The Rockford area boasts several high-quality schools that successfully combine college-preparatory academics and the liberal arts, with a focus on individual abilities and strengths, and commitment to development of the whole person. To help with your decisions, we’ve found a few of the best.
Our children are both typical and unique. While they possess many qualities in common with all children, each is an individual. Each has his or her own tastes, thoughts and spirit. Each has particular needs and goals – capabilities and strengths that must be nurtured, foibles and weaknesses that must be overcome.
We know that understanding and responding to this complex medley of characteristics is a challenge, even in daily parenting. So how do we, as parents, determine which school offers an environment that best suits our child’s specific combination of qualities? What instructional methods will most benefit our child’s learning style? What makes a certain school better for one child than another?
Among the most obvious factors is curriculum – mathematics, science, reading and writing programs. Next, of course, is faculty and staff, as well as available resources – research facilities, laboratories and up-to-the-minute technology.
Just as important as what children learn is how they learn. Does the school’s philosophy allow for different learning styles and incentives? Will each child be allowed to develop particular interests and work at an appropriate level for his or her ability?
Next to consider is the social aspect. School is a place to learn not only facts and dates, but how to get along in the world. What sorts of extracurricular activities are offered? What opportunities will your child have to develop independence, self-confidence and collaboration?
Families have a wealth of options for their children’s education, in both the public and private sectors. All of these schools are committed to providing academic excellence, as well as a strong liberal arts education, to produce knowledgable, well-rounded students who are ready to step into the workplace of the 21st century and exact positive change in their communities.
Subjects such as philosophy, foreign language and current events encourage problem-solving and tolerance. Art, theater, music and dance stimulate self-expression and creativity. Exposure to classical literature, drama and music create an appreciation of the past. Opportunities for spiritual reflection and service to the community develop citizenship and character.
Education can help to build a strong foundation for your student’s emotional, social and mental development. It’s also a guaranteed pathway toward a happy and prosperous life. Students who are equipped with the requisite academic, interpersonal and technical skills to succeed beyond school are more likely to land the well-paying jobs of the future. New initiatives at our region’s schools are embracing this reality of the 21st century workforce by successfully preparing students for life beyond – whether that means college, a technical degree/certificate program or straight into the workforce.
Our children can live a prosperous life in the Rockford area, and it’s their quality education that will propel them to success.
Here, Northwest Quarterly profiles area schools to assist parents in making this all-important decision about their child’s education.
Alpine Academy of Rockford
A5001 Forest View Ave., Rockford, (815) 227-8894, alpineacademyofrockford.com
Tucked in a quiet neighborhood in Southeast Rockford, Alpine Academy provides a quality education in a nurturing, family-focused Christian school. Its mission is to enrich and deepen students’ academic knowledge and spiritual faith. Teachers strive to create an environment where students grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Alpine Academy is accredited, is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association (ELEA), and is registered with the Illinois State Board of Education. Its strong curriculum in reading, mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and religion provides students with a solid academic foundation. Students receive Spanish, computer and performing arts instruction beginning in pre-school and continuing through sixth grade. An in-house speech pathologist provides additional special-needs support. Three theatrical programs spotlighting students’ talents and skills are presented in the gym during the year. Art, band and orchestra instruction begin in third grade. Regular physical education class is provided to all students, with upper grade students participating in unique activities such as cross-country skiing, roller skating, bowling and canoeing at Pierce Lake. Numerous field trips provide students with off-campus learning experiences. Each class takes part in monthly community service projects, and the Academy is active in many charitable programs and organizations.
Alpine Academy has a fenced athletic area with a baseball field and a soccer field. It also has a protected and completely enclosed play area with slides, monkey bars, tricycles and climbing areas for all grades. Students compete interscholastically in a variety of sports and scholastic events.
At Alpine Academy, educators and parents work as a family to promote each student’s self-esteem, academic skills and Christian knowledge and values to create children who are enriched spiritually and academically, who have a dedication to lifelong learning and who are well prepared for their journey toward a successful adulthood.
Aquin Catholic School System
1419 S. Galena Avenue, Freeport, (815) 235-3154, aquinschools.org
The Aquin Catholic School System is a faith community where all individuals are given the opportunity to develop both their moral character and learning potential. Two campuses serve students from Pre-K through 12th grade in a faith-filled academic setting.
“Aquin is a school system which truly embodies the word ‘family’,” says Rosemarie Brubaker, superintendent and Jr./Sr. high school principal. “Our students receive a faith-based education from a dedicated staff, who groom them to walk the path of Jesus Christ. Our teachers and staff work to know our students and build positive relationships with them.”
The Aquin Catholic School System is certified by the Illinois State Board of Education and accredited by AdvancED Accreditation Commission and members of the National Catholic Educational Association. The staff and faculty is expected to model the motto of God, Others, Self.
“Aquin stands together as a community united by Jesus Christ and works to bring positive student leadership and volunteerism to the Freeport Community,” Brubaker says. “Aquin students learn the meaning of humble generosity. They give their time and talents expecting nothing in return.”
Both of the Aquin campuses offer students a variety of classroom features. Pre-K through third grade students use tablets provided by the school, while children in grades 4-12 provide their own devices. Google Apps for Education are used daily in the classroom.
Aquin offers rigorous and real world applicable course work at all grade levels. At Aquin’s elementary campus, religion classes are taught every day, Spanish is taught as a foreign language, and students have the option to enroll in the ALEKS math program. Every classroom has a ceiling-mounted projector and Mimio Smartboard. The campus also has a computer lab and discovery classroom for STEM labs.
In addition to these features, the Aquin junior-senior high school campus offers student government, a National Honor Society chapter, as well as an abundance of service groups that are locally and nationally affiliated. Students can also take advantage of a leadership program offered through Highland Community College, as well as a dual credit partnership.
“Aquin graduates are prepared for life after high school,” Brubaker says. “To help them plan for the future and make wise decisions, Aquin students have been taught how to problem solve and critically think. Aquin students know the value of hard work.”
A variety of activities are available for students, from speech team, chess team, theater, chorus and yearbook to golf, football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball.
“Every student in our system has at least one adult in our buildings they can trust and turn to for advice or help,” Brubaker says. “Our efforts are placed on educating the whole child. Aquin meets the needs of our students on the spiritual, academic, social and emotional level.”
Boylan Catholic High School
4000 St. Francis Dr., Rockford, (815) 877-0531, boylan.org
Boylan Catholic High School is dedicated to the education of the whole person and committed to truth, service and academic excellence. The co-ed school is part of the Diocese of Rockford and its population is nearly 900 students and represents five religions. In 2017, 36 percent of the student body shared in $747,000 of annual tuition assistance.
Boylan’s curriculum provides a customized education for each student. Four challenge levels – advanced placement, honors, academic and general – ensure that every student is properly placed academically. Boylan also offers assistance for students with IEP and 504 plans.
Boylan offers 19 advanced placement (AP) courses this year, with 84 percent of students in AP classes qualifying for college credit. On the ACT college entrance exam in 2017, Boylan students averaged a score of 23, higher than both the state and national averages. With 96 percent of 2017 Boylan grads attending college, they cumulatively received nearly $17 million in college scholarships.
On Boylan’s 60-acre campus, students enjoy technology and science labs, a foods lab, two art studios with kilns, vocal and instrumental music rooms to support its award-winning choir, band, art and theater programs, a 768-seat auditorium, a 175-seat lecture hall, three gymnasiums, a 5,400-seat stadium, a 6-lane running track, two baseball diamonds, six indoor tennis courts, and a swimming and diving complex.
Boylan belongs to the NIC-10 Conference. Boylan claimed seven conference championships and 48 All-Conference Athletes in 2017. Boylan offers 24 interscholastic junior varsity and varsity sports, and 48 extra-curricular activities that include foreign language, scholastic and service clubs, theater/music and special interest groups.
Community service is a tradition at Boylan. All students complete 100 hours of community service before graduating.
Boylan is accredited by North Central Association and recognized by the Illinois State Office of Education. Of its faculty, 74 percent hold master’s degrees or above. Boylan is the only high school in Northwestern Illinois to receive three U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon
Awards, the highest award possible.
What’s unique about Boylan?
•The school offers several levels of Chinese, Spanish, German and French classes every year.
•Boylan is home to a new 4-legged friend – a therapy dog named Addie who provides emotional support to students and staff and is located in the wellness office. She’s been a welcome addition to the school.
•Boylan is the only school in the region with a dedicated full-time college counselor.
•Boylan’s nearly 19,000 alumni span the globe, providing a strong network of connections for graduates. Many graduates also live and work in our community as civic leaders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, teachers, nationally-renowned artists, physicians, engineers and more!
Striving to be Saints. Scholars. Champions.
Concordia Lutheran School
7424 N. Second St., Machesney Park, (815) 633-6450, clsmp.org
Concordia Lutheran School is a community of faith where we believe each child is a unique creation of God, blessed with a special set of talents and gifts.
Each child deserves to approach life with a sense of self-worth and respect for others while developing a sense of one’s own personal relationship with God. We feel that each child deserves the opportunity to develop his or her God-given potential to the fullest.
Our mission is to guide each child toward the fulfillment of this potential, in all areas of the child’s life: spiritual, intellectual, social, psychological and physical. We hope to enrich and deepen each student’s faith by promoting good self-esteem, self-discipline, educational skills and Christian knowledge and values.
At Concordia Lutheran, we hope to create an atmosphere for learning that combines structure and creativity while fostering an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Toward this end, we strive to maintain a joyous, happy environment, which promotes love, understanding and acceptance of self and others.
We believe that children are precious gifts from God, and as such, we, in partnership with their parents, strive to nurture students to achieve academic excellence, spiritual growth, good citizenship, leadership and service to the community that both honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Concordia Lutheran School is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod –Northern Illinois District.
We feature small class sizes, individualized educational programs, team orientated and adaptable staff members and a strong parent teacher organization with involvement in the education process and facility management.
There are plenty of features available, including a fully functioning resource center, which consists of a library and computer lab, gym, soccer field, playground and designated art and science rooms.
Our students have access to computers in their classrooms beginning in preschool. From kindergarten through fifth-grade, students have access to SMART boards, smart tables and tablets.
Weekly learning specials for preschool students include Spanish, music and library. Kindergarten through fifth-grade specials include art, PE, music, Spanish, library time and computer privileges.
Additional band and orchestra programs are offered.
Students remain busy outside the classroom at Concordia thanks to before and after-school programs from preschool to fifth-grade students. Sports available include running club and track.
In cooperation with Rockford Lutheran Academy we also offer soccer and basketball. We also offer several after-school clubs such as S.O.C. (Seeds of Compassion), a service based club where students learn how serving others benefits not only our community but helps them grow.
Craft club, Lego club, woodworking club and yearbook club are only a few of the clubs available to our students. Concordia also hosts a monthly Literacy Night for preschool and kindergarten families.
We work with families to make a private education affordable.
After completion of Concordia Lutheran School, students matriculate to Rockford Lutheran Junior High School.
Keith Country Day School
1 Jacoby Place, Rockford, (815) 399-8823, keithschool.com
Keith Country Day School is the premier college-preparatory institution that serves students in the northern Illinois area. From PreK through grade 12, students receive an education that prepares them for lives of meaning and purpose.
Beginning in PreK, nine core values are inherent in the Keith academic culture. Honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment are concepts that teachers integrate into classroom life. To enact these core principles, Keith’s upper school program has Honor Council: a student-elected group that promotes honesty in academic practices.
Niche, a school ranking and review site, rated Keith 16th out of 124 private schools in Illinois. The school has also been the recipient of several grants, including one from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, another from In Youth We Trust, one from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Fitness, one from Toshiba Science and several from Illinois Clean Energy. Keith was also the only school invited to attend the Yale University Youth Summit in October 2015. Several Keith students are nationally ranked in spelling, history and geography bees.
Keith is a wireless campus environment in which students begin using personal laptop devices in third grade. All classrooms have SMART Board capabilities, and science labs have updated lab technology and software. The recently renovated McBain Gymnasium has courts for volleyball, basketball, tennis, pickleball and badminton, and a high school regulation-sized soccer field is available for physical education, sports competitions and lifetime fitness activities.
Keith offers attention and personalized curriculum for each student, as well as an abundance of enrichment programs and opportunities in and out of the classroom. Keith takes pride in the fact that their students are well-prepared for college and beyond, and go on to have fulfilling careers and exciting lives thanks to the lessons they learned at Keith.
Keith’s athletic programs begin in third-grade and students are encouraged to participate in at least one team sport to learn collaboration and interdependence skills.
All athletic programs have a no-cut policy, with available sports including girls’ and boys’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, golf, tennis and cross-country, and girls swimming. Additional extracurricular activities and clubs include Model United Nations, Student Government and National Honor Society. Keith also consistently has students achieve summa cum laude status on the National Latin Examination.
Prospective families are invited to tour campus. Please email email@example.com to schedule a tour. On Feb. 11 from 1-3 p.m., students and parents are invited to visit campus for an open house.
Families are encouraged to visit to understand the school culture and the significance of the teacher-student relationship – a hallmark of the Keith educational experience.
Rockford Christian Schools
Elementary Campus: 220 Hemlock Lane; Jr/Sr High: 1401 Bell School Road, Rockford, (815) 399-3465, rockfordchristian.org
Rockford Christian Schools is a private, non-denominational Christian school dedicated to high standards and academic excellence and spiritual growth for students in Pre-K through 12th grade.
Rockford Christian is expanding its facilities and programming for the 2018-19 school year. The plans include an indoor fitness and recreation facility to support the health, fitness and social needs of students, a 16,000-square-foot center for the arts to further the school’s nationally recognized fine arts program with additional classroom space, an 11,000-square-foot theater for school and community events and a residence hall for on-campus housing for students.
It’s accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International, AdvancED, and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation, and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
State-certified faculty members have an average of 15 years of classroom experience, while 37 percent hold advanced degrees.
Rockford Christian students routinely score well above grade level: elementary students, two to three levels above; middle schoolers, three to five above; and high schoolers test at post-high school levels in most learning disciplines. The average Rockford Christian Honors ACT score is 28.3 – well above both state and national averages. Of its graduates, virtually 100 percent attend college.
Rockford Christian curriculum includes a college preparatory program, gifted enrichment and honors programs, 19 advanced placement courses, and many academic and extracurricular clubs and organizations.
Rockford Christian places a major emphasis on its college counseling program. “Beginning in middle school, we track our students’ academic progress, extra-curricular activities, community service and personality profile as part of a comprehensive college counseling program that will end in acceptance at the college or university of the students’ choice, as well as maximum scholarship offers,” says Randy Taylor, superintendent. “As a result of this focus on college preparedness, the 123 members of the class of 2017 received more than $9 million in scholarship offers.”
Students have access to cutting-edge tools, with a state-of-the-art Science and Technology Center; a distance learning auditorium; five computer labs and five science labs, including a special “dirty” lab for large-project construction and robotics; and integrated technology and SMART Boards in all classrooms.
The school also boasts two libraries, three art studios, a performance stage, three gymnasiums, a lighted football stadium and soccer field, an eight-lane all-weather track, a full-service weight training facility, and baseball and softball fields. Rockford Christian faculty and staff partner with students and their families in the educational process.
Rockford Christian teaches that biblical truths guide behavior and decision-making. Students take part in daily Bible classes, prayer time and weekly chapel, and they practice real-world applications of their spiritual lessons through community service projects, yearly mission trips and other service programs. Through Biblical integration in its Christ-centered academics and activities, Rockford Christian prepares students for responsibility to themselves, others and their community.
Rockford Lutheran School
3411 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, (815) 877-9551, rockfordlutheran.org
It’s hard to keep up with movements and trends in education. In the “olden days,” the three R’s dominated schools. Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic described the breadth of the curriculum. It was easy to question such a school day, knowing that the subjects were misspelled and had to be taught “to the tune of a hickory stick.”
In the careers of our educational leaders we have pushed cooperative learning, outcome-based education, block scheduling and many more fads that have attempted to boil down an approach to life into a poster for the faculty lounge.
The latest buzzword is STEM teaching; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are the bedrock of this movement. At Rockford Lutheran, we are committed to being leaders in college prep education and so we looked very hard at the STEM title. And we noticed at least two missing components.
Lutheran is committed to the Arts. We have award-winning music, drama and graphic arts programs. We believe that the best educational institutions feed the creative spirit of kids. We feed our kids with the nationally recognized hands-on learning program Project Lead The Way (PLTW). We are the only school system to implement this discipline in grades K -12. PLTW is S, T, E & M but that is not enough. We believe that performances in drama and music matter. So now we could be called a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) school.
But there is another value that Rockford Lutheran holds in our core values. Kids need to have a sense that each of us is a marvelous creation of a being greater than our imagination could ever conceive.
Religion seeks to understand the basic questions of our existence. People are stronger, more focused, more alive when they have a healthy relationship with what can’t be known. As a school committed to being Christ-Centered, we encourage students to view their lives and their calling through the eyes of a Child of God and this makes all the difference.
So now we could be called a Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math (STREAM) school.
This Rockford institution encourages students to stretch. Consider how each of these drives students to be excellent:
•Leveled reading for elementary students to facilitate growth by keeping kids focused on the next level.
•Three international language options that run through Level 6, Spanish exposure in elementary school.
•MAP testing drills down on the strengths and areas of concern for elementary students. MAP skills provide targeted instruction in the areas of concern.
•The 1 + 3 equals college degree program allowed our 2017 valedictorian to complete a full year of credit at Valparaiso University, valued at more than $50,000. This is only one of more than 30 schools where Lutheran has written guarantees of credit transfer.
•The Canvas Learning Management System connects school, student and home with a deeper set of online resources to support the course instruction.
•An online catalog, written by Lutheran Secondary teachers, creates a broader and more flexible high school curriculum.
The list of opportunities goes on. If you wish to learn more about Rockford Lutheran School with preschool through grade 12 programs, contact us today at rockfordlutheran.org or by calling (815) 877-9551. Dip into the STREAM.
Rockford Public Schools
Administration Bldg., 501 Seventh St., Rockford (815) 966-3000, rps205.com
Rockford Public Schools has partnered with Rockford University to recruit teachers and build a workforce from its own student body.
Ensuring the school district has outstanding teachers in every classroom is a key to success, but attracting and retaining talented teachers is a challenge.
This partnership is designed to attract RPS students to the teaching profession specifically to work in the school district.
The program begins in the middle school with seventh and eighth-graders discussing a teaching career. It continues in high school with an education pathway, then transitions into a college degree program through Rockford University.
“We’re fortunate to have a great partner in Rockford University that sees the value in our students,” Superintendent Ehren Jarrett says.
It’s an investment in the district’s workforce and a step toward creating a workforce that reflects the community’s diversity. From a student perspective, it makes a challenging profession like teaching look more appealing.
The hope is to continue the program through teacher certification and employment with the district. Graduates can then continue as RPS teachers in a graduate program through Rockford University.
RPS will work with seventh and eighth-graders to develop their interest in working in the education field. When those students get to high school, RPS will create a three-year teaching pathway for 80 to 100 students that complements the high school academy model and pathways.
Students can participate in one course each year in grades 10, 11 and 12. This pathway includes a dual-credit course their senior year.
Graduates of the Education Pathway program who meet admission criteria can enroll at Rockford University and receive a special financial aid package that allows for discounted tuition toward a four-year teaching degree, making it accessible to more RPS students. For students with high financial need, the cost would be $5,000 a year and students with no financial need would pay $10,000 a year. The goal is to have 20 RPS 205 graduates continue in this program at Rockford University each year. After completing the required coursework, participants would student-teach at an RPS school. When they complete their degree, these 20 alumni would be among the strongest candidates for teaching positions at RPS.
If hired by the district, program graduates could receive a master’s degree in urban education cost-free from Rockford University. They could enroll as early as the following spring. The program includes an agreement for teachers in the program to continue working for RPS for a specific amount of time, possibly as long as four years.
This partnership is a strong, long-term commitment from RPS 205 and Rockford University to students and the Rockford community.
Spectrum Progressive School
4848 Turner St., Rockford, (815) 877-1600, spectrumschool.org
This past year marks the 50th year of Spectrum Progressive School.
Although Spectrum’s name and location have changed numerous times over the years, the belief that learners need choice and authentic experiences remains at the core of what the school does. Its foundation of learner choice and self-reflection is shown through work time and project time at the younger levels and through genius hour and passion projects in the upper school. This process taps into students’ natural curiosity and involves inquiry, creating, innovating, evaluating and sharing. Spectrum Progressive allows students to be truly engaged and to take ownership of their learning. Each student is developing at their own pace based on their talents, challenges and interests.
Spectrum Progressive is focused on educating the whole child academically, socially and emotionally. When you walk into a Spectrum Progressive classroom you will see students hard at work, but also having fun. Students learn to collaborate in groups, solve problems, be part of a community and know themselves.
Spectrum Progressive School prepares students for the next generation of work – one that requires critical and creative thinking. Visit Spectrum’s new campus, surrounded by 10.5 beautiful acres of natural green space, today. Spectrum Progressive enrolls children 3-14 years of age. Call (815) 877-1600 for a tour or email Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.