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One in five applicants to selective CPS high schools got a top three choice

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Just about one-in-five eighth-graders applying to a competitive selective-enrollment high school in Chicago got into one of their top three choices, the district’s CEO said Friday, hours before the vast majority of students learned their high school fate.

In the first year of a new application process, 23 percent of students participating in the online GoCPS were matched to their first, second or third choice of Chicago Public Schools’ choice test-in high schools, CEO Janice Jackson said Friday morning in advance of the reveal. Though the application process changed to the new online GoCPS, the selective-acceptance rates remained similar to last year’s, Jackson said.

Just 14 percent of the 16,500 applicants to the city’s most competitive schools got their first choice matched of the 3,407 available spots, and 23 percent got one of their top three selective choices.

CPS couldn’t immediately say how many of the offers went to eighth-graders attending private schools or to suburban kids, who are allowed to apply as long as they move into Chicago by the time ninth grade begins.

The new application process, long requested by parents, was launched to simplify the complicated high school process for all families, giving them one place to apply and one deadline for all schools, whether run by the district or by privately-managed charter operators.

Jackson said she wanted to give all families a fair shot at the best schools their kids qualify for — not just the ones who know how to work the system. The selective schools overall tend to be whiter and wealthier, on average, than the overall CPS student population. The website also informs students which programs they qualify for, including many who may not have realized they could compete for a selective enrollment spot.

“We will be comparing what the freshman class looks like compared to the freshman class of the past,” she said. “And you know the goal is to see more positive trends, right? We want to see more students going to higher tier schools. We want to see more diversity in our schools and we want parents and families to be more satisfied with their choices.”

About 36 percent of families applied only to CPS schools. Another 5 percent chose only privately-managed charters, with the remaining majority trying for entry to both kinds of high schools. Students could choose up to 20 schools, but for the first time, they had to rank their preferences.

About 93 percent of students participated overall, and of the 7 percent that didn’t use GoCPS at all, many were already zoned to a good neighborhood school or in academic centers for seventh- and eighth-graders inside high schools that guarantee them a spot for 9th grade, Jackson said. Some 92 percent of all applicants received a match, and of that 8 percent of kids who didn’t, most didn’t apply to a lot of programs, Jackson said — about 2.5 programs, compared to more than eight on average for the kids who did match.

Among non-selective programs, about 8 of 10 students were matched to one of their three top choices, according to CPS.

Families received emails around 3 p.m. on the last day of spring break pointing them to their results. There was one offer for schools or programs without selective admissions — and another for those that require high test scores and grades. For the first time, they’ll also be able to see exactly where their child sits on a waitlist.

Elementary school admission offers are still to come.

CPS won’t release school-by-school data on how many students applied to which schools until the entire process has ended, Jackson said. Round two for students who don’t like their current offer begins next month.

Students who receive no match will ultimately be assigned to their neighborhood high school. What’s less clear is the fate of any schools that received a low number of applications, especially as CPS’ enrollment overall continues to decline and a school closing moratorium is about to run out. According to Jackson, every school received some applications.