Starting this Friday, parents can start battling to win their children a
spot in one of Chicago’s top magnet or selective enrollment schools. But the exact criteria on which applications will be judged are not clear.
Starting this Friday, parents can start battling to win their children a spot in one of Chicago’s top magnet or selective enrollment schools.
But the exact criteria on which applications will be judged are not clear. Sometime soon, perhaps as early as next week, CPS will release the report by the Blue Ribbon Committee on magnet and selective enrollment schools admissions and policy recommendations based on it. CPS officials hope that those recommendations will be approved by the Board of Education at their October meeting.
The district’s existing policy was meant to be temporary and was instituted after a federal judge freed Chicago from its longstanding desegregation consent decree, which had dictated that magnet and selective admissions include race as a factor. The existing policy, meant to continue fostering diversity, takes a family’s socio-economic status into consideration. A family’s socio-economic status is determined by their address.
CEO Ron Huberman appointed the Blue Ribbon Committee to get feedback on the policy from parents and other community members. The committee included City Clerk Miguel del Valle (now a candidate for mayor), Bertha Magana from Latino Education Alliance and Cynthia Flowers from the Black Star Project.
At one of the hearings held at Whitney Young in August, a lot of the discussion was focused on whether magnet school principals should continue to have some discretion over who is admitted. This principal discretion was taken away after the CPS inspector general revealed that he was investigating a principal for misusing their authority. (The inspector general’s findings have not yet been released).
Some parents were worried about transportation to and from the magnet and selective enrollment schools, which have no attendance boundaries and draw students from across the city.
Others wanted to engage the committee in the fundamental discussion of whether using socio-economics as a proxy for race was valid. CPS officials have said they think they would be open to a lawsuit if they continued to use race as a criteria. But others disagree.
Under last year’s process, the number of black students admitted to the city’s selective enrollment high schools dropped.
The Options for Knowledge guide, which offers descriptions of each specialty school, will be available Friday and applications will be accepted.
CPS has implemented some important procedural changes.
Online applications are being accepted for selective enrollment elementary and high schools, as well as for career and technical education programs and for military schools. (CPS is now referring to classical and gifted elementary schools as selective enrollment elementary schools.) To sign up for a PIN number in order to complete online applications, go to: https://apply.cps.edu/default.aspx
Parents cannot yet apply online to magnet schools. However, the magnet school application process will be centralized. In the past, parents had to fill out an application to each magnet school and mail or deliver it to the school. This year, they can fill out one application and list up to 20 magnet schools they would like their child to be considered for.
The district will continue to hold lotteries for each magnet school so that students can potentially be accepted to more than one, as they have in the past, says Katie Ellis, who is managing the admissions policy process for CPS.
Ellis says there is some concern that, because of the ease, parents will apply to more schools, including those they hardly know anything about and are not truly interested in. “We are hoping they are realistic about their selection,” she says.