Northside College Preparatory High School

Contact Information

Principal: Kelly Mest
Assistant Principal
Jeff Finelli
Phone: 773-534-3954
Web site:
Address: 5501 North Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Freshman class size: 280
Total enrollment: 1,400 (grades 9 – 12)


In the most recent admissions cycle (2016-2017), average scores for an admitted Northside student rose slightly (+2 points) to 871 recovering from the decline suffered last year when CPS used the tougher MAP test for the first time as the 7th grade standardized test in the admissions formula. The prior year’s score decline was triggered in large part by the decline in Tier 1 average scores (-22 points) and Tier 2 scores (-24 points).

For the past seven years, CPS has been using a socioeconomic Tier system to select students for all of its selective admissions schools. Currently, thirty percent of seats are allocated to students with the highest academic performance citywide – regardless of their “socioeconomic status”. The remaining seventy percent are allocated to each of four socioeconomic Tiers, with each Tier receiving 17.5%. Students compete for this portion based their academic performance in comparison with other students in their Tier.

Use of the Tier system has led to significant gaps in the academic achievement required for admissions between students from different parts of the City of Chicago. There is a particularly large gap between admissions scores of Tier 4 (the highest socioeconomic Tier) and Tier 1 (the lowest socioeconomic Tier) – in the more competitive schools.

In 2016-2017 admissions cycle, there was a 69-point gap between the average score of an admitted Northside Tier 4 and Tier 1 student as shown in Figure 2.  There was also a huge gap in admitted cut-off scores of Tier 4 students in comparison to Tier 1 students of 128 points as shown in Figure 3. The existence of gaps of this magnitude means that students with significantly different academic qualifications are being admitted to Northside.


At the end of the 2013 school year, Northside’s long time Principal, Barry Rodgers, announced that he was leaving the school for a Principal position at Lake Forest High School. Kelly Mest, formerly an Assistant Principal at Lindblom, was chosen as Rodgers’ replacement several months later.

Northside College Prep, one of the newer Selective Enrollment High Schools, opened its doors in 1999, becoming the first new Chicago Public High School to be built in 20 years. Northside quickly became an academic powerhouse. It ranked first in the state on the Prairie State Exams for the past 12 years. Northside has undertaken a major mobile computing initiative, Creating the 21st Century Classroom, aimed at deploying mobile computers at a ratio of one computer to one student for a variety of academic endeavors.

All of Northside’s core classes are taught at either the Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) level. Northside does not rank its students since all classes are at the college preparatory level. Northside uses a college-like scheduling scheme – sessions are twice as long as typical high school classes, but only meet twice a week. Northside has 24 Advanced Placement classes. Academic highlights include:

  • Colloquium: Northside Prep boasts a wide range of “Colloquium” courses where teachers have used their academic passions to develop specialized mini-courses. Colloquium classes are taken on a pass/fail basis.
  • Mathematics: Northside uses an unusual problem-based approach, Interactive Mathematics. Interactive Mathematics proponents claim that this new approach promotes more active student engagement in creatively solving mathematics problems. Northside Prep’s statistics program has been ranked best in the United States by the College Board.
  • Foreign language: Northside offers six foreign languages including Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
  • Computer Science: Northside offers a computer science curriculum that provides a background in information technology and includes work in programming (e.g., object oriented, java based, hardware, etc.) and software applications.


Northside College Prep’s athletic program includes a wide range of sports including basketball, bowling, cheerleading, chess, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming/diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling. Northside has won city championships in golf, swimming and diving. There is no football team. In 2002, when Northside was given a choice between a football team or a rock-climbing wall, a rock-climbing wall was chosen. That’s why Northside holds its homecoming dance for its basketball team in the winter.


Reading, Math and Science Proficiency (Prairie State Achievement Exam), 2014

The performance of 11th graders on the PSAE (which includes the ACT) is used by the State of Illinois to assess reading, math, and science proficiency. In 2014, 51% of Illinois juniors met or exceeded standards in Reading and Math; while 49% met or exceeded standards in Science. In 2014, 100% of Northside juniors met or exceeded standards in these three areas.

For 2014, 64% of Northside students exceeded standards in Reading, 48% exceeded standards in Math and 62% exceeded standards in Science.

sehs 2015 Northside fig4

The ACT is the most widely used college admissions test, so its scores are a useful guide for comparing high school academic performance. The test contains four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, a composite score is the average of these sections. The score of any of these sections and the composite range from 1 to 36.

Selective Enrollment High School students achieved an average composite score of 24.5 (approximately 75th percentile nationally) in 2016. This compares to Northside’s 2016 composite of 29.7 (approximately 95th percentile nationally) and Chicago’s 18.6 (approximately 37th percentile nationally), putting Northside significantly above both the District (City of Chicago) average and the national average.

Performance on ACT College Readiness Benchmarks

The ACT organization has defined “College Readiness Benchmark Scores” — median test scores that are predictive of student “success” in the relevant college courses. ACT defines “success” as a 50% or higher probability of earning a B or better in the corresponding college coursework.

In 2016, Northside students on average easily exceeded all four “College Readiness Benchmarks” achieving on average for English (30.3 vs. the ACT Benchmark of 18) and Reading (30.7 vs. the ACT Benchmark of 22), Math (28.6 vs. the ACT Benchmark of 22), and Science (28.8 vs. the ACT Benchmark of 23). In fact, only Northside, Payton, Young, Jones, and Lane Tech had average ACT scores that met all four “College Readiness Benchmarks”.

Trends in ACT Scores

From 2005 to 2016, Northside’s composite ACT score has gradually inched upwards from approximately 88th percentile (27.4) to approximately the 95th percentile (29.7).

Northside’s 2016 State of Illinois Ranking and National Ranking

  • State of Illinois Rank: 1 (US News & World Reports). In 2016, Northside was ranked 1st in the state based on an assessment by US News & World Reports of the “college readiness” of its students.
  • National Rank: 39 (US News & World Reports). In 2016, Northside College Prep was ranked #39 in the country, by US News & World Reports based on its overall performance.

For additional academic information about Northside College Prep, please click here for a state report card.