New process okayed for selective school choice

The Chicago Public Schools has announced a more uniform process for students who apply to selective enrollment schools for the 2015-16 school year.

The school system is adopting the Northwestern Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress as the uniform assessment for all students when applying to a selective enrollment school, academic center or gifted school after changes were made in the state testing system.

Free tests will be offered in September and October at various locations around the city for students who do not currently attend a public school. Current students will take the Northwestern test at their schools this spring.

"Assessments are an important tool for measuring a student’s academic growth and success and have always been a factor for admission to our selective enrollment programs," Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. "After hearing feedback from parents, students, teachers, principals and community members, we’ve made a decision to require scores from a uniform assessment in order to streamline the evaluation process and make sure that students across the city are afforded equal opportunities to these competitive schools."

The Northwestern test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and it provides a more accurate measure of a student’s strength and areas of growth than other standardized tests, according to the school system. Students in second through eighth grade will take the test at their schools between April 28 and May 23.

The scores of students who take the test will be applied to their selective enrollment admissions for the 2015-16 school year, except in cases where a parent or guardian requests that their child retake the test in the fall because of adverse circumstances. Scores in the fall would replace a student’s score in the spring, regardless of which one score was higher.

Non-city school students seeking to enroll in a selective enrollment school or program will be required to take the test between Sept. 6 and Oct. 11 on Saturdays at locations to be announced by May 1. Students will complete the separate reading and mathematics portions of the test over two Saturdays in the fall.

The test scores will be added to the selective enrollment high school admissions process. Students must score at or above the 24th percentile to qualify to take the enrollment exam for selective enrollment high schools.

The percentile values from the test will be included in the 900-point rubric used for admissions decisions for eighth graders applying to selective high schools. The test will be worth up to 300 points, with grades and the selective enrollment exam each worth up to 300 points.

Under the former application process, non-city school students were eligible to apply to selective enrollment programs with scores from other nationally normed assessments that were deemed comparable to the Illinois Standard Achievement Test. Changes to the ISAT impelled the school system to adopt the new test.

The district’s selective enrollment elementary schools serve about 7,000 academically advanced students in regional gifted centers, classical schools, academic centers and international gifted programs. There are 10 selective enrollment high schools, and with expansions under way at both Jones Prep High School and Payton Prep High School, the school district will offer 3,500 ninth grade seats to students by 2016.

Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are committed to increasing the number of selective enrollment high school seats. Last year 18,000 students applied for 3,000 freshman selective enrollment seats.

Information on selective enrollment program offerings and additional information about the process for the fall testing is available on the Office of Access and Enrollment’s Web site at