Taft Academic Center

Contact Information

Taft High School Principal:

Mark Grishaber

Academic Center Director: Chloe Soto
Phone: 773-534-1000
Web site: www.tafths.org
Address: 6530 West Bryn Mawr
Freshman class size: 155

Admissions

Taft is the third most competitive Academic Center in terms of average admissions scores – behind Whitney Young and Lane Tech.

In 2016-2017 (the most recent admissions cycle), the average admissions score at Taft was 769 on the 900 point admissions scale – up 3 points from last year’s 766. For the past two years, CPS used the more rigorous MAP test as its 5th grade standardized test in its admissions formula. The use of this test put pressure on Tier 1 scores in particular. In the most recent admissions round, average scores for Tier 1 students fell 18 points, however scores for Tier 4 students rose a modest 4 points. The continued weakness in Tier 1 scores is largely responsible for the decline in average admissions scores for Taft’s Academic Center.

In 2012, CPS decided to reclassify its Tiers. One effect of this reclassification was to “upgrade” nearly all north and northwest side areas to Tier 4 – if they were not already in that group. Since Taft is located on the northwest side – it’s geographically remote from most Tier 1 and Tier 2 residents. This has made it more difficult for Taft to attract academically advanced students from lower Tiers.

For the past seven years, CPS has been using a socioeconomic Tier system to select students for all of its selective admissions schools, including Academic Centers. Currently, thirty percent of seats are allocated to students with the highest academic performance citywide – regardless of their “socioeconomic status”. The remaining seventy percent are allocated to each of four socioeconomic Tiers, with each Tier receiving 17.5%. Students compete for this portion based their academic performance in comparison with other students in their Tier.

Use of the Tier system has led to significant gaps in the academic achievement required for admissions between students from different parts of the City of Chicago. There is a particularly large gap between admissions scores of Tier 4 (the highest socioeconomic Tier) and Tier 1 (the lowest socioeconomic Tier) students – in the more competitive schools.

In each of the past five years there was a gap of over 100 points between the average score of an admitted Taft Academic Center Tier 4 and Tier 1 student. Such a huge gap means that students accepted into the Taft Academic Center have significantly different academic qualifications. Because of its location on the northwest side, an area distant from most Tier 1 students, Taft continues to struggle to attract academically talented Tier 1 students. Taft must reach far into this Tier’s applicant pool to meet its quota of Tier 1 students.

In the most recent admissions cycle the gap between the average score of an admitted Tier 4 and Tier 1 student was 187 points and the gap between the cut-off score for a Tier 4 and Tier 1 student was an astounding 274 points. The existence of gaps of this magnitude among incoming Taft Academic Center students means that students enter Taft with dramatically different academic backgrounds.

Programs

In 7th grade, students take an accelerated program that includes Pre-Algebra, Honors Environmental Science, Social Sciences Emphasis on Colonial American History, Language Arts-Reading, Fine Arts, Computer Technology, World Language (Spanish or French). In 8th grade, students can take an accelerated program that includes Algebra I Honors, Honors Biology, U.S. History Honors with Public Law Unit, Honors Survey of Literature, Fine Arts, Environmental and Spatial Technology, and World Language (Spanish or French).

Unlike Whitney Young or Lane Tech’s Academic Centers where 7th graders start in Algebra and then move to Geometry in 8th grade, Taft Academic Center starts its 7th graders in Pre-Algebra rather than Algebra and then moves to Algebra in 8th grade.

Each of the above “Honors” classes enables a student to earn high school credit (up to 7 high school credits in total) – and thereby enroll in a more advanced high school program.

Academics

Standardized tests administered to middle school CPS students are in a state of flux. The ACT organization has phased out the EXPLORE test which had been administered to 8th and 9th graders and transitioned to the Aspire test. The ISAT has been phased out in favor of the PARCC and MAP tests. As a result, the most up-to-date and relevant way to track school performance is the PARCC test. The PARCC test is designed to measure student readiness for the next grade level’s work and subsequent college and career readiness. PARCC performance is also designed to track with subsequent ACT performance.

Students who met or exceeded expectations are likely to be on track for the next grade level and ultimately for college and career readiness. In 2016, 73% of Taft Academic Center 8th graders met or exceeded expectations in ELA (English Language Arts) including 13% who exceeded expectations. Similarly 67% of Taft Academic Center 8th graders met or exceeded expectations in Mathematics but just 8% exceeded expectations.

For additional academic information about Taft Academic Center, click here for a state report card.