CPS Tier System

It's important to have a solid grasp of the tier system that CPS uses to determine admissions to Selective Enrollment High Schools. Below, we answer questions we often hear from parents.

What are tiers? Why were they created?

In the past, CPS used a race-based admissions policy for Selective Enrollment Schools in order to create diversity within the schools. This policy was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2009, so today CPS has a policy focused on creating economic diversity. They use census data to separate the city into four socioeconomic tiers. The tier your child lives in impacts their chance of acceptance into Selective Enrollment High Schools.

How does the tier system affect admissions?

Selective Enrollment Schools use the tier system for about 70% of their admitted students. For example, if a selective enrollment school has 100 open seats this is how students would be admiited:

  • 30 students would be admitted based on their selective enrollment scores alone (this is referred to as “rank”)
  • 70 students would be admitted based on their scores relative to their economic group or tier

How does CPS use census data to create tiers?

The US Census geographically divides the population into census tracts, which are groups of about 4,000 people who live in close proximity to each other. CPS then classifies each census tract into a tier of 1, 2, 3, or 4 using the following criteria:

  • median income
  • level of adult educational attainment
  • percentage of single-parent households
  • percentage of owner-occupied homes
  • percentage of households in which English is not the first language
  • achievement scores from neighborhood schools

Census tracts classified as tier 1 are considered the most economically disadvantaged, whereas census tracts classified as tier 4 are considered the most economically advantaged. Approximately 25% of school age children live in each tier.

What does this mean for students applying to Selective Enrollment High Schools?

Ultimately, a student living in tier 1 will be accepted into a Selective Enrollment High School with a lower score than a student living in tier 4. To illustrate, the median scores (out of a possible 900 points) for Payton for the 2018-19 selection process are listed below:

  • Rank – 899.69
  • Tier 1 – 849.19
  • Tier 2 – 883.39
  • Tier 3 – 892.49
  • Tier 4 – 897.52

How do I know what tier I live in?

Visit this interactive map to determine your tier by following the instructions provided.

Learn about how we help students develop test-taking skills and confidence here.