CPS re­leases new rules for com­pet­i­tive se­lec­tive en­roll­ment ap­pli­ca­tion process

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA, ED­U­CA­TION RE­PORTER nissa@suntimes.com | @NaderDIssa

The com­pet­i­tive and of­ten stress­ful process of ap­ply­ing to one of Chicago’s 11 pres­ti­gious se­lec­tive en­roll­ment pub­lic high schools is chang­ing this year amid the pan­demic, and could put some stu­dents in a tough po­si­tion with­out an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove on old test scores.

Chicago Pub­lic Schools of­fi­cials re­leased the new, highly an­tic­i­pated ad­mis­sions cri­te­ria this week as stu­dents gear up for fall classes.

In a typ­i­cal year, ad­mis­sions con­sid­er­a­tions for eighth graders ap­ply­ing to a se­lec­tive high school in­clude, among other fac­tors, aca­demic grades; their score on the North­west Eval­u­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, or NWEA, test in the spring of seventh grade; and an en­trance exam. A stu­dent has to score at least in the 24th per­centile on the NWEA to be el­i­gi­ble to even ap­ply to a se­lec­tive high school.

The big­gest change this year comes in the con­sid­er­a­tion of test re­sults. With COVID-19 clo­sures hav­ing can­celed the spring ad­min­is­tra­tion of the NWEA test, some eighth graders this year will have to rely on old NWEA scores.

CPS said this time around it will con­sider stu­dents’ high­est scores from last win­ter, fall or spring 2019, in de­ter­min­ing their el­i­gi­bil­ity for ap­ply­ing. The district said stu­dents who don’t have a valid NWEA score from those three win­dows or haven’t taken the NWEA with CPS can have an­other shot in Oc­to­ber.

Af­ter that point, scores from those three win­dows and the up­com­ing win­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion of the NWEA will be con­sid­ered for se­lec­tion to a school.

The same cri­te­ria will be put in place for stu­dents ap­ply­ing to fifth through eighth grade se­lec­tive en­roll­ment el­e­men­tary schools or aca­demic cen­ters.

A mother re­act­ing to those changes in a dis­cus­sion on the par­ent ad­vo­cacy group Raise Your Hand’s Face­book page said they could leave some stu­dents in the lurch since they hadn’t known their pre­vi­ous scores would be counted and might not have given their full ef­fort.

“Re­view­ing past ma­te­ri­als alone will help a kid do bet­ter on this test be­cause it is a test of what you have learned,” that mother wrote. “And know­ing that a spe­cific test is crit­i­cal can re­ally help some kids fo­cus.”

An­other change CPS said will en­sure fair­ness in this year’s process is that the district will use the high­est scores between a stu­dent’s fi­nal grades for the past school year or the av­er­age of their first- and sec­ond-quar­ter grades. This could pre­vent the ex­clu­sion of stu­dents who weren’t able to ac­cess on­line re­mote learn­ing in the spring and may have re­ceived a “pass” grade in­stead of a let­ter grade, CPS said.

The se­lec­tive en­roll­ment en­trance exam will pro­ceed as sched­uled this win­ter, with dates to be an­nounced. And pre­vi­ous years’ at­ten­dance will not be used as an ad­mis­sions cri­te­ria this year be­cause it was not tracked last spring dur­ing re­mote learn­ing.

Changes were also made to other pro­cesses, such as fine and per­form­ing arts pro­grams, for which au­di­tions will be con­ducted re­motely.

Stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties will also now be able to ap­ply to high school clus­ter pro­grams through GoCPS, the on­line pro­gram the district has been us­ing the past two years to cen­tral­ize and stream­line ap­pli­ca­tions to most CPS pro­grams and se­lec­tive en­roll­ment schools. In­for­ma­tion will be up­dated at

go.cps.edu on Sept. 14, and ap­pli­ca­tions will open Oct. 12 with the dead­line for ap­pli­ca­tion Dec. 11.

SCOTT OL­SON/GETTY IM­AGES FILE PHOTO

Lane Tech Col­lege Prep is among Chicago Pub­lic Schools’ 11 se­lec­tive en­roll­ment high schools.

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