CHICAGO --A group of Chicago aldermen want to know why the number of minority students enrolled at the city's elite public schools is declining and a hearing was held Tuesday where school officials were asked about the issue.
Jones College Prep has become one of the most sought after selective enrollment high schools in Chicago. William Lagrone makes the commute from Beverly. The 16-year-old is about to enter his junior year at Jones. Lagrone has noticed the number of minorities has decreased since his freshman year.
"My sister, she went here before me and when she went to school here there were so many African American males than when I got here. I'm one of six to eight in my class," he said.
Jones is not unique. According to a Sun-Times analysis, minority enrollment has declined in top tier selective enrollment high schools since a 2009, when a federal court lifted a consent decree that required race as a factor in admission.
Besides Jones, Walter Payton and Northside College Prep on the North Side, and Whitney Young on the Near West Side have all seen reductions in minority enrollment.
"There also needs to be a conversation and a hard look at what are the factors that are used for admissions to those schools and start taking a view of the entire landscaping," said 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns.
Burns and fellow Alderman Pat Dowell held a hearing Tuesday demanding answers from Chicago Public Schools about how to increase minority enrollment at the elite high schools. CPS says admission is based on tiered system using test scores and socio-economic factors.
In fact, CPS argues that minority enrollment at all 10 selective enrollment high schools have actually increased.
"Overall, we do see that African Americans are selected at the highest rates," said Katie Ellis, Executive Director, CPS Office of Access and Enrollment.
But, CPS says at the top schools, such as Payton, it gets twice as many high-scoring applicants than other selective enrollment high schools on the South Side. CPS says it needs to do a better job in preparing minority students, something Lagrone says helped him.
"I went to Keller, which is really a good elementary school, so they helped prepare me to test well," he said.
CPS says it must do a better job at marketing the six selective enrollment high schools that are not considered the top tier. Ald. Dowell believes giving principals more discretion is the key to increasing minority enrollment. The principal pick was reduced after a clout admissions scandal a few years ago.