March 17, 2010
Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman today announced the publication of guidelines regarding principal discretionary picks for CPS’s selective enrollment high schools.
The 2010-2011 Selective Enrollment High School Principal Discretion Guidelines – aimed at students, parents and guardians, and selective enrollment high school principals – spell out the selective enrollment process for seats in the 2010-2011 school year.
Along with the guidelines, officials announced the release of a report outlining the district’s audit of the selective enrollment and magnet admissions process. The audit was ordered last year as part of an internal investigation of irregularities in the 2009-2010 principal discretionary picks process. The full report is available on the Office of Academic Enhancement website at www.cpsoae.org in the “news” section.
The District’s Internal Auditor retained the Chicago-based audit firm of Crowe Horwath LLP to conduct an independent review of the District’s internal controls.
“Many of the recommendations from the audit team have been incorporated into the current application process,” said Schools CEO Ron Huberman. An independent investigation of the selective enrollment high school process by the Office of the Inspector General is pending.
The new guidelines provide improved definitions of the criteria for selection. Those criteria require the principal to consider the following characteristics of applicants:
- Unique Skills or Abilities. Requires evidence of the applicant's skill or ability in one or more extracurricular activities including, but not limited to, visual and performing arts, athletics, school clubs, language skills or other particular skills or abilities that would enhance the learning environment at the selective enrollment high school.
- Activities Demonstrating Social Responsibility. Requires evidence that the applicant has demonstrated a consistent commitment to social concerns, special interest, or civic activities, including work experience and charitable or community service work, either in school or outside of school. Activities in this category may include demonstrated family and/or community responsibilities, awards for leadership or service work, civic or neighborhood projects, peer support or mentoring or evidence of leadership or other socially responsible positions held in an organization.
- Extenuating Circumstances. Requires evidence that the applicant's grades or standardized test scores are not a true representation of academic ability (such as documented recent personal family crisis; death in family during period when grade point average dropped).
- Demonstrated Ability to Overcome Hardship. Requires evidence that the applicant can do well academically at the selective enrollment high school based on the applicant's demonstrated drive and ambition to overcome hardship (such as coming from single-parent family dependent on documented public assistance).
The guidelines also provide instructions on consideration of race, national origin, gender and other personal characteristics in the selection process.
Huberman made it clear that such characteristics could not be the only or predominant factor in the selection process, but could be a factor in the consideration of an individual student's personal qualities and life experiences.
“The goal of the process is to give principals the ability to select individual students who possess unique qualities that will contribute to the diverse learning communities in our highest performing high schools,” Huberman said.
The handbook includes important controls over the new process. These controls include:
- All applications must be submitted directly to the Office of Academic Enhancement
- All applications will be scanned into a database where they can be accessed by each principal.
- References must be submitted by individuals who actually know the abilities and qualification of the student applicants.
- Improper references are prohibited. They include contacts by elected officials and members of their staffs, and CPS employees who did not teach or coach or mentor the applicants, unless that elected official/member has material knowledge of the student’s ability to succeed in a selective enrollment school.
- The children of CPS employees may apply for principal discretion but employees must sign a statement that they did not attempt to use their position to influence the selection process.
- Principals have been provided with forms they will use to log contacts from prohibited references.
- Principals also will be required to certify that they followed the guidelines as they made their selections.
- Principal selections will be reviewed by a panel and an independent auditor. The members of the panel will include representatives of the CEO’s office, the CPS Law Department, and the Office of Academic Enhancement. All members of the panel and the independent auditor are authorized to question the principals regarding their selections.
- The entire process will be subject to an audit.
Applications were made available to parents and guardians on March 5. Students will be allowed to apply to only one school on the basis of discretion. The application deadline is March 26.
Principals will review the applicants to their schools and submit their lists of candidates to the Office of Academic Enhancement by April 9. The review panel will meet with principals the week of April 12 and notification letters are scheduled to be mailed by April 16.
“Principal discretion is an important part of the selective enrollment high school admissions process,” Huberman said, adding that the guidelines were designed to improve accountability at each stage of the selection.
For more information regarding the principal discretion process, please visit the Office of Academic Enhancement website at www.cpsoae.org or call (773) 553-2060.
Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.