Q & A with OAE (Katy Ellis from the Office of Access and Enrollment)
I attended the session tonight arranged by Alderman Cullerton of the 38th ward. This ward has a neighborhood split down the middle into Tier 3 and 4 which has some parents questioning the designation so they were able to get Katy Ellis from OAE out for a question and answer session.
I arrived about 15 min late, but apparently there really wasn’t discussion about the specific Tier designations out there in Portage Park, but more a chance to ask Katy questions about OAE and the application process. It was nice to hear the range of questions that parents (well… moms mostly) had and to hear Katy’s answers in person. SO much better than reading them online. It was mainly local parents attending it seemed and the Principal and AP from Decatur were there as was theAlderman and Principal from Portage Park school (big, impressive school building with a HUGE auditorium an stage. Enviable.)
The BIG news. Starting this Fall, students can take the SEHS placement test in October or November so they know their final score BEFORE ranking their schools on the application. This will affect kids in 7th grade now who will be in 8th grade next year, applying to SEHS. If you don’t sign up for an Oct or Nov test spot, you’ll test in Jan and will get you scores on the usual timeline.
With these scores in hand, families can be more efficient about school tours and where they apply by using the cutoffs from the previous year. If your score is below but CLOSE to a cutoff you should still apply since they vary each year. But if you’re wildly off, probably can skip applying to that school.
Will AC kids need to test to stay in their high school?
No. False rumor.
Will the switch to Common Core affect the scores for SEHS admission?
No, not at the individual level as they will still be nationally normed.
Has CPS thought about raising the age at which kids test for and enter the gifted programs?
This is talked about a lot (the implication being that it potentially makes sense logically) but… this would disrupt the existing programs, would be upheaval (and we all know how people feel about change in CPS.) That’s a broader conversation/decision that isn’t really ready to happen yet.
Will people’s Tiers continue to change?
Census Tracts will not be changed until 2020 (they were changed last year.) But Tiers can potentially be revised by CPS every year.
What are you doing about cheating in the system (in terms of people lying about addresses.)
If a student signs up for school with a different address than they had when they took the test, they have to prove both addresses or they lose their spot. Specifically, they need to prove they lived in the Tier they used when they applied for SEHS.
OAE has done some audits on “fishy” situations and in each case the family was able to prove their residence. OAE relies on self-policing and they are “happy” to hear about suspected (I put “happy” in quotes as this must be a pain in the butt for OAE.) Cases can be reported to OAE or to the inspector general. In the past year they got 8 reports. In some of those cases, the student had some other valid reason for getting into the high school other than straight scores (PD, IEP.)
What’s the deal with Magnet Cluster Enrollment?
First they have to take the neighborhood kids, then siblings, then lottery. Some schools might now know until the 1st day of school how much space they have. OAE acknowledges that this can be a problem for families trying to get siblings in and confirms that there are no guarantees.
Why 30% of seats set aside for ranked students?
CPS started with 40% of seats going to ranked students. On the basis of the results and the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Committee, CPS decide to switch to 30% rank. (I assume too many Tier 4 and/or white kids were getting SESH.)
Have there been changes in the student composition as a result of the Tier system (now in it’s 3rd year)?
Diversity is still the same in that Caucasians have 26% of seats and Minorities have 74%. There has been a shift in that more Hispanic and fewer African American students have seats.
Why isn’t there Principal Discretion for Elementary School?
The number of seats per school is very small, also, on what basis would a principal select a kindergartener other than on something their parents could do/offer the school.
Why aren’t there more SEHS?
Gifted kids are 3-5% of the population. There are neighborhood schools galore that parents don’t feel are viable options. So the question is where to put the resources. Spend money on new schools? Or invest in the neighborhood schools so parents don’t feel as desparate? The current thinking is to invest in the neighborhood schools. There were 14,000 SEHS apps this year for what looks to be 4,800 spots. Parents have a “SEHS or bust” mentality is the message OAE gets. So there’s more focus on putting advanced curriculums in neighborhood schools so these feels like an option (ie IB programs.)
Why are grades from a neighborhood school counted the same as a gifted/classical school for admission?
This is a question OAE gets a lot. The kids from the accelerated programs are likely going to score better on the tests which gives them an edge. But the neighborhood kids might have an easier time with the grades. It’s too hard in the current environment to adjust for grades because an A is not an A is not an A at a public, private, Catholic school etc. If we start weighting those, every road you take leads to a mess.
How many kids applied for SEES this year?
14,000 applied. 5,000-6,000 were at the Kindergarten level so it’s very competitive.
Are Tiers used in subsequent rounds for SEES spots?
After the 2nd round, pure rank order is used.
How can I ask more questions?
Call OAE at 73-553-2060 or http://cpsoae.org/ and select “Contact Us” (I recommend this option.)
Entry filed under: Applying to schools.