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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

High School Sweepstakes Update

In the interests of transparency, I thought I'd let you all know how things have gone with the 8th graders on my block in the high school sweepstakes so far.

8th graders I know here: Junior, Danny, School Lady's daughter, former Noble Neighborhood daughter, a Brady, and F., a guy I barely know and have to knock on the basement window of his family's apartment to talk to. I feel like there are a couple more 8th-graders on this block that I'm forgetting. So we'll say I've had some contact with 6 out of 8.

Five of the six went with me to the high school fair and at least got some information and exposure there. Four of the six got applications from me for Perspectives Math & Science Academy. Two got them back--one in time for the lottery (coming on Friday) and one got it back to me too late and will go straight to the wait list.

One, Junior, actually got an application for UIC College Prep (Noble) and went in the lottery. He is now wait listed. The Brady girl has older sisters at another Noble school, so she gets automatic admit to a Noble. I'm not sure if she's planning to go to UIC or to the same school her sisters attend (it's farther away). Former Noble Neighborhood daughter and her mom tried to come to the UIC College prep info session but they got lost and we didn't connect by phone. Danny is still waiting to hear from Curie and Whitney Young.

Results; one of six is for sure in a school to which I'd send my own kid if I had one. One more is waitlisted at one charter and still has a shot at another. One more is waitlisted at one charter and waiting to hear about a public school she might be OK at (Kennedy). One more might get into Curie if we're damn lucky. Two are AWOL--one of them I might be able to get waitlisted at Noble and Perspectives, but who knows how much good that will do. So the block is one for eight, and that's one I certainly can't claim my efforts had any effect on.

What can I say about what has worked? Parents who are on top of education (i.e. the Bradys) do have more success. Some parents can be worried into it--like Junior's mom, who is worried sick about him. Despite all the crises in her life right now, she made it a priority to get his stuff done, and I was able to help (like getting Junior to write his application essay, which was no small feat). But other parents want to be on top of the process and I am the flaky one--the former Noble neighborhood people, School Lady. I wasn't as organized or consistent about getting them timely information as one could be, and they suffered as a result.

Now let's talk about the schools and the process. It is abundantly clear that some charter schools are much easier to access than others. If you want an application for Perspectives, you go to their web site, download one and fill it out. That can be a stretch for parents who lack Internet access or the knowledge to go there, but with a helping hand from somebody (a friend/neighbor, ideally the school counselor--hello!) that could be figured out.

Noble, by contrast, makes it much harder to get an application--the kid and a parent have to show up in person at a meeting, some of which were held during regular working hours. It was pretty hard to find the schedule of meetings, too--at least it took me a while and I like to think I'm pretty savvy. Then the application required an essay with a word length, and they checked. So anybody who gets in that lottery has already shown a pretty high level of both persistence and intellectual skill (this goes for both the kid and the parent). At the lottery last night, they passed out the entire list of eligible applicants by name and current elementary school. No surprise, many were from magnets, classical & gifted schools and some from Catholic and other private schools. I've heard rumors that charters get a list of high achieving 8th graders from which to recruit, but I frankly doubt that is necessary. All those parents know how the game is played and are playing 100 percent for their kid. That's enough.

Now for what the elementary schools here are doing. At the UIC lottery last night I counted 30 kids from Seward on the list. Junior was the only one from Chavez. I know that both the Seward counselor and a teacher over there have worked really hard to make sure kids know their options. The teacher even drove kids and parents to UIC info sessions so they could get applications. I'll have to try to deepen relationships at Chavez for next year so our kids have a better chance.


Anonymous said...


I wonder if an argument can be made that all charter high schools must make their applications available on line or by request, without this business about showing up at a meeting.

As it is, charter schools are prohibitied from asking about an 8th grader's academic performance in elem school (though some still do ask).

I bet that if someone were to make an issue of this CPS would consider prohibiting charters from requiring a precondition to an application.

Maritza said...

Interesting point. Thanks for the idea.

Just to update the update, Danny did get me his Perspectives application, too. He clearly filled it out by himself. I got it too late for the lottery but not too late for the waiting list. We'll see what happens.

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