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Fewer Black Students Are Attending Chicago's Top High Schools Than Ever

By Tanveer Ali | September 1, 2017 5:37am | Updated on September 1, 2017 12:31pm

CHICAGO — The number of black students attending Chicago Public Schools' highest regarded high schools have fallen to the lowest level since 2000, according to a new study.

The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council analyzed CPS enrollment data back to 2000 and found that 13 percent of the student body at five selective-enrollment high schools — Whitney Young Magnet High School, Jones College Prep, Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep and Lane Tech College Prep — were black during the 2016-2017 school year.

That's down from a high of 24 percent during the 2001-2002 school year.

A summary of the report can be found here.

Meanwhile, the number of white students rose 8 percent from 27 percent in 2000 to 35 percent last year.

Latinos, who make up the largest group of CPS students, held steady around 33 percent.

Asian enrollment decreased slightly to 14 percent of students at those five high schools.

While the overall enrollment of black students in CPS schools has dropped significantly since 1998, that doesn't entirely explain the drop in blacks at these five schools, according to Alden Loury, MPC's director of research.

"These are the elite schools in the city and they are among the best in the nation," Loury said. "If there is a particular demographic that is sliding in its representation in those schools you lose a selling point in that group."

Graphic compiled by the Metropolitan Planning Council

Legal constraints have contributed to the drop in recent years, according to CPS officials. From 1980 to 2009, CPS was under a federal consent decree, requiring the district to implement policies to desegregate schools.

After the consent decree was lifted in 2009, the district could no longer explicitly consider race as a factor into admissions to citywide selective-enrollment high schools, which accept students based on test scores and grades.

In place of race, the district accepts an equal number of students from four socioeconomic tiers based on census tracts around the city for 70 percent of the slots at the schools.

"This phenomenon did not surprise me," said CPS chief education officer Janice Jackson. "We anticipated at that time there would be a demographic shift."

Loury does note that black enrollment is up or stayed steady at a number of other high-performing CPS schools. That includes other selective-enrollment schools on the South and West Sides, like Brooks College Prep, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Westinghouse College Prep and King College Prep or neighborhood schools like Kenwood High School.

"Parents whether by choice or force have had to look at other options," Jackson said.

This year, the district unveiled GoCPS, a website that will serve as a common application for all those entering high school, matching students with a school.

Jackson said the new set-up will make it easier for the district to look at all applicants and high schools as a whole when matching students, but it still can't consider race as a factor in the decision.

"The law is definitely a real constraint," Jackson said about increasing the black population at the top schools. "There's one way to do that: if you can use race as a factor."