Magnet schools change admissions policy

November 10, 2009 (CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools figured some changes were coming to the admissions process since 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for schools to admit students based on race. CPS says they are learning from the process and are looking to make changes once it's in place for a year.

LaSalle Language Academy is one of Chicago's roughly 75 magnet and selective enrollment schools that will admit students under different criteria next year. The plans were laid out Tuesday by the CPS CEO Ron Huberman, who explained that the nearly 30-year-old decree directing the racial desegregation of schools was lifted by a federal judge, prompting the district to craft a policy that uses more socioeconomic factors, not race, to determine how students are paired with schools.

"I also think it's important that this plan is only being proposed as a one-year policy affecting the incoming classes for next school year. The reason that is, is that it's very hard to predict how this plan will work. It's brand new," Huberman said.

The post-desegregation consent decree plan is an admissions policy that relies heavily on mathematical formulas. First, students are broken down into one of four so-called census tracts, based on socioeconomic variables. From there, magnet schools will admit any siblings. Then, of the remaining slots, half will go to kids in the neighborhood lottery. The other half will go to kids in a citywide, socioeconomic group-based lottery.

For selective enrollment schools, half of the students are admitted by test scores and the other half admitted by test scores within their socioeconomic group.

Parents are still sizing up the plan.

"You have to get people intermingling together and getting along, because it's a grassroots in how people are brought up, their ethnic background, being put together with other people of different ethnic upbringing," said Rafael Rojas, parent.

"I understand the legality. I wish they would look beyond the law that's written in front of them and try to get to a solution that serves the purpose of the law originally intended, which was to expose the kids to people from outside of their community," said Adenia Linker, parent.

This proposal still faces a series of public hearings. The first one will be this Saturday at Andrew Jackson School on the West Side. Then the school board has to approve of it and it will be presented with the proposal next month.

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