Chicago school officials begin work on new admissions process since deseg decree scrapped

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A few more things about the sudden lifting last week of the desegregation consent decree: Starting Thursday, Oct. 1, parents can apply for a spot in one of the city’s top elementary or high schools. The application window closes on December 18. Race will not be used as a factor in this year’s admissions process for magnet and selective schools, meaning that parents will be applying without knowing what criteria will be used. “It cannot be the same,” says CPS attorney Patrick Rocks.

A few more things about the sudden lifting last week of the desegregation consent decree:

• Starting Thursday, Oct. 1, parents can apply for a spot in one of the city’s top elementary or high schools. The application window closes on December 18.

• Race will not be used as a factor in this year’s admissions process for magnet and selective schools, meaning that parents will be applying without knowing what criteria will be used. “It cannot be the same,” says CPS attorney Patrick Rocks.

• For this year at least, officials will probably rely on socioeconomic status (as determined by a student’s address and neighborhood income level) to maintain some diversity in admissions.

• Last Friday, CEO Ron Huberman appointed a transition team of CPS officials. Lead by Kathyrn Ellis, a staffer from the CEO’s office, the team will include officials from the Office of Academic Enhancement (including its head, Abigayil Joseph), the Office of School Demographics and Planning, and technical staff.  All the computer software that currently runs the selection process will need to be reprogrammed this year, says Rocks.

• The district faces a grim budget picture in the next fiscal year, and that will be a major factor in decision-making on busing and staffing for magnet and selective schools. Until 2006, the federal court used a formula to determine how much the district should spend on both; since then, spending has declined from $100 million to $85 million.

• Once the district gets through this year’s admission cycle, it will go through a more lengthy process, including public hearings, to determine the future.

Meanwhile, parents and students are trying to digest the news.

At Franklin Fine Arts Academy, Pat O’Grady and Jolanta Serges, mothers of kindergarten students, said they like the school’s diversity: 36 percent black, 31 percent white, 13 percent Latino and 11 percent Asian.

“It’s really important for the school to reflect the real world,” Serges says.

But a good education is still the major reason most parents gave for choosing Franklin. Tom Scholle notes the school’s high test scores, focus on arts education and parental commitment.

“I work at a high school where parental involvement is so low that at report card pick-up, [participation] is about 10 percent,” he says. “Here, you know the parents are involved in the education process. You have to sign up for your report card pick-up conference, because almost every single person who’s here has to talk to the teachers.”

Students are quick to note the importance of diversity.

“In the work force, it’s not just one race. You work with different people, so it’s good to have that in school too,” says Simone Laws, a sophomore at Jones College Prep. “At my old school, it was pretty much all African-American and Mexican. That’s not like in the real world.”

 

At Whitney Young, freshman Katherine Joblowski says that students who go to non-integrated schools are at a disadvantage because “they don’t understand how to interact with people who are different.”

Her former school was all-white, Joblowski says, and “when people saw someone of a different race they didn’t know how to react, or how to act around them. I’ve learned more about different cultures here and I’m friends with a wider range of people.”

Interns Margaret Rhodes and Maren Handorf contributed to this story.