- The new Bronzeville Classical School, Chicago Public Schools’ only new selective enrollment school, has opened on the heels of new data that reveals how the school choice era in Chicago is leaving a large number of open seats in neighborhood schools, Chalkbeat reports.
- However, Bronzeville Classical School — with its multimillion dollar rehab, new playground, smart boards, Spanish immersion classes and a pottery kiln — does represent what schools can look like with a broad base of community support.
- To enroll in Bronzeville Classical School, which primarily enrolls African-American students, families must complete a centralized online application, and students must be tested to see if they meet entrance requirements — a step that bothers some public education organizers who feel that students are now being segregated by test scores.
The new Bronzeville Classical School seems poised to be successful with its classical education model, a model that has seen success before, as well as the money spent on upgrading the school to compete with private and charter schools in the area. However, if the same funds were spent at neighborhood schools in the city, similar success would happen, some educators argue.
But the fact that Bronzeville Classical School is a selective enrollment school bothers some parents and public school leaders. For instance, in his 2016 resignation letter, Troy LaRaviere, former principal of James G. Blaine Elementary School, the city’s number No. 1 rated neighborhood elementary school at the time, noted that “one fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum.”
It seems that Chicago’s approach to solving equity issues in its schools is producing mixed results. A 2016 study of high schools in the system indicated that the competition for top-tier high schools in the district may not be worth effort. An analysis by The Atlantic noted "vast" differences between attending top- and bottom-tier schools, but a more "mixed" gap between the top and middle tiers. “Differences in college outcomes generally favored top-tier schools but were usually small and not statistically significant. Similarly, students didn’t seem to make big gains from attending a mid-tier school vs. a bottom-tier one,” according to The Atlantic.
However, the same study pointed out other non-academic benefits of the system. The authors of the study noted that selective schools are also aiming to build more diverse student bodies than neighborhood schools while attracting or keeping families that might look to private or suburban options.
A 2016 report by The Century Foundation further commended the district's approach to maintaining socioeconomic and racial diversity in these schools, but added that it still needed to address diversity issues in its most selective high schools and find ways to attract more high-poverty youth to those schools, as well.