Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools

This is the time of year that preschool and 8th grade parents wait by the mailbox to receive their Chicago Public School letters of acceptance.  What a stressful time!  The 8th graders learned of their high school acceptances via mail this past weekend, and preschool parents will find out their answers for elementary schools in a couple weeks.

Anna Alvarado, of Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, reports to me that her school received 1500 applications for kindergarten this year.  With siblings in older grades, this may leave only 33-50 lucky parents  — a 2-3% chance — of winning the lottery!  (And — your chances could be even more slim, depending on the sex and race of your child.)

As the economy weakens and demand for good public school choices increases, more pressure is being put on CPS to deliver good education alternatives. A good start was made in making Coonley a gifted center — that was one of the catalysts in making Bell the outstanding school it is today.

In a nutshell, your options for finding a Chicago Public Elementary School are:

Neighborhood School

Live in the boundaries of a neighborhood school (see the CPS school locator for guidance)

Examples — Lincoln, Bell, Alcott, Ogden

Magnet School

Usually, living in the neighborhood doesn’t matter — one enrolls in CPS magnets by a lottery that’s held annually based on applications due in December of the previous year.  So, applications delivered by 12/08 have yield the March acceptance letters for fall ’09. Examples on Chicago’s north side include

  • Disney
  • Franklin Fine Arts
  • Hawthorne
  • Inter-American
  • LaSalle Language Academy
  • Newberry Math and Science
  • Mayer
  • Stone
  • Wildwood

Classical Schools and Gifted Centers

These test-in elementary schools offer advanced educational opportunities to academically advanced students.  According to CPS Options For Knowledge,

Regional Gifted Centers place an emphasis on thinking, reasoning, problem solving and creativity. The test for Regional Gifted Centers assesses the student’s critical thinking skills and reasoning abilities.


Classical Schools place an emphasis on scholarship with a liberal arts focus. The test for Classical Schools assesses the student’s reading, language arts, and mathematics abilities.

Academic Centers

For 7th and 8th graders who are selected through 6th grade testing, options are available at schools including

  • Whitney Young
  • Taft

Middle Years IB

For 6th-8th grade students who live in the geographic boundaries of the IB programs, or who are accepted by application through the IB coordinator, these are great options for academically advanced students.

Jennifer Tanaka’s article, “It’s Elementary”, is a great guide for preschool parents who want more information on navigating the maze of Chicago Public School options.  While we should always be watchful for those who take advantage of the system, I am concerned that the recent Sun-Times article on Public Schools Pay to Play may unnecessarily exaggerate the improper use of principal picks.  Whenever there’s not enough room for all who want in, there will be allegations of wrongdoing.  Hopefully, public awareness and CPS vigilance will maintain public good will in this stressful process.

Other links:

Neighborhood Parents Network of Chicago

Chicago Area’s Best Schools

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