If you don’t know how the Chicago Public School (CPS) kindergarten system works, below is a little primer.
1.”Friendly” parents ask you for the name of your local school and either wince out of jealousy or compassion, or shrug their shoulders and say they never heard of it. They then inform you that your life will be terrible when/if you decide to jump into the CPS lottery (cess)pool.
2. You do your research; you are a competent professional. How hard can this be? Note to past self, IT’S REALLY F’ING HARD DUMMY. It’s like a god-dammed onion.
a. Choose 20 schools that will likely turn your kid away (i.e. you will receive a letter mid-April listing your kid as 1 bazillon on the wait-list. And the school only accepts one kid from out of school boundaries per eon).
b. To make the process more challenging, the pool of schools from which you can choose include (definitions pulled from CPS’ website):
–neighborhood (No bus for you!)- This is your first option, since they generally serve students who live within a designated attendance boundary. You can also apply to other area’s neighborhood schools and pretend you are cooler than you really are.
– magnet (sometimes bus) – Specializes in a specific subject area, such as Montessori, International Baccalaureate, math and science, humanities, or dual language immersion. First 50% of seats go to siblings, next 25% go to applicants residing within 1.5. miles of said school, and the rest is a city-wide pool.
To provide some perspective, the magnet next to our house offers 60 KG spots…so 30 for siblings, 15 for 1.5. mile lottery and 15 for the entire city.
– cluster magnet (walk or drive your ass) which may or may not be a neighborhood school
Additionally there exists the gifted (“options”) program which allows parents to apply to another six schools and requires a test for both types of gifted schools. Then, based on scores, an equal number of students are chosen from each of Chicago’s four socio-economic tiers. So in a class of 28 children, each school offers 7 spots per tier.
That’s not terrible, right? Just kidding. It’ s especially frustrating if this is your first time to the rodeo.
I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT SCHOOLS are “good”. What does that even mean, “good”? No parent elects to send their kid to a shitty school. And stats don’t necessarily reflect the caliber of a new administration. What if parents opted their children out of testing? What if the school produces assholes? It’s hard to judge a place on a quick tour, some stats and educational jargon. It’s like my brain has entered Ican’tmakeanindependentdecision, USA and I can’t find my way out.
The worst part, however, is that everyone with whom you speak has an opinion. EVERYONE.
If my kid goes to Preurummond Tech Academy School, he will join a gang or grow a third nipple or, sweet lord, vote republican. But no one knows my kid. We are all just perpetuating the bullshit we hear about these schools. It’s the breastfeeding wars all over again except people have nine years to wag their fingers in your face.
I even find myself resenting other parents whose children got into so-and-so school. Seriously? I am a grown-ass woman – GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF, SWIRLEY.
My girl Mary Tyler Mom has been incredibly supportive (it sounds so stupid to say I need support) through this process. After listening to me gripe about the lottery process and crazy-ass parents, she said, “this school stuff doesn’t f’ing matter. Put your head down and make the best decision for EK.”
I say we all heed Ms. Tyler Mom’s advice: While it’s so easy to get caught up in the “my son can read at a second grade level,” crap that you hear (OVER AND OVER AGAIN), don’t compare your kids to others in this search. The fact that you are taking the time to work through this severely bizarre system is a testament to your dedication to your child’s future; you know her and her needs like no one else. Breathe and I too promise to suck in some of that oxygen floating around. I also vow to stop acting like an envious little troll. I want all our kids to turn into smart, funny individuals who take care of me when I am old and decide to throw away whatever filter I have left.
You can, however, mock the braggarts and super intense parents who hijack tours just because you have to keep yourself entertained somehow.
I hear apply to CPS high school is even more fun; what kid doesn’t want their very own ulcer?
If you are looking for actual resources, here are a few you can check out:
CPSObsessed – EXCELLENT resources for us newbies.
CPS home page – good for definitions of school types, deadlines, some tour information and tools to map out school options
District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS – fellow ChicagoNOWer
Chicago Public Fools – fellow ChicagoNOWer…a prolific bunch, I know.
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