The high school class of 2022 will be starting ninth grade in just a few weeks. And for the first time, students at Chicago Public Schools were able to pick their high schools using a new common application called GoCPS.
The program was designed to make easier the complicated process of choosing among the district’s 165 high schools, and new research shows that 91 percent of CPS incoming ninth-graders used it to complete a high school application.
Students using GoCPS are allowed to rank up to 20 high school programs in order of preference. Research shows 51 percent of students received their top choice, and 81 percent got an offer from one of their top three.
The report comes from a partnership between the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.
Critics have worried that the common application process could lead to lower-performing students being sorted into lower-performing schools and, eventually, more closures.
The study also found some general education, military programs, and schools with low quality ratings had fewer applicants than seats available.
But CPS CEO Janice Jackson argues the common application doesn’t create the choice pattern, but makes it easier for parents and students to exercise their right to choose.
“People make choices based on school quality ratings – they make those choices based on a number of factors, such as proximity, reputation, etc. But what GoCPS is allowing us now is to make better policy decisions as a district about where programs need to go, where programmatic investment should happen.”
Another key finding from the report: The process matching students with schools worked the way CPS intended.
“When a lottery should determine whether or not a student is offered a seat, it looks like it’s random,” said Lisa Barrow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “And when admission is supposed to be made based on the number of points on their application, students with more points are the ones that get the seats.”
Additionally, a small percentage of incoming ninth graders – about 7,000 – either didn’t go through the GoCPS process, or didn’t accept an offer. The district will know more about what happened to them when the school year begins.
Researchers plan to release another report later this year using more information on where students actually enrolled.
Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman