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.
UPDATE: I AM STILL WAITING FOR CPS TO ANSWER MY 10 QUESTIONS REGARDING THE SELECTIVE ENROLLMENT HIGH SCHOOL PROCESS. THEY HAVE INFORMED ME THAT THEY HAVE BEEN REALLY BUSY, BUT ARE WORKING ON GETTING THE ANSWERS TO MY QUESTIONS.
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Tags: Brooks College Prep, CPS, CPS Selective Enrollment Process, High Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, Jones College Prep, King College Prep, Lane Tech High School, Lindblom, Northside College Prep, Principal's Discretion, Selective Enrollment Admissions Test, Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools, Selective Enrollment High Schools, Walter Payton College Prep, Westinghouse College Prep, Whitney Young Magnet High School