Preview of Whitney Young Documentary Film

April 10, 2014 at 12:10 am 92 comments


I think I mentioned sometime last Fall that a documentary film was being made about Whitney Young and the selective enrollment high school process.  I’m very excited to present to you…. a preview!

This was incredibly fascinating for me to watch.  In the 6 minute preview, I think it encapsulates so many of the things we discuss on here – the competitive, the open house, the principal!, the speculation about the kinds of kids who get some of these top spots, the “narrow margin of error” on the test scores (I am quoting a 6th grader from the clip.)

As a parent of a now-5th grader, I’ve been hearing about the SEHS tours (and the WY tour) for years and this was my first real glimpse at it.

There is some interesting history on the school as well.  (They are still looking for old video clips from the school if anyone knows someone who attended and might have some footage.)   It’s really all very thought-provoking.

This is still being developed into a feature length documentary scheduled to be released in 2015.

I asked the producer what the big “story arc” about WY and SEHS was going to be and she said “One of the reasons we are making this documentary is to help promote and shape a national discussion on public education.”

Anyhow, take a look and share your thoughts.

Couple caveats:

If you recognize any of the young kids who are applying this year, please don’t post a “spoiler” about whether they got into the school or not. That will be part of the drama of the final film.  Also, at least one of the kids featured is a reader of this blog, just as an FYI.



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CPS Announces Uniform Application Process for Selective Enrollment Seats New Selective Enrollment High School opening

92 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doubletime  |  April 10, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Awesome! The beginning of what looks to be a fitting tribute to Chicago’s 1st magnet, selective enrollment high school. The mold all the others were created from. I look forward to seeing the finished project.

  • 2. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 10, 2014 at 1:40 am

    I think it’s a fab trailer of the movie. Since seeing it on Monday, I’ve been focusing on what Dr. Kenner said~abt how the school ~teachers/administrators~ do all that they can to get the students into the college of their choice. It’s such a wonderful atmosphere and learning environment. I wish all schools could be like WY~they go out of their way to make it an extremely friendly environment for learning.

  • 3. Southloopmom  |  April 10, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I am excited and looking forward to seeing the finished product. I graduated from Whitney Young in 1984 and I am so proud to see it continue to do well!

  • 4. CarolA  |  April 10, 2014 at 6:13 am

    Wow! Perfect example to show how when students, parents, and teachers all want the best for themselves AND are provided the tools to get there…success happens! Thanks for the preview.

  • 5. pantherettie  |  April 10, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Interesting trailer. I look forward to seeing the entire movie. What interests me most will be the discussion on how the stress of competition through the admission process affects the kids who attend WY as well as the wider conversation about the CPS SEHS process. After going through the hellish AC admission process last year(really a 5th and 6th grade hellish process), I feel really sad every time I hear parents and kids talk about the entire SEHS/AC admissions stuff. It feels like such an unfair burden to place on families. My only worry about this film is that it will encourage the idea that there WY is the *only* SEHS on the south or west sides worth considering – making it even less likely that families have a chance at a very good, albeit different, SEHS or AC. One of the best things I learned on this blog was the importance of “casting a wide net” when it comes to schools.

  • 6. HS Mom  |  April 10, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Well what’s not to like about Whitney Young and the other selective enrollment schools? But I agree with pantherettie that the portrayal of schools like WY as the only ticket out of poverty or THE only place where the smartest of the smartest can get the best education unnecessarily adds to the frenzy for SE school seats.

  • 7. Concerned Parent  |  April 10, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Awesome ! I can’t wait to see the finish product . It was perfectly written, every word was true . So proud to be a Whitney Young mom , & so proud of my daughter . She was accepted this year & I felt every word & struggle! A huge sigh of relief.

  • 8. Patricia  |  April 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

    @5&6, agree that it would be good to somehow show that there are other schools too………….for example, it would be interesting if the documentary showed that there are kids who put WY as their 3rd or 4th pick and their feelings of getting into WY when it wasn’t their first pick. I would guess that they would say they were still thrilled (which they should be), but may hit home how crazy the process really is.

    I also wonder if they are going to show the “alternative” options for kids who don’t get in? If this is done, I hope that they don’t diss the neighborhood schools too much because the last thing we need now is promoting that SEHS are the only options out there—-for the chicago audience at least. If the goal is a national audience, it may be too much to put into one documentary.

  • 9. TimeForADoOver  |  April 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

    My assumption is that this documentary will be similar to “Waiting for Superman,” in which those who are enrolled into SEHS’s like WY are given the golden ticket. Everyone else… not so much.

  • 10. spj  |  April 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Great teaser – looking forward to seeing the rest of it! But cannot comprehend the amount of pressure kids must feel going through the admissions process.

  • 11. UptownMama  |  April 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

    As a WY grad, I’m also looking forward to the film. I can’t help but wonder, though, if the near perfect scores now required get into the school make the ultimate experience somehow less rich. Some of my most interesting (and smartest) friends were definitely not straight A 7th graders and probably wouldn’t get into the school today. These are people who went onto top-tier colleges and have had successful and demanding careers (one in particular is a noted scientist) and definitely benefited from all that WY had to offer.

  • […] This trailer describes both the history of the school itself and the stunning inadequacy of supply of seats given the talent and the demand. Via CPS Obsessed. […]

  • 13. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    9. TimeForADoOver | April 10, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I think the producers are going to show a very real and accurate account of Chicago Public Education, not a waiting for superman imitation.

  • 14. mom2  |  April 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    @8 Patricia – I agree. It is like fighting an uphill battle to convince people to try neighborhood high schools when people keep making it seem like SEHS is the only thing that is good out there. And also agree that it would be very interesting to interview people that were unhappy with getting into WY and wanted some other school and had to “settle” and how they feel now. As we all say, most kids start off unhappy with where they ended up and now would never change a thing and couldn’t imagine themselves anywhere else.

  • 15. oh please  |  April 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Whitney Young = safety school

  • 16. RL Julia  |  April 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Perhaps Whitney and Lane are considered to be north side safety schools but I don’t think that sentiment is everywhere. If I was an African American kid or at all interested in sports, I would probably rank Whitney (or Jones/Lane) number 1 – if only because it is more racially integrated and has strong sports programs. As a person with a kid at Whitney, I can assure you I think she’s getting a great education on par with friends in all the other SEHS’s for sure.

  • 17. cpsobsessed  |  April 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Safety school for X% of kids applying. Reach school for X% of kids applying. What might you fill in for those %’s?

    Whitney AC scores needed for AC this year, I believe were basically 99th percentile on all the testing for Tier 4 kids, right?

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  April 10, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    One thing to keep in mind viewing this is that it is really meant to be about 1 school rather than the SEHS process itself due to several factors, one being that WY provided full access to the film makers. The selection process, of course, part of the story.

    It will be interesting to see how the story of the final film will develop and that actually isn’t determined yet (unlike waiting for Superman which had a clear agenda.) This is more like – let’s learn about Whitney Young and see what stories we find there.

    It would be wonderful if many more high schools could have a short film made about them to highlight what they’re doing well, wouldn’t it? This makes me curious what’s going on at the other schools.

  • 19. claire  |  April 10, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I’m a sucker for any/all documentaries featuring education, for better or worse (*cough* Waiting for Superman *cough*), so I’m excited to see this one.

    CPSO- although not focused on a HS, and in Boston rather than Chicago, I LOVED this documentary series.

    Successful schools have a magic about them, and I love how the filmmakers try to capture it.

  • 20. OutsideLookingIn  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Whitney Young is a special place and I’m glad to see that it will be featured in a documentary. I was on campus recently for a student event and was blown away. These kids are talented, hard-working and focused…they will go far. That being said, I’m a little weary of the hyper-focus on SEHS. Maybe I’m the only one here who feels this way but I would love to hear more people talk about the neighborhood high schools and magnet high schools. The mania about SEHS has reached a fever pitch. Not criticizing anyone, just wondering where to find the “SEHS is awesome but let’s talk about the other options” tribe.

  • 21. HS Mom  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    @11, I know right. I was thinking the same thing when the student interviewed talked about coming from an environment where you’re at the top to one where everyone is the same.

    @2 SSI – I wonder if they will interview kids who did not get into their college of choice. This is not necessarily a WY thing alone but due to hype/peer pressure, misconceptions etc many kids are applying to mostly “reach” schools then freaking out when they don’t get in. WBEZ ran a program on applying for colleges. They interviewed 2 WY kids who talked about how devastated they were when one did not get into Duke and wound up at community college. Kids expect these top schools in SE and the talk around, (including this site), makes it seem like no big deal you will have your choice……just saying.

  • 22. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    21. HS Mom | April 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    You are so right. That’s why my child is casting his net even wider than we originally thought. I’m not ‘freaking out’ yet abt colleges, just paying for them!!!

  • 23. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I posted this on the AC thread, but thought may be I should post here as well.

    Getting Into City’s Elite Middle School Programs Tougher Than Ever

  • 24. HS Mom  |  April 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Glad to hear it! My comment wasn’t as much a critique as it was a warning. I think, more and more, kids are getting wrapped up in the hype. For some who scored “gifted” in K, beat the CPS SE game at 7th or 9th, loaded up on the AP classes, the assumption is that they will go on to an Ivy (or close to) school. Could be their first disappointment. I think there is a danger in overemphasizing the impact of a school like WY and hope that the producers do not take the “golden ticket” approach.

  • 25. readerperson  |  April 10, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    The documentary does not just state WY as an only option. (As a person in the documentary, I put my first choice as Jones, which they also agree is a good option-they focus on the whole SEHS thing).

  • 26. :(  |  April 10, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    To be honest, the clip made me sad. It’s very disheartening that we put so much stock in attending a SEHS.

    I attended a selective school. I hear parents of current students hope that the selective school will lead to an Ivy college. Some of my classmates attended an Ivy. Most did not. Some of my classmates even have jobs that do not require a college education.

    Hopefully, the WY clip will help us focus on improving the system, not just the insanity of the SEES/SEHS process.

  • 27. JenFG  |  April 11, 2014 at 8:42 am


    Thank you, RJ Julia, for taking the words out of my mouth (or keystrokes out of my fingers, I guess). Really–@oh please? Was that necessary? Get a film crew interested in whatever school you’re backing and leave Whitney alone.

    I’m going to say this without insulting other schools (because why is that necessary?)–Whitney Young has a rich, ground-breaking history, provides an excellent education, excels in a wide range of activities and sports, has wonderful traditions, and is almost centrally located, making it a draw for a diverse student body. Whitney Young is an interesting story for the film makers and a probably wider range of viewers.

  • 28. mom2  |  April 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    On the college subject for a minute – even if you go to a great SEHS, take tons of AP classes and were always considered special, gifted or whatever, college is expensive. I’m hearing now of many kids that may have been accepted to some of their top choices, but not offered enough aid to be able to attend. Some didn’t even get enough aid from UIUC and now have to attend ISU. It isn’t just about the school and grades and class rigor, it is certainly about money, too. (By the way, they will be fine at ISU or any place. There are presidents of corporations that were graduates of regional state schools all over the country).

  • 29. RL Julia  |  April 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I would have to say, that even if you go to a great SEHS, take tons of AP classes and etc… that is not a guarantee of anything – admissions, money, etc… and furthermore, there are thousands of kids out there who have achieved exactly that as well. Cast a wide net, take classes that you are truly interested in and be present in the day to day enough that if you don’t get into your dream college you will not feel like you “wasted” your time getting an education that didn’t speak to you.

  • 30. Doubletime  |  April 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    #16 RLJulia — “If I was an African American kid or at all interested in sports, I would probably rank Whitney (or Jones/Lane) number 1 – if only because it is more racially integrated and has strong sports programs.” What? What do you mean by that statement? I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt but that sounds really racist.

  • 31. RL Julia  |  April 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I was responding to the preceding comment suggesting that WY was a safety school. I don’t think it is.

  • 32. parent  |  April 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    my eighth grader shadowed and was absolutely in love. She loved the arts program and she got to meet the coaches. She said it was an incredible experience even though whitney young was not her first choice school. It’s truly an amazing school and this trailer is really exciting. I hope the documentary is even better! Awesome school

  • 33. HS Mom  |  April 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    @27 Jen, nicely put, completely agree.

    Mom2, yes add cost to the factors. The families I know that applied to both UIUC and UIC got nothing. I think Illinois has gotten a bit “big-headed” or I guess more like light in the pocketbook.

    In keeping with the other posts, admission into an SE school alone will not guarantee that “the lucky ones” are elevated out of poverty, considered one of an elite group assured of getting into the “dream” school that will meet your financial need 100%. Of course dreams do change over the course of 4 years.

    I hope the film will portray this reality while they are highlighting the attributes of WY. Maybe we will get to see some positive things that have happened to kids who did not get into SE???

  • 34. Jones  |  April 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I recall the principal at Jones mentioned that more students rank wy number 1 than any other sehs. Jones is in 2nd place fir this metric. That was a statement made last Fall. I suspect that May have changed slightly. Also, 75 percent of students ranked jones number 1. So I think wy is likely in that range as well.

    This is in response to cpso’s question on percents.

  • 35. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 13, 2014 at 2:33 am

    16. RL Julia | April 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    WY is basically the same re racially integrated as Payton. WY is 30.1% white; 24.4% black; 23.7% Hispanic & 17.3% Asian~Payton is 37.3% white; 21.3% black; 24.5% Hispanic & 8.3% Asian. This was taken from the 2013 scores on the IL interactive report card.

  • 36. StateandIvy  |  April 14, 2014 at 9:07 am

    @27 UptownMama: I agree with your concern about the richness of the WY experience given the selection process. The artists, the “lop-sided” (e.g. high achieving in math, average or so in language arts), the late bloomers – we would never get in today.

    The college issue is important as well. I know several kids who did end up getting into SEHS, and ended up at the same colleges as their peers at LPHS/Von Steuben/MPHS, with similar financial aid packages. Children and parents need to understand that there is much less homogeneity in college selections than in SEHS. The goal should be finding the best college for your child’s goals and personality that will also offer the best financial aid.

  • 37. Urban Mommy  |  April 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    @36. Well said.

  • 38. local  |  April 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Another preview. Another side.—episode-1

    On Chicago’s West Side, there is a school for the city’s most at-risk youth—the Moses Montefiore Academy. Most of Montefiore’s students have been kicked out of other schools for aggressive behavior, and many have been diagnosed with emotional disorders. VICE News takes viewers inside Montefiore’s classrooms and into the homes of students who are one mistake away from being locked up or committed to a mental hospital.

    In the first part of the eight-part documentary, we meet two 14-year-old Montefiore students, Cortez and Crystal, who were sent to the school after violently attacking teachers. Cortez’s mother blames the boy’s father, who is serving a life sentence for murder. Crystal has stabbed her classmates and has been caught shoplifting since she arrived at Montefiore, which has left her mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Though the task can be overwhelming, the Montefiore staff never stops trying to reach the city’s most difficult and volatile student population….

  • 39. local  |  April 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    With Ivies and their ilk rejecting around 95 percent of “qualified” applicants, the nation’s “top tier” undergraduate programs are more a lottery now. Better also aim for schools with higher acceptance rates for your stats and go-gobs of merit aid. The Net Price Calculator on each college’s website issues a real wake-up call. I would assume the SEHS college counselors clue-in students and parents/guardians?

  • 40. Parent of 4th grader @ a CPS charter school.  |  April 15, 2014 at 8:09 am

    As the parent of a current 4th grader, I’m already considering how I have to get her to “bucket down” for 5th grade in 09/2014 because the 5th & 6th grade scores/rankings will impact her chances for WY. I want her in for 7th grade and then I can “breath easy” for 6 yrs to save for college. Otherwise, I will have to consider a costly private HS (minimal $14k @ Trinity or Fenwick-West suburbs)

  • 41. Pantherettie  |  April 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

    @40 – Please think about “casting a wide net” and considering other ACs in addition to WY. What you’re describing in having only WY as an option is putting a LOT of stress on an 11 year old kid and a crazy amount of stress on you as a parent.

  • 42. Parent of 4th grader @ a CPS charter school.  |  April 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

    @41 – Thanks for the suggestion. I really would like to keep her West or downtown, so I am open to applying at WY & Taft, both for 7th grade. Then if need be, then for 9th she can apply to WY, Lane, Taft, Payton, and Jones. And we will apply apply to IMSA in Aurora

  • 43. Anonymous  |  April 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    @42 Would it be catastrophic for her future if she simply remained where she is through 8th grade? Most very likely not, although true,we don’t know your circumstances.

  • 44. West Logan Square Dad  |  April 16, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    @ 42-parent of a 4th grader…You should look into Disney II for 7th & 8th grade….

  • 45. Family Friend  |  April 18, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I believe Whitney Young is an absolutely amazing school, and anyone who thinks of it as a safety school probably applied to Harvard with Yale as a safety. I liked the trailer.

    I hope the focus is not just on college admissions, but on students getting the skills they need for what they want to do in life. My problem with the folks who complain that too much attention is given to the SEHS and too little to neighborhood schools is that we still haven’t figured out how to ensure those neighborhood schools impart the necessary skills. I tutor at least two non-SEHS students every year at my protege’s tiny, experimental high school, including some who transfer from neighborhood schools. In general they are smart kids, but I have yet to start the year with one who can find the subject and verb in a sentence. Until every student can get a basic education — the 3 Rs — at neighborhood schools, parents who can tell the difference are going to do what they can to get their kids into the top schools. I am happy to see communities like Logan Square get behind their neighborhood schools, but it’s a gentrifying area, and I don’t see many of the type of young professionals who are supporting change at Brentano moving to the neighborhoods handicapped by entrenched poverty, violence, and terrible schools.

    When we get neighborhood schools to reliably send a majority of their kids to college — and those kids succeed — then we can make a movie about neighborhood schools.

  • 46. Booooo!!!!!  |  April 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I am a Whitney Young mom, but the trailer depresses me. My child is smart, but there are so many more out there. WY was his #1 choice so I made it happen. Yes, he deserves to be there and can handle the work. But I know dozens of kids from his elementary school who should have been sitting there with him. What he had that others lacked was a mom who knew the “system.” When he was in 7th grade, I drilled in his head that if he had both a math test and a spanish test in one day, his absolute priority would be the math test. I told him to focus on the first xx questions on the ISAT. I arranged to have him take tests in a smaller environment because he can be a daydreamer at time. Every parent wouldn’t know to do those things. They would’t have the time or resources to educate themselves. They’re unemployed, raising multiple children, ducking bullets, etc… They think if their child comes homes with As and Bs, they are guaranteed a good high school. Sadly, they are not. Chicago sucks.

    I also worry about the intense competition for everything. Kids should be in a place where everyone has the opportunity to shine – but that’s another post for another day.

  • 47. IBobsessed  |  April 20, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    @46 Agree and thanks for saying it.

  • 48. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 20, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    46. Booooo!!!!! | April 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Both my kids got into WY~one for 7th grade and one for HS. No test prep, no help from me, no gaming the system~just hard work and dedication~they earned it on their own~I didn’t make it happen. However, I will say this~if they didn’t make it into WY, they would have gone to parochial schools~so they had advantages that others may not have. And I will concur that most ppl think “if their child comes home with As and Bs, they are guaranteed a good high school. Sadly, they are not.”

  • 49. IBobsessed  |  April 21, 2014 at 12:55 am

    @48 That’s great for your kids SSI, but you make it sound like kids’ hard work and dedication alone will necessarily get a kid into a SEHS, and that’s not the case. Sorry, but you also really sound like you are bragging about your kids. Subtext to your reply to @46 “Well, maybe your kids needed alot of guidance and riding from you to get in to SEHSs, but mine are so wonderful they did it all on their own”. Even if it’s true, why do you need to point it out?

  • 50. pantherettie  |  April 21, 2014 at 6:11 am

    @46 I also agree with your comments. Absolutely no disrespect to WY in any way. It’s a great school filled with smart kids and a dedicated faculty. But there is absolutely no way that a kid, regardless of his/her grades and abilities, can attend that school without significant adult intervention and/or support. SEHS applications require a pin and an adult to complete the application as well as transportation to/from the testing site. There are many, many parents who are not aware that their kids ISAT scores in 7th grade need to be at the 90th percentile or above to have any type of chance to have attend WY is small – which is why you’ve got that shot of hundres of people lined up
    around the building, many of whom have kids with A’s and B’s, strong( but no where near perfect) SEHS admission test scores and ISATs scores in the 70’s,80’s and 90’s with no clue that their kid doesn’t stand a chance to get into that school. Kids’ smarts can’t get them into WY or any other SEHS school and I hope that the movie shows the level of adult intervention required to make this happen for kids. I think that it’s totally disingenuous to overtly state or even imply that any of kids who attend SEES, ACs or SEHS got there without significant support froma caring and well informed adult. I’m really frustrated when I read people write things on this blog ( and other places) about a so-called level playing field for CPS students who want to attend SEHS schools because there simply is not. CPS has multiple robocalls per week to my house about “free lunch”, “free health care”, “free resources” but I never – not once- did I get a robocall with detailed instructions on how to get a pin to apply for a SEHS. *I* learned where to look and what to do and what was important from blogs like this and people who knew. So I guess I just want to say that I hope that the film shows that aspect of this process in addition to the kids’ struggle to achieve. I hope that we can keep that included in our discussion of the topic as well.

  • 51. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 21, 2014 at 7:14 am

    49. IBobsessed | April 21, 2014 at 12:55 am

    No, you’re subtext was incorrect~ I wasn’t bragging~I was pointing out~you don’t have to game the system to have it work for you. I’m glad my kids are in WY and it seems like some ppl who have kids secured in SEHS are disappointed in the documentary abt WY. Also, I feel bad for kids where parents have to drill their kids~those are the kids that usually are the 10% that leave during their SEHS years.

    50. pantherettie | April 21, 2014 at 6:11 am

    I received a letter from the counselor with a pin number and how to fill out online form for SEHS. I believe all 8th grade candidates for SEHS did and CPS did have a robo call for it this year to tell parents about it.

  • 52. Booooo Tooooo!!!!!  |  April 21, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Actually, SSI4, your subtext is incorrect. #46 never advocated for gaming the system (your assumption, not his/hers), only that understanding its nuances is imperative. This is a fact. Hard work and dedication, albeit critical, is just one part of the equation.

  • 53. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 21, 2014 at 10:37 am

    52. Booooo Tooooo!!!!! | April 21, 2014 at 7:43 am

    I didn’t have a subtext~that was #49’s assumption that I did~I was just stating my facts.

  • 55. Silly parents  |  April 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    According to DNAi this “documentary” was paid for by two parents of current WY students…

    Is paying for a YouTube documentary to be made on your precious child’s school the new version of the “My child is an honor student” bumper sticker?

  • 56. HS Mom  |  April 21, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    @55 seriously? Are you saying that WY was not chosen for it’s “rich history” or produced by the Matrix creators? It’s just an infomercial….do you have a link for the article?

    Is it really necessary to flaunt or dangle hope?

  • 57. HSObsessed  |  April 21, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    @ 56 Here’s an excerpt from the DNA article:

    The film was commissioned by two Whitney Young parents who wanted to give the school a nationally recognizable vehicle for its work with students, according to Kayla McCormick, the film’s producer.

    And here’s a link to the article:

    I think it’s great that WY families and students feel huge pride in their school, and the recognition of the school’s name will get them far in applying for colleges. The trailer did make think that it will only feed into the mindset of “SEHS or private” though.

  • 58. HSObsessed  |  April 21, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    I saw yet another one of those lists ranking high schools recently. The Washington Post looked at 1,900 high schools nationally to rank them according to “Most Challenging” and used a metric similar to that used by Newsweek, of looking at ratio of AP and IB tests taken. For Illinois, 5 of the top 10 high schools were CPS schools: #2 Payton, #4 Lincoln Park, #5 Whitney Young, #6 Jones, #10 Lane Tech. Not sure why Northside is not on here at all — could be they didn’t supply the data by the deadline or something. They also include private high schools on the list.

  • 59. HS Mom  |  April 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    @57 HSO thanks!

    “I really wanted to underscore, why do so many people flock to Whitney Young?” said McCormick, executive producer at New Chapter Entertainment. “For many students, it’s their ticket out of poverty and their ticket into a really excellent school.”

    This part sounds like “Waiting for Superman”. I’m a bit leery. Do we need a movie to tell us or the nation why people flock to WY? The hype on the stress can’t be a good thing. What is the discussion to be ignited by the film? Shouldn’t this be the focus?

  • 60. RFR6231  |  April 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    The trailer unfortunately breaks my heart a little. My DD is a 5th grader, straight As, excellent test scores. We live in tier 4. Her heart is set on WY as she has gone to school for the past 6 years across the street. It has been her only real HS to look toward. Because we are in tier 4 she has the tiniest chance of getting in. I am also bitter because I have/she has 2 friends whose parents salary is tier 4 but live in tier 2 neighborhoods and were accepted for next year 7th grade. I have explained to her that if she does not get it it has nothing to do with her. We are prepared for denial. She will stay at her current elementary if she does not get in- she wants no other school at this point. The tier system is awful, it breaks the spirit.

  • 61. Chill  |  April 21, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    #60. You really need to chill. You’re feeding your anguish to your child. It is not the end of the world. She’ll be fine. 99.9999999999999 % of the world does not end up at WY and life goes on.

    There are other options. You need to start exploring them and not adding to her stress. Based on what you have shared on grades and testing, she will likely have some good options. Might not be her 1st choice, but there are some good options.

    Don’t let the process break her spirit or yours!

  • 62. Larry P  |  April 22, 2014 at 4:58 am

    “The Washington Post looked at 1,900 high schools nationally to rank them according to “Most Challenging”…”

    That Post ranking is worthless if you care about academic achievement. You should read the methodology attached to the article. It includes tidbits like:

    “We do not include any magnet or charter high school that draws such a high concentration of top students that its average SAT or ACT score exceeds the highest average for any normal-enrollment school in the country.”

    So by definition, if a school is on that ranking it must not perform above average. That would knock out most privates (e.g. no Chicago Lab, Latin or Parker) and the few top public schools (e.g. no Northside, Illinois Math Science Academy).

    ” 2. Why do you count only the number of tests given, and not how well the students do on the tests?

    I decided not to count passing rates in this way because I found that most high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses.”

    So if a school has a large number of kids taking an AP test, but they all fail, it would still get a high ranking.

    In summary, if a school is on that list it is not a top school or challenging.

  • 63. IBobsessed  |  April 22, 2014 at 9:26 am

    It is true that the WP methodology is not designed to identify the top academic achievement HSs understood as top scoring. In that sense, yes, “Top HSs” is a misleading label for their ranking.
    But your conclusions (the schools on the list are not challenging, the list is worthless for identifying schools that are quality in some sense of the word, these schools do not perform above average) do not follow from your premises.

    1)The WP states they do not include any school with an ACT/SAT EXCEEDS THE HIGHEST AVERAGE. It does not follow from this that schools with above average scores were eliminated from the list.

    The study did the above in order to filter out schools populated predominantly by students who are already the highest achievers when they get to HS, in an attempt to identify the TOP SCHOOLS, not the top students. They also give weight to the percentage of free or reduced lunch, assuming schools with a high population of that kind does not have students who have had every advantage, again to FOCUS ON THE SCHOOLs’ EFFECTIVENESS.


    I could continue here about how none of this shows Whitney et al are not challenging schools, but I’ll bet someone else can take over from here………….

  • 64. HSObsessed  |  April 22, 2014 at 10:01 am

    @62 – Regarding which schools they did not include: They did not include in the list any magnet or charter school that had an average ACT of 29.3 or higher, which is the highest average ACT score last year of one high school in the country (they didn’t name it) that has an open enrollment system. All other high schools were included.

    I think there are some drawbacks to the methodology they use, but I’m OK with not counting whether someone scores high enough to get college credit on the AP/IB exam because I do believe that kids get a lot of benefit simply from experiencing the challenge of the class. There’s also the benefit of showing college admissions officers on your transcript that you’re willing to take difficult classes.

  • 65. Ripley X  |  April 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Based on the last couple of comments I agree that a better title for the Washington Post ranking article would be something like “Top Mediocre Schools”.

    Intelligence can get you money, but money can’t get you intelligence.

  • 66. HS Mom  |  April 22, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    @64 I agree about AP. Good class experience, good for the college app. Colleges do not even know if you passed or failed the test. This info is not supplied with the application unless you want to volunteer it. They are good equalizers as the class in uniform nationwide so all you need is the grade. It does say something about the HS when you have a number of kids interested in taking on AP or multiple AP’s instead of kicking back senior year.

    @62 – what exactly are the avg ACT’s of Lab, Latin and Parker?

  • 67. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 22, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    66. HS Mom | April 22, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    ACT average score for Lab is 30.1; Parker’s average is 29. I don’t know Latin’s average.

  • 68. HSObsessed  |  April 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    For those who can’t get enough of these national rankings, US News and World report came out with their 2014 list for high schools. Their methodology looks closely at how economically disadvantaged students perform at the school, as well as rate of participation in AP/IB classes, and they do look at how well the students score on those tests.

    For Illinois, CPS had 7 of the top 15 spots: #1 Northside, #2 Payton, #3 Jones, #4 Whitney Young, #8 Lane Tech, #11 Infinity Math and Science Tech High School, #12 Lincoln Park HS, and #14 Lindblom.

    I had never heard of Infinity Math and Science before: Looks like it’s a charter school in South Lawndale, 95% Hispanic enrollment, 99% low income.

  • 69. Esmom  |  April 24, 2014 at 6:17 am

    @68, HSObsessed, is it not surprising that SEHSs rank near the top of the list? Even Lincoln Park isn’t truly an “open enrollment” school. The thing that’s misleading is to put open enrollment schools and selective enrollment schools on the same list; it’s like mixing apples and oranges.

  • 70. HSObsessed  |  April 24, 2014 at 8:11 am

    @69 – I just post these for general interest. It’s debateable how “accurate” they are and other topics.

    However, no school is truly an “open enrollment” school. Private schools are only open to those who apply, are scrutinized on paper and during interviews, who pass the wallet biopsy, and don’t have disciplinary issues that lead to expulsion.

    Suburban public schools are only open to those who can afford to live within the enrollment boundary. For suburbs like Cicero or Blue Island, that’s a low bar. For suburbs like Hinsdale and Lincolnshire, it’s much higher, which is then reflected in the schools, which have only 5% of the students are low income. If only 5% of the students at any of the CPS high schools on these lists were from low income families, I’m sure the academic achievements of its student population would be even higher than they are.

    I find it interesting to compare schools that have comparable levels of low-income students on these lists. For example, on the Washington Post Challenge list, Whitney Young has 37% low income students, and it’s #5 on the list. Glenbard East in Lombard also has 37% low income students, but it’s #47.

  • 71. educator  |  April 24, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Infinity Math, Science & Technology is NOT a charter school. It is a neighborhood high school. It is one of four small high schools inside the Little Village Lawndale campus HS building at 31st & Kostner (the other schools are Social Justice HS, Multicultural Arts School, and World Language HS). This high school was promised to the Little VIllage back in the late 90s to relieve overcrowding at Farragut. In 1998, Mayor Daley and the CPS BOE promised three new high schools. Northside and Payton were built, and then the BOE said they ran out of funds. After being refused a meeting with BOE, the community, mostly mothers, organized a hunger strike that gained international attention and forced BOE to meet with the community. Out of that meeting came the plans for four small high schools within the building. The school has neighborhood boundaries that include the west side of Little Village and some parts of North Lawndale though students do rank each of the four high schools on the campus when they apply (Infinity is the most popular). Each school has their own curriculum and principal though the schools share some specials classes like theater, choir, languages and they play sports together as one campus). Infinity has been the most successful in terms of graduation rates, ACT scores, etc. It’s a wonderful small school model – 350-400 students per high school, each school has a counselor and so there is much more individualized attention when compared to other neighborhood high schools which hold 1800-2000 students.

  • 72. HSObsessed  |  April 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

    @71 – Thanks for the correction. I just read more on the combined schools’ website. Great to hear of the interesting history, beautiful building, strong community support, and solid academics. Yes, the schools are open to all kids in the enrollment boundary, and all teachers are CTU members.

  • 73. Interesting….  |  April 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Misleading when it was said 875 to get in. That’s for Tier 4. Hope they talk about the Tier methodology. I apologize if I missed this, but how did this documentary come about? Who’s funding it?

  • 74. Family Friend  |  April 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    #60 — suggestion for turning down the heat on high school: Treat it like college. Discuss “target” schools, “reach” schools, and “safety” schools, and explain why. Also explain why each is a good option for your daughter. Emphasize that the object of all the applications is to have a choice of schools when the acceptances come in.

    I also emphasized to the kids I have advised that the tier system may seem unfair, but that it was designed to allow kids who don’t have the advantages of a middle class background entry to schools that can elevate them to the middle class. There are lots of smart kids who don’t score well on the tests because of things like not being taught how to find the subject and verb in a sentence. Yes, there are some individual cases where the system operates to unfairly favor or penalize particular students, but this is the best they have come up with so far, and life is unfair anyway.

  • 75. Insulting!!!  |  April 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Still nothing new south of Roosevelt, huh? Ridiculous!

  • 76. Rod Estvan  |  April 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    The Whitney Young Documentary Film was well done in relation to the school’s program for advanced students, but missing from it was another major aspect of the history of Young. Other than the desegregation component involved in the creation of Young there was also the disability aspect of the school. The original deaf program at Young was designed with the support of some of the top educators at Gallaudet University, which is one of the world’s premier centers for the education of young adults who are deaf. In the design model all of the hearing students attending Young were to have some functional American Sign Language abilities and there was an intent for the school to be a model of societal integration not only for race, but also in relationship to disability. Unfortunately the Chicago Public Schools never provided the level of funding necessary to turn W Young’s deaf program into the highest performing program of its type in the nation due to its fiscal collapse in 1979.

    This has been a bitter experience for Chicago’s deaf community and older members of that community reflect on that failure often when discussing this issue with me here at Access Living of Chicago. Many parents of students who are deaf or have a serious hearing impairment will not send their children to Young and prefer instead to send their deaf children to the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, IL. Young’s deaf program also has fallen behind in Cochlear Implant support which is now interfacing with highly advanced computer technology. Currently Young is not on the cutting edge in utilizing technology as an integrated tool in learning situations for its deaf students. This aspect of Young disappears in at least the segment of the video that was shown.

    Rod Estvan
    Education Policy Analyst
    Access Living of Chicago

  • 77. The Mom (@rkoloms)  |  April 27, 2014 at 8:10 am

    As a former Whitney parent (1 child, 6 years), I can see that more is left out than left in. Dr. Kenner values her reputation above all else.

    I look forward to the day that the quality of education found at schools like Whitney and Decatur is replicated throughout CPS

  • 78. WesLooMom  |  April 27, 2014 at 9:37 am

    This documentary was commissioned by parents? Seriously!?! Is it a commercial or a real documentary?

    @50, you’re right. Before having a child, I had no experience with CPS. But for a colleague with older kids who told me about CPSO and NPN, I would have been lost or making very uninformed decisions. When I listen to some parents, it’s obvious that many parents are lost.

  • 79. PD Jones Hopeful  |  April 28, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Whites getting more spots at top Chicago public high schools:

  • 80. Urban Mommy  |  April 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    #66 – High School Mom

    “ACT average score for Lab is 30.1; Parker’s average is 29. I don’t know Latin’s average.”

    Please post proof of this. This is not what my friends who have studetns at both schools have told me. More like 27ish. Also, if its increased, it must mean they are decreasing legacies.

  • 81. YB  |  April 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    this chicago magazine Private High school post is 7 years old, can’t find more current… has many private school ACT scores:

  • 82. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    81. YB | April 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Many private schools will post their ACT average scores on their website.

  • 83. HS Mom  |  April 28, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    @82 SSI – do they use the state test like we do or do they take the “best of”

  • 84. SoxSideIrish4  |  April 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    83. HS Mom | April 28, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer. Scroll down The Lab School page and you will see their numbers:

  • 85. HS Mom  |  April 28, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks. Would be nice to have a source that wasn’t their own web site. But I guess private schools don’t have to report so you’re guided by a marketing web site with who knows what kind of slant.

  • 86. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 3, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Thought I’d post here since it’s abt WY~they just won state in math again!!! So exciting!

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  • 88. Nancy  |  December 9, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Can’t wait for the full documentary to be released! My daughter is currently a sophomore at Whitney M. Young. It was our #1 choice for many reasons, among them diversity and location. We live in a Tier-1 neighborhood, but her score would’ve been good enough for admission even if we were Tier 4 (according to the scoring methodology). For us, it’s a great fit! I agree that admission into the SEHSs is no guarantee of anything. But it does mean that it’s more likely that the classes and extra-curricular activities she’s interested will be offered and that has certainly been the case. My daughter is happy and Whitney Young is providing her with many exciting opportunities that I never knew existed back when I was in a CPS high school (Bogan c/o ’94) and for that I am proud and grateful. I have to mention though, when she was in 7th grade, we didn’t know about the craziness of the high school application process and I am glad that we didn’t because I’m not sure of the impact that type of pressure would’ve had on her. I hope the film opens up more dialogue about education and what we as a community can do to change it for the better. Every child deserves to go to a school that excites and engages them.

  • 89. 8th grade mom  |  December 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    @88 Nancy

    What a small world. I also graduated from Bogan in ’94. If your username is accurate, I remember a Nancy from that time. Glad your daughter is doing well at Whitney Young. I loved Young when we did the tour their last year and wanted my daughters to mark it as First choice, but they didn’t agree and are instead leaning towards Jones/Payton.

    But in terms of Bogan, I loved my time there during the early 90’s and I wish that it was still the same school. I would send my children there in a heart beat. It was a great example of what a neighborhood high school should be: very diverse, lot of opportunities for different learning styles (High Honors, AP, Honors, and Regular classes), tons of extracurricular activities, and everyone lived within a reasonable distance (no traveling over a hour plus to get to school).

    Also in terms of Bogan, while there was tons of “regular” kids, there was a lot of high achievers. I believe for the class of ’87, there was a girl that went on to West Point. The top 5 in our class was heading to Harvard, University of Chicago, etc. And then there was a lot that headed to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Though I think the current SEHS schools are great. I wish we still had still schools like the way Bogan used to be around on the southside. I think the best example of what Bogan used to be, is Lincoln Park. It is a mirror image including the Double Honors/High Honors program that you have to apply into. Though I was not an official part of the HH program, I was able to take some HH math classes on the recommendation of a math teacher.

    Perfect example where by having those resources at a regular school, you give kids that didn’t initially gain entry into those programs access to those classes.

  • 90. Chicago School GPS  |  April 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

    The film is done:

    selectED is a feature length film that examines the truths and challenges of public urban education as seen through the lives of high school students at Whitney Young High School. This public school began as a dream to create a fully integrated school in a racially divided city, and within a riot ravaged neighborhood in the 1970s. Through interwoven stories, selectED explores the leadership, triumphs, and losses in one of the most culturally and economically diverse schools in the country that has stood the test of time.

  • 91. cpsobsessed  |  May 3, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks @ChiSchoolGPS. The film previewed at a fund raiser last week and the families of the kids who were in the film attended as well. The film was accepted to a film festival and now that it’s over can be shown publicly. I think it’s in the hands of the distributor now (Or something like that in movie lingo I don’t understand.) In any case, I’ll let people know when it’s airing in Chicago. Should be interesting.

  • 92. thinkpositive1  |  October 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    The Whitney Young Documentary that you reported on will be available to the public THIS WEEK at the Whitney Young Auditorium!

    Go to:

    Tickets are $8!

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