Public schools look to change admissions policy

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Chicago Public Schools officials said by instituting changes to its current admissions policy at its top elementary and high schools, it will further diversify those schools.

Chicago Public Schools officials said by instituting changes to its current admissions policy at its top elementary and high schools, it will further diversify those schools.

According to CPS data, 45 percent of CPS students are Black, followed by Latinos at 41 percent and whites at 9 percent. CPS is the third largest school district in the country with 417,855 students. And 85 percent of CPS students come from low-income families, which will now be used to determine admission at selective enrollment and magnet schools.

“Diverse learning communities benefit all students by better preparing them to live in a diverse society and to compete in a global economy,” said Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “We are committed to a fair process for all families who seek admission to our selective enrollment and magnet programs, and we believe that economic diversity in our schools will promote equitable educational outcomes for applicants in all communities of our city.”

The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its Dec. 16 meeting.

Six public meetings will take place this month to better inform parents about the proposed changes, said Monique Bond, director of communications for CPS. If approved the changes would take effect Jan. 1 and would undergo a one-year review.

There are nine selective enrollment and five magnet high schools and 36 magnet elementary schools that are currently exempted from the residency requirement neighborhood schools must adhere to, according to CPS.

But for neighborhood schools, if a student lives in the district, regardless of grades, the school must admit them.

“We are committed to a fair process for all families who seek admission to our selective enrollment and magnet programs, and we believe that economic diversity in our schools will promote equitable educational outcomes for applicants in all communities of our city.” —Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools

“We believe that this policy change gives us the tools necessary to structure an appropriate student mix in CPS selective enrollment and magnet schools,” Huberman added.

One new admissions criteria would be if a sibling already attends the school then his brother or sister is guaranteed admission regardless of grades, Bond explained.

“Parents have long complained about having to send their kids to two separate schools simply because one kid had higher test scores,” she said. “By allowing siblings automatic entry it further ensures diversity at these schools.”

The standard admission practice for magnet schools is through a randomized lottery and for selective enrollment high schools it is based on merit.

However, students who attend middle school at high schools that have them, such as Whitney Young on the West Side and Morgan Park on the South Side, are usually automatically admitted into that high school.

The demand for more selective enrollment high schools in Chicago is high based on the fact that the number of applications to those schools continues to rise, CPS officials indicate.

According to CPS records the Defender obtained through a Freedom of Information Request, 59,613 admission applications were filed at the nine selective enrollment high schools. Since 2006 Whitney Young has received the most applications.

Last school year alone Whitney Young received 11,979 applications. But only 9,764 students were actually tested and 757 were granted admission. Lane Tech received 11,039 applications last school year and accepted 2,520, while Jones College Prep received 7,841 and accepted 245, according to the records.

Under the restructured admissions plan, principals would still be allowed to hand pick up to 5 percent of the students but “tighter control on principal’s discretionary picks would be closely monitored,” Bond said.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit school districts to classify and assign students on the basis of race or national origin.

However, since 1980, CPS had been operating under a consent decree, which mandated that a race-based system be used for admission. The goal of the consent decree was to create desegregated schools, defined as 15 to 35 percent white and 65 to 85 percent minority.

But on Sept. 24, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras vacated the decree. The court concluded that CPS had eliminated the last vestiges of past discrimination.

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