Hey Jean-Claude Brizard (CPS CEO), I am the parent of a SEHS applicant!

For those of you who may have been in a coma for the last two weeks, or don't have school aged children, thousands of CPS eighth graders received letters offering them a seat at a selective enrollment high school or a rejection letter.  There are nine selective enrollment high schools.  (Whitney Young, Jones, Payton, Northside, Lindblom, Westinghouse, Brooks, Lane and King) There were approximately 14,000 applications for 3,000 seats.  This process is so intense that applying to college will be easy for these students.

Their journey begins in 7th grade.  Yes that's what I said, 7th grade!!!  The grades that you earn in the four core subjects and your ISAT scores in 7th grade are used as part of your score to gain admission into a selective enrollment high school (SEHS).  Admission is based on 900 points.  A student can earn 300 points for grades, 300 points for ISAT scores and 300 points for the entrance exam.  Students must plan for this journey by working hard and getting the best grades and test scores a year before they will be used.  At this point you can calculate how many points you have out of a possible 600 points.

What happens if your grades or test scores are not what you would like them to be?  I know a child who came out of school crying in 7th grade because she did not score in the 99th percentiles on her ISATs.  You and your child are stressed from June until February because these grades and scores have altered your chances of gaining a seat at a SEHS.  Parents can pay for tutors or pay $395 for a test prep class if they can afford these luxuries for their child.  There are still no guarantees.  If your child does not have 600 points before taking the entrance exam, there is reason to be worried!

The actual score that you need to gain access to one of the coveted seats, depends on where you live.  CPS uses census data to group the city into four tiers based on census tracks.  Tier 1 represents the poorest neighborhoods and tier 4 represents the richest neighborhoods.  This tier system was developed to promote socioeconomic diversity.

If you live in tier 1, you can gain access to a SEHS with a lower score than someone who lives in tier2, tier 3 or tier4.  This system created even more stress for students and parents this year because the census data was not updated until after the applications were due.  When the census data was updated, some people changed tiers.  CPS gives parents access to the SEHS test data from last year so that you can see the highest and lowest scores for each SEHS by tier.  If you live in a tier 3, you looked at the scores for that tier and you could estimate what your child's score needed to be on the exam.  If you moved from a tier 3 to a tier 4, its possible that your child did not have a chance to get into a particular school based on the points needed on the entrance exam.

You submit your application in the fall and wait for a test date in the mail.  On your application you must rank your school choices in order of preference.  Testing typically begins in December and finishes in January.  You've taken your test and now you wait and wait for a letter to arrive in the mail.  It arrives on February 28th a week later than expected.  The competition is fierce!  The scores are high! View the scores.

Many parents like myself have many questions and opinions about this process.  I would almost compare this to cruel and unusual punishment.  I have tried to explain this process in as few words as possible but it can be confusing.  CPS has to do a better job improving the high schools in Chicago.  The blogs have been flooded with stories from families that are heart-broken.  Some I sympathize with and some I don't.  If your child has attended private school for the first 9 years of school, I have no sympathy if your child did not get into a SEHS.  There were 14,000 students trying to gain admission into 9 schools!  There are too many sad and disappointing stories.  I can't believe, I just typed that.  I'm supposed to be the hard ass.

If your child received a rejection letter, they can apply for a Principal"s Discretion seat at a SEHS.  Each of the 9 Principals can choose 5% of their incoming freshmen class through a centralized process.  You must apply between March 9 and March 23rd.  Be forewarned, your child may need to walk on water to get one of these seats!

This process has been a nightmare.  The tier system needs to be tweaked and the process needs to be streamlined because it takes too long.  People are contemplating renting apartments in tier 1 so that their child can have a greater chance at gaining admission into a SEHS.  Suburban students are being offered seats at SEHSs!  It's scary that people are literally willing to move heaven and earth to gain admission into these schools.  Mr. Brizard, please listen to a parent of a SEHS applicant, this process needs some work so that no one has an unfair advantage.  These students should be enjoying life and having fun, not stressing out about whether or not they are going to get a good high school education.

There is a similar process to gain admission into selective enrollment elementary schools, which includes testing children as young as four years old!  Those acceptance and rejection letters are due to be mailed at the end of March.  I will update you with that craziness when it happens.

I am the parent of a SEHS applicant.  Will I be the parent of a SEHS student in the fall?

Tune in next week when I hope to publish questions I asked the Executive Director of Assess and Enrollment, Katie Ellis (Guru of SEHS @ CPS) with her answers.  Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to comment.

poll by twiigs.com




Leave a comment
  • good post -- but it's not all that much easier for tier 1 and 2 families as it may seem

    "Tier" System Favors Private Schoolers | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS http://ow.ly/9yKWJ

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    You are right and now realize that I gave that impression. I am personally so upset with the number of private school applicants that get into these schools. CPS should give some sort of preference to current CPS students over private school students. CPS currently gives extra points to students who live within the boundaries of schools that offer IB programs. Parents invest their time and money into CPS for years and the private school students just come right in and take a seat.

  • In reply to Tracy A. Stanciel:

    About those private school students, let's just say they put their money into the kitty for public education in the form of taxes, usually property taxes.

    The CPS SEHS probably is used as an indirect way of keeping some of the affluent within the city borders. There are some that flee to send their kids to the burbs for schooling. My daughter is SEHS attendee, she does admit their are some really good private HS that send a lot of kids to Payton College Prep.

  • In reply to peachykeen:

    Peachykeen, I pay taxes AND I have put thousands of dollars into my children's school to make it a great school which helps CPS. If CPS has no regard for my tax dollars when they hand out extra points to students living near an IB school they have the power to disregard the tax dollars of the private school parents who did not support the system until they got tired of paying tuition.

  • The parental stress is understandable.

    It may be a nightmare, but it may also be fair. Supply and demand. Balance between privileged and low income students. It has to be a compromise that no one likes.

    Private school parents pay school taxes too.

    I wonder how many of the 14,000 applicants are really ready for a full honors curriculum? Linblom ACT average is only about 20. (I do hear it's a good and well run school). There is a shortage of good high schools. There may not be a shortage of good select high schools.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn I believe that the majority of the applicants are not ready to handle the curriculum at these schools. I think that CPS should re-evaluate some of these SEHSs because some of them are coming up short. My 8th grader got a 20 on the ACT when she took it in 7th grade.

  • Tracy this is such an important topic. Part of the problem is that there are not many decent "regular" high schools, so if you don't want to go to a really terrible, frightening school, you have to apply for one of these selective schools which are in fact more "selective" than the ivy leagues. All due respect Donn but it is not a fair process, nor is it a matter of supply and demand. There are not enough good high schools for those 14,000 children. There are a few that may be too hard for most of them, and then there is pretty much nothing. CPS needs to rethink not the process (which admittedly is awful) but the product.

  • In reply to Julie:

    Julie you are right. There are eight good schools and then the rest are awful. There is no in between. Alcott is a good option but it is so small. It's like literally winning the lottery because Alcott students get the first seats out of the 85 seats. If you don't want to play the stressful selective enrollment game, transfer your kid to Alcott.

  • I'm currently a private school student, and most of the kids in my grade either got into Payton or Whitney. My scores got me into Lane. Believe it or not, we actually WORK HARD to get into these schools. We don't pay our way to get in, we get in off of our own merit. No one can take that away from us. Also, all of the tiers changed, making it so much more competitive to get in this year. Therefore, not everyone in my grade who applied got into a SEHS. Private school kids like me have as much of a right to attend these schools as public school kids do. Don't make ridiculous statements like that without having all the information. As to your statement saying "Parents invest their time and money into CPS for years and the private school students just come right in and take a seat," most of us live in Tier 4, which actually pays the most taxes. Where does a certain amount of my parents' tax dollars go to? CPS! So, we actually support CPS. But, I do agree with you that no one should have any more of a right than someone else to attend these schools. It should just be based off of scores. But don't blame the private school kids, we work just as hard to attend these schools.

Leave a comment