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What Are Chicago's Toughest High Schools to Get Into?

By DNAinfo Staff | February 25, 2015 11:00am | Updated on February 25, 2015 3:14pm
 While entry scores dropped overall for the city's 11 selective-enrollment high schools, Payton College Prep had the highest average score: 879 on a 900-point scale.
While entry scores dropped overall for the city's 11 selective-enrollment high schools, Payton College Prep had the highest average score: 879 on a 900-point scale.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

OLD TOWN — Walter Payton College Prep remains the most competitive CPS selective-enrollment high school — even as entrance scores dropped across the board this year as the district moved to a new and more difficult test.

Thousands of students received acceptance — or rejection — letters this week from Chicago Public Schools for the upcoming 2015-16 school year.

Of the 11 schools that admit students based on test scores and grades, Walter Payton College Prep at 1034 N. Wells St. had the highest average score for entry, followed by Northside, Jones, Whitney Young and Lane Tech, according to data posted on the CPS website

A new selective-enrollment school, John Hancock College Preparatory Academy in the West Elsdon neighborhood, had the sixth-highest score required for entry. Even though it won't open until the fall, the school leapfrogged over the five remaining schools: Brooks, Lindblom, Westinghouse, King and South Shore.

CPS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CPS allots spots based on a scale with a 900-point maximum, with one-third of the score based on a selective-enrollment test, one-third on seventh-grade math and reading test scores, and one-third on grades.

Aside from the outright top scorers on that scale, who receive about 30 percent of the seats, the selective-enrollment schools divide the remaining slots equally among four socio-economic tiers in the city.

Overall, scores for entry dropped at all schools this year.

Selective Prep, a test prep company, did an analysis of the scores based on the percentage of students admitted on scores alone along with the number admitted based on the tier they live in. The company found the overall average scores dropped across the board from last year, particularly at the schools in the bottom half:

• Payton, 879 (888 in 2014-2015)

• Northside, 869 (881)

• Jones, 857 (871)

• Young, 854 (872)

• Lane, 809 (833)

• Hancock, 733 (N.A.)

• Brooks, 722 (779)

• Lindblom, 716 (765)

• Westinghouse, 710 (759)

• King, 655 (702)

• South Shore, 649 (696)

Matthew Greenberg, a partner in Selective Prep, said the scores dropped because CPS started using the the more rigorous MAP test to determine the seventh-grade test scores.

“The MAP test contains more complex math and verbal topics that some students may have not been exposed to, let alone mastered," Greenberg said in an email. "While initially it may be a bitter pill to swallow, use of a tougher test is beneficial to students since it provides them with an opportunity to stand out in the admissions process.”

CPS did not include the number of students admitted at each school by rank or tier in the data this year, as it did last year.

For the 2014-15 school year, the schools received 16,826 applications for 3,200 freshman slots, and the district initially extended offers to 4,580 students.

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