Selective Enrollment High Schools in Chicago: Admission and Impacts

February, 2018
Lisa Barrow, Lauren Sartain, and Marisa de la Torre

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In the 2015-16 school year, 75 percent of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) ninth-graders opted out of their assigned high school. These students could choose from more than 300 programs at 138 public high schools. Selective enrollment high schools (SEHSs) were among the most high-profile and most sought-out options: 13,400 students applied for 3,600 seats in 11 SEHSs. SEHSs aim to provide high-achieving students with a challenging academic experience and admit students based on prior academic performance. Many of the SEHSs are consistently ranked as the top schools in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report.
However, criticisms about these schools include concerns that they disproportionately serve affluent students and drain resources from neighborhood schools. This research asks two key questions:

  • How does the admission policy in CPS affect the profile of SEHS students in Chicago?
  • What effects do SEHSs have on students?

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