Chicago, IL

Chicago Public Schools Alter High School Admission Test, Halt Selective School Diversification Plan

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Streamlined testing, a pause on diverse schooling

The GoCPS application for next year opened this week starting the annual race for K-9 students looking to get into the city’s test-in elementary and high schools. However, for high school students who don't want to go to their neighborhood school, the admissions process has changed this year in several ways. The admissions exam has been shortened, there is better language accessibility and there is a later school ranking deadline.

They have also postponed the plan aimed at diversifying selective schools. These decisions have significant implications for both students and the city's education landscape.

The first part of the decision involves a modification to the high school admissions test. CPS has shortened the test from two and a half hours to one hour, a move intended to reduce the testing burden on students. It will include two sections of thirty minutes each accessing math and reading ability.

According to a CPS spokesperon, “The reduced test length allows CPS to get the information needed on student performance for the admissions process while helping reduce anxiety for students and increasing accessibility.”

Previously, students had to rank schools before they got their scores for the admissions test, putting some at a disadvantage when picking schools they didn't have high enough scores to qualify for. This year, students will be able to rerank their schools after receiving test scores in Novemeber, up until November 22nd.

For the first time, the high school admissions test will be offered in six languages, to increase language accessibility for students. In addition to English, the test will be given in Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Polish and Urdu.

These changes aim to level the playing field for students from all backgrounds, They will also help to ensure a fair evaluation of all students' academic capabilities.

Simultaneously, CPS has put on hold a plan that was designed to diversify selective schools. Normally, 70 percent of students admitted into selective and magnet schools were based on four tiers defined by socioeconomic factors. Kids within each group compete with each other for the alloted seats. The last 30 percent have been guaranteed to those who rank highest on test schores and grades. These were primarily upper-income kids.

In March of last year, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez pledged to do away with the guaranteed 30 percent to increase diversity in the school system. However, the district has announced it will keep the seat allocation the way it has been for the last decade.

Martinez said, “The strength and diversity of our educational programs allows students to earn college credits, take International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses, become bilingual and biliterate, and explore STEM, CTE, and Service Leadership programs all while still in a CPS classroom.”

This plan, which was met with mixed reactions from the community, sought to change the admissions process for these schools to increase diversity among their student bodies. Martinez added that the pause will allow for further evaluation and potential adjustments to his proposal.

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