Mission & History

Chicago International Charter School (CICS) was founded on the belief that every child has the right to a high quality education. The mission of Chicago International is:

To provide, through innovation and choice, an attractive and rigorous college-preparatory education that meets the needs of today’s students.

We expect the best of every student and, in turn, provide the support each student needs to achieve their best.

This belief and vision set by our founding Board in 1997, has led to Chicago International becoming the largest charter school operator in Illinois and a frontrunner in thought leadership in the school reform movement. We now operate a network of 16 campuses across the cities of Chicago, and Rockford, serving 9,200 students in K through 12th grade.

We believe that all young people can achieve, when given the right support. This philosophy has led to significant academic results. We are proud to share that, in CICS elementary school campuses that have been opened for three or more years, CICS has closed the achievement gap between CICS students (88% of whom qualify for free/reduced lunch and 96% of whom are African American or Hispanic/Latino) and a national sample of students in grades 1st through 8th in reading and grades 1st through 4th and 6th through 8th in math.  CICS high school campuses continue to show significant achievement gains as is demonstrated through high school graduation and college acceptance rates that are higher than open-enrollment district schools. For example, the 5-year graduation rate for the CICS class of 2013 was 93% with 88% of the graduates being accepted into college. The long-term vision of CICS is to operate the highest academic performing K-12 continuum of schools in the districts we serve, eradicating the achievement gap and providing graduates with the academic and social-emotional skills required to be successful in a competitive 4-year college or university. 

Charter schools are privately managed public schools. CICS is therefore publicly funded, tuition-free, and open to all city children, regardless of income or academic ability. Our student body is demographically similar to Chicago’s other public schools; 86% are low-income, 96% are minority, and many are second-language learners and/or have disabilities. As a charter school, however, CICS campuses are funded at a lower rate than traditional Chicago Public Schools, a disparity which we are actively working to remedy through our advocacy efforts.

Quick facts about CICS


Highlights of our 2011-2012 school year; includes campus locations.

Our Story

A pictorial timeline of how CICS has grown.


Apply Today

Enrollment in Chicago International Charter School is open to all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or disability status. For more information or to download an application visit our applications page.