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  1. Last year, when Juneteenth was celebrated by so many major corporations for the first time, some joked that us white people would quickly turn it into another commercialized exercise of appropriation. This year, you might still be asking, what should us white folks do on Juneteenth? Here are three options: educate ourselves, educate other white people, or actively work to dismantle a part of our white supremacy culture. [Related: The importance of celebrating Juneteenth in Chicago] During the height of the pandemic and racial unrest, all the books on the New York Times best-seller list were about anti-racism and white supremacy. Hopefully, we read the books and learned that we have a long way to go, as a society but also as white people. Educating other white people is challenging as we have to leave our comfort zone and possibly offend someone. I am certainly not the best at it, too often biting my tongue when someone demonstrates their bias, or by doing the opposite and offending without educating. And too often than I'd like to admit, I'm the one that needs educating. I’m working on it, through regular participation in SEED and a local chapter of AWARE, both at our children’s school, Near North Montessori. The third option, challenging or dismantling a part of the white supremacy culture in our institutions and organizations, might seem even more daunting than confronting and educating another white person, but it does not need to be. [Related: How to become an anti-racist parent] Our children attend a private school, and I know there is hypocrisy in choosing a private school while claiming to be helping to dismantle white supremacy. I contend it is only incrementally different, if at all, to choices many white parents make since public schools mimic the segregation in our society, and many public schools are not diverse or safe for Black, indigenous, and people of color. This year, Near North Montessori has hired a new Head of School which, after an extensive search, chose Brian Corley who had previously been the Diversity Director at the school. Brian will be one of only a handful of Black Heads of School across all the private schools in the Midwest. This is good, but we can do more. Our school, despite having diversity, does not have enough Black educators. This is a dilemma for many schools, public and private. Our soon-to-be former Head has been working to fix the training options for Montessori teachers, which seems to be one of the most vexing obstacles, and HR has made shifts to address the pipeline. But they need more tools, and money is one of the primary weapons in our society. So, my wife and I are donating a fair amount to our children’s school to start a fund to recruit and retain Black teachers. Why is it important to have Black educators on staff? My former colleague, the late Principal Robert Croston, explained it best in an article he wrote: "If more White and affluent students were educated by Black men, many stereotypes about us would fall on deaf ears and more White and affluent Americans would be able to champion our plight. As a Black male educator, some of my favorite interactions with young people include those with non- Black students because they get to experience the love, care and intellect of someone like myself. They can rebuff the swirling stereotypes when they see and know a Black man as a principal. If West Pullman schools on the South Side of Chicago need Black men, then Wilmette schools on the North Shore of Chicagoland need Black male teachers even more.” So, this Juneteenth, ask yourself and your school’s leadership: Why aren’t there more Black teachers and administrators, if any? If the first response is, “They don’t apply,” then you might have to ask: Why don’t Black teachers apply (or stay) at your school? [Related: Can we build anti-racist communities?] The uncomfortable truth is, white people like us probably have a lot more work to do to ensure schools are welcoming, safe places for Black, indigenous, and people of color to work and thrive. Donating money is one way to dismantle white supremacy, but only if you couple it with educating yourself and other white people (I highly recommend an insightful podcast on this topic, Nice White Parents). This Juneteenth, celebrate by finding ways to challenge or dismantle a part of the white supremacy culture in your child’s school, be it public or private. I guarantee you it is there, and if you do not see it, you just might be an active part of it.
  2. Video
    This webinar is for parents of students entering Chicago Public Schools in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade, and parents who are curious about the selection process in CPS. When Chicago Public Schools elementary school notifications come out, what does it all mean? Parents might receive multiple offers, one offer, no offers, and wait list numbers for their child. Join us for a chat about how to understand the notifications that you receive and how to handle multiple offers and wait lists. Because of the pandemic, parents may be unable to tour schools or meet face to face with principals and current school families, typical strategies parents use to get a "feel" of a school and make a decision. While the impact of COVID-19 is still playing out, we will also discuss alternative ways to get a sense of a school before making a decision.
  3. Article

    Back to school…finally.

    When Mayor Lightfoot announced that CPS children would have the option of returning in person, I went into a slight panic. It felt incredibly different from when CPS announced that the 2020-2021 school year would begin virtually, since the pandemic was still raging and a second wave was expected in the fall. But this announcement? It brought forth a sense of panic. We’d adjusted to virtual learning since it quickly became our new normal, and accepted that our first-grader, Amara (pictured), may not go back to in-person this school year. Our youngest daughter returned to full-time daycare back in September, which made virtual learning easier with only one child to supervise. [Related: Anxious about the upcoming school year? Here's how to ease your child's fears — and yours.] Through virtual learning, we discovered that Amara would push every technology limit available. One of our first instances was during the first month of school when her teacher emailed us explaining that Amara mistakenly deleted some pages from her assignment. My husband and I knew that it was not a mistake. Later, she started changing the teacher’s directions. For example, if the assignment stated, “In your math book, complete pages 5, 6, and 7 and then write two sentences explaining why Jim received more apples than Johnny,” she would change it to read, “In your math book, complete pages 5 and 6,” to finish her work sooner. We ended up adjusting her screen time settings to be extensive, but also realized early on that she may do better within the structure of the physical classroom. Her first day back was incredible and her mental health improved almost immediately. Simply being in the school building seemed to elicit a positive reaction and a sense of normalcy. She met her teacher in person for the first time and saw a few friends from last year. She played on the playground during recess and had school lunch — all things we previously took for granted. It’s still very different; the children are spaced out in the classroom, proper mask-wearing is enforced, there are no before/after school activities, and of course, children only attend two days per week with a large virtual component. [Related: Reintroducing play dates in a post-pandemic world] The best part has been the mornings she attends in person. Getting ready for school those two days a week feels so close to the before times and gives me a glimpse of hope that we will eventually return. She looks forward to those those two days and always has an extra pep in her step. I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe, in-person return to school in the fall.
  4. until
    Join NPN moderator Meredith and Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS in this live webinar for parents of students entering Chicago Public Schools in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade and parents who are curious about the selection process in CPS. When Chicago Public Schools elementary school notifications come out, what does it all mean? Parents might receive multiple offers, one offer, no offers, and wait list numbers for their child. Join us for a chat about how to understand the notifications that you receive and how to handle multiple offers and wait lists. Because of the pandemic, parents may be unable to tour schools or meet face to face with principals and current school families, typical strategies parents use to get a "feel" of a school and make a decision. While the impact of COVID-19 is still playing out, we will also discuss alternative ways to get a sense of a school before making a decision. We are looking forward to answering your questions as you navigate your decisions after notifications! Feel free to send in any questions prior to the webinar to mmarzano@npnparents.org. RSVP to reserve your spot today. You will receive a webinar link with your instructions prior to the live session. Free for NPN members. Please log in to register. $15 for non-members Grace Lee Sawin, Chicago School GPS: Not being a native of Chicago, Grace Lee Sawin had no idea how daunting it would be to find a great school fit for her girls. She quickly discovered how confounding the process was. After years of research and a few different schools for her daughters, she founded Chicago School GPS to help other families successfully navigate the ever-changing Chicago school landscape, from preschool to high school.
  5. Our family has opted to never return to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as an education choice post the COVID-19 shutdown. I want to preface this entire blog by saying that we are fully aware that this is an extremely privileged choice that I am very thankful for, and am very aware that not everyone, and likely most in the CPS system, can make. Knowing that CPS was highly unlikely to return to any type of in-person school this past fall, we decided to move our children to a remote mountain town out west that we all enjoy visiting as a family. We never in our wildest dreams thought we would be purchasing a home and uprooting our children by registering them in brand-new schools this past fall, but…we did. I have three children with vastly different learning needs; however, I strongly believe that all children should be in school, in-person. That belief was verified by nearly all of the private and parochial schools around the country that successfully opened in the fall for in-person instruction, and stayed open. As parents, we knew we couldn’t stand by and watch our children waste yet another instructional year in “fake computer school,” as we call it. [Related: Questions to ask yourself when considering a CPS school] For the past six months in our new town, our two youngest children in first and sixth grade have had in-person school five days per week. Our oldest in seventh grade had a bit of a rockier start. He was initially hybrid at two days per week, then the middle school had to go fully remote for a while, but since January the middle school is now hybrid with two days per week again. He does so poorly with remote school, however, that the school labeled him as high priority and he is now in four days per week with zero issues. The entire district is hoping to be back full-time, in-person, five days per week after spring break, and it looks promising. My youngest is behind a full year in her reading due to the teacher’s strike in October 2019, and then the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020. What I view as the Chicago Teacher’s Union's complete unwillingness to even contemplate in-person learning drove us to this somewhat drastic measure of moving, but we couldn’t let any of our children lose yet another year of learning. Zooming in does not work for her, and improving remote school would do next to nothing. We are grateful that our jobs allow us to live anywhere and that our kids have been able to take advantage of in-person school. In closing, I would say that a driving factor of leaving CPS entirely was the attitude of the CTU and its social media outbursts, and what I see as a complete disregard for all of our children’s best interests. In the end we will pursue private, or move. Cate White is a B2B content marketing professional by trade and has lived in the city of Chicago for 18 years. She currently lives out of state due to COVID-19 and the CTU, but normally resides in the North Center area with her three children and husband. The NPN blog gives voice to our members' thoughts about parenting in the city, and the views expressed don't necessarily reflect our own. Want to write for us? Email lauren@npnparents.org with your topic ideas. Photo by Kelly Sikkema
  6. While Chicago is replete with hundreds of school choices ranging from public options (open enrollment, magnet, selective enrollment) to private religious and independent options, all schools will require some forethought in planning except one school into which you are automatically accepted and there is never a deadline: your assigned neighborhood Chicago Public School. Each Chicago address is guaranteed an assigned neighborhood elementary (K-8th grade) and high school (9th–12th grade) that allows for immediate enrollment any time of year. Find your assigned school. All other schools (including other neighborhood schools) can be viable options for families but typically do require at least an application to be filled out and, in the case of private schools, can require a lengthy, multi-step process that begins one year before your child will start the program. Some private schools do have rolling admissions, but most schools start their application processes one year prior to enrolling. The key for families is to be prepared and not to miss their window of opportunity, with the “entry year” (i.e., age or grade a program starts) of a school typically being the time when most spots may be available. Most Chicago schools also have a fairly strict cutoff date of Sept. 1, so if a school accepts students who are 3 by September 1, you should apply the fall when your child is 2 by Sept. 1. With the exception of Suder and Drummond (both start at 3 years old) and Inter-American (starts at 4 years old), CPS schools start in kindergarten, when your child is 5 by Sept. 1. Private elementary schools typically start at 3 or 4 years-old. While Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have a centralized application portal (www.go.cps.edu) with a set open and closing date for applications (typically the 1st Monday in October to the 2nd Friday in December), private schools have varying application deadlines that can start in late August and end in February. Be sure to check with each private school to determine application requirements and deadlines. Public schools may offer tours and open houses, but attendance is not a requirement for admissions. Their applications are also straightforward with one for up to 20 non-selective programs and another for up to six selective (test-based) programs. Private schools, however, typically do require participation in a coffee/tour, as well as require a playdate or shadow day, parent interviews, and recommendations. While some private schools share online documents (via Ravenna or similar online platforms), each has its own application requirements and deadlines, so it’s important to keep track along every step. Whichever schools or programs you are interested in, the key is to be ready to apply by understanding the timeline. It really is a process that requires at least a year foresight so we recommend families of any age visit NPN’s Preschool & Elementary School Fair to ask about entry years and find the open house dates and deadlines for each school they are interested in. Updated Spring 2021
  7. Overwhelmed by school options in the city? Chicago parents have many choices (and questions!) when it comes to private preschools & elementary schools. How do you know which school will be the right fit for your child? How will you fit in as a parent? How can you put your best foot forward during the application process? What do you want to know about financial aid but are afraid to ask? How do you find a "right-fit" school during a pandemic? Join us for an intimate panel discussion with admissions directors from some of the city's most sought-after private schools. We'll talk about different educational environments, how to find the best fit for your child and family, managing the application process, financial aid, school during a pandemic, and much more. Schools represented on the panel include: Bennett Day School Daystar Academy Latin School of Chicago Near North Montessori University of Chicago Laboratory School Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Bennett Day School.
  8. Video

    CPS 201

    Going beyond the basic information given at our popular CPS 101 seminars, this CPS 201 will cover CPS Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES). If you are just beginning your research on Chicago Public Schools, we recommend viewing the CPS 101 webinar available in our NPN Video Library. Please note: This event covers elementary school programs beginning at kindergarten and first grade in great depth. We will also touch on Academic Centers (7th and 8th grades). CPS preschool, magnet, and neighborhood/open enrollment options will NOT be covered in this discussion. This video will answer these questions and more: What is the difference between a classical and gifted school? What does the testing process involve? What can my child do to prepare? How do admissions work? How do I know if these programs are right for my child?
  9. Presenters Pamela Epley, PhD, and Jena Valdez, MS, Adjunct Professor, both of the Erikson Institute, offer practical guidance and strategies you can use to support social interactions, learning and development for young children with developmental differences during Covid-19. They will also cover the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs in supporting students with IEPs during remote and hybrid learning.
  10. Whether you are just starting to consider an IEP for your child or your child has had one for a few years, it is important to understand the terms, organize your documents and know how to advocate for your child. NPN has teamed up with autism expert and special education advocate Mo Buti to educate parents on the ins and outs of the IEP process.
  11. Video

    CPS 101

    NPN's popular CPS 101 presentation is for any NPN parent searching for information about Chicago Public Schools. Presenter Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS breaks down the facts in an easy-to-understand format. This webinar was recorded on 9-14-2020 for the NPN School Fair; all information is current through then.
  12. Public preschool admissions, procedures and offerings have been an ever-changing process year after year. This year is no exception as CPS is once again in the midst of changes to their Chicago Early Learning programs (formerly known as Ready to Learn, Preschool for All and others). The newest change is a Universal PreK (UPK) component, but CPS is rolling it out in phases, which further confuses and muddles the landscape. This latest initiative was announced by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who left office before it could be fleshed out or implemented. While the intent was to have all 4-year-olds in Chicago eligible to receive free preschool (at a local school or community site) by the 2021-2022 school year, the actual details were unclear—and Covid has stretched the timing even further. Needless to say, the rollout has been confusing for many parents but the hope is that it will provide more opportunities for all students. [Related: How to apply for CPS preschools] The original plan was to have the first phase provide 28 highest-need communities on the South and West Sides (and one in Uptown) access in their neighborhood schools and nearby community sites. Then this school year, 35 more high-need communities were expected to roll out and, finally, in the 2021-2022 school year, all Chicago 4-year-olds were expected to have nearby neighborhood or community sites available to them. Due to Covid delays and funding issues, the actual timing is in flux. Read more at Chicago Early Learning & UPK FAQs. The original neighborhood phasing for UPK is here. As background, preschool is not required in Illinois, but families do try to have their children enrolled in some programs for socialization or kindergarten readiness. Besides the myriad private options, there are several “public” options that are not necessarily tuition-free. CPS houses preschool programs in school facilities with space, and this past year many programs were through Chicago Early Learning, which had sliding-scale tuition for mostly 7-hour-a-day programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. These programs opened their applications in the spring and, as of now, there are still many available spots in various centers but that also has to do with pandemic challenges. [Related: Preschool vs. Pre-K: What's the difference?] CPS also hosts a small number of Tuition-Based Preschools that are typically popular with families whose older child attends that school (but there is no guarantee the preschool child can attend the same school for kindergarten without applying first). CPS also has three tuition-free programs that begin at age 3 (Suder and Drummond) or age 4 (Inter-American) and the student can stay until 8th grade. These are the only preschool programs you apply to via the go.cps.edu portal. With the addition of Universal PreK, the goal is to ultimately provide free preschool to all Chicago 4-year-olds. Unfortunately, the actual implementation has encountered some speed bumps along the way.
  13. Video

    CPS Preschools Decoded

    Learn the differences between CPS magnet preschools, tuition-based preschools and Chicago Early Learning preschools. Get insight on finding the right preschool setting for your little one. This hour-long video covers the various types of programs available, factors to consider, application processes, and how to time your search to find the best preschool option to meet your family’s needs.
  14. Video
    Chicago Parents should have received their CPS offers Friday, May 8, 2020. This video, presented by Grace Lee Sawin with Chicago School GPS, addresses how to read them and parent next steps. This webinar is for parents of students entering Chicago Public Schools in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Parents might receive multiple offers, one offer, no offers or wait list numbers for their child. You'll learn how to understand the notifications that you have received and how to handle multiple offers and wait lists. Because of the pandemic, parents are unable to tour schools or meet face-to-face with principals and current school families—typical strategies that parents use to get a "feel" of a school and make a decision. While the impact of COVID-19 is still playing out, alternative ways to get a sense of a school before making a decision are discussed. This video was recorded live after parents received their CPS notifications. If you haven't received your notifications yet and want to know what to expect, watch CPS Offers and What to Expect Parent Q&A. * Please note that there is a pause and interruption at the 24 minute through the 33 minute mark. The slide show is presented without issue after the 33 minute mark. The parent Q&A begins at the 1 hour 14 minute mark. Many questions were asked up until the 1 hour 38 minute mark.
  15. The winter is a great time to take a well-deserved break after having done your research, visited schools, and sent in your family’s applications. Enjoy the lull before the next wave of school decisions and second-guessing creeps in! While deep down we know it’s out of our hands until notifications come in the spring, we can’t quite help but think that there must be something more to do as we wait. Fear not: There are plenty of things to do to keep you busy if you desire! January If your child needs to test for CPS Selective Enrollment schools or do their private school playdates and observations, keep things light and stress-free; a nervous parent feeds into a nervous child. You want your children to be as relaxed as possible as they head into their evaluations, so stay calm, Mom and Dad! The same can be said for parent interviews at private schools which can occur this month. Be relaxed and yourselves, but let the schools know what you love about them. [Related: How to apply to a CPS school in 5 easy steps] February While CPS may be winding down its testing for Selective Enrollment seats, some private preschool programs begin notifying families as early as mid-February. For most, it’s a quiet month, which can be a great time to attend any school tours you missed in the fall. March Private elementary schools begin notifying in early March (many simultaneously on March 1), with an opportunity to ask any final questions before signing on the dotted line and submitting your year’s deposit. Unfortunately, most private school enrollment deadlines occur before CPS notifies families, so while one may submit a non-refundable deposit at a private school to “hold a spot,” check your enrollment contract for any penalties if you decide to break your contract. NPN’s popular Discussion Forum heats up this month with parents asking advice of fellow new and veteran parents. April This is the month that CPS families will be stalking their GoCPS accounts to see if any of their lottery-based offers (aka Choice; up to 20) were made, or if one of their Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools options (aka SEES; out of six max) were awarded. The 2020 notification date is April 24. CPS typically has 2 weeks after first round notifications set aside to tour schools to help parents decide which to choose. Some parents may now be deciding between one or more private and public school offers, and the NPN Discussion Forum can be a great place to get experienced advice. Remember that you can’t send your child to multiple schools, but you also aren’t stuck for the next nine years if the school you choose doesn’t work out as expected. [Related: How and when to apply to Chicago preschools and elementary schools] May CPS waitlists begin in earnest. Families can get offers for other CPS Choice schools or, if they didn’t hear from or accept a CPS SEES offer prior, they can hear from those programs throughout the summer as well. Accepting a Choice school will not take you out of the running for any other Choice school, but the SEES process is “single offer,” meaning if you accept one of your Selective Enrollment schools, you will no longer be in the pool for the other SE schools. Only the entry years for magnet and selective enrollment programs use a tier system for awarding seats, with magnet schools devoting a higher priority to incoming siblings. The entry year of a CPS SEES program has 30% of seats set aside for high scorers from any tier, and then each tier has 17.5% of seats set aside for their high scorers, at least through the first three rounds of selection. Attrition year spots do not consider tiers, however, and neither do Open Enrollment or other neighborhood-based programs. Summer through early fall CPS conducts many rounds of waitlist calls, emails and portal updates to let families know that waitlists are moving. Subsequently, private school waitlists may move as families tell their private schools whether they will be staying or making a change. The process continues throughout the summer into the new school year, so don’t be surprised if you get a call even after your child has made new friends early in the school year. While the Chicago public and private school admissions process may seem overwhelming, know that in the end, you really do have many school choices at your disposal. If you haven’t found a great school fit yet, remember that the process begins again in October to apply for the following year (and NPN’s School Fair comes around again in early fall). Good luck to all!
  16. We’ve just closed the door on that stressful season when high school students-to-be partake in applications. My wife and I have been talking about high schools for our 6th grader for a couple of years, so we empathize. Fortunately, your choices are much better than what you might realize. For families stressing about which school is “right” for their child, likely the anxiety is caused by the selection process to get into the “best” high schools. You might believe there are only a handful of acceptable choices for high schools, requiring astronomically high test scores, and all the rest are less than adequate. But it may be time to adjust your perspective. [Related: This CPS resource makes high school search so much easier] Our city boasts some of the best schools in the country. These schools, like Walter Payton and Northside, are ranked in the top 1% nationally. If that’s your thing, game on! For those with kids who don’t enjoy high-stakes tests or who want other choices, CPS has 24 high schools ranked in the top quartile of the nation—meaning they are better than 75% of the schools in our country. Of these 24, six have a neighborhood enrollment policy, so if you live in a specific boundary near the school, your child cannot be denied enrollment. Over the past six months, the average price for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home near these schools ranged from $145,000 to $1.4 million. If you’re willing to accept a school that is merely in the top 50th percentile in the nation you can add 21 more CPS high schools to your list, for a total of 45 to consider. Ten of these additional schools have neighborhood components, starting with an average price of $159,000 for a 3-bedroom 2-bath home. Another ten of these schools give preference to students living in proximity. For example, the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, on the far South Side, or Von Steuben on the North Side, are magnet programs requiring students to score in the average range on the NWEA MAP, but students are given additional preference if they live in proximity to the school. So why even consider moving to the suburbs, when you can make a shorter move across town? [Related: High School Admissions 101 (member-only video)] If you are open to considering options that are merely better than half the schools in the nation, you have an even greater number of choices. If I can’t convince you, I highly recommend the book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, who describes how pushing kids to only believe they are successful if they get into top schools is causing lots of issues—and worst of all, it will not allow children the space to become who they are.
  17. As you are researching preschools for your little one and weighing your options, did you know that Chicago Public Schools offers many part-time and full-day, school-based and affordable preschool programs at select CPS schools across the city? Perhaps more importantly, if you thought you missed the preschool application boat for next fall, it’s not too late to apply for a seat in this program for the 2019-2020 school year. It’s called Chicago Early Learning (CEL), formerly known as “Ready To Learn” or “Preschool for All.” The application window opened on April 30, 2019, and will stay open until seats are filled. Unlike CPS’s full-time, tuition-based pre-K (TBPK), which requires you to apply directly with each school for admission, the CEL program’s application process is centralized with application sites located throughout the city and tuition is based on a sliding scale. You can apply online at www.chicagoearlylearning.org and find out quickly if you have a spot or will be put on a waitlist. Here are a few more details about Chicago Early Learning: Programs are either half-day (2.5 – 3 hours) with morning and/or afternoon sessions available at each school, or full-day (7 hours, which CPS has been increasingly adding) options, so be sure to filter your search. (The outgoing mayor’s “Universal PreK” for 4-year-olds is gradually being implemented, with 28 sites this fall.) Programs offer a well-rounded and evidenced-based curriculum with assessments to ensure students are on track for kindergarten. Tuition is on a sliding scale based on household income. Families can search for and review sites with the Find & Compare online tool, which can filter by hours, duration and program feature. Out of 600 school and community-based programs, each child may apply up to 2 sites but can only be accepted to one. Separate applications for each child can be made under a family’s account, but CPS cannot guarantee that siblings will be placed together. Chicago Early Learning does not include private schools, magnet, Montessori or tuition-based schools. Priority is given to 4-year-olds for CPS based programs, while 3-year-olds will have community-based program sites to choose from. How to apply: All Chicago residents, regardless of income, are welcome to apply for a seat to any CEL program location. Families can apply online, in person at one of several Family Resource Centers, or by phone at 312-229-1690. When applying online, there are 3 steps: 1) create an account, 2) fill in family employment and income info, child’s info and rank up to 2 program choices, and 3) if selected, you will be instructed how to verify your child’s spot. Verification requirements for CEL include: Proof of child’s age (children must be 3 or 4 years old and potty trained by September 1 of the entry school year), proof of residency, and proof of current income of parent(s) or guardian(s) of child. The City of Chicago prioritizes eligibility for these programs based on factors such as age, income, and child or family history. Starting in June, families may be notified immediately if they are placed in a program or if they will be put on a waitlist. If a family is offered a spot to their top-ranked school, they will not be placed on a waitlist for their second-ranked school. Families have up to 2 weeks to “verify” placement by visiting a Family Resource Center. After verification, the final step is to enroll your child at the preschool site. Many parents across the city find the Chicago Early Learning preschool program not only affordable and convenient, but also a great way to transition children into a preschool curriculum with the flexibility of a shorter school day, if available, or full-day options nearby. With many CEL programs housed in neighborhood and/or magnet schools, they're also a good way to help you determine whether a particular CPS school (or public school, in general) is a good fit for your child and your family. These programs do not guarantee admission to the participating school’s elementary program, however, unless that school is your assigned neighborhood school. Visit www.chicagoearlylearning.org for more information about the program and to access a complete list of program locations and application sites. Helpful FAQs can be found here.
  18. Is your child starting kindergarten next year? Consider taking a proactive approach to ensuring he or she is ready to arrive at kindergarten and learn. Evidence increasingly suggests that the areas most critical to young children’s long-term educational success are approaches to learning and self-regulation, language and literacy, math, and social and emotional development. While early childhood education is instrumental in supporting a child’s learning and development, family engagement may even be paramount. In 2017, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) which is a new tool that teachers in Illinois are required to use to observe and document students’ “kindergarten readiness” based on these areas of development. Following are suggested activities and examples for how families can support their children in becoming ready-to-learn. [Related: Kindergarten readiness is the key to long-term success] Approaches to learning and self-regulation There is a strong connection between these two areas of development. The approaches to learning skills include engagement and persistence and curiosity and initiative. The self-regulation skills include self-control of feelings and behavior and shared use of space and materials. Young children sometimes have a tough time sticking to a task that is hard to do. You can encourage your child to complete tasks by breaking one big task into smaller steps, like suggesting, “Let’s clean up the toys one at a time.” If your child feels overwhelmed by tasks, you can set a timer and suggest, “Let’s clean up the toys in the next five minutes, and then you can go color.” And, tasks may seem easier to the child with teamwork, such as, “Let’s work with your brother or sister to clean up the toys.” Young children also are learning how to express their feelings through words and actions. You can help your child learn that feelings have words — happy, sad, jealous and angry. Describe the behavior you want to see: “It’s nice you are petting the dog so gently.” Express your feelings back to your child, for example, “I was frustrated when…” And, help your child learn that everyone has feelings by pointing out others’ expressions such as, “Look at the smile on that little boy’s face.” Language and literacy development Language and literacy skills are the foundation for learning English and can be demonstrated in any form of communication. Among the best ways to help children develop in this area are to listen, talk more and learn. Start out your day by talking through the activities you will do: “First, we’re going to eat breakfast, then we’ll get dressed.” As you read with your children, encourage them to describe what they see and develop new ideas. As you move throughout the day, ask your child, “What do you see?” and help them expand his or her vocabulary by adding descriptions, such as, “This apple is crunchy.” [Related: Focus on mistakes to help your child learn] Math The math learning domain includes knowledge or skills in classification, number sense of quantity, number sense of math operations, measurement, patterning and shapes. Sorting, organizing and classifying objects, ideas, smells and like items are important skills for young children to develop. Ask your child to help you unload the silverware from the dishwasher and sort the knives, forks and spoon in the right place. Use egg cartons to create an activity where children can sort like objects like coins, crayons or sticks. Or, ask them to help you cook and sort food by fruits and vegetables or colors. You can also help your child make sense of numbers and discover how they can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided by bringing numbers into conversation. For example, ask your child to count how many crackers or grapes they start with. After eating some, count again. You can talk about how many animals you see, such as “three birds” that have “six wings.” And, you can ask your child to help you set up an activity for a playdate with siblings or friends and create equal amounts of materials for each person participating. Social and emotional development Social and emotional development includes a child’s abilities to understand and interact with others and to form positive relationships with nurturing adults and their peers. At an early age, it is important for children to make friends, to work and play with other children who have different ideas and experiences, and to simply get along. You can support your child in working and playing well with other by setting a good example — most notably, by treating others kindly and with respect. Encourage your child to play with others and foster engagement with kids by pretending, building or talking together. Teach your children about the importance of sharing and positively reinforce them by saying, “You did such a great job sharing with your friends today.” And, help your child talk through his or her feelings and how other children may feel different about a situation. These are just a few ideas about how to engage with your children in the most important areas of development. You can access more tools and resources at www.isbe.net/kids.
  19. Video

    CPS 101: Understanding Tiers

    Maybe you’ve heard about tiers, but you aren’t sure what they are, which one you’re in and if you should care. In this last installment of a four-part series that helps parents navigate Chicago Public Schools, Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS tells you how to look up your tier and explains how tiers affect the lottery, acceptance and waitlist systems. Recorded in February 2019.
  20. 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.
  21. Many Chicago parents, myself included, start thinking about high school at the same time we're applying to preschool. This phenomenon isn’t limited to “type A” parents or “helicopter” parents or overachieving parents. We begin thinking about high school so early because our children’s access to education can influence major life decisions such as where we live, and because to new and not-so-new parents, public high schools in Chicago are something of a mystery. [Related: High School Admissions 101 (members-only video)] What are public high schools like in Chicago? Are they all the same or does each school offer different programs? Is there an application process? Is it the same for all schools? These are just a few of the questions I had as a preschool parent. If you have questions like this, too, you'll love this useful resource from Chicago Public Schools that lists every public high school in the city, each school’s programs’ eligibility requirements, selection process and more. CPS organized all of this information into one document, which you can find in the Elementary and High School Guide at go.cps.edu. To go directly to the list of high school programs, eligibility and selection process, click here. CPS hasn't publicized this document, as far as I can tell, so I want to make sure other parents can find it! In this document, one section is organized by the type of admission screening required, such as an audition, an essay, attendance at an information session, and more. The next section lists the schools with IB programs and service leadership (formerly military) programs. The last section lists each high school and gives detailed information about program eligibility requirements and the selection process for each program at each school. Some high schools, such as Lincoln Park High School, have six different programs to which students can be admitted and this document lays out the differences in eligibility and selection for each one. [Related: You have more CPS high school options than you think] This information would have been enlightening for me to come across when my children were younger, when I wanted to know what public high school options were available. Now as a parent of a 5th grader, this information got me up to speed quickly. At this point, I am casting a wide net for my son and this document has it all. When my son is in middle school we’ll use this information to narrow down his high school search, prioritize his choices, and prepare his application. I still have questions about the high school search, but for now, at least, some of them have been answered. Check out NPN's school search tools to make your school search easier! Our School Directory compiles up-to-date stats on every school in the city. And look for upcoming NPN School Choice events such as CPS 101.
  22. Article
    Preschool in Chicago is not required, but many families consider enrolling their children into a local preschool option when their child is 3 years old. To attend a CPS-based preschool, however, requires understanding the differences between the options. If you’re thinking about CPS magnet schools for preschool next fall, the time to look into those programs is…now! Because you apply one year before entry, this is the fall to apply if your child is 2 by this past Sept. 1st for programs that start at 3 years old. Applications for the 2021-2022 school year for 3 magnet preschools (Suder, Drummond and Inter-American) open on October 12, 2020, are due January 8, 2021. Parents can create their student’s CPS ID at Go.CPS.edu. If you are thinking about other preschool programs hosted in CPS schools (Tuition-Based PreK or Chicago Early Learning Programs), the deadline varies as outlined below. [Related: Getting into Harvard doesn't need to start in preschool] Here’s a quick rundown of the programs and application requirements for CPS preschool programs: Tuition-Based Preschool (TBP): Full-day programs that provide childcare in addition to preschool (10-hour day; hours may vary by school). Housed in seven elementary schools, children must be age 3 or 4 and potty-trained by September 1. Applications are processed one year before entry either first-come, first-served or via selection criteria directly through each school. Priority for open seats goes to returning students and their siblings. Tuition for 2020-2021 is $15,275, which includes a $700 non-refundable deposit required to hold your child’s spot in the class, if offered. Visit the CPS Tuition-Based Preschool page for a list of school locations and to print an application. Chicago Early Learning Preschool (CEL): Either half-day (2.5–3 hours) or full-day (7 hours) programs housed in select elementary schools, with tuition determined by a sliding scale or waived (announced pre-pandemic). Children must be age 3 or 4 and potty-trained by September 1. Typically, 3-year-olds are hosted by community-based sites while 4-year-olds can be in CPS school-based locations. The application process is completely online, with a limited number of application support sites. Applicants are typically added to a waitlist until the number of open spots is determined. Visit www.chicagoearlylearning.org for application information and updates; the application period will begin in spring 2021 for Fall 2021 entry, but some sites may have rolling availability. Magnet Preschool Programs: CPS offers Montessori preschool programs at two magnet elementary schools: Drummond and Suder; children must be age 3 and potty trained by September 1. CPS also offers one dual language-immersion (Spanish/English) preschool program at Inter-American; children must be age 4 by September 1. Seats in magnet programs are awarded via a computerized lottery, with priority given for applicants who are siblings of current students. In the entry year of a magnet program, priority is also given to those who reside within 1.5 miles of the school and then any remaining entry year seats are distributed evenly by CPS Tier. Inter-American Magnet School also requires applicants to indicate their dominant language as part of the application process, and a language screening is required after an applicant is admitted. The Choice Elementary CPS application is required for the 3 magnet preschool programs; the online application period for 2021-2022 opens on October 12 and closes January 8, 2021, at 11:59pm. Go to go.cps.edu to apply. Acceptance into the 3 magnet preschool programs does guarantee admission into the school’s K-8 program, making spots in these programs highly competitive. [Related: What's up with Universal Pre-K? Here's what we know.] COVID has shifted tours and open houses to virtual formats this year and it’s always best to call each school you are interested in to get the details on how to apply and/or get on their waitlist; some programs have not yet determined the number of seats that will be open for next fall. A couple of important notes regarding CPS preschool programs: Residing within the neighborhood boundaries of an elementary school that offers a preschool program does not guarantee admission into that school’s optional preschool program; an application is required from all entering students, and acceptance into a CPS preschool program that is not your neighborhood school does not guarantee admission into the school’s K-8 program (except for the magnet programs described above). Want more info? Visit go.cps.edu to learn more about CPS acceptance and notification and follow the CPS conversations on the NPN Discussion Forum.
  23. It’s the time of year again! Chicago Public Schools (CPS) begins its applications for the 2021-2022 school year on Monday, October 12, and close on Friday, January 8, 2021. Students entering kindergarten through 8th grade may apply for open seats at schools across the city, with a limited number of pre-k options available as well. Learn about Universal Pre-K status. [Related: 9 questions parents should be asking schools] In CPS, there are two main types of schools to which you can apply: 1. Magnet schools and lottery admission programs – These include magnet schools, magnet cluster schools and open enrollment schools. A completed Choice Elementary Application is required; seats are determined via computerized lottery with no testing involved. 2. Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) – These include Classical Schools, Regional Gifted Centers (RGC) and Academic Centers for middle schoolers. A completed SEES application is required; students are selected through a testing process. For kindergarten entry at any CPS school, children must be age 5 by September 1 of the year they are entering kindergarten. (The only exception is via the Illinois Accelerated Placement Act.) Here's an abbreviated guide to getting the application process started in 5 manageable steps: 1. Activate an account (if applying online). Go to go.cps.edu to request a CPS ID for each child who is new to CPS. Each applying student needs a CPS ID to open an online CPS application. Paper applications do not require a CPS ID. All applications are due by January 8, 2021. 2. Apply. Select the schools for which you want to apply via Choice Elementary (lottery) and/or SEES (test required) applications. For the Choice Elementary application, you can choose up to 20 schools with no ranking required for the lottery. For the SEES application, you can select up to 6 Classical and/or Regional Gifted Center (RGC) schools and must rank them in order of preference. 3. Schedule a test date. If you wish to have your child tested for SEES, you will be asked to choose a test date via your portal at go.cps.edu after applying to any SEES programs. There are separate tests for Classical Schools and RGCs. If applying to kindergarten for both types of schools, each test will be administered on the same day. If applying for both types for older grades, your child will be tested on separate dates. Testing will occur from November 2020 through February 2021, or until all applicants have been tested. Students who take their test in November will receive their test results before the January 8, 2021, deadline. 4. Submit your application by 11:59pm CST on January 8, 2021 (or received by 6pm at CPSOAE for paper applications). You should receive instant confirmation of your online application and sending via certified mail is recommended for paper submissions. Notification letters and test results (for students who took their exam(s) after November 2020) will be posted to your online application portal (or mailed to paper applicants) in April 2021. 5. VIRTUALLY visit the schools you are most interested in. This is a very important step in the process and ideally should be done before you select schools and submit your application. Check out NPN School Directory to get an overview of each school, contact schools for virtual tour dates and open houses, and try to connect with parents whose children attend the schools you’re considering. Bear in mind that the “hottest” schools might not be the best fit for your child. Also, don’t underestimate your own neighborhood school, as it may be a “hidden gem” and the perfect place for your child—and for you and your family to become part of an active school community. [Related: CPS 101 video (members only)] These are just the basic steps in the CPS application process. Please note that there may be variations to these steps, depending on the particular programs and/or grades your child is applying to. Visit go.cps.edu for more information and details. Remember: No application or deadline is required for your neighborhood school. Every street address in the city is assigned to a neighborhood school where your child is guaranteed a seat. However, keep in mind that the public school nearest to your home may not necessarily be your neighborhood school (even if it’s right across the street!). Enter your primary residential address on the CPS School Locator to determine your neighborhood school. Then contact the school directly for a registration timeline and other pertinent information for incoming students and families. Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year (or beyond)? Keep your eye on the NPN Chicago School Choice events on the calendar for our next round of CPS 101 presentations, which offer more guidance and tips for learning about CPS and successfully navigating the public school selection and application process. NPN members can also access the four-part CPS 101 video series. Want more info? Visit go.cps.edu to learn more about CPS acceptance and notification and follow the CPS conversations on the NPN Discussion Forum.
  24. On Friday, Chicago Public Schools released a lot of new data. While CPS's continued enrollment slide made the biggest headlines (enrollment is linked to how much funding each district receives), the new school ratings are likely more important to parents, especially those in the thick of school search. Find out where your school—or the schools you're considering for your child next year—ranks here. [Related: Want to make your community better? Consider your neighborhood school] My son's school's rating dropped from a 1+ to a 1. That's disappointing, for sure, but this article about what these ratings really mean helped me understand the data that drives these ratings, and why perhaps you shouldn't put too much stock into them. Possibly the most controversial data point in these ratings is attendance, which is weighted more than all other factors. A "perfect" score is 96% attendance. Attendance is no doubt important, but if a school slips below that 96% attendance rate, its rating takes a huge hit. "For example, last year Saucedo Scholastic Academy just barely received a Level 2+ rating, with 2.9 points," the article states. "Students at Saucedo had a 95.9% attendance rate. Had students been sick just a few days less, their attendance would have increased to 96.0%, and they would have become a Level 1 school." [Related: The little-known strategy of getting into Chicago schools] So if you're researching schools for your child, by all means take these school ratings into account. But my advice is also to consider the many other aspects that make a school successful, such as a committed principal and a highly involved parent group. Luckily, my son's school has both. Check out NPN's school search tools to make your school search easier! Our School and Daycare Directory compiles up-to-date stats on every school in the city. And look for upcoming NPN School Choice events such as CPS 101.
  25. “When is the best time to begin my school search?” is a question often posed by families looking to start the always dreaded but ultimately necessary rite of passage known as the “Chicago School Search.” Sometimes the question is followed up by a plaintive, “Oh my goodness! Am I too late?!” Rest easy, Chicago families. The answer is not as cut-and-dried as one would think — and ultimately, you are never “too late.” [Related: Getting into Harvard doesn't need to start in preschool] As the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is home to a vast range of school types, sizes, options, and admissions processes. Even within Chicago Public Schools (CPS), there are various pathways for entry from preschool to high school. Overlaid with the multitude of private and parochial schools, there are always choices for parents whenever they embark on their school search. That being said, one of the keys to increasing your odds in any endeavor is to know when those odds are at their best. “Entry Year” odds For school admissions, when a program begins is known as the “entry year” of a school (e.g., a K-8 school’s entry year is kindergarten). This is typically the time when the school has the most spots available. But it can have the most applicants, as well. For example, a school with two kindergarten classrooms of 25 students each will have 50 spots to fill, and perhaps 500 applicants (a 10% admit rate). Conversely, that same school’s first-grade class may have just one spot open, but only five students applying — so it could have a 20% admit rate in a non-entry year. Considering how difficult it is to predict if any upper-year spots may be available, a good strategy is to be in the applicant pool of the entry year for your desired school. Some common or little-known entry points are: Infants (6 weeks: Montessori Academy of Chicago) 3-year-olds (University of Chicago Lab School, Frances Xavier Warde, many Montessori schools) 4-year-olds (Chicago City Day School, Inter-American Magnet) 5-year-olds (most CPS schools) 5th grade (additional spots at Latin School) 6th grade (additional spots at Francis Parker) 7th grade (CPS Academic Centers) 9th grade (high schools) [Related: Want to make your community better? Consider your neighborhood school] September 1 cut-off Most preschool and early elementary programs have a strict age cutoff date of September 1, so keep that in mind when determining your child’s entry year. Once a school’s entry point is confirmed, be sure to apply one year before the program starts to be in the running for available seats. In other words, if you are interested in a school that begins at 3 years old, then plan to apply that fall when your child is 2 years old. Whatever year you enter a school, you are allowed to stay until the school ends, which is typically 8th or 12th grade. Targeting the entry year can increase your odds of acceptance at a school of your choice. Good luck with your school search journey, and may the odds be with you! Updated Spring 2021

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