A new study on selective enrollment high schools finds mixed academic impacts for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds
A study from the UChicago Consortium on School Research finds that Chicago Public Schools’ selective enrollment high schools—widely considered the best public schools in the city—actually produce mixed academic results for students. Attending a selective enrollment high school improves all students’ reports of feeling safe at school and having strong relationships with peers and teachers. However, students from low-income neighborhoods who attend selective enrollment schools end up with lower GPAs and lower probabilities of attending a selective college. Students from high-income neighborhoods who attend selective enrollment schools, on the other hand, may have an increased probability of attending a selective college. Attending a selective enrollment high school has no effect on test scores, including the ACT, for students from low- or high-socioeconomic status neighborhoods.
Why It Matters
The achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent counterparts has widened in the last 50 years. The Consortium’s research raises important questions on how improving access to selective enrollment high schools may not succeed on its own as a lever for closing the gap between students’ college aspirations and attainment and helping more students from low-income families access selective colleges. The study also provides good news for students who end up at high-performing non-selective schools instead of selective ones—their academic outcomes are just as good, and potentially better, than they would be if they had gone to the selective high school.