AEFP 45th Annual Conference Program
Chair:, Tulane University
Chair:, University of Virginia
Chair:, Teachers College Columbia University
Chair:, University of Melbourne
Chair:, University of Georgia
Chair:, University of Southern California
Chair:, Education Analytics
Chair:, University of California
Chair:, Florida State University
Chair:, NORC at the University of Chicago
Public school choice in Chicago – the nation’s third largest school district - has been in existence for more than 30 years and has notably expanded and evolved over the past decade at both the pre-k and high school levels. However, the policies and processes for application, assignment, and enrollment at these different grade levels have mostly been developed and operationalized in isolation from one another. Thus, the choices and enrollment system look different at each level of schooling. At the pre-k level, applications and enrollment for school-based slots shifted from being managed locally by school principals to being centrally managed by the district’s administrative office in the 2013-2014 school year. This application and assignment process gives priority to pre-k age students experiencing certain risk factors, given that there are not a sufficient number of slots for all age-eligible students at this grade level. Similarly, applications to CPS elementary and high schools recently moved to a centralized web-based platform called GoCPS, but there are differences in how school assignment works for pre-k and ninth grade. Across grade levels, families can choose from a broad range of types of CPS schools, including charter schools, magnet schools, and neighborhood schools.
Every school choice system has policy decisions inherently built into them, whether they are made intentionally or not. Examples range from details about the design of the application system itself (e.g., how schools are sorted when applicants log in to a web-based platform may have unintentional consequences of generating more applications to the first school applicants see) to the placement of applications centers to support families to the quality of the school choices accessible to families based on geography.
In this panel, we discuss the city’s commitment to both a broad set of schooling choices and ensuring that students have access to high-quality educational opportunities. In our research, we have found large differences in the rates at which students of different races/ethnicities enroll in high schools with high accountability ratings. In the fall of 2018, 47 percent of Black ninth graders enrolled in a highly rated school compared to 70 percent of Latino students and 90 percent of White students. These large differences in enrollment patterns have persisted over time in Chicago. Similarly, new research on pre-k enrollment patterns are also finding differential rates of enrollment by race/ethnicity and neighborhood. This panel offers insights from a district that is grappling with issues related to equitable access to high-quality schooling at multiple grade levels within a context where neighborhoods are often segregated along racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines. Panelists will include Chicago’s former Chief of Early Learning and the district’s Research Manager.
If the ultimate policy goal is to ensure all students have access to “high-quality” school options, then:
- Where are schools and slots located in relation to where students live?
- What characteristics or factors are associated with whether or not and where students enroll at different grade levels?
- What are the application requirements?
- What are the supports students and families need in navigating the application and enrollment processes?
- What are the programs/services that students and families need for schools to provide?
The researchers and policymakers on the panel will discuss their reflections and existing evidence on these key questions and other considerations when designing school choice systems along the pre-k to 12 spectrum.