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Emanuel promises expansion of all-girl CPS charter high school

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has talked about creating more public high schools in general — and more single-gender high schools in particular — to bolster student performance and stop an exodus of middle-class families.

On Monday, he made a more specific promise — to expand the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, Chicago’s only all-girls charter school.

“We’re gonna do another high school. ... You have 300 applicants for 50 openings in class. Let’s give ‘em another choice in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said during the school’s “Girl Power” benefit luncheon at the Fairmont Chicago Hotel.

“This is the model. Not every parent wants to send their child to an all-girls high school or 7th- and 8th grade [there]. But, the only way we succeed is if parents have that choice. Let them make that choice.”

If all Chicago Public Schools could match the 100 percent daily attendance and 85 percent college entrance rate at Young Woman’s Leadership Charter, “We’d be winning every day,” Emanuel said.

Located at 2641 S. Calumet,

the Young Women’s Leadership Charter counts Mayor Daley’s niece as one of its alums and talk show diva Oprah Winfrey as one of its clout-heavy financial backers. But, the school has a mixed-record for success.

Only 15.2 percent of juniors passed their state tests last year, compared to 29.8 percent citywide. The school’s average ACT score was 16.2, compared to 17.4 citywide, with 18 generally considered the minimum for college.

Only 13.8 percent of YWLC students hit the recent CPS goal of a 20 or better on the ACT, compared to 24.8 percent citywide.

Using multi-faceted CPS “scorecard figures” that Emanuel has cited previously to tout charter schools, the school ranks 81 out of 112 CPS high schools. Using test scores, test score improvement, attendance, graduation rates and other data, the scorecards place schools in one of three levels. YWLC is Level 3, the worst level, which CPS calls “below average.”

On the plus side, YWLC students feel slightly safer in school than the average CPS student, and higher percentages of them participate in extra-curricular activities, scorecard data shows. Far more of them graduate within five years (72.6 percent compared to 55.8 percent citywide) and go on to college (72 percent compare to 54.4 percent across the district).

In 2003, Winfrey went to YWLC to get ideas for the school she planned to open in South Africa. She ended her visit by handing a $250,000 check to Joan Hall, the former Sidley & Austin partners who helped found the school.

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