Rethinking high-stress high school admission applications

The pandemic has led to countless educational innovations and adaptations, from live-streaming science experiments and concerts to building community through virtual service projects and socially distanced field experiences. And yet, a high-stakes high school application process that emphasizes test scores and GPA minimums remains the status quo here in Chicago. The district’s intention to streamline the process by requiring one assessment, instead of two, is a superficial change that does not address the deeply entrenched inequities of standardized testing.

In order to create a high school application process that is equitable, we must adopt a holistic approach that is also test-optional. When we consider the whole student, not just their grades and test scores, but their interests, their ambitions, their challenges, and their histories, we learn how to best support them on their journey. We need to rethink what it means to be inclusive and supportive environments and recognize that our students and their families are more than numbers on a page. Because the purpose of high school is not just a credential, it’s about discovering who you are and how you want to engage with the world around you. And, the high school application process should be the first step of that journey.

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Sarah Brock

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