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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Guest

    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 9-24-22 at the NPN School Fair; all information is current through then.
  4. If you have ever felt confusion about Chicago’s public preschool admissions, procedures and offerings, you are not alone. The process and nomenclature have changed each year, with various names, programs and application processes to keep track of. Some programs were applied to via the GoCPS portal and others were via a city of Chicago portal. This year, however, CPS and Chicago are working together to streamline their programs and finally bring about Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) for all Chicago children who turn 4 years old on or before 9/1/22. While still called Chicago Early Learning, the portal is now under CPS’s umbrella and, starting at 9am on April 19, 2022, the online application will open. While details are still being finalized, these are some changes to expect: [Related: How to apply for CPS preschools] School-based full-day (7 hours/day) sites are prioritized for 4-year-olds; 3-year-olds may be offered half-day programs in community-based sites Families can apply for up to 5 program sites (must rank your order of preference) “Priority Points” will be given to families as follows: those with income or learning needs, siblings, neighborhood school and within a 1.5 mile proximity of a preschool site There will be an “initial application period” open for about a month, so applications are not first come, first serve until after that period closes in mid-May After first-round offers are given in May, the next rounds will be offered on a rolling basis with 24-hour notification starting in June Application portal is via Schoolmint (same platform as GoCPS) but will not require obtaining a CPS Student ID prior to applying Most families should get one of their top 5 choices Offers are verified through a Family Resource Center or directly at a school or community-based site, with proof of income, address and birth certificate. Waitlists will be offered for any programs ranked above the offered choice. Summer transition programs are planned ("Preview to PK" and "Kickoff to Kindergarten") with more information released after offers are sent. [Related: Preschool vs. Pre-K: What's the difference?] Read more at Chicago Early Learning & UPK FAQs or call the CEL Hotline: (312) 229-1690. While preschool is not required in Illinois, many families do try to have their children enrolled in some programs for socialization or kindergarten readiness. For 4-year-olds, CPS will house their preschool programs in school facilities with space or in regional “Early Learning Centers,” and applications are available through Chicago Early Learning. The portal also can help families of 3-year-olds find community-based host sites. CPS still has two tuition-free magnet Montessori-based elementary programs that begin at age 3 (Suder and Drummond) where the student can stay until 8th grade. These are the only preschool programs you apply to via the go.cps.edu portal. All other free preschool options should be applied to via the Chicago Early Learning web portal, opening April 19, 2022. Tuition-based pre-K will also no longer be offered and had already dwindled substantially over the years. In addition, changes to GoCPS’s elementary process for 2023–2024 applications are being proposed to give “priority points” for students to continue from their preschool and stay there for kindergarten. Starting this October, Chicago Early Learning 4-year-old students enrolled at a CPS school site for preschool can apply to continue at that school for kindergarten via the GoCPS portal. They will be given priority before out-of-boundary, unaffiliated new students are offered spots. With Universal Pre-K, the goal is to essentially start a student’s free public school journey at age 4 in preschool instead of 5 in kindergarten. With the newest Chicago Early Learning application, the first steps of that goal are closer to becoming a reality. Updated spring 2022
  5. Guest

    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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 notification date is typically toward the end of April. 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! Updated October 2021
  8. 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.

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