Located in a low-income community in Chicago, Harper High School graduates just 40 percent of its 1,500 students. Meanwhile, about 35 miles away in suburban Naperville, Illinois, Neuqua Valley High School—a $65 million facility—graduates 99 percent of its students.
In an experiment Oprah says was inspired by Rev. Jesse Jackson, students from these two Chicago-area high schools switched classrooms.
When the Harper students arrived at Neuqua Valley, they were stunned to see what the suburban school offered—an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gym and fitness center, an award-winning music department, a huge computer lab, and a rigorous course curriculum.
The difference between the two schools can also be seen in their scores on state exams. At Neuqua Valley, 78 percent of students meet Illinois' reading standards, 76 percent meet the science standards, and 77 percent meet the math standards. At Harper, 16 percent meet the reading standards, 1.5 percent meet the science standards and just .5 percent meet the math standards.