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Navigating the Chicago Public School System: Some Helpful Resources

Posted by on December 10th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

CPS Logo Navigating the Chicago Public School System: Some Helpful Resources

It should be a right to get a good public school education no matter what neighborhood you live in. Sadly, that’s not the case in Chicago, which means thousands of parents jump through hoops and submit applications to get their children into magnet schools and other schools substantially better than the ones in their districts. As the deadline of December 17 approaches for applying for the 2011-12 school year, I would imagine many parents are scrambling to finish up the process and will wait nervously for months to learn whether their children were accepted (stats show an overwhelming majority won’t be) or if they’ll have to settle for a sub-par school or pay up for private school if they can afford it.

My twins won’t enter kindergarten until 2013, but I’m already doing research to make sure they receive the best education possible. I am a product of public schools, albeit not city schools but the suburbs of New Jersey, and have no intention of paying for private school if I can help it.  Luckily, we just so happen to be in a highly rated elementary school district (Blaine) but I still want to examine all of our options. Others aren’t so fortunate to have a good neighborhood school, and I can imagine it’s extremely stressful to figure it all out. Even residing in the Blaine school district, which made the list of the top elementary schools compiled by Chicago magazine, I want to do due diligence and determine if we should apply to other schools and which ones. (Also I wonder does making a top Chicago public school list mean it’s really good, or just good in relation to other Chicago public schools? The latter isn’t overly comforting given the University of Chicago found that only 54 percent of the students who entered CPS schools as freshmen in 2000 graduated four years later in 2004.)

Here are some links and resources regarding CPS:

Chicago magazine published a very comprehensive piece on navigating the Chicago Public School system, including a ranking of the best schools, how to apply to schools, criteria schools use to evaluate students and more. It’s a must-read for Chicago parents.

Wikipedia actually gives an informative overview of the school system, including a list of the selective enrollment high schools and the formula for admissions.

Here is the info by CPS that explains the different types of schools: magnet, gifted, classical, neighborhood, etc.

– Here are applications from CPS to apply to various types of schools. They call the program “Options for Knowledge.” Ha! How about giving us an “Options for GUARANTEED Knowledge aka An Adequate Education for All Kids!”

Here are some stats on the CSP, including number of schools, student-teacher ratios and average teacher salaries (nearly $75,000).

– The Chicago Tribune listed ten tips for parents in applying to CPS schools and here is a Tribune piece on parents scrambling to get their kids spots.

– A local mother writes a blog titled CPS Obsessed which contains useful first-hand experience with CPS and some great conversations about the school system.

– CPS offers free preschool to three and four-year olds for about 2.5 hours a day, five days per week. Blaine has such a program and I just enrolled the girls for next school year while I consider other possibilities as well. Here is information on the Free Preschool for All Program.

Here is a ranking of Chicago public schools by the Chicago Sun Times but unfortunately many of the links don’t work so it’s difficult to get the information. Hello Sun Times people! Fix your site!

Know of other resources? Let us know! And tell us about your experiences with Chicago Public Schools.

 Navigating the Chicago Public School System: Some Helpful Resources

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4 Comments

This is great! Now do Milwaukee. (Please?)

Korinthia Klein commented on Dec 11 10 at 12:37 am

The preschool for all program involves applying and spots are awarded based on family income as well as whether you live in the district. I don’t understand how you “enrolled” your children for next year. All the programs I have talked to do not make decisions until April/May for the following fall, and your children are not guaranteed any spot until that point. Also, it is my understanding that competition is fierce for this program with many more applicants than spaces at most schools. Are you saying you applied?

Jen commented on Dec 11 10 at 5:22 pm

Jen — Yes, I submitted our application. Perhaps the term “enrolled” wasn’t the best choice of words. My understanding from the open house / tour is that if you live in the neighborhood you’d get a spot. But I know with possible budget cuts, changes in policy, etc., it’s certainly not guaranteed so we are also exploring other options. I’ll certainly report back on how/when we are alerted to whether the girls are accepted, etc.

lindamarsicano commented on Dec 12 10 at 12:16 pm

Trying to figure out CPS is crazy. That’s why we did private school for now. Also, FWIW I know lots of folks at Blaine and they are very happy there. This is great of you to do!!

selfmademom commented on Dec 13 10 at 11:14 pm

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Linda Marsicano is a former PR executive who turned to freelancing when her identical twin girls were born in 2007. She writes under the name Lulu and Moxley's Mom at her personal blog. Lulu and Moxley are what she would have named her twins if she was famous. Sadly, she's not, so writes about celebrities instead at Babble's Famecrawler blog. At Babble Chicago, she'll share her experiences with family-friendly activities and other issues on the minds of Chicago parents. Like where to get a stiff drink.

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