Posted February 18, 2008–To get an early handle on next year’s 9th-grade enrollment, CPS is changing the timeline for applying to and getting accepted into high schools.

The district is also eliminating the practice of wait-listing students who do not make it past the first cut of admissions for selective or magnet programs. In the past, students on wait lists filled seats that were not taken by those selected in the first tier.

Instead, this year students will automatically be assigned to a high school based on where they live, if they are not admitted to and registered for selective or magnet programs by a certain date.

The changes are an attempt to circumvent last-minute changes and the lack of accountability that lead to a surge of freshmen registering late.

“The idea is that somebody is responsible for everyone,” says Greg Darneider, who is heading up this effort and is director of postsecondary education.

Until this year, parent had the sole responsibility for getting 8th graders enrolled into high school. Individual elementary schools and the district host high school fairs and help 8th graders fill out applications to specialty high school programs, but students were not required to decide on a high school before graduation.

As always, this year’s 8th graders had to apply to selective or magnet high schools by late December. But schools were required to respond earlier—letters go out Feb. 22 for selective schools; March 21 for magnets. No one will be placed on a wait list.

Wait lists led families to put off making decisions about whether to sign up at their neighborhood high school, says Darneider. Their hope was to eventually win a seat in the school of their choice, he explains.

This year, 8th-grade parents and students have until April 25 to inform elementary schools that they are opting out of their neighborhood high school. Otherwise, neighborhood high schools will register and schedule courses for them for the coming year.

“By April 26, most students should have a projected high school,” Darneider says.

District officials are also urging charter high schools to complete admissions—in most cases, by random lottery—”sooner, rather than later.” Darneider says next year, the district will set firmer application and student selection dates for charter high schools.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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