PORTAGE PARK — Private school students hoping to snag a seat at one of Chicago's top high schools will have an additional four months to prepare for the new standardized test, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Tuesday.
Students who do not attend a public school will be able to take the two-part Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress between Sept. 6 and Oct. 11 at locations throughout the city in an effort to get into one of 10 selective enrollment high schools for the 2015-16 school year, CPS officials said.
Last month, CPS officials informed the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Catholic Schools that private school students would have to take the test in May.
The Illinois Standards Achievement Test — which was previously used for admission decisions — can no longer be used for selective enrollment decisions because it does not rank students against other students across the nation, CPS officials said.
In previous years, scores on standardized tests similar to the ISAT taken by private school students were accepted for selective enrollment decisions.
A "more uniform process" for all students is necessary, according to CPS officials.
"After hearing feedback from parents, students, teachers, principals and community members, we’ve made a decision to require scores from a uniform assessment in order to streamline the evaluation process and make sure that students across the city are afforded equal opportunities to these competitive schools,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a statement.
In March, Catholics Schools Superintendent Mary Paul McCaughey called the change in the admissions process "discriminatory" in a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The delay from May to September and October gives parents "sufficient notice" about the change, McCaughey said Tuesday.
However, McCaughey said "the site and manner of testing remain problematic."
"The timing was just atrocious," McCaughey said. "At least families have a chance to plan now. The lack of notice was the most unfair."
McCaughey acknowledged she was angry when she wrote the letter, calling it "smoking." She declined to say Tuesday whether the revised admission process was still discriminatory.
"It is what it is," McCaughey said. "It is their test to give."
The online test's format will be unfamiliar to most Catholic school students. The questions on the test change as they are answered correctly and students may not review their work.
Public school students will take the computerized test between April 28 and May 23 in their classrooms. However, parents can request that students retake the test in the fall because of "adverse circumstances." The score from the test in the fall will be used for admissions decisions, CPS officials said.
Private school students should be allowed to take the test in their classrooms just like public school students to ensure a fair shot at one of the coveted selective-enrollment spots, McCaughey said.
When CPS first announced the ISAT would no longer be part of the selective enrollment process, parents of public school students were furious, and inundated district officials with complaints that private school students would have an advantage because they would be allowed to take less-challenging tests deemed equivalent by district officials.
Those objections died down after CPS officials announced private school students would have to take the same test as CPS students, and were replaced by criticism from private school parents and officials.
Cassie Creswell, an organizer with More Than a Score, a coalition of activist groups and the Chicago Teachers Union, said the dispute is an indication the entire selective-enrollment admissions process is broken and relies far too much on test scores.
"It is a Hunger Games-like trial to get into one of 10 schools that have adequate resources," Creswell said, adding that all schools should provide a high-quality education.