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About 1 in 6 Chicago students win spots at preferred test-in high school

Tens of thousands of students learned which CPS school they were accepted into Friday.

Lane Tech College Prep High School
About 26,000 students applied to a Chicago high school this year, including Lane Tech College Prep High School.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

More than half of eighth graders applying to a selective enrollment high school, a specialty program or a charter school received an offer from their first choice for next school year, Chicago Public Schools officials said Friday.

But acceptance rates for the city’s 11 highly competitive selective high schools remained flat compared to last year, with only 15.6% of students offered a seat at their top choice and about a quarter of students receiving an offer from one of their top three choices. More than 15,300 students applied for 4,211 seats.

CPS changed the application process in 2018 when it introduced its online GoCPS program, which has offered families a long-sought streamlined process for applying to district-run or privately managed charter schools using one form.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said “nearly all CPS families are using GoCPS to find their ideal high school, and the district is pleased to see that the vast majority of students continue to receive their top school choices.”

Students, who learned their high school fate Friday evening, are accepted to the selective schools based on their elementary school grades, standardized test scores and an admissions test. Thirty percent of applicants are admitted based on entrance exams alone, while the other 70% are distributed equally among students from four socioeconomic tiers.

About 26,000 students applied using GoCPS this year, and they’ll have two weeks to decide which offer to accept. The average eighth grader applying to high school this year applied to seven schools. Along with the selective and charter schools, students had the option of applying to International Baccalaureate, arts and technical programs. They also always have the choice of attending their neighborhood school.

More than a third of the applications this year only tried for CPS-run schools, while less than 5% only applied to charters, which operate on a lottery system if there are too many applicants. Three quarters of applicants listed a district school as their first choice. More than half applied to both district and charter schools.

Lane Tech-bound

MaryAnn Merikoski, a mother of two teenage boys, was pleased to find out that her younger son, an eighth grader at Bell Elementary, would join his older brother at his first choice school, Lane Tech College Prep.

Tommy Cashman, of North Center, will attend Lane Tech College Prep in the fall.
Provided

Merikoski said she and her son Tommy weren’t necessarily worried about getting into a school with the highest rating.

“We’re in the minority in that it seems people really are looking at what is the quote, unquote best school that you can get into, and that’s the one that you’re going to,” Merikoski said. “I feel like when you look at the data on those schools, you’ll see that they’re essentially all about the same.”

Merikoski said a bigger priority was getting an offer from a school closer to the family’s North Center home. Lane Tech, just a few blocks away, fit the bill and was Tommy’s first choice.

“I wasn’t really excited about him having do a 45-minute commute every day to downtown,” Merikoski said. “I understand that this is all a very privileged position to be in that we can even do that. ... There’s just so much pressure on kids nowadays, that for us it just feels like if we don’t need to add necessary things like a commute or whatever, we don’t want to.”