Chicago eighth graders will learn on Friday if they’ve gotten a seat at one of the city’s elite selective enrollment public high schools.
If last year’s results are any indication, not a single student from one third of Chicago’s elementary schools will likely get a spot at one of the five most competitive test-in schools. The vast majority of these elementary schools serve a majority black and low-income student population.
Meanwhile at 29 different schools, more than a quarter of all eighth graders got into one of these top five schools last year. The schools generally serve more affluent students and have a higher than average percentage of white and Asian students.
Chicago Public Schools has 11 selective enrollment test-in schools, with the top five among the best in the state and even the country. Those schools are Jones, Lane, Northside, Payton, and Whitney Young.
Adding to the competition, students from private and suburban schools snagged about 15 percent of the 3,446 acceptances at the 11 test-in schools last year. At Payton, the city’s highest performing school, one-third of the students came from private or suburban schools — the most of any of the selectives.
CPS has a system in place designed to help keep its selective enrollment schools racially and economically diverse, but the number of black students at the top schools has been dropping ever since a federal judge ruled in 2009 that race should no longer be used in admission.
The selective schools choose students based on grades and standardized test performance. Research shows that standardized test results are closely tied to socioeconomic status.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said she is concerned about any process that results in an underrepresentation of poor children or children of color.
But she stressed that a lot of high schools earn top ratings by CPS beyond the top test-in schools. She said she wishes families would stop stressing about getting into these select schools.
“There are more than just five good high schools in Chicago,” Jackson said. “So in my opinion, we are still just harkening back to these old days where CPS had a handful of good high schools, and that is no longer the case.”
WBEZ compiled a database of CPS’ 450 elementary schools that include eighth grade and what percentage of students at each school were accepted at one of the city’s 11 test-in schools. This includes overall acceptances, as well as a breakdown of students admitted to one of three types of selective schools: most competitive — which covers the top five — mid-level competitive, and less competitive. These categories reflect how well students must perform to earn a seat.