Report highlights challenges at some Chicago schools

- A Chicago Board of Education report shows that some wealthy families scammed to get their children into selective-enrollment schools and that some school administrators concealed dropouts to boost attendance and graduation rates.

The annual report by the board's inspector general comes after Chicago Public Schools has increased consequences for anyone cheating to get into selective-enrollment programs and has tightened criteria for counting transfers.

Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said there were 181 complaints in over residency issues. In one case, a family living in a large home in an affluent Chicago suburb rented a small apartment in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood so their child could attend a school despite test scores that didn't make the cut.

Schuler noted in an earlier report that families who lie to get their children into elite, selective-enrollment schools seldom face serious consequences. Now, students with false admission records will be kicked out of school.

The report said that in fiscal year 2016, auditors found addresses were falsified for 18 students in order to gain admissions advantage because the false address was in a lower socio-economic "tier."

Chicago's public school system provides more leeway to poor children when competing against students from wealthier families for admission to test-in schools. In his report, Schuler said the CPS' requirement to prove residency when the child applies is a "critical weakness of the tier-selection system."

CPS test-in schools are rated among the best in Chicago and Illinois. Of the students enrolled in those schools, 62 have been caught lying about their address since 2012, according to Schuler.

"It is a small number of people, but we don't know how big the problem is," Schuler said. He said it was easy for "a child to magically move `on paper' from relative affluence to relative need in order to game the system."

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said asking families for more information would "put an extraordinary paperwork burden on families from some of the most challenged economic backgrounds and put up unnecessary barriers preventing them from enrolling their children in some of the city's top schools." But she said the district flags suspicious cases, such as a student with an address change from their 8th grade to their freshman year.

The report also said that for years administrators at one Chicago high school falsely recorded hundreds of students who were absent, missing or had dropped out as transfers to home-school programs. The name of the school wasn't included in the report.

Bittner said miscoding students as home-schooled isn't a widespread problem.

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