‘Principal picks’ at Payton College Prep minuscule

SHARE ‘Principal picks’ at Payton College Prep minuscule

So how difficult was it for an average Chicago student to be admitted into Payton College Prep the year that Bruce Rauner made a call to get his daughter in?

More than 9,000 students applied for 353 open seats in the 2008-09 academic year, according to data obtained by the Sun-Times through the Freedom of Information Act. This happened before the Chicago Public Schools system changed its policy on attendance records. That means for the thousands of students competing for 353 open seats, consideration was supposed to be based on test scores, grades, and students’ attendance when they were in seventh grade.

Mike Schrimpf, spokesman for Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign, told the Sun-Times that Rauner’s daughter “was admitted off the principal’s list, the same way many students have been admitted.”

Data shows that even by that measure, it’s an elite crowd.

Fewer than .14 percent of Payton students were allowed in through principal discretion that year.

High school principals of elite schools are allowed to admit a small percentage of students through the principal discretion program, also known as “principal picks.” In the 2008-09 year in question, principals at the elite eight city schools had to prove in writing to CPS officials that their selections were based on four criteria, and that the students could be successful in the schools.

Payton Prep was ranked the top high school in the state last year in a Sun-Times analysis.

A source with specific knowledge of the admission told the Sun-Times that Rauner’s daughter was not a so-called “principal pick” but was let in following a phone call.

But Rauner’s campaign insists the candidate’s daughter was allowed in as part of the principal’s discretion program.

“That’s what they were told,” Schrimpf said. “Their daughter achieved straight A’s and top test scores. However, at the time, attendance was also a factor in the admission process, and she missed 10 days with pneumonia, and that’s enough to cancel out great grades and scores unless there is a discretionary process.”

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