are Black/African American and/or Latino
  • 86% students receive free or reduced lunch
  • 14.9% students with special needs
  • 17.2% English language learners
Pencil Tip
  • 86.3% *identify as students of color
  • 81.7% students are Black/African American and/or Latino
  • 77.5% students receive free or reduced lunch
  • 13.9% students with special needs
  • 20.7% English language learners
*African American, Asian, Native American / Alaskan, Hispanic, Multi-racial, Pacific Islander / Hawaiian

How are charter public schools changing lives?

The traditional public education system in Illinois has not adequately prepared all students to live successful lives. A history of systemic injustice has led to some students being underserved. Despite many reform efforts, too many Black/African American, Latino, low-income and students with disabilities are still leaving school underprepared for success.

At INCS, we’re working to ensure that all students – no matter their zip code, ethnicity, income or family background – have access to a high quality public education that prepares them to succeed in college, career and life.

Since the charter school movement began 20 years ago, charter public schools have proven to be undeniably successful in serving students and communities in need.

Chicago’s charter public schools serve the highest proportions of students in poverty of any urban charter network in the country. They also serve comparable rates of students of color, English language learners, and special education students as are served by district-run schools.

Because of our continued success, students and families are choosing charter public schools more than ever before. Today, we serve a record number of families across Illinois.

Charter public schools continue to excel in nearly every metric of academic achievement and student outcomes.

In Chicago, students who attend charter public schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college. According to a University of Chicago Consortium on School Research study, on average, charter school students’ performance on post-secondary outcomes was much higher than similar students who attended non-charter high schools.

  • icon

    Higher college and university enrollment rates

    7.2% compared to 2.2% for similar students who attended district-run (non-selective) high schools
  • icon

    Higher standardized test scores

    10th-Grade PLAN and 11th-Grade ACT Scores
  • icon

    Higher completion of college coursework

    21.4% complete at least 4 semesters compared to 13.0% of district-run (non-selective) school students
  • icon

    Higher attendance and classroom engagement

    Thanks in part to innovative, engaging curriculum that inspires today’s young minds

Chicago is a choice district.

How are charter public schools performing?

Explore our interactive tool to compare charter public and district school performance on the Illinois State Report Card
Explore Chicago’s charter public and district school performance on the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP)