The Great Tier Debate
**The Tier system is a hot and divisive topic. Please discuss it here and not in other posts. Please attempt to focus on the arguments pro or con rather than attacking each other. Personal attacks will be removed.**
For may years, CPS used race (Caucasian, Non-Caucasian) to attempt to balance out magnet and selective enrollment program, with a goal of racial diversity. A couple years ago, the courts determined that race could no longer be used as a balancing factor. In its place, the Tier system was started with the goal of creating socio-economic diversity (and some would argue racial diversity still being a goal) within these schools.
Each student is assigned a tier based on their census tract. This will affect the scores your child needs to place into a selective enrollment school (SE high schools, gifted and classical programs, academic centers) and also magnet programs.
CPS says that the factors that go into the tiers are correlated with educational outcome. The scores needed for selective enrollment placement seem to bear this out as the higher tiers (4) tend to have higher scores than the lower tiers (1.) Of course there are exceptions within all tiers.
One of the complaints about the tier system has been its imperfect nature. Some tracts contain a mix of families and one can surmise that the poorest families in the tract are at a disadvantage within their tier.
Every Chicago address falls within a specific census tract. We look at five socio-economic characteristics for each census tract: (1) median family income, (2) percentage of single-family homes, (3) percentage of homes where English is not the first language, (4) percentage of homes occupied by the homeowner, and (5) level of adult education attainment. We also look at a sixth characteristic, the achievement scores from attendance area schools in each census tract.
Based on the results of each of these six areas, each census tract is given a specific score; these scores are ranked and divided into four groups – or ‘tiers’ — each consisting of approximately the same number of school-age children. This is how we establish the four tiers. Consequently, every Chicago address falls into one of the four tiers, based on the characteristics mentioned above.
How to Determine Your Tier
The process of updating the tiers for the 2012-2013 selection process is now complete. We apologize for the delay, which resulted from the redistricting of the census tracts as part of the 2010 census.
MAP: You can determine your tier by clicking here to access the census tract map. The tiers are color coded. Use the legend on the lower right corner of the map to see which color corresponds to the tier.
You can also calculate your tier by following the steps below:
1. Click here to go to the U.S. census website.
2. Enter your address and click ‘go.’
3. Scroll down to the table entitled “Geography Results.” Under the column “Geography Name,” look in the fourth row for your census tract number, followed by the county and state.
4. Click here to access the “Census Tract – Tier Information” document. The census tracts are sorted in numeric order; the number in the “short tract” column corresponds to the census tract number you obtained on the U.S. census website. Click “Control F” and type in your census tract number. The number in the third column is your tier.