Introducing the new admission criteria for Gifted/Classical schools

December 18, 2009 at 10:39 am 39 comments

I called the GEAP office this morning to confirm the “ranking” process for the Gifted and Classical schools for the 2010/2011 school year.

As many have figure out, for each class 40% of the kids (11 kids) will get in based on test scores alone (no consideration of race or socioeconomic level.)

The remaning 60% (17 kids) will be selected based on the 4 socioeconomic levels derived from census tract.  So about 4 kids per socioeconomic group.

Not sure what I think about it yet.  I guess it will please the people who think admission should be totally merit-based and also please the people who think race/socio should be taken into account.

Mainly I think I got lucky applying in the year we did (2 years) ago because it sounds like my son would have had a much slimmer chance of qualifying under the new system.

Entry filed under: Gifted / Classical Testing, Uncategorized.

New magnet admission policies What’s going on with the Skinners

39 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  December 18, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I’m pretty sure that the neighborhood kids get 2 cracks at it… first the proximity lottery, then the general lottery. Not sure where I read that.
    Actually now that I think about it, I read that this is how Alcott High School handles their admission so maybe I was assuming it was the same. I’m pretty sure they won’t keep neighborhood kids out of the socio lottery.

    I gotta figure that Hub and Co. will just have to work with the race numbers that they have to make their best guess. It’ll be a crazy process this first year, that’s for sure.

    Now GEAP is going to have to call off of 4 lists instead of 2 (previously minority and non.) Or maybe 5 lists – top scorers AND the 4 socio-econ groups. Yikes.

  • 2. LR  |  December 18, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Thank you for clarifying. I wonder if this is all really going to make that much of a difference. I mean, if they only took kids at the 99th percentile last year, how much lower can your kid really score and still get in even taking these changes into account? Maybe one to two percentiles? It’s good that CPS is trying to make things more fair. But the real problem is that they don’t have nearly enough seats to accommodate all the kids who qualify for these programs based on their own definition, which is 80th percentile for classical schools and 90th for gifted (or maybe it’s vice versa – I don’t recall).

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  December 18, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I really wish that if they’re interested in making a push for neighborhood schools that they find a way to get more accelerated learning into those schools and not force people to feel like they have to strive to get one of the few coveted spots in a gifted/classical program.
    I can see skimming off the truly gifted kids (maybe 98% and up) but so many other kids could be well-served in their local school if there were more differentiation.

  • 4. chicago mom  |  December 18, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    So can I assume from this that I have a shot at 55% of the spots now (40% plus 15% for my 60%/4 socio-economic group)? That’s definitely higher than 33% for majority from last year.

    Do we know if the four socio-economic groups include everyone? (Like they’re guaranteeing the highest socio-economic group gets 15%?)

  • 5. Y  |  December 18, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    They are suppose to be filling the 60% seats evenly between the four groups. At the Amundsen meeting, there was discussion about setting a minimum score required for SE admission. The score would be set per school by OAE and the prinicipal. If not enough qualified kids are available to fill up the slots designated for a socio-econ group, the remaining seats are redistributed to the other three groups.

    We need shorthand for socio-economic group…SEG.

  • 6. SRD  |  December 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Since the application asks you to choose which lottery you enter- I wouldn’t think a neighborhood child would be included in the general and proximity lottery……

  • 7. BeverlyMom  |  December 21, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Hey obsessed –

    Since you are the only source of info most of us have, quick question for you: are the scores for kids going into Kind. weighted for age? We just tested our 4 year old (w/ August birthday) and wondering if he gets the benefit of the doubt as he’s testing against kids who are almost a year older in some cases. Thanks again for all your help and hope the new job is going well!

  • 8. Y  |  December 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

    @BeverlyMom – Yes, the scores are adjusted for their ages (CPS claims it is to the day), so there are no advantages or disadvantages to when a child takes the test.

  • 9. 2 cents  |  December 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    As a matter of fact, Beverly Mom, my gifted Kdger’s class is HEAVY on the summer birthdays. And, there is not one ‘let’s hold him back to increase his odds of getting in’ type kid in the class.

  • 10. BeverlyMom  |  December 21, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks, guys!

  • 11. CPS Newbie  |  December 22, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I also have a 4 year old who just tested for gifted/classical. I have almost no prior knowledge of how CPS is structured. I’m pretty much learning as I go. I also live in Beverly and have applied for schools all over the city. I was encouraged to apply for some neighborhood, charter and magnet schools as well.

    My specific question is in regards to Skinner North & Skinner West. I only saw one school listed on the CPS site: Skinner. Does anyone have any information on Skinner North vs. Skinner West? I read a previous post on your blog that said Skinner North moved to a different building. Does anyone have any insight on how the transition was as far as staff, curriculum, and safety are concerned?


  • 12. cpsobsessed  |  December 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    There were a lot of comments in (I think) this thread about the move and split. I’m not totally sure how it has all fallen out so far. I haven’t heard any horror stories…..

  • 13. Somos americanos  |  December 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    The new plan shouldn’t please anyone but the Klu Klux Klan.

    While well-intended, the new scheme is not likely to promote economic or racial diversity.

    Since a high correlation between household income and test performance has been demonstrated, let’s assume all the highest scoring kids (11) will come from the highest income bracket households (with a margin of error of one).

    Therefore schools, especially on the north side, look to be guaranteed to enroll at least 55% if not more of the highest income bracket (15 kids = 11 of the highest scoring assumptively from the highest income bracket plus 4 more kids from the highest income bracket).

    As well, I’ve looked at the 4 categories of census tracts. Problem is, the RANGE of household income in most of these area is too high to be of ANY benefit to low income households. There are families of varying household incomes living in all of the categories (except maybe the lowest might not have such a vast spread).

    I know people with half-million plus dollar homes living in the second and third lowest census tracts. Look at any gentrifying area — for example, near Lathrop homes, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Edgewater, etc. I know families with very modest incomes that live in the highest income bracket tracts in Lakeview and Lincoln Park.

    So in all, you might really only get 4 out of 28 kids with some economic diversity, and no assurance whatsoever of any ethnic diversity.

    It’s also hard to do a “gut check” on real SES (not census tract profiles) since families won’t report their income until they’re enrolled and fill out their free and reduced lunch form.

    Not only does the new system for gifted/selective enrollment (and regular magnets) minimize opportunities for children in the lowest income tract profile, it reduces opportunities for children whose household incomes are low but they live in gentrifying areas and higher income families are edging them out.

    A similar skew will emerge in the magnet lotteries since they favors siblings (all) and neighborhood (40%). The communities these schools are in are usually not diverse. Face it, magnet schools are being converted to community schools and RGCs and selective enrollment are taking the place of magnet schools.

    The biggest losers are the poorest families whose kids who might get 4 seats at 10 gifted schools located in central and north Chicago. 40 kids out of the 140,000 kids in that group. Not good odds.

  • 14. chicago parent  |  December 22, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    My understanding is that 50% will be selected using test scores and that each student has another shot at admissions by competing within his/her Group. There are 4 Groups (with each group given 1/8 of the slots) that are determined by the applicant’s address and the address’ ranking in various socioeconomic categories including incoming, parental education level, language spoken at home, etc. So each applicant has a 5/8 chance (62.5%) of getting accepted to any of the test in schools (gifted, classical, academic center, selective enrollment, etc.)
    I have seen the new Skinner Building at 1260 West Adams. It’s a very impressive building and it’s a great location — just across from Whitney Young. It’s my (superficial) impression that this will be a very positive move for Skinner — and will make Skinner a more attractive school.

  • 15. chicago parent  |  December 22, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I would agree with the comments above regarding students with high aptitude. Suprisingly, with all this talk about race to the top, high performing students are an underserved group and the resources spent on them is tiny (and is decreasing!) compared to other groups. The race to the top program has NOT changed this. Think about the return a teacher may get with creative programs aimed at motivated students vs. spending lots of money like is now done at students with little interest in going to school. Opportunity cost??? Unlike special education students, there is no legal requirement to serve this group and unlike underperforming students, no real measurement & penalties under the current NCLB focused system if high aptitude students are not improving and adequately challenged. The amount of slots across the city in accelerated programs is tiny and there is a lack of a focused commitment to serving high aptitude population in non-accelerated programs. That’s why education obssessed parents fight like cats & dogs — if that’s the proper metaphor — since it’s just crumbs being tossed around.

  • 16. Mayfair Dad  |  December 22, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Somos americanos hit on one aspect of the new SE/Magnet enrollment plan that is truly troublesome: the range of incomes in an otherwise blue (4-rated) neighborhood.

    Say for instance you are a newly arrived immigrant family to Chicago. For the sake of your children, you move to rental apartment on the Northwest side where the kids can go to a safe, high-performing neighborhood school without fear of gang recruitment in the hallways. You sacrifice and live in a much smaller place because you want the best for your kids.

    Socioeconomically you are a 1 or maybe a 2, but you live in a 4 neighborhood. Your kids now compete with socioeconomically advantaged 4s for a spot in a decent high school.

    There must be a better way to capture socioeconomic information specific to individual families vs. census tract generalities. It seems like poor families who move to a safer, gentrified neighborhood are penalized.

  • 17. BeverlyMom  |  December 22, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Newbie – my kindergartener was accepted into Skinner, and based on the fact there was no busing (and we have 2 younger children who’d be in the car for hours a day), we declined. Luckily, we got I believe the last spot at Lenart, which is a fantastic school with busing! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. “Obsessed” by the way has been my refuge in the storm for this whole process – she really knows the ins and outs of the process and the emotional roller coaster this takes you on. The good news is no matter what, we do have a great neighborhood school on standby. Good luck!

  • 18. dave4118  |  December 22, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    There is one notch below census tract that is even more specific; it is block group, I believe. This could narrow the census data to even more detailed results(within a two-three block radius). Where does the specificity stop? The assessments for gifted are created without regard to cultural influence. Knowing what shapes are, or that a certain picture doesn’t belong with the others, or being able to read at an advanced age are not necessarily the results of higher income. Attentive parenting is probably the most crucial factor…where does that get measured? Buying your kid a ‘Leap Frog’ alphabet refrigerator magnet set for 15$ instead of the latest shoot-em up video game for 50$ is a simple sacrifice.

  • 19. Lunch Applications  |  December 22, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Lunch applications are an unreliable source to determine income. Many people lie on their lunch applicatios so that the school gets the “poverty funds” . Some people lie so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of giving their child lunch money daily. I know others who lie just because they are too cheap to pay for lunch. No one checks the income. A principal told me that maybe 5 lunch applications are randomly audited at each school. I wonder if people get caught lying is there a penalty…

  • 20. Y  |  December 22, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    @Newbie/Beverly Mom – Both Skinners have busing but there are north and south boundaries for each. We declined a spot at West last year since we were outside of the boundaries and declined a spot at North due to the uncertainty of its location. From the other posts on CPSObsessed and on NPN boards, the North parents seem to think highly of their first year so far.

  • 21. hopeful  |  December 23, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I thought I had read somewhere that kids do not get two shots at a school (one through general lottery one through proximity, that if you mark proximity, that is your one shot to get in).

    I wish CPS would announce whether or not they are going to have bussing next year. I know they are required by law to bus special ed kids, so that won’t end, but the end of bussing for my family will be a big issue. We’ll deal with it, but it won’t be easy. Either way, I’d just like to know. As well, I wish they’d announce which schools are losing their preschool for all classrooms. Last I heard on NPN, someone who talked to the office of early childhood said they were closing something like 25 of the current 33 programs in the city. That will effect families too. Given that most private preschools have applications deadlines as early as January 15, you’d *think* CPS would make an announcement by then. Not that anyone down at central office knows what they are doing though.

  • 22. cpsobsessed  |  December 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Hopeful – boy, I have to guffaw about thinking CPS would have a decision by Jan 15. Our neighborhood school was literally down to the wire this year in finding out about the program from CPS – whether it was a go or not. I know there are budgets to approve, etc but how do they think people can find these things out at the absolute last minute? 2 weeks before school started it sounded like it truly could have gone either way!

  • 23. hopeful  |  December 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Yes, they do wait until the last minute for everything! I cannot tell you how many times when I was teaching, I’d get a copy of a fax in my mailbox at school either telling me about a meeting I was required to go to THAT afternoon, or about a meeting that actually happened the previous day….but I didn’t get the information until the day after!
    No, I don’t imagine they’d have any information about preschool for all until July or September, even though they should have it now. And my guess with bussing, is that they will mail the information out with acceptance/rejection letters come late March or early April for magnets/gifteds etc….If they even do it then. I think by law, they have to let people know at decision time, because some families will not be able to attend schools they are accepted at without bussing. Still, I have seen enough things go on in CPS that are not lawful, that I am not holding my breath!

  • 24. DahliChi  |  December 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    This new Gifted/Classical system makes no sense.
    They should pick the absolute top students and then look at their census tracts. If they have the diversity, they are done for the day.


    Pick the top students from each of the 4 tracts. The current system seems to benefit the people with the most resources, who are also the most likely to have good neighborhood schools and/or ability to afford private…..

  • 25. Somos americanos  |  December 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

    DahliChi, please let me clarify. Just because a child is in any one of the 4 groups of census tracts (from the U.S. 2000 Census — 10 years ago I might add), it does not mean that particular family is low income or middle income or wealthy, etc. There is a big RANGE of household income (one out of five equal factors that determines which of the four “buckets” a family falls into).

    In both scenarios you suggest, the upshot is that mostly high income families would be admitted to RGC/selective enrollment. Anyway this is a red herring as the process only leaves a handful of spots in RGC/selective enrollment schools on the north side available to children from low-income families.

    I’m quite certain no one thinks is an equitable idea, even as middle income families rightfully advocate for the best educational interests of middle-income own child(ren).

    For RGC/Gifted perhaps families should income verify. Those that opt one are automatically put in the highest bracket.

  • 26. dave4118  |  December 29, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Somos, with all due respect… where does the specificity end? One notch below census tract is the designation of block group. This would a 2 or 3 block radius of census information. You suggest individual socioeconomic factoring, if one is to get that specific…why not just discard these superficial examinations(socioeconomic factors) and examine the indivual household social dynamics.

  • 27. anon  |  December 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    The problem is, there is no fair solution. My friend is a single mother who earns 25K a year. She moved into the Lincoln Square area 15 years ago, before it was a popular neighborhood. Her mortgage is less than renting a one bedroom apt there now, but her small condo is across the street from $800,000 houses. So, she falls into the “highest” zone where she will compete with people who can easily send their kids to private school. Her child tested last year and scored a 145 on the gifted test and a 98.9% on the classical but didn’t get in because, well honestly, they’re caucasian. So, how will the system ever be fair for a kid like hers?

  • 28. 2 cents  |  December 31, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Anon, I don’t think your friend is relaying her child’s scores honestly. A score of 145 is in the 99.9the percentile and would absolutely get in. My son got a 139 and was selected for our first choice. Also, he ONLY scored in the 80th percentile for the classical. So, there is something fishy and if she is truthful, she needs to call the office. ALSO, I think the high bracket may have fewer applicants because they choose to send their kids to Latin, Frances Parker, montessori, etc.

  • 29. 2 cents  |  December 31, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Unless she only applied to classical schools, where it seems most needed a 99% score on last year’s exam.

  • 30. cpsobsessed  |  December 31, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Anon – during the previous system, a caucasian had a chance at up to 35% of the spots despite being only 9% of CPS. In reality, that wasn’t actually fair either.
    Now that child has a shot at 1/4 of the socio-economicl spots plus the 40% of the spots that go out just on merit alone.
    Still pretty fair considering that whities are 9% of the system.

    I know that the census tract method is far less than perfect but given CPS’s resources it seems the best they can do. No way they can get everyone to validate income. Breaking it out into 4 even socio levels (though imperfect) seems more balanced to me (personally.)

  • 31. chicago parent  |  January 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

    just need to correct the math. The chance of any one student is 62.5%=50% for the merit based criteria + 1/8 for the student’s performance within the socio-economic group if the student does not succeed on the merit based criteria.
    In response to the comments above: There is also an argument to be made that the lower groups will have fewer applicants to selective enrollment & academic centers since a smaller percent per group will qualify. That is more likely based on the academic performance of the various elementarty schools.

  • 32. anon  |  January 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I know her child’s score of 145 is correct because I saw the letter. But, this was last year, when apparently thousands took the test to enter Kindergarten for this current (2009-10) school year. And, she applied to schools where she could take her son, Edison, Decateur, Coonley, which obviously many choose. I guess there were kids who got into Coonley last year with scores of 155? Crazy! I wasn’t trying to stir up any trouble, I just wanted to add that there are people who cannot afford provate schools and rely on CPS that come from all types of backgrounds. Anyway, I know she’s retesting this year for entry into 1st grade and maybe it will work out for her. Thanks for all the great insight on this blog!

  • 33. dazedandconfused  |  January 5, 2010 at 10:46 am

    i can confirm anon since the 155 was the first and only score that came off the waitlist for coonley. which means there were those above that. scary gifted 🙂

  • 34. Chris  |  January 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Can someone explain Coonley to me? I see real estate listings that tout being in the Coonley district? But if it is test based, why is that a benefit (and is there even a Coonley district)?

  • 35. chicago parent  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    My understanding is that the max score is 150. don’t believe that 155 is possible.

  • 36. cpsobsessed  |  January 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Re: Coonley, it has a good neighborhood program and a Regional Gifted Center that kids need to test into. Buying a home in the area would get you a spot in the neighborhood school but doesn’t do anything in terms of the gifted track.
    The Bell district (same set-up as Coonley with neighborhood/gifted) has been considered a very good school and for some reason the RGC seems to act as a halo for the whole school. It really helped raise property values in the Bell district (well, along with good location and a hot real estate market.) I’m sure real estate agents in the Coonley area will try to do the same. Coonley is a good neighborhood school, as are many other neighborhood schools.

  • 37. cpsobsessed  |  January 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Re: 150 max test score, I *thought* there was a discussion about it on NPN last year and it was determined (via discussion) that a kid *could* get higher than that but it doesn’t happen very often. I think someone knew of a kid with a 160.

  • 38. 2 cents  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    The GEAP website states that the maximum or cap is 150. There always seem to be rumors of higher scores.

  • 39. Mari B.  |  January 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    The solution is better schools (buildings, technology, bussing, teachers, criteria – the whole deal) and MORE of them. This way the options broaden and it doesn’t turn into a bottleneck around March when “the powers that be” get to play God and decide where our children will attend school and where they can’t.

What do you think?

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