It's March 18th, Do You Know Where Your CPS Notification Letter is?

It's March 18th, Do You Know Where Your CPS Notification Letter is?
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Howdy folks, welcome to Friday. There are thousands of households around Chicago sitting on pins and needles waiting for their letters from CPS letting them know to which schools their children have been accepted. The Office of Academic Enhancement (OAE) website says that letters would be mailed 'the week of March 14th. A person I spoke to OAE on Wednesday said the letters would probably be out by Friday. So, hang in there, parents, I know it's hard to be patient. Don't be surprised if you don't get your letter until mid-next week. (You know how the Chicago postal system can be. Sometimes it feels like one big conspiracy, doesn't it?)

I am personally exempt from the anxiety this year, but I was oh-so-in your shoes last year. I think I got the letters from the magnet schools first (as I recall) and they were ALL waitlists. I only applied to five or six and they were some of the most competitive, so I wasn't surprised. This year, they say, since the process was streamlined into one application, the acceptance notifications for all the magnet schools will come in one letter. If you also applied for SEES schools (gifted and/or classical) then that letter comes separately.

Last year when I was waiting to hear from schools, I remember giving myself this daily pep-talk that our neighborhood school was fine, actually, and that we knew several kids going there. It really would not have been the end of the world if my kindergartner had ended up there. As it happened, she got into a classical school where she is really happy. She adores her teacher and it's a good environment for us as a family. It wasn't so much that I was deeply invested in her getting into any particular school; it was more that I felt like my life was on hold until I knew where she was going to school. It's hard to plan activities and child care for the following school year when you're not sure even where your child is going to be geographically, whether or not she can take the bus, etc. etc.

For those of you who get shut out of your school choices -- don't despair! Movement does happen over the summer. A friend of ours wasn't accepted at any of the magnet or SEES schools that his mother ranked at first. Then, late in the summer his mom got a phone call from a Regional Gifted Program offering him a spot. She went and toured and ended up turning them down (opening up that spot for the next child on the list). A few days later she got another phone call from the classical school where he is now. None of that transpired until late August!

I know we're lucky -- our Neighborhood School was an option. (Actually luck didn't have that much to do with it. We moved into this neighborhood partly because of the neighborhood school). So if we had been shut out of the Options Programs, then we would have been OK at our neighborhood school. A lot of you (I know) don't have that luxury. Your neighborhood school is just NOT an option. Remember, you can always go through the Options for Knowledge merry-go-round next year. Or think about a private school. Or consider a Charter School. Or -- of course -- there's always the dreaded suburbs, which many people say is THE ONLY REASONABLE thing to do. I happen to disagree, but hey, to each their own.

CPSObsessed is a great site to check out if you're in the throes of school anxiety. It's a source for news about CPS and a place for the
community to discuss schools and share information. The writer is not
employed by or affiliated with CPS, so I think she does a good job of
presenting issues fairly. And when she's spouting her personal opinion,
she's pretty open about that.

I was at a coffee shop a few years ago and I happened to be sitting next to a group of Chicago Public School teachers. It was a small coffee shop, so I couldn't help but overhear their conversation. I was facing down the barrel of the CPS applications at the time and wondering if I should get a real job so that we could afford a private school. So I asked this group of teachers if THEY would send their children to a CPS school. All but one said YES, depending on the school. The one that said definitely not  was a legacy at a big-name private school and wanted her child to attend that school. Fair enough. At the end of the conversation, one of them said to me: "What really makes a child academically successful has way less to do with the school or the teacher and much more to do with the values the child is taught at home. If the parents are educated themselves, if they value going to school, doing homework, reading, and learning, then the child will too".

I think what she said is true. You see successful children coming from mediocre schools all the time. Not that we, as a society, should settle for mediocre schools. But I think there is also far less need for this extreme panic that we feel if our child doesn't get into Hawthorne, Bell, or one of the other high-demand schools. Start early and educate yourself about the process; you'll feel much less anxious about the whole thing.

I offer these workshops in the fall for parents who want to learn about the different types of Chicago schools and how to apply for them. I think what I really need to offer is a party at a local bar where parents can come and have a glass of wine, share their experiences, and relax! Hm...that's sounds great right about now! Who's with me?

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