CPS Selective Enrollment Tier System | Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring

CPS Tier System

The tier system that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) uses to determine admissions to selective enrollment high schools can be really confusing! We can help you make sense of this complicated process.

So what are “tiers”? And 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 in 2009 by the Supreme Court, so today CPS has a policy focused on creating economic diversity. They use census data to separate the city into 4 socioeconomic tiers. The tier your child lives in impacts his or her 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. So if a selective enrollment school has 100 open seats:

  • 30 students will be admitted based on their selective enrollment scores alone (this is referred to as “rank”)
  • 70 students will 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
  • adult educational attainment
  • percentage of single-parent households
  • percentage of owner-occupied homes
  • percentage of population speaking a language other than English
  • 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.

To get a simple sense of how the tiers are divided, the median income in each of the four tiers is listed below:

  • Tier 1 – $28,017
  • Tier 2 – $39,476
  • Tier 3 – $52,987
  • Tier 4 – $77, 651

What does this mean for me?

Ultimately, a student living in tier 1 will be accepted into a selective enrollment school with a lower score than a student living in tier 4. For example, the median scores (out of a possible 900 points) for students accepted into Walter Payton for the 2018-19 school year 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 website to determine your tier by following the instructions provided.