Affirmative action ensures Chicago’s elite high schools admit a racial, ethnic and socioeconomic mix of students, writes Kevin Mahnken on The 74. “The district is now held up as a model to others that have struggled to diversify their own exam schools.”
But, despite fierce competition for seats at the 11 high schools, there’s no evidence those who get in do better academically than similar students who just miss the cutoff, new research shows. Disadvantaged students do worse at elite high schools. They earn lower grades than similar students who weren’t admitted and are less likely to attend a selective college. Their test scores don’t improve.
A second study by MIT economists suggests a reason, Mahnken writes. Many disadvantaged students rejected by selective schools go on to attend a high-performing charter high school in the Noble Network.
Noble students, who come from lower-income Hispanic and black families, earn higher test scores and grades. They’re more likely to complete at least four semesters of college, earlier research found.
Chicago Magazine listed 13 of 17 Noble high schools in its 2019 list of the city’s best public schools. All Noble schools are open admissions. Like the Success charter network in New York City, Noble schools feature high expectations and strict discipline.
Advantaged students may not benefit from elite high schools either, Mahnken notes.
Prior research has indicated that the academic performance of students at storied institutions like Boston Latin or Stuyvesant was more attributable to their own aptitude (and perhaps their families’ resources) than to anything going on inside classrooms. In other words, the high-flying applicants would likely excel anywhere.
Economists calls this the “Elite Illusion.”
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