Chicago Public Schools parent says not to base high-school selection on test scores

This week, Chicago Public Schools notified students if they were accepted to Selective-Enrollment high schools, schools whose admission is based on test scores.

Coveted seats at the city’s top high schools create moments of excitement and relief for those students who gain admission, disappointment and disquietude for those who get rejected.

In a Facebook post, Chicago Public Radio education report and mother of Chicago Public Schools students Linda Lutton responded as a parent to a parent who faces a difficult decision: to choose sending her child to an elite Selective-Enrollment high school or to choose a North side high school with an International Baccalaureate program.

Lutton shared her experience as a parent of two children in the Chicago Public Schools: one child chose an IB program at a Southwest side high school with lower ACT test scores, the other chose a seat at one of the city’s elite Selective-Enrollment high schools.

Lutton explains how schools with high test scores don’t always guarantee a better educational or college-prep experience.  This guest post is published with Linda Lutton’s permission.

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My kid faced the same choice, except for her, Jones was the easy commute. She visited each school during the school day, ended up picking Curie IB (she liked the vibe better). She took a train and a bus every day–start time 7:30 a.m.

I had other parents tell me I was committing some sort of abuse by letting her choose Curie (average ACT score: 17) over a selective school.

Her teachers at Curie and the IB program itself were absolutely outstanding. The college counseling was excellent. Her friend group was amazing–they were dedicated, smart, kind, community-oriented, striver immigrant kids that would make any parent proud.

She’s a freshman at Brown University this year, totally prepared for that work (straight As first semester). Her friends from Curie are at Harvard, Pitzer, Connecticut College, U of I Engineering, etc., etc.

My son, just a year behind her and a very similar kid in terms of dedication to school, with slightly higher standardized test scores than his sister, chose one of the elite Selective-Enrollment high schools for high school.

Generalizing, his teachers do not know him a fraction as well as Curie IB teachers know their students. The reading and writing he’s done (all AP and Honors) have been far less demanding and graded in less rigorous fashion (again, generalizing).

If my older daughter hadn’t gone through the college process first, we would be LOST right now.

All this to say–the better teaching and curriculum and college counseling is not necessarily at schools with higher test scores. That’s something I know as a reporter, and now have seen firsthand as a parent. I highly recommend you have your son (and you?) spend part of a school day at each place (we spent a couple hours).

And I recommend you completely disregard test score comparisons. They are measuring the average socio-economic status of children there and the accumulated opportunity those children have had in life up to now–nothing more.

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In her response, Lutton also shared this interview of another journalist on NPR’s Fresh Air who decided to send her child to a local neighborhood school where “students were almost all poor and black or Latino.”

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