Huberman: Minority enrollment in city’s best schools has ‘lost some ground’

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This year’s trial admissions process for selective enrollment and magnet
schools did not spur dramatic shifts in their racial makeup, but CEO
Ron Huberman admitted there’s room for improvement, with some of the
city’s best schools struggling to hold onto their black student
population. 

“We have lost some ground,” said Huberman at a press briefing on
Tuesday. In addition to announcing preliminary results from the
admissions process, he announced a blue-ribbon committee of parent
activists, lawmakers and lawyers to review what happened under the
policy this year and make recommendations about possible improvement.

This year’s trial admissions process for selective enrollment and magnet schools did not spur dramatic shifts in their racial makeup, but CEO Ron Huberman admitted there’s room for improvement, with some of the city’s best schools struggling to hold onto their black student population. 

“We have lost some ground,” said Huberman at a press briefing on Tuesday. In addition to announcing preliminary results from the admissions process, he announced a blue-ribbon committee of parent activists, lawmakers and lawyers to review what happened under the policy this year and make recommendations about possible improvement.

Public forums on the process will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on July 27, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10. Locations have not yet been determined.

Huberman noted that actual enrollment could be different from the acceptance figures presented Tuesday. For example, Latino students appear to be accepting more spots at King and Lindblom, two selective high schools in predominantly black neighborhoods.

“We will have to see who walks in the door on the first day, but I have doubts about the Hispanic students,” Huberman says.

Another big unknown is the level of bus service that the district will provide to elementary magnet, gifted and classical schools. Currently, children living between 1.5 to 6 miles get free busing. But the district is grappling with a $370 million deficit and may have to do away with, or limit, this busing. Huberman said he won’t commit to anything until the district publishes a budget in early August.

He also stressed that the admissions policy is a work in progress. After a federal judge released CPS from a 20-year-old desegregation consent decree last September, the district was forced into a tricky position: Maintaining racial diversity without considering race in school admissions.

The district spent more than $1 million on consultants who devised a process using the socioeconomic status of families—determined by the census tract where they live—as a factor in admissions. Factors that determine a census tract’s socioeconomic status include income levels, the number of two-parent families and the percent of the population speaking a language other than English.

The result was a complicated process in which 40 percent of seats in selective enrollment elementary schools and high schools were awarded to students based on test scores and 40 percent of seats in magnet schools were doled out to students living within 1.5 miles of the school. Also, entering kindergarteners who had siblings in magnet schools automatically got a seat.

The rest of the seats were divided up by socioeconomic tier. 

Using this process, Huberman became concerned that some of the selective enrollment high schools would lose African American population. In March, he added 25 seats to four selective schools, reserved them for the best students from the worst schools (the vast majority of which are black) and gave these schools $250,000 each to provide support for the additional students. 

As a result, Jones, Whitney Young and Walter Payton accepted enough black students to remain on par with previous years. Northside Prep might even admit a few more.

But Huberman admits that these students will need a lot of supports to do well and that some of them may not actually show up on the first day.

Other interesting points revealed by the data:

  • Students in socioeconomic tier 4—the most well-off—are over-represented, making up almost 40 percent of students projected to enroll at selective enrollment and magnet high schools and elementary schools. This was also the case in 2009, when CPS was still using a race-based admissions system.

  • As many predicted, white students captured a bigger share of the seats in magnet elementary schools. They now make up 21 percent of students in such schools as LaSalle Language Academy, Drummond and Hawthorne Scholastic. Some of this can be attributed to the set-asides for students who live nearby and for siblings, since many of the higher-performing magnet schools are located in predominantly white, North Side neighborhoods.

  • There was an up-tick in the number of Latino students projected to enroll in selective enrollment high schools, gifted and classical elementary schools and magnet schools. Huberman notes that the number of Latino students in CPS is growing, while the number of black students is decreasing.

  • The Asian student population dropped among all those admitted to the different types of schools. CPS General Counsel Patrick Rocks noted that under the consent decree, Asian students were considered minorities and their enrollment was not capped, as it was for white students. Now, mixed with all other groups of students, there’s been some attrition in the numbers.

  • Changes in Magnet and Selective School Enrollment