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CPS Will Require All Eighth Graders Apply For High School

The Chicago Board of Education is expected Wednesday to approve dramatic changes to the high school admissions process that will, for the first time, require all students to fill out an application.

Now, many students just show up at their neighborhood high school without applying while others apply to a long list of schools. Requiring all students to apply will make for a more fair and equitable process, argues Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson. 

“There were parents who could navigate this process and there were people who locked out,” Jackson said. “We will be able to better manage that process and I believe we are going to see students go to schools of choice and getting a better education as a result.” 

Studies show that when students choose their high school, even if it is just their neighborhood school, they do better, Jackson said. 

The new system aims to simplify a process that can be more complicated and cumbersome than applying for college. Instead of multiple applications for each type of school -- one for selective enrollment schools, one of military schools, one for career and technical education, for example -- CPS will offer only two applications. One will be for test-based selective enrollment schools, another for all other types of schools.

Key changes include:

  • For the first time, every eighth grader must fill out the application that doesn’t include CPS’ selective enrollment schools. Students also can fill out a second one to vie for a seat in one of the city’s 11 selective schools. 
  • After students rank their choices, they will get an offer from the highest-ranked high school for which they qualify. If they also submitted an application for a selective school, they may get a second offer from one of those test-based schools.
  • If a student doesn’t get any offers they are still guaranteed a seat at their neighborhood high school. This decision helps CPS keep neighborhood schools a core part of CPS’ offerings, Jackson said. Staff at some neighborhood schools struggling with low enrollment worry this system could further erode their student population base. 
  • Not all charter schools, which are publicly-funded but privately run schools, have agreed to take part in the new process. So some will maintain their own application process at least initially, Jackson said. She would would not say whether the district’s largest chain, the Noble Network of Charter Schools with 17 schools and 12,000 students, has signed on. 

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation.

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