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Aldermen to hold hearing on low minority numbers at elite North Side schools

A growing concern about declining enrollment of minority students at Chicago Public Schools’ highest-tier schools, particularly on the city’s North Side, will fuel a public hearing this morning.

Although the City Council Education and Child Development Committee has no power to make changes, aldermen will be asking CPS officials to explain the decline at selective enrollment schools and talking about ways to reverse it.

“The problem is that we see minorities are not well represented at selective enrollment schools, particularly on the North Side,” said Ald. Will Burns, 4th, one of the aldermen who called for the hearing.

That problem arises in part because students on the South and West Sides don’t always know they can apply to schools on the North Side, where white enrollment is higher, Burns added. “How do we do a better job of making sure folks now they can avail themselves of these options?” he asked.

Declines in minority enrollment in the city’s 10 selective enrollment schools began after 2009, when a federal court lifted a consent decree that required the top-tier schools be no more than 35 percent white, according to a Sun-Times analysis.

The issue was highlighted earlier this year when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he wanted to expand Walter Payton College Prep on the North Side and to build a new selective enrollment school to be named for President Barack Obama.

The selective enrollment high schools on the North Side are particularly difficult to get into, with kids from higher-income families needing nearly perfect scores to land a seat at Northside College Prep and Walter Payton.

Scores are made up of grades, standardized test results and selective enrollment exams. Parents who can afford the expense enroll their children in special test prep classes to help improve scores — an option not as financially feasible for lower-income families.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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