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CPS issues selective enrollment admission letters, says more diverse learners accepted

About 17% of the students who applied to selective enrollment schools received an offer at their first choice of 11 high schools, according to newly released district data, a slight increase over last year.

Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St.
Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St.
Sun-Times file photo

Thousands of Chicago Public Schools students have received their long-awaited answers to a question they’ve wondered for at least the past year: Which high school will they attend next fall?

District officials released those highly anticipated high school decisions Friday afternoon while announcing changes to the city’s competitive admissions process that has been criticized as inequitable for Black students and those in special education.

The 26,200 applications submitted over the winter — the same number as last year — were for the city’s 11 prestigious selective enrollment high schools and other specialty programs at CPS schools.

About 65% of students who applied for specialty programs at other high schools received an offer to their top choice, and 94% got an offer to any program, according to newly released district data.

Meanwhile about 17% of the students who applied to selective enrollment schools received an offer at their first choice, a slight increase over last year. In all, 31% of selective enrollment applicants received offers.

CPS officials highlighted an increase in the number of special education students who received offers to selective enrollment high schools, from 262 last year to 489 this time around.

Schools chief Janice Jackson said the district recognized concerns about inequitable access to the city’s top high schools and looked to take the first step to address them.

“While we still have work ahead of us, I’m incredibly excited for all of our diverse learners who are finding out today that they have been accepted to some of the best schools, not only in the state of Illinois, but in the country,” Jackson told reporters at a virtual media briefing Friday.

“This is a critical part towards becoming a more equitable school system that provides greater access and inclusion at our most selective schools.”

While about 52,000 special education students made up 14.6% of CPS enrollment last school year, only 6% of those children were enrolled at selective enrollment high schools — making up a small fraction of the kids in those schools.

The 489 offers made this year were 10% of all selective enrollment offers. Officials said the next step is convincing those students to accept the offers by showing those families they’ll have the supportive environment they need. Jackson said 22 new positions will be hired — a teacher and special education case manager at each of the 11 selective schools — to support the additional students.

Last year, Black students — who make up 36% of the district’s enrollment — received 21% of offers to selective high schools. About 400 more Black students were accepted into those schools this year, up to 1,327 kids. While Black students are still underrepresented in selective enrollment high schools, they received 27% of offers this year.

A smaller share of offers was given to Latino students this year — down to 30% from 33% — but more Latinos were accepted because CPS overall accepted 500 more students than last year. The share of offers to white students fell, but those children remain overrepresented in selective enrollment admissions.