User Experience Problems Plague GoCPS, Too

Last Spring, CPS announced that they were making some big changes to the competitive admissions process for selective enrollment high schools, elementary schools and academic centers. Chief among those changes was the decision to no longer use the NWEA MAP  test scores as a factor in the applications for those schools. In CPS schools, all students will sit for the selective enrollment high school exam. Then those scores plus GPA will determine students’ eligibility for selective enrollment high schools and choice programs, like International Baccalaureate (and others), in elementary schools.

At this point, the 2022-2023 admissions process for selective enrollment elementary schools—Academic Centers (grades 7-8), Classical Schools, Regional Gifted Centers, and Regional Gifted Centers for English Learners—is less clear. The GoCPS website still reflects the admissions process for last year. Dates for the selective enrollment elementary admissions test have not yet been announced. Further, while grades K-4 require no prequalification to take the selective enrollment elementary admission test, students applying for 5th-8th grades must meet a minimum GPA (2.5 for Academic Centers and 3.0 for Classical Schools and Regional Gifted Centers) to take the test.

My daughter is in sixth grade and wants to go to a particular CPS academic center, which means we are now in the thick of GoCPS season. The online “choice” system for CPS opened on October 13, and I joined parents across Chicago in creating an account and beginning this year’s unusually mysterious process.

Since my kids were homeschooled last year, I expected we might hit some application snags. So throughout the summer, I kept an eye on the GoCPS website to try to glean whatever information they could provide about when and where applicants to academic centers would test for admission. I watched the admissions process webinar. By the fall, I had learned as much as I could about the new process, which was quite little.

As I already wrote, CPS needs a better user experience in enrolling new students in any school. My experience with GoCPS so far suggests the district also needs to improve the user experience for admission to selective enrollment schools and academic centers. Here’s what I’ve experienced so far.

September 21 – Office of Access and Enrollment sends email “We are pleased to announce the application window for the 2022-2023 school year will open on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021 at 10 a.m. You will be able to create a GoCPS account and begin submitting applications at that time. The GoCPS website will also be updated with information for applicants to the 2022-2023 school year by the start of the application process. We are finalizing the rest of the GoCPS timeline and will provide an update with the application deadline in the coming weeks.” 

This email included testing dates for the high school admissions exam, but not the elementary selective enrollment timeline.

September 24 – I emailed GoCPS to inquire about the elementary selective enrollment process and timeline and received this response: “Thank you for reaching out. We are still finalizing information for the 2022-2023 application window. If you would like to receive updates regarding the application and timeline, you can sign up for the GoCPS newsletter.” I had already signed up for the newsletter.

October 13 – The GoCPS portal opened. I created an account and began entering my children’s information. I entered their address and current student IDs. I clicked “Next” and got to the section titled “Student Grades.” 

At this point, I was unable to enter grades. The fields existed, but I could not enter any information. My children are students at CPS this year but were not last year. Though I had submitted all of their records when we enrolled in CPS, those records have not yet been updated with the GoCPS system. 

I thought this was something I could worry about later.

But when I got to the “Program Choice” section, the school our daughter wants to apply to did not appear in the auto-generated list of schools to choose from. This is because the threshold for the selective enrollment elementary test is based on GPA. My student doesn’t have a GPA in the system, so the only options available are those that do not depend on GPA or an entrance exam.

October 15 – I called the GoCPS number to explain the conundrum we were facing regarding GPA and school selection. The person who picked up listened to my explanation and replied, “You can’t enter your students’ GPA? You should be able to.” She had me walk her through my experience in filling out the information in the system and go as far as I could – without entering grades. 

When we got to the “Program Choice” section, again selective enrollment options were unavailable. And then the call got disconnected.

I called back. I got a different person on the phone who, after listening again to my confusion, told me that my children’s current school is responsible for uploading last year’s grades. Yes, she confirmed, this includes students who were not CPS students last year. As part of the enrollment process, we submitted all previous transcripts to our neighborhood school (Kozminski), and so the school will be responsible for entering student grades into the GoCPS system.

The grades should be uploaded by Tuesday, October 19, she said. I thanked her and planned to sit tight until October 19.

October 20 – I checked the GoCPS system to find no changes. Reluctantly, I emailed Kozminski’s school clerk—who had our daughter’s transcripts from her homeschooling experience and from her former, non-CPS school—to ask if she needed anything from me to get the grades uploaded. She replied that she would forward my information to the school counselor, who would be responsible for entering the grades into the system. 

As of today (October 25), I have exactly as much of the GoCPS application process completed as I did ten days ago. I don’t know when the elementary selective enrollment admissions exam will be administered (though the GoCPS webinar does tell us it will be administered at IIT, as in past years). This morning I heard back from our school counselor that she had been locked out of the system, and is waiting to be granted access. So stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens next.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Kira Dault

Kira Dault is a writer and editor who lives in Chicago with her family. She can be found on Twitter @kiradault.