CPS seeks changes to selective enrollment admissions that would give more seats to students from lower-income areas, as concerns raised that enrollment at gifted schools is disproportionately White and Asian
by BRIAN NADIG
Revisions to selective enrollment admissions policy at Chicago Public Schools could be in the works for the 2023-24 school year due to concerns that a disproportionate number of students at gifted schools are White and Asian and come from wealthier neighborhoods.
CPS has 28 selective enrollment elementary schools and 11 selective enrollment high schools, including Northside College Prep, Lane Tech High School and the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center at Taft High School. These schools rank among the top in the state, providing an accelerated learning experience for their students.
CPS outlined its concerns and possible changes in the following statement:
“Currently, 30 percent of seats at selective enrollment schools are allocated to those students with the highest grades and test scores, regardless of their ZIP code or income level. The remaining 70 percent of seats are then divided equally among the top-scoring students within four socioeconomic residential tiers.
“The tiers take into account factors such as median family income, the percentage of families that own homes, and the average level of education for adults in the community.
“Of the 30 percent of selective enrollment seats allocated regardless of ZIP code or income level, the vast majority – 85 percent of students in elementary schools and 73 percent of students – in high schools go to families in the top two socio-economic tiers.
“Additionally, our selective enrollment students do not reflect the demographics of our district — selective enrollment elementary and high school student populations are disproportionately White and Asian in a school district that is majority Latinx and African American.”
One of the two proposed revisions calls for dividing all seats among the four socioeconomic tiers, eliminating the 30 percent set aside for those applicants with the highest grades and test schools.
Under the other option, CPS would continue to reserve 30 percent of seats for the highest-scoring students regardless of their socioeconomic status but would adjust the distribution of the remaining 70 percent to allocate more seats to students from less-advantaged tiers.
CPS has developed an online community feedback page to inform families about this exploration. The website page includes background on the current policy, a brief poll about a potential change, and opportunity for open-ended feedback.
The information and poll are available at https://cpsengagement.com/selective-enrollment-policy.
The Chicago Board of Education would have to approve any change to the admissions policy.
Principals of selective enrollment schools are given discretion to select a small number of students. This process occurs outside of the regular selection process and reportedly is limited to no more than five percent of the incoming class.
In the past some administrators have complained that the principal discretion allows gifted schools to “steal” some of the better students, including athletes, that had decided to enroll at their neighborhood high school.
Any revision would not affect the the international baccalaureate diploma programs at many neighborhood high schools, including Taft and Steinmetz. These magnet-level programs provide students with the opportunity to earn college course credit while in high school.