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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicago parents scramble with new rules for best schools

Probably wasn't as crucial in my day as it may be now. Perhaps less so because parents and students have more programs and schools to choose from these days.
Every year, the competition for a precious spot in the city's top schools is fierce. Many neighborhood schools have significantly lower test scores, and parents see the competitive and magnet programs as their only option for a good public education.

But the odds of their children scoring a seat in one of the top schools are slim. And the nerve-racking admissions dance has become even more complicated by the fact that the rules keep changing — twice in the last two years.

Last year, the guidelines were rewritten to take an applicant's race out of the equation and replace it with socioeconomic factors from the applicant's neighborhood. This year, further changes to increase diversity were approved at a board meeting just a month before the Dec. 17 application deadline for the 2011-12 school year.

Even parents who thought they mastered the old system are at a loss, some wondering if their younger children will have the same opportunities as older siblings.

The bottom line is that there are many more children than spots at the elite schools. Last year, 13,065 teens took a test for 2,942 seats at the selective-enrollment high schools. For top selective-enrollment elementary schools, 10,050 students applied for 1,787 seats. Magnet schools, which choose students via computerized lottery, saw 31,185 applications for 3,352 spots.
I can only imagine what would happen when I become a Parent. Would I be content to sending my child to the neighborhood school that simply isn't performing or would I do what these parents are doing to ensure their children get to go to the best possible public school? I mostly did neighborhood schools in my day because my parents didn't really take the magnet school thing very seriously. Should I, when I have children?

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