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CPS Officials Defend Diversity Of Selective-Enrollment High Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Aldermen grilled Chicago Public Schools officials on Tuesday about declining minority enrollment at some of the most renowned selective-enrollment schools in the city.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports aldermen like Pat Dowell (3rd) worry that, since a desegregation order was lifted for CPS five years ago, the top high schools in Chicago have re-segregated.

"When you look at those 10 high schools, it appears that four of them – basically Jones, Northside, Payton, and Young – do not have a high number of African-American students," Dowell said.


Race used to be a factor in choosing students for the city's 10 selective enrollment high schools. Now that it has stopped, Ald. Will Burns (4th) said the top four schools – William Jones College Prep, Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, and Whitney Young Magnet High School – don't have enough minority students.

"We believe that it's vitally important that selective-enrollment schools reflect the diversity of this great city," Burns said.

CPS Chief Accountability Officer John Barker suggested the aldermen were looking at enrollment numbers the wrong way.

"We have 10 selective enrollment schools, as Alderman Dowell pointed out, and they are all intertwined. When we look at the selective enrollment opportunities, we don't simply just look at these four schools," he said.

Barker said CPS is open to revising its enrollment policy; but said Jones, Northside, Payton, and Young are not the only options for the city's top students. He stressed the other six selective-enrollment high schools – Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, Martin Luther King College Prep, Lane Tech High School, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, South Shore International College Prep, and George Westinghouse College Prep – are equally valid choices.

"We are adamant that we must look beyond these four schools that keep getting mentioned, and – especially in the resolution – instead look at the more holistic picture of all of our 10 selective schools," Barker said.

Katie Ellis, executive director of CPS' Office of Access & Enrollment, acknowledged minority enrollment is not high at all 10 selective-enrollment high schools, but said "we've seen a significant surge in Hispanic representation, which really coincides with CPS demographics."

Ellis said the district's tier system for getting into selective-enrollment high schools – which places students in one of five socio-economic "tiers" – has worked to preserve diversity, although some schools have seen greater shifts than others. Under the tier system, students in lower income tiers have a better chance of getting into a selective-enrollment school than students in higher-income neighborhoods, even when their grades are the same.

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