Minorities fail to get into top grammar schools

The news: In March, acceptance letters will go out to Chicago students who applied for coveted seats in the city’s highest-performing schools.

Behind the news: Odds are that white students will have an edge in getting into Chicago’s strongest grammar schools, a Chicago Reporter analysis of enrollment data found.

While white students’ overall enrollment has shrunk, the share of white students attending the city’s strongest grade schools grew by 2 percentage points between the fall of 2009—when a federal judge lifted a long-running desegregation consent decree—and the fall of 2011, the analysis shows.

Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University, said it’s too soon to tell if the uptick of white student enrollment in the city’s best schools has anything to do with the district’s admissions policy, which was redrafted in the months after the consent decree was scrapped. Under the new admissions rules, a larger number of seats are reserved for students who live in close proximity to the application-based schools, 44 percent of which are located in majority-white or increasingly white communities.

“If the numbers represent a change in the weather, then it’s not so bad,” Radner said. “If they are an indication of climate change, that’s a problem.”

Either way, white students are likely to continue holding a disproportionate number of seats in the city’s highest-performing schools. One in four white elementary school students attends a selective enrollment or magnet school this year, the Reporter found, while only 14 percent of African-American and 10 percent of Latino students go to top schools.

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