Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chicago High School Woes

The process for getting into one of Chicago's top high schools continues to attract investigation and criticism. Mr. Peevie, my VP of Information Management, sent me this article from the Chicago Tribune about the "complicated and secretive" selective enrollment process.

If you click on the link on the left you'll get to this graphic which charts the admission stats for each of the nine selective high schools. It indicated that anywhere from 3 percent to 9.9 percent of applicants earned one of the approximately 3,000 coveted slots. Jones College Prep, where C. Peevie will be attending in the fall, enrolled 3.1 percent of its applicants, the second lowest percentage of all the selectives.

Some complain that the federal desegregation guidelines essentially punish high-performing white students who lose out to minority students with lower scores. The guidelines stipulate that 15 to 35 percent of a selective enrollment school's students can be white, and the rest must be minority. The 2000 Census indicates that nearly 42 percent of Chicago's population is white (I wonder if that percentage has declined in nine years?), which might indicate an unfair distribution of scarce educational resources. But the mandated ratio is based on the fact that less than nine percent of Chicago Public School students are white.

The girl in the story scored in the 90th percentile "on her middle school tests," which I assume means her standardized tests. That could be one of the factors that kept her out of Payton. Most of the kids I know who are going to the top four schools (North Side, Payton, Jones and Whitney Young) scored in the 98th or 99th percentile in both math and reading.

Also, it's not clear what the Trib reporter meant by "aced the selective enrollment high school entrance exam." Does it mean she did really well? Or does it specifically mean she received all possible 300 points for her test performance? This is a critical distinction when thousands of students are competing for a couple hundred slots.

All this is not to say that things are hunky dory in the Land of Selective Enrollment. It's not right that thousands of Chicago high school students and their families have to settle for fewer educational opportunities because many, if not most, CPS high schools can't offer the kind of focus, community, and academic challenge that the selectives (and the IB programs, as well) offer.

I'm grateful that C. Peevie has essentially saved Mr. Peevie and me about $40,000 in private high school tuition by working hard enough to get into Jones. I don't really have a point in this post, except to acknowledge that many, many other kids also worked hard, and didn't get in. They'll end up at schools like Amundsen, where only 24% of students meet state minimum standards and where students average 43 absences per year; or Clemente, with a 13% dropout rate and an average ACT score of 15.5; or Marshall, where 4% of students meet state minimum standards, only 40% of freshmen graduate in five--yes, five--years, and students average 95 absences per year.

It's a sad situation, and I don't know what the solution is. Do you?


Anonymous said...

Oh crap what are we going to dooooooooooooo!!!!!

E. Peevie said...

Don't worry, Anon. I'm sure Ron Huberman has read my post and is already making big changes to fix the problems.

Anonymous said...

Here is the issue . . . children are coming in ill prepared. When a kindergartener enter a ps kindergarten and doesn't know their name, there is a problem. So, that teacher spends weeks/months teaching the basic of all basics to kids and after 180 days they are woefully behind and will never catch up. These children need to go to high school and the school again has to deal with the woefully behind student. This school has hundreds of students in the same position, which is why so many public schools seem so inadequate. If every child came to school on the first day prepared then more schools would be top notch schools. This doesn't address the issue but maybe shows what a deep dark hole it is.

E. Peevie said...

Anon, I totally agree with you. The problems are so complex and inter-related that it is far too simplistic to put all of the blame on the school district and the teachers.

The problems are systemic and societal, but some of them also stem from bad parenting and bad choices, which the school has no control over.

My former neighbors, for example: the 8-year-old told me once that she had been up most of the night with her infant sister, giving her bottles, changing her diaper, giving her Tylenol because she was sick and crying. I don't think this is a rare occurrence in that household, and in many households.

Boy George said...

E., you are so right. Sometimes I think our society is going to hell in a handbasket; the public school situation is just one symptom (casualty) of that.