NWEA. OAE. OMG.
We just want the best education for our kids, right? There are many ways to define “best” and there are choices — they just require thoughtfulness and planning, sometimes years in advance. Online CPS resources define which options are available for your student. What you won’t find at go.cps.edu are guidelines to help you decide which path is right for your student and family.
[Related: How to apply to a CPS school in 5 easy steps]
What’s your family’s tolerance for pressure?
The stress associated with testing and applications varies with each family and student. For students who test well and organized parents with time to commit to the process, it’s not that hard (full disclosure: our children attended our neighborhood elementary school through 8th grade and then selective enrollment high school a quarter-mile from home). The hurry-up-and-wait pipeline for selective enrollment is long: for example, test* in winter of Grade 3, apply fall of Grade 4, wait by the mailbox for decision letter in the spring to begin fall of Grade 5. Just remember: it’s a choice.
*Students enrolled in a non-CPS school must register for NWEA MAP testing before they intend to apply as the test scores are used to qualify students for selective enrollment.
How many school-age children do you have?
Consider if one school will meet the needs of all your children; coordinating drop-offs and pick-ups at multiple campuses is a challenge. If you have young children, get involved with your neighborhood school before you need it: support the parent organization, attend local school council (LSC) meetings (or run for a community member seat on the council), subscribe to the school’s newsletter, visit the website and school often. Neighborhood schools become great schools when families, communities, teachers and administration work together, and you’ll get the inside view before you need to choose.
[Related: How to apply to CPS preschools]
Does your student want to attend college?
It’s believed more prestigious high schools lead to more prestigious colleges and universities. Truth is, your student can attend various CPS schools and get into college. One student may thrive with a heavy AP or IB workload, while another’s GPA suffers under strain, impacting their credentials. One student may thrive in a program in which they can work hard, earn a great GPA and get a little more sleep or family time, while another loses interest for lack of a challenge. The only right answer is the answer right for your child alone.
Consider these additional questions and go forth — you have some homework to do.
- Does your community have resources to support your neighborhood school?
- Will your child feel safe both inside and outside the school? “Safe” is subjective and includes considerations like enrollment size.
- What makes your child tick? Schools, even of the same type, can have widely differing programs.
- What does diversity mean to your family? Some schools are quite homogenous while others attract students from across the city.
- How much importance do you give to social-emotional learning? Many schools use the words, but some schools really work this into practice.
- If prestige is one of your considerations, understand why. Getting in isn’t reason alone to attend. It may play a role in your student’s plan, or you may find another school characteristic that has a longer-term impact.