Every year, getting into Chicago's most competitive public high schools is a gut-wrenching, high-stakes process for many students and their parents.
This year, some parents say Chicago Public Schools has added an extra degree of anxiety by changing the assessment test district students will be taking to determine their eligibility for highly competitive, selective-enrollment schools.
CPS confirmed Tuesday that the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) test would be required for selective-enrollment high schools, rather than the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) that has been used in the past.
Demetra Soter's seventh-grade daughter is in a prep class for the ISAT to better her chances when she applies for a selective-enrollment high school next year. The Rogers Park neighborhood mother now worries all of that work has been a waste of time.
"That's $360 down the tube," Soter said. "It's so stressful. You know kids have to get straight A's and do well on the ISAT, so for years they've been practicing for that test. Then three months before the test, CPS suddenly switches to NWEA MAP, a test you can't study for and is much harder. That's irrational. Why would you do that?"
District officials said they were forced to move to a new test this year because the Illinois State Board of Education changed the ISAT, taken by third- to eighth-graders, to fully align with the new Common Core curriculum. The state no longer will provide the district with a percentile score that ranks CPS students against other students nationwide. District officials said they needed to find an alternative assessment that provided a national percentile and chose the NWEA MAP, which was administered districtwide last year for the first time.
The NWEA MAP will be administered in May. Scores for fifth- and seventh-graders will be used next year for those students who apply for spots at academic centers and selective-enrollment high schools.
CPS said that the change will not affect sixth- and eighth-grade students applying this year for seats at academic centers, the competitive seventh- and eighth-grade programs offered by some top-ranking high schools, or at selective-enrollment high schools.