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  1. You’ve successfully navigated the nursery years, tolerated the toddler years and are pondering the preschool years when you realize, "OMG! Preschool means 'pre-SCHOOL,' and I need to find an elementary school!" A parent’s school search typically starts by sitting down at the computer and typing in “Best Elementary Schools." The results are populated with hits from sources such as GreatSchools, Niche, Schooldigger or School Sparrow. But what do these results mean, and should parents just add the #1 school to their list while ignoring other schools that are closer or more familiar to them? How reliable are the ratings, and how should a parent use them? [Related: How to apply to CPS selective enrollment elementary schools and magnet schools] The fact of the matter is that school ratings and rankings are a very messy, very inexact method to quantify schools. Because they are summarized by a “number” or “grade” or listed in a “ranking order," parents tend to put undue emphasis on ratings/rankings yet aren’t aware of what is being measured. While test scores are typically the largest component to rankings, “school fit” (literally, how good of a fit a given school is for your child) is much more than test performance and is ultimately a very personal matter that can even vary within a family from child to child. What truly qualifies as “best” for one family may not be well suited to another. While it is understandable that parents need some metric to start with, the metrics used can be skewed, out of date, or not reflective of the cohort your family will be entering the school with. Following are some common misunderstandings about school rankings: Ratings typically put the greatest emphasis on test scores, so better resourced families often have higher test scores and those family resources continue to benefit their children throughout their education Ratings/rankings are not set in stone and can change as demographics in a school changes Ratings typically reflect 3rd to 8th grade, so younger families should be wary of looking at metrics that may include a very different demographic than the one their family will be in school with Ratings often lump in all programs within a school. So, those with a higher population of students with learning needs may still be a great (or even better) option for your student, but the “rankings” may not reflect the level of supports. Schools can and do change, and schools in gentrifying areas may have more resources added to the school by the time your family will be attending [Related: 9 questions parents should be asking schools] Test scores don't tell the whole story It is somewhat pre-ordaining to use rankings to choose a school. Think about it: If test scores are a big factor in ratings/rankings, then children who have advantages and resources from birth are certainly going to test better overall and the schools near them will reap the benefits of well-resourced students and parents. While new parents may be more swayed by rankings, eventually we come to realize that academics alone are not a single trait to look for in a school. Social-emotional factors — as well as culture, climate and community — are just as impactful yet are hard to capture in objective metrics because they are inherently more subjective. School visits can be invaluable to dispel pre-conceptions or help a family picture themselves in a school, but people gravitate toward or crave the easier route of following rankings. School rankings don't measure lifestyle impact Parents who blindly follow blanket rankings/ratings may overlook a great "fitting" school in favor of one that a third-party metric says is 10 spots “above” the other school, yet requires a drive across town to attend. In the end, there may not be any marked difference in outcome for their child attending one or the other. But the lifestyle impact could be more negative for the school that's further away. One school’s overall scores may be lower because it serves a broader range of backgrounds or has more special needs students, but that doesn't mean your child’s success is reliant on only one school and not another. What your child can achieve and what they score on an exam does NOT have to be the “average” number. What to look for instead of rankings Using rankings and ratings to be the first or only metric in choosing a school can also serve to negatively suppress positive changes at a school. Instead, families should tour their local school or those near them. Another great indicator of a school fit? Talk to families with children their age who may have older siblings at the school. Reaching out to a school’s parent group or attending local school council (LSC) meetings is also a great way to get an honest scoop on a school. Ultimately, the greatest arbiter of student success is parent involvement in their children's lives — way beyond one school over another school, public or private, city or suburbs.
  2. Chicago's Universal Pre-K initiative (free preschool for 4-year-olds) is now being offered to all Chicago families this fall 2022. Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS will give a presentation that walks you through the Pre-K application and admissions process. This webinar was recorded on 9-24-22 at the NPN School Fair; all information is current through then.
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    NPN's Annual Preschool and Elementary School Fair is back and in person! Mark your calendars for September 24, 2022. Held every fall, NPN’s Annual Preschool & Elementary School Fair has been the No. 1 resource for school-searching parents for over 20 years! Parents can chat with reps from dozens of public and private Chicago preschools and elementary schools, including those that support diverse learners. Parents will also have the opportunity to attend informative breakout sessions about Chicago schools. Walk-ins are welcome! Children are welcome! Check in by 10:30 to be entered into the free raffle to win one of 10 raffle prizes with a total value of over $1,000! ➤ List of participating schools Sessions 9:00 - 9:45am CPS Universal Free Pre-K, What you Need to Know Chicago's Universal Pre-K initiative (free preschool for 4-year-olds) is now being offered to all Chicago families this fall 2022. Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS will give a presentation that walks you through the Pre-K application and admissions process. 11:30 - 12:00pm Early Childhood Educational Philosophies and Mental Health Bennett Day School, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park and Lycée Français de Chicago discuss the importance of a strong mental health foundation in early childhood. Our panelists will discuss how early childhood programs build foundational skills that help young children navigate challenges and manage their feelings. 12:15 - 1:15pm CPS 101 What is a magnet school? What is your tier and why does it matter? Come to the school fair to get all of these questions answered and more! In this CPS 101 information session, Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS will give a presentation that walks you through the elementary school application and admissions process. MUST-KNOW INFO When: Saturday, September 24, 9am--1pm Where: UIC Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted St., Chicago Who: FREE for NPN members ($20 donation recommended) > $20 non-members >> Or join NPN now for $35 using promo code school22 and access the school fair, and everything NPN has to offer, for free! << For new members only. Does not apply to membership reactivation. Registration required for entry Interested in exhibiting or advertising opportunities? Find out more HERE. Questions? Email Events Manager Elizabeth Gourio at egourio@npnparents.org. By registering for this event, you agree that NPN may share your name and email address with our sponsors. NPN is a 501(c)(3) organization. We rely on the support of our members, partners, supporters, and sponsors to bring exceptional programming like this to parents. We would like to thank our Preschool & Elementary School sponsors for their support. Thank you to our sponsors
  4. NPN Jana

    "Hidden Gems" Chicago high school fair

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    In-person high school fair hosted by Chicago School GPS at the British International School of Chicago. Knowing how to cast your net wide and increase your options is KEY to a successful Chicago high school search. Join Chicago School GPS as we bring together over 35 participating public, private and boarding high schools & resources, each with unique qualities that you may not have known about prior to coming to our Hidden Gems Fair. PLUS, you can meet helpful resource vendors and partake in informative breakout sessions that will give you clarity on the high school process. Join us for an afternoon designed to make your high school journey a successful one! Our invaluable breakout sessions offer insights for Middle School Parents and Students on topics such as: • Navigating the high school admissions process • Entrance test tips & strategies • International Baccalaureate programs demystified • Planning for success in High School & beyond Go here to view our growing list of 2022 schools and businesses. $15/family via online prepaid registration Go here to register. Need based Fee Waivers Available! Pre-Register online by 10/1/22 or pay $25/family at the door. Parking available at Roosevelt Parking garage, 1115 S. Delano Ct. with 2 hour parking validation. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: info@chischoolgps.com or 312.324.4774.
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    Maybe you have an infant and you are curious about public high schools in Chicago. Maybe you have an older elementary age child and the topic of high school is starting to come up in conversation. Or maybe your baby has morphed into a middle schooler and you suddenly need to figure this high school thing out! Wherever you are coming from, NPN is here to help. In this CPS 301 session, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS, you will learn about: - Selective enrollment high schools - Choice programs - How to apply to both - Selection criteria - Managing acceptances, waitlists, and principal discretion You may want to watch CPS 101: Understanding Tiers (available to NPN members only) in preparation for this live session. 
 This event is FREE and exclusive to NPN members only. Join now! Thank you to our media partner: Crain's Chicago Business.
  6. NPN Amy J.

    Annual Preschool & Elementary School Fair

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    Held every fall, NPN’s Annual Preschool & Elementary School Fair has been the No. 1 resource for school-searching parents for over 20 years! Parents can chat with reps from Chicago preschools and private elementary schools and attend breakout sessions about Chicago public schools. This year our school fair is virtual and runs from Saturday, September 25th through Saturday, October 16th. See the list of participating schools here. This year's fair consists of smart, organized, and one-of-a-kind resources and virtual events. FREE for NPN members! (Members, login to register). Register now to access: 1. Updated and new information in our School and Daycare Directory - File downloads - Videos - Photos - And more 2. An open house calendar - No need to search all over for dates, we pull them together for you in one simple document - Updated weekly as schools confirm/add dates - Register now to receive the link to the calendar 3. Live, virtual coffee talks with schools - Meet private school representatives - Watch a short, live presentation by the school - Ask questions - Register now for the schedule and links 4. Breakout sessions that explain everything you need to know about Chicago Public Schools 10/8/21 12:00 - 1:00pm CPS 101: Questions & Answers (FREE with school fair registration, receive the Zoom link in your school fair confirmation email) 10/15/21 12:00 - 1:00pm CPS 201: Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools Questions & Answers (FREE with school fair registration, receive the Zoom link in your school fair confirmation email) 10/22/21 12:00 - 1:00pm CPS 301: Selective Enrollment High Schools & Choice Programs (FREE for NPN members, REGISTRATION REQUIRED, register here) Registration required > FREE for NPN members > $35 non-members, comes with NPN membership to be activated November 1, for new members only. Does not apply to membership reactivations. >> Or join NPN now for $25 using promo code school21 and access the school fair, and everything NPN has to offer, for free! << Questions? Email Executive Director Amy Johnson at director@npnparents.org. NPN is a 501(c)(3) organization. We rely on the support of our members, partners, supporters, and sponsors to bring exceptional programming like this to parents. We would like to thank our Preschool & Elementary School sponsors for their support: Thank you to our sponsors Thank you to our media partner: Crain's Chicago Business Schools: Exhibitor registration is open. Click here to register.
  7. What is the difference between selective enrollment and choice programs? How many different curriculum programs currently exist within CPS high schools? Should I consider an academic center? How has the testing and application process changed? Going beyond the basic information given at our popular CPS 101 and 201 seminars, CPS 301 covers CPS Selective Enrollment High Schools, Choice programs and much more. This CPS 301 session, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS, includes: - Information about the different curriculum/programs within CPS High Schools - Guidance on the selective enrollment high school application process - Clarity on the points and selection process - How to manage acceptances, waitlists and principal discretion - Answers to questions from our live audience
  8. 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? Going beyond the basic information given at our popular CPS 101 seminars, CPS 201 covers CPS Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES). This CPS 201 Questions & Answers session, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS, includes: - Guidance on the selective enrollment elementary school application process - Information about selection criteria and admissions process - Answers to questions from our live audience This session was recorded live on October 15, 2021. Find more in-depth selective enrollment application info in the video CPS 201, recorded 9/20.
  9. What is a magnet school? What is your tier and why does it matter? Is there really an option for free, all-day preschool? In this CPS 101 Questions & Answers session, Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS gives a short presentation that walks you through the recent updates to the preschool and elementary school application and admissions process. The rest of the time is dedicated to answering parent questions. Recorded 10/8/21 Find more in-depth CPS application info in the video CPS 101, recorded 9/20.
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    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? Going beyond the basic information given at our popular CPS 101 seminars, CPS 201 covers CPS Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES). This CPS 201 Questions & Answers session, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS, will include: - Updates on the selective enrollment elementary school application process - New information about selection criteria and admissions process - Dedicated time to answer your questions. Come with a list! We will get through as many of your questions as possible. 
 We highly recommend that you watch this CPS 201 video recording before attending the live Questions & Answers session. 
 - Watching this video before hand will allow us time to answer your more complex questions in the live event.
 - You may also want to watch CPS 101: Understanding Tiers in preparation for the live Q&A. 
 - NOTE: These recorded videos are for NPN members only. To access the videos, join NPN now for $25 using promo code school21 (new members only) and enjoy all of the benefits that NPN offers. 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. If you are just beginning your research on Chicago Public Schools, we recommend viewing the CPS 101 webinars available in our NPN Video Library. This event is FREE and exclusive to NPN's Preschool & Elementary School Fair registrants. - To attend this event, register for the fair here. Questions? Email Amy Johnson: amy@npnparents.org. Thank you to our media partner: Crain's Chicago Business.
  11. NPN Amy J.

    CPS 101: Questions & Answers

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    What is a magnet school? What is your tier and why does it matter? Is there really an option for free, all-day preschool? Come to NPN to get all of these questions answered and more! In this CPS 101 Questions & Answers session, Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS will give a short presentation that walks you through the recent updates to the preschool and elementary school application and admissions process. The rest of the time will be dedicated to answering your questions. Come with a list! We will get through as many of your questions as possible. We highly recommend you watch this CPS 101 video recording before attending the live Questions & Answers session. - Watching this video beforehand will allow us time to answer your more complex questions in the live event. - You may also want to watch CPS Preschools Decoded and CPS 101: Understanding Tiers in preparation for the live Q&A. - NOTE: These recorded videos are for NPN members only. To access the videos, join NPN now for $25 using promo code school21 (new members only) and enjoy all of the benefits NPN offers. This event is FREE and exclusive to NPN's Preschool & Elementary School Fair registrants. - To attend this event, register for the fair here. Questions? Email Amy Johnson: amy@npnparents.org. Thank you to our media partner: Crain's Chicago Business.
  12. As we begin to talk about the “s” word again ("school"), you may be weighing some options for your kids coming into the fall. If you have a toddler at home, you may also be entertaining the idea of preschool to help get your little one reintroduced to the world, interacting with peers — as well as adults other than your immediate family — and just beginning to develop social skills again as we emerge from our homes. [Related: What to look for in a therapeutic preschool] While preschool is not a requirement or necessary for later success in school, experts agree it provides an environment for children to explore, play with peers, build self-confidence, and strengthen their social and emotional development, all while having fun and learning routines. If you’re ready to send them off for more of these social experiences, you’ve likely fallen into a lot of options in Chicago for early learning. One factor to also consider in your search is whether your child would be appropriate for a “standard” preschool or a “therapeutic” preschool. It's a good idea to explore some differences in choosing a preschool or a therapeutic preschool for your youngster, as there are several distinctions that separate these two early learning options. Ratios In Illinois, preschools and daycares are mandated to follow predetermined adult-to-child ratio guidelines. Most stick to these minimum recommendations, which is a great question to inquire about when doing your research! These ratios are as follows: • For 2-year-olds a 1:8 ratio, with a maximum group size of 16 • For 3- to 5-year-olds, 1:10 ratio, with a maximum group size of 20 • For children 5 and above, 1:20, with a maximum group size of 30 In a therapeutic preschool setting, most classrooms are much smaller than the recommended maximums. Ratios are also much lower. A typical therapeutic preschool has a class size of 6-8 children, with ratios of adult support anywhere from 1:1 to 1:3. [Related: Preschool vs pre-k: What's the difference?] Therapy If your child receives speech, feeding, occupational, physical and/or behavioral therapy, a therapeutic preschool might be the way to go. This environment has these specialized therapists guiding interventions, providing individual therapy sessions, and helping to generalize different skills among peers. For example, a speech therapist may work individually with a child on answering questions or forming multiple word responses, and then bring the child back to the classroom to practice this new skill with their friends. Naps Here’s where therapeutic preschools may fall short. Therapeutic preschools are very therapy driven and most do not allow for a 2-hour mid-day nap, as a preschool or daycare set up would offer. If your little one is a power napper, a full day program at a therapeutic preschool may not be the best option for them. Diapers Some Early Learning programs require enrolled children to be fully toilet trained. This can be a real limitation for some families who feel their children are ready for the social and emotional benefits of preschool, but are not quite ready to spend the day in undies. At a therapeutic preschool, there are potty training programs implemented with each child, as this is a skill most are able to work on because of the low teacher to student ratios they maintain. Communication Both a preschool and a therapeutic preschool likely offer a lot of great communication options between the teachers and families. Notes going home, apps to receive updates, and face to face interactions help parents feel in touch and in the know about the day to day events with their children. However, if your child’s communication seems to be behind their age-matched peers, this can be a high frustration level for many toddlers who have a good understanding of what’s being discussed, but aren’t quite able to get their thoughts and feelings out effectively yet. A preschool classroom can be a frustrating experience when there are challenges expressing your wants and needs, or advocating for yourself. Important questions to consider: Is my child easy to understand? Can they ask for help when they need it? Are they able to speak up to advocate for themselves? Am I the only one who can understand my child? Reflecting on some of these questions may help lead you to the proper enrollment for your child. Enrollment Every child can be assessed and receive an IEP (individualized educational plan) at age three in order to have recommendations for placement at a CPS preschool. But did you know that your IEP is good for three years, and you are not required to join a CPS preschool at that time? Students in Illinois are not even required by law to attend kindergarten; however, they must be enrolled in either a home schooling program or a school district by age 6. Therefore, many families opt to pause enrollment from CPS to join a therapeutic preschool and reap the benefits of intensive therapeutic intervention, low student to teacher ratios, and engaging social and peer interactions. But don’t worry: Whether they graduate from preschool or therapeutic preschool, they can still join their peers in either a kindergarten or first grade classroom when they are ready! Making a Switch There are a handful of preschools in Chicago that enroll in the fall for the entirety of the year. Some have more strict guidelines on classroom placement based on birth date and ability level. However, many allow for enrollment throughout the school year, depending on birth date, availability and current ratios in their classrooms. Most therapeutic preschools enroll throughout the entire school year, and base these enrollments on the needs of the children and their families. So, if you are on the fence about what is most appropriate for your child, ask about enrollment commitments or cancellation fees, should you opt to enroll in a more therapeutic setting later in the year. Having this option may make enrollment in either program an easier commitment. Regardless of what you choose for your child, you want this early learning experience to be positive for everyone involved. Ask lots of questions, explore every option, and don’t limit yourself to only your neighborhood school. There may be a better fit for your child and their developmental needs that can get them well prepared to be independent little learners! Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
  13. 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.
  14. 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
  15. 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.
  16. NPN Lauren

    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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Guest

    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?
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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

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