Chicago’s City Council on Education is holding hearings to determine why Chicago’s most elite high schools are becoming whiter while black enrollment is steadily declining.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, at Walter Payton College Prep, Jones College Prep, Northside College Prep and Whitney Young College Prep white enrollment has been going up over the last four years while black enrollment is down.
Many observers say the decline stems from the 2009 repeal of a 1980 consent decree that had required Chicago public schools to be desegregated.
Here are the statistics according to the Times:
The increase in white freshmen—from 29 to 41 percent at Payton and nearly that much at the other three marquee high schools–coincides with a federal judge’s 2009 decision to lift a 1980 consent decree that had required Chicago Public Schools to be desegregated with no school being more than 35 percent white.
Aldermen Pat Dowell and Will Burns called the hearings after they learned of the upsurge in white enrollment at Chicago’s most elite schools. The problem, according to Burns, has to do with criteria for the schools and outreach.
“A lot of times, qualified students are not applying for selective enrollment schools outside their area. They may not know it’s an option,” Burns said.
“It’s about reaching out to students, encouraging them to apply and using strategies to make sure kids are ready to take the admissions test, like test-preparation and tutoring.”
Burns said CPS should also consider using race as a factor in admissions.
“The current system does not use race as a factor at all in admissions, yet there are cities that have included race as one of many factors. There was concern about whether a system that used race in admissions could withstand scrutiny. I want them to research it. It could be a way to achieve better balance,” Burns said.
Dowell said she still hasn’t been given a good explanation for why enrollment of black students is declining at Chicago’s top schools.
“African-Americans make up a large portion of the population of this city. We should have an opportunity, as other nationalities do, to have seats in all of the selective enrollment schools, including the top four. The formula we’re working under now grew out of a decree. This formula has not been, to my knowledge, looked at since it was created. Maybe we need to modify the formula,” Dowell said previously.
Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says loss of the consent agreement has turned Chicago’s top schools into “gated communities for children of privilege.”