Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) has a unique mission: to provide a college preparatory education that prepares urban students for professions and careers in agriculture. Since it first opened its doors in 1985, CHSAS has attracted a diverse student population from across the city of Chicago. As the only school of its kind in the Midwest, CHSAS offers students the opportunity to develop skills and competencies that equip them to change the image of urban agriculture. Selected as a Magnet Schools of America National School of Distinction in 2018, CHSAS exhibits all the attributes that make magnet schools vital to the American education system.
CHSAS’ curriculum is designed to prepare students for success in both the classroom and the world after high school. All CHSAS students are members of the National FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America), and they are immersed in a comprehensive agricultural learning experience. In fact, CHSAS has the largest FFA chapter in the state of Illinois. Students learn about farming, the environment and natural resources, agricultural science, emerging technologies and business.
CHSAS’ dual role as both a magnet college prep school and a career and technical education (CTE) agricultural school is one of its greatest strengths. For most high schools, a rigorous college prep curriculum and a CTE curriculum target different students; at CHSAS all students complete a full college prep curriculum – including four years of math and science – and an eight-course sequence in CTE. Through this unique mixture, CHSAS prepares students fully for college, careers and life.
With a population that is roughly 40 percent Black and 22 percent Latino, CHSAS exemplifies the magnet school principles of diversity and inclusion. CHSAS attracts students across the socioeconomic spectrum, including the 52 percent of its students who come from low-income backgrounds. CHSAS caters to all students who are enthusiastic about learning, no matter who they are or where they come from.
It is this commitment to diversity and inclusion that allows CHSAS to succeed academically. According to the Illinois State Board of Education Report Card, CHSAS outperforms the district and subregion on ACT assessment scores for English, math, reading and science. Its SAT averages, 5-year cohort graduation rate and college enrollment rate all surpass local averages, garnering the school a Level 1+ rating – the highest rating Chicago Public Schools awards.
Even with its high academic performance, CHSAS does not shy away from embracing its athletic spirit. The CHSAS Cyclones have a robust athletic department that instills values of teamwork, dedication and perseverance. There are a total of 25 athletic teams, ranging from football and basketball to bowling and water polo, and the number of athletic offerings continues to increase every year. CHSAS also offers a variety of clubs and activities that allow students to express their creativity, engage with their fellow students and develop talents that will follow them for a lifetime, including journalism, poetry, debate and academic decathlon.
CHSAS boasts a Business Advisory Council with nearly 70 members from the business sector, post-secondary education and government agencies. Its partners provide ongoing curriculum and in-kind support to faculty and students through job shadow opportunities, internships, academic and career camps, career counseling and scholarships.
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences creates a positive learning environment that supports the integration of its academic and agricultural programs. CHSAS principal William E. Hook captures the spirit of CHSAS’s mission, stating, “Student success means academic success, and we are proud of what our students have achieved. A dedicated faculty and staff, committed parents and an exceptional group of young people make CHSAS a very special place to learn and grow.”