Who’s Bud Billiken, anyway?

 News  Comments Off on Who’s Bud Billiken, anyway?
Jul 312017
 

August is nearly upon us, and that means the Bud Billiken Parade is right around the corner.  Have you heard of this annual event and wondered what it celebrates?

Our friends at the Chicago Defender Charities made us aware of their annual gala, A Night in Bronzeville, which is coming up this Thursday, August 3.  The event raises funds for their scholarship program and will be held at the former home of the Chicago Defender Newspaper at 2400 S Michigan, which was just renovated by Revel Space as an event venue.

In addition to being a cool opportunity to see the newly renovated space in action, this event presents a timely opportunity to share some history of the Chicago Defender newspaper, the origin of “Bud Billiken”, and the Chicago Defender Charities organization that continues to keep the Bud Billiken tradition strong.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves…..

The Chicago Defender Charities website includes a very informative summary of the history of the “Bud Billiken” name, and the origin and purpose of the annual Bud Billiken® parade, which is coming up on August 12 in Bronzeville.  The below excerpt is from the “history” page on their website, which we think provides an excellent summary for those unfamiliar:

HISTORY OF THE CHICAGO DEFENDER CHARITIES

BUD BILLIKEN® PARADE

     “The Bud Billiken® Parade was founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott on August 11, 1929.  Today, the 88 year tradition is the second largest parade in the United States next to the Rose Bowl.  Abbott’s mission for the betterment of Chicago’s youth, education, and to sound the clarion call for “Back to School” for our youth continues through the leadership of his great-grandniece and Chicago Defender Charities, President, Myiti Sengstacke-Rice.

 “The Bud Billiken® parade is unique in that it is both historic and filled with the currency of youthful enthusiasm. The parade has inspired generations nationwide and continues to uplift our community. We are so grateful for the opportunity to preserve such a rich history and gladly accept the challenge to develop relevant and purposeful services for the future,” says Rice.

The Chicago Defender Charities produces the Bud Billiken parade and was founded in 1945 by Rice’s grandfather, the late John H.H. Sengstacke. Nephew and successor of Mr. Abbott, Sengstacke was also owner and publisher of the Chicago Defender newspaper from 1940 until his passing in 1997.

In 1921, Mr. Abbott launched Bud Billiken Jr., a section for children in the newspaper.  The section was named after the Billiken, touted to be a Chinese mythical character. Legend has it that the Billiken is the guardian angel of children around the world. Mr. Abbott’s famed editor, David Kellum was a key member of the Bud Billiken® team and was often called Mr. Bud Billiken® for many years. He had the idea for a ‘Bud Billiken Day’ with the mission to “give underprivileged children who are never seen or heard a chance to be in the limelight for one day by wearing costumes marching in the parade and being seen,” said Kellum in the biography about Mr. Abbott entitled The Lonely Warrior by Roi Ottley.

In 1929, Mr. Abbott expanded the Bud Billiken® concept to include a parade. The first parade began with the goal to honor the hard work and dedication of the newsboys.  Mr. Abbott then created the newsboys band which included musical greats such as Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton. Hundreds of thousands have lined the parade route with millions viewing festivities on live television. Today, the parade features dozens of bands, drill teams, marching units, floats and more.

Many notable celebrities have appeared in the Bud Billiken® Parade throughout the years, including Senator Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, L.L. Cool J, Spike Lee, Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas, Donny Osmond, Queen Latifah, and Tyler Perry just to name a few.  The parade was also honored to have the presence of historic greats such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Lionel Hampton, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Roy Rogers, Lena Horne and former President Harry S. Truman.

The parade takes place in historic Bronzeville annually on the second Saturday in August and proceeds south on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive from Oakwood Boulevard to 51st Street and continues on Ellsworth Drive through Washington Park to 55th Street where it disbands and is followed by the ‘After Parade’ activities. It is broadcast live on ABC7 Chicago with festivities and other events in the park throughout the day. The 2017 Bud Billiken® is honored to have Chance the Rapper as the Grand Marshall and the parade will begin at 10am.”

Learn more:

If you’re interested in learning more about the Chicago Defender, we found these articles to be particularly interesting:

Early history

The Defender’s role in the Great Migration (this year marks the 100-year anniversary)

Information on the 2400 S Michigan location and the Defender’s role in the integration of the US Military in the 1940’s

About the GSLA:

The Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1998. Our mission is to bring neighbors together to maintain and improve the South Loop as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.

Education Update: Summary of community meetings #2 and #3 to discuss a high school proposal for the South Loop, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armor Square, and north Bronzeville

 News  Comments Off on Education Update: Summary of community meetings #2 and #3 to discuss a high school proposal for the South Loop, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armor Square, and north Bronzeville
Jul 132017
 

Parents and community members packed the gymnasium at the South Loop Elementary School’s main building (1212 S. Plymouth) on Tuesday, June 21 and the cafeteria and gymnasium at National Teachers Academy on Monday, July 10 to hear more information and provide feedback on the recently released proposal to repurpose NTA into a high school serving the Near South neighborhoods of the South Loop, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armor Square, and north Bronzeville.

If you missed our summary of the first meeting, you can read it here.

CPS plan updates since the June 6 meeting:

After reiterating the three goals of the proposal: to ensure high-quality neighborhood school options for grades PreK-12 in the Near South area, provide sufficient capacity of high-quality seats for the growing student population, and build diverse school communities into a set of high-quality PreK-12 schools, CPS presented the following updates to the proposal:

  1. All students enrolled at NTA when the new South Loop Elementary school building opens in 2019 will be welcome to enroll at South Loop Elementary. This is a change from the plan announced at the first meeting, which had not included 283 students who attend NTA but do not live within the proposed new South Loop Elementary boundaries due to displacement by the Chicago Housing Authority via the Ickes Homes demolition or participation in the lottery-based Options for Knowledge program.
  2. South Loop Elementary will retain and leverage all current buildings when the new building is opened, becoming a 3-school campus with buildings at 1915 S Federal, 16th and Dearborn, and 1212 S. Plymouth. The buildings will be organized by grade level, with each serving specific grade levels.
  3. The high school conversion plan and a transition plan to merge the two schools will be developed with input from representatives of both schools. SLE principal Tara Shelton shared some preliminary ideas regarding elements of a transition plan at the second meeting, such as: create a transition team with representation from both school communities, conduct listening tours to hear about school traditions which will be important to incorporate into the culture at SLE, have a back to school carnival and parent, teacher, and student meet and greets, pair each NTA student  with a “welcome buddy” from SLE, and hold a mascot contest to merge the mascots of both schools.  It was stressed that integration of both schools’ cultures will be an important focus for the new combined school community.
  4. NTA may gradually convert to a High School over a period of years. NTA students in the early grades, along with the RGC, will relocate to South Loop when the new South Loop building opens.  NTA students in upper grades will have the option to enroll at South Loop or remain at NTA and graduate from 8th grade there and go to NTA as their high school.  An example was shared, suggesting that when the new SLE building opens in 2019 NTA students in PreK-3rd grades and all RGC students would move to SLE, while NTA students in grades 4-8 would have the option to remain at NTA or to enroll at SLE and a 9th grade class would be added to NTA.  In the 2020-21 school year, all students at NTA would advance a grade level so that NTA would house students in grades 5-10, the following year would house students in grades 6-11, and so on until the 24/25 school year when all lower grade students will have matriculated and NTA will house grades 9-12.  It was unclear if the NTA students in the neighborhood program who move to South Loop Elementary and live out of the proposed new boundary area will be allowed to enroll in the NTA high school after they graduate from 8th
  5. No boundary has yet been finalized for the proposed high school. CPS shared that boundary decisions are not made until the year before a new school opens, which likely means the elementary schools feeding the proposed high school will not be confirmed until the Fall of 2018.

CPS representatives also shared information about other options the community has suggested, and why they were deemed less feasible than the proposed solution.

  1. Build a new high school on vacant land: CPS notes that this is not feasible in the near term due to cost. Building a new high school from the ground up will cost $75-100 million versus an estimated $10 million to convert NTA’s existing building to a high school.
  2. Strengthen existing area neighborhood high schools (Phillips, Tilden, add a neighborhood program to Dunbar): CPS shared that there has been investment in each of these schools over the past decade but parents in the Near South have been unwilling to send their students there, with less than 6% of families within the attendance boundaries of these schools sending their children.
  3. Build a high school on the site planned for SLE building #3 (the new building): CPS indicated that this is not feasible for the following reasons:
    1. Cost: the current budget for the new SLE building is $60 million, and the estimated cost to build a high school on that site could be as much as $100 million because additional floors would need to be added to the building to accommodate the larger space needs of a high school.
    2. Re-positioning the facility as a high school will be very difficult to do without additional cost and schedule impacts, given where the district is in the construction timeline.
    3. SLE’s overcrowding problem would not be resolved.
  4. Increasing the number of neighborhood seats available at Jones Prep High School: CPS noted that Jones’ utilization is currently at 95% (1819 enrolled, capacity is 1920), and that converting additional selective enrollment seats to neighborhood seats would not yield enough seats to meet the demand for a local high school.  75 neighborhood seats per freshman class are offered at Jones in the pre-law/pre-engineering program, and 371 incoming freshmen were enrolled in the selective enrollment program last school year (2016-17).

CPS also responded to questions raised about whether the current proposal considers planned future development in the Near South area:  “CPS is monitoring the many developments in this area.  The goal of the preliminary framework is to ensure access to high-quality neighborhood school options in the Near South area, provide sufficient capacity of high quality seats for the growing student population and build diverse school communities.  The added high school seats are necessary today so that current elementary school students have a high quality neighborhood high school option nearby once they graduate.  Additionally, the new South Loop Elementary School facility will bring ~1200* additional elementary school seats to the area to help address growth in the region.”

*It should be noted that the reference to 1200 additional elementary school seats in the above quote is inaccurate; 840 PreK-8 seats will be eliminated at NTA, resulting in 360 net new seats in the neighborhood.  This translates to a capacity increase of 36 students per grade level (PreK-8).  Today, NTA and SLES enroll 6 classes per grade level per year combined, and the addition of the new SLES building will allow for up to 7 classes per grade level.

Key themes and feedback from the community:

Community members from Chinatown and surrounding areas expressed the urgent, longstanding need for a quality high school to serve their community’s needs.  Many heartfelt stories were shared regarding the struggles faced by Chinatown’s students.  New immigrants struggle due to a lack of English as a Second Language (ESL) support at many high schools and the complexity of navigating the CPS high school enrollment process, and more established students wish for a school environment more inclusive of their cultural identity and that is closer to their community.  A few speakers shared that they do not want for the high school to come at the cost of another school’s population, while some noted support for the proposed plan; one asked “what the harm is” for NTA students now that they will all have the opportunity to attend another high quality elementary school, and another encouraged the NTA and SLE communities to look at the situation as “a marriage” which will provide opportunities for new traditions to emerge.  Most simply asked or demanded CPS to give their community access to a high quality high school, without mentioning specific support for or against the current proposal.

Parents from South Loop Elementary focused their messages on the opportunity the proposal provides to create something new and bring the neighborhood together as a stronger community.  Many noted that parents from all communities share the common challenge regarding finding a quality high school option and that NTA families will also benefit from the high school.  A strong desire to work together was expressed.

NTA parents and supporters had a substantial presence at both meetings.  Many speakers shared concern and frustration over the lack of transparency and community involvement in the development of the proposal and reiterated their desire to preserve NTA as an independent elementary school.  Many parents, some whose children have already experienced school displacement or are former residents of the Harold Ickes Homes, shared their personal stories of how their children or grandchildren have thrived in the supportive, family-like environment of the staff and school community, and expressed sadness and at times anger over the threat of losing “their village”.  Others cited data, referencing NTA’s excellent school culture rating (don’t destroy a good thing) and noting that consolidating into one large school will negatively impact all students because studies have shown that large school size negatively impacts student performance (the proposed 3-building SLES will have the second-largest capacity of any PreK-8 school in the district).

Many speakers noted their support for relieving overcrowding at SLES and for a high school to serve the communities represented in the room, and challenged community members to not “settle” for this plan and to demand that CPS and elected officials work with the community to come up with a better solution than sacrificing NTA.  One speaker asked the audience, “when you dream of a neighborhood high school, do you really picture a converted elementary school, or do you think of Jones, Lane, or Payton?”  Another challenged Mayor Emmanuel to find the money to build a new high school from the ground up and urged Aldermen Dowell and Solis, who were in attendance, to stand together in support of both communities to make it happen.

A representative from the Chicago Teachers Union spoke against the proposal on behalf of NTA teachers at the second meeting.  He reminded CPS representatives that NTA is not an “asset” to be deployed; it is a community, whose population CPS has considered to be expendable.  He concluded his remarks by asking “would this situation exist if NTA were an 80% white population school?”  The CTU also released an additional statement on July 10.

What’s next?

CPS representative Chip Johnson shared that an update will be provided before the first day of school, and that CPS will continue gathering feedback from the community in the meantime.  The presentations and FAQ documents shared by CPS to date may be found at www.cps.edu\nearsouth.  If you have questions or concerns regarding the proposal, email CPS at transitions@cps.edu.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts on the proposal and its impact on our neighborhood by taking our brief survey, and/or by sending us an email at info@greatersouthloop.org.

About the GSLA:

The Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1998. Our mission is to bring neighbors together to maintain and improve the South Loop as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.

Schools & Education: The CPS admissions process, Part 2: High School

 News  Comments Off on Schools & Education: The CPS admissions process, Part 2: High School
Jun 252017
 

Introduction:

This post is the second in a two-part series that seeks to explain the types of school options available to students in CPS and how students can gain access to those options.  This post will explore the difference between the types of school programs that CPS offers, and how that relates to schools in and near the South Loop.  For the purposes of this post, high schools in Bronzeville are included because our current assigned neighborhood high school is located there.

Please note that every attempt has been made to accurately synthesize information from throughout the CPS website, and that CPS revises their policies from time to time.  Additional detail and the most up to date information may be found on the CPS Office of Access and Enrollment website.  Additionally, each year CPS publishes a High School Guide, and the guide for the 2017-18 school year may be found here.

You can also use the CPS School Locator to see schools on an interactive map.

Private school options and terminology will not be explored, but the South Loop does also have nearby private school options for those interested in that educational path.

“Neighborhood School” or “Attendance Area School”

By nature of having an address, everyone residing in Chicago is assigned to one neighborhood school and is guaranteed a seat within one high school provided they can prove their residence within the boundary.

You can determine your assigned neighborhood school by searching your address in the school locator.

Requires Application: No. Only registration with proof of address.

Requires Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: All siblings residing at the address are automatically accepted when they reach the age of eligibility.

Neighborhood High School in Our Area:

Phillips High School: Serves as the neighborhood high school (grades 9-12) for anyone living within its boundaries. See boundary map below

So, why is this complicated, again?

As discussed in part 1 of this series, there are many circumstances that would cause a family to look outside of its neighborhood school for options. Some of these might include:

  • The child has learning needs that are not adequately addressed by the services provided at the neighborhood school.
  • The child has a particular interest such as art, music, or world languages that is not addressed at the neighborhood school.

For these and many other reasons, CPS offers families the opportunity to apply to other public high schools that might better suit their needs.

“Selective Enrollment High Schools”

Selective Enrollment High Schools provide academically advanced students with a challenging college preparatory experience. Each of the Selective Enrollment High Schools offers a rigorous curriculum with mainly honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.  They are not limited by geographic boundaries: any Chicago resident may apply to any Selective Enrollment School, regardless of address, although achievement of a minimum score in reading and math on the NWEA MAP test is required for a student to qualify to take the admission exam, and final grades from seventh grade in reading, math, science, and social studies are combined with the MAP test scores and the student’s score on the selective enrollment admission test to derive a point score used to determine admission.

There are currently eleven Selective Enrollment high schools in the CPS system.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Additional Admissions Testing: Yes.

Sibling Preference: No. Individual applications are processed with no preference given to siblings wishing to attend the same program.

Selective Enrollment High Schools in Our Area:

Jones Prep High School: Jones Prep is a selective enrollment high school located in the South Loop.  It also has a College and Career Academy program, which will be discussed in the next section.

Admission: Total point score based on achievement test scores, 7th grade cumulative grades in reading, math, science, and social studies, and the admissions exam score.  A designated percentage of seats are allocated based on tier.

“College and Career Academies”

Students take college prep courses in the core areas of math, science, and English, and also participate in hands-on training experiences in their chosen industry.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Additional Admissions Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: No. Individual applications are processed with no preference given to siblings wishing to attend the same program.

College and Career Academies in Our Area:

Jones Prep (College and Career Academy program):  Students select Pre-Engineering or Pre-Law. 75 seats are available per entering 9th grade class.

Admission: Based on test scores and grades.  Students residing in the attendance boundary are selected first.

Dunbar HS:  Dunbar HS is a College and Career academy focused on Architecture, Automotive Tech & Body Repair, Broadcast Technology, Construction (Carpentry & Plumbing), Hospitality Management, Personal Care Services (Cosmetology).

Admission: By computerized lottery.  Preference for up to 30% of seats is given to students living within 2.5 miles of the school.

“Military Academies”

Military Academies prepare students for college and subsequent careers in a structured environment.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Additional Admissions Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: No. Individual applications are processed with no preference given to siblings wishing to attend the same program.

Military Academies in Our Area:

Chicago Military Academy High School:  Located in Bronzeville.

Air Force Academy High School:  Located in Bronzeville.

Admission: Based on a combination of test scores, grades, a motivation and perseverance assessment, and admission essay.

“International Baccalaureate Schools”

IB programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate, and lifelong learners who help create a better and more peaceful world through

intercultural understanding and respect.  Several types of programs are offered.  Some schools focus exclusively on IB programming, others include it alongside other selective enrollment or neighborhood programs.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Additional Admissions Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: No. Individual applications are processed with no preference given to siblings wishing to attend the same program.

International Baccalaureate Schools in Our Area:

There are no schools offering International Baccalaureate programming in our area.  Juarez HS, located at Cermak and Ashland, is the closest such program to the South Loop and includes IB and other programming in addition to being a neighborhood high school serving the Pilsen area.

Admission: Based on a combination of test scores and grades.  Additional consideration is given to students who reside in the neighborhood boundary of a neighborhood high school that also has an IB program.

“Magnet High Schools and Programs”

Magnet High Schools offer one or more specialty programs. They do not have neighborhood attendance boundaries (with the exception of Curie Metropolitan High School), and they accept students from throughout the city.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Additional Admissions Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: Yes.

Magnet High Schools in Our Area: There are no magnet high schools in our area.

Admission: Computerized lottery, also considering proximity and tier, with the exception of Madame Curie HS (which has an attendance boundary) and the Scholars Program at Von Steuben High School, which considers test scores, GPA, teacher recommendations, and a student essay in its admissions process.

“Tiers”

Tiers are the categories applied to each census tract based on socio-economic criteria (income level, homeowner occupancy, adult education level, native language, percentage of single-parent households, and achievement scores).

You are assigned one of four tiers based on this data (regardless of your personal situation) and this tier is factored into admission decisions in an effort to provide an equitable opportunity for students to access Selective Enrollment and Magnet schools regardless of the typical socio-economic profile within their neighborhood.

To determine your tier, you can go use the same map we used to determine your neighborhood school: http://cps.edu/ScriptLibrary/Map-SchoolLocator/index.html.

  1. Type in your address.
  2. Click on the magnifying glass.
  3. Click on the “Overlays” icon that looks like four lines on the right hand side.
  4. Select CPS Tiers

Put your cursor over the yellow push pin and your tier will appear.  See example below

How the “Tier” System Works:

Tiers are considered in the admission selection process for Magnet High Schools and Selective Enrollment High Schools.  According to the CPS website, the criteria used to determine admission to each school type that uses tiers as a factor in admissions is listed below.

Magnet High Schools:  Applicants who meet the eligibility requirements are accepted in the following order of priority for most magnet high schools.

  1. Students who already have a sibling attending the school.
  2. Students who live within 2.5 miles of the school (40% of remaining available seats).
  3. The remaining seats are distributed evenly across the four Tiers and students are selected randomly via lottery.

Example:  There are 120 9th grade seats available.  Of the students who applied to the school, 20 students have older siblings who attend the school.  They are offered seats.  The remaining 100 seats are allocated as follows:  40 seats are offered to students who live within 2.5 miles of the school; if more than 40 students meeting this criteria apply, a lottery is used.  The remaining 60 seats are offered via lottery as follows: 15 seats to applicants from Tier 1, 15 applicants from Tier 2, 15 students from Tier 3, and 15 students from Tier 4.

There are a few exceptions to the way the proximity lottery process is handled, so be sure to review the eligibility and selection criteria for specific schools of interest.

Selective Enrollment High Schools:

Students take an additional admissions exam which contributes to a total point score based on achievement test scores, 7th grade cumulative grades in reading, math, science, and social studies, and the admissions exam score.  Seats are allocated as follows:

  1. The first 30% of seats are awarded to the applicants with the highest point scores, based on rank order.
  2. The remaining seats are distributed evenly across the four Tiers and the students with the highest test scores within each Tier are selected.

Example:  There are 120 9th grade seats available.  Of the students who applied to the school, the first 36 seats are allocated to the 36 students with the highest point totals.  The remaining 84 seats are allocated as follows:  the 21 students with the highest scores from Tier 1, the 21 students with the highest scores from Tier 2, the 21 students with the highest scores from Tier 3, and the 21 students with the highest scores from Tier 4.

Charter Schools”

Charter Schools are public schools open to all Chicago children and are approved by the Board of Education, but they operate separately from the Board and from each other. In most cases they do not have an attendance boundary and anyone may apply to any school.

Each charter school has a different curriculum focus and a different application process. It is best to contact an individual school if you are interested in applying. A list of charter schools and a side-by-side comparison tool can be found here.

Requires Application: Yes. Seats offered through a lottery system if there are fewer seats than applicants.

Requires Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: Yes, as space allows.

Charter High Schools in Our Area:

Perspectives – Joslin HS:  Provides multiple programs for students of all interests, including parent-student workshops and internship opportunities with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Young Women’s High School:  Young Women’s Leadership, Chicago’s only all-girls public school, aims to prepare students to become ethical leaders and to pursue careers in math, science and technology.

YCCS – McKinley:  Member of a network of charter schools designed to serve students who have had their schooling interrupted.

YCCS – Youth Connection Leadership Academy:  Member of a network of charter schools designed to serve students who have had their schooling interrupted.

Urban Prep – Bronzeville HS:  Chicago’s first charter high school designed for young men, Urban Prep offers high-quality college preparatory education to young men that results in college success.

Perspectives Math and Science Academy:  Perspectives/IIT fosters innovative critical thinkers through scientific inquiry and problem solving, supported by newly renovated science labs and industry-sponsored scientific opportunities.

Below is a map of the Charter (CH), City-wide (CW), and Neighborhood (plain red pin) high school options serving the Near South and Bronzeville areas:

In summary, there are many school options for students within the CPS system, and the process for a student to gain admission to a school other than their neighborhood high school is complex and can be stressful for parents and students as they try to get their child placed in what they hope will be the best possible school to serve their needs.  In the South Loop, there are several high schools but only one that does not rely on lottery or selective enrollment processes for admission.  This causes a majority of students to seek high school options outside of the neighborhood, which makes awareness of the alternatives more important.

We’ve included a simplified “cheat sheet” below to help capture the main points in a more visual format:

Schools & Education: The CPS admissions process, Part 1: Kindergarten

 News  Comments Off on Schools & Education: The CPS admissions process, Part 1: Kindergarten
Jun 192017
 

Introduction:

We received quite a few questions as a result of last week’s summary of the community meeting held by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to discuss the future of schools in our neighborhood, and a popular area of interest was the admission process, the difference between the types of school programs that CPS offers, and how that relates to the public elementary schools in the South Loop.

This post is the first in a two-part series that seeks to explain the types of school options available to students in CPS and how students can gain access to those options, and was written by a neighborhood mom who has helped many families navigate the system.

Please note that CPS revises their policies from time to time.  Additional detail and the most up to date information may be found on the CPS Office of Access and Enrollment website: http://cps.edu/AccessAndEnrollment/Pages/OAE.aspx.

Cat. Dog. Sam I am.

Perhaps these were the “sight” words you assumed you would be working on as your little one prepared for Kindergarten.

But you live in Chicago, and with just over 380,000 students, this is the fourth largest public school system in the U.S. so you get a whole new list:

Neighborhood Boundary. Regional Gifted Center. Magnet. Magnet Cluster. Tier. Selected Enrollment. Open Enrollment. Charter.

Are you confused yet?

This blog post will serve as a glossary for these terms and explain how they specifically apply to the two Chicago Public Schools located in the South Loop: South Loop Elementary and National Teachers Academy. For the purposes of this post, private school options and terminology will not be explored, but the South Loop does have private school options (and excellent ones at that) for those choosing to explore that educational path.

“Neighborhood School” or “Attendance Area School”

By nature of having an address, everyone residing in Chicago is assigned to one neighborhood school and is guaranteed a spot within one K-8 and one high school provided they can prove their residence within the boundary.

You can determine your assigned neighborhood school by searching your address at this link: http://cps.edu/ScriptLibrary/Map-SchoolLocator/index.html

Requires Application: No. Only registration with proof of address.

Requires Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: All siblings residing at the address are automatically accepted when they reach the age of eligibility.

South Loop Elementary School: Serves as the neighborhood K-8 for anyone living within its boundaries. See boundary map below

National Teachers Academy: Serves as the neighborhood K-8 for anyone living within its boundaries. See boundary map below

At this point, you may be asking, why isn’t this the end of the blog post? You have an address, you have an assigned school, you attend that school, end of story.  For many families, it is, and they receive an excellent education at their neighborhood school.

We all understand, however, that there are other circumstances that would cause a family to look outside of its neighborhood school for options. Some of these might include:

  • The neighborhood school is far from the parents’ work.
  • The neighborhood school does not house a preschool, and the family has a younger child.
  • The child has learning needs that are not adequately addressed by the services provided at the neighborhood school.
  • The child has a particular interest such as art, music, or world languages that is not addressed at the neighborhood school.
  • The neighborhood school does not offer before or after school care and has a start or dismissal time that would prevent a parent from being there for drop off/pick up.

This list could go on and on. For these and many other reasons, CPS offers families the opportunity to apply to other public schools that might better suit their needs.

“Selective Enrollment Schools”

Selective Enrollment Schools are sub-category of schools that includes Regional Gifted Centers, Regional Gifted Centers for English Learners, Classical Schools, International Gifted Program, and Academic Centers. They are designed for academically advanced students and are not limited by geographic boundaries: any Chicago resident may apply to any Selective Enrollment School, regardless of address, although achievement of a minimum test score is required for a student’s application to be considered.

More information on the difference between the five types of Selective Enrollment Schools can be found here: http://cps.edu/AccessAndEnrollment/Documents/OptionsforKnowledgeGuide.pdf

 Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Testing: Yes.

Sibling Preference: No. Individual applications are processed with no preference given to siblings wishing to attend the same program.

South Loop Elementary School: Houses a Regional Gifted Center for Grades 5-8. For the 2017-2018 school year, South Loop Elementary will house Grades 6-8 in its Regional Gifted Center.

National Teachers Academy: Houses a Regional Gifted Center for Grades K-4. For the 2017-2018 school year, National Teachers Academy will house Grades K-5 in its Regional Gifted Center.

“Regional Gifted Center”

Since both of the public grade schools in the South Loop house some portion of a Regional Gifted Center it is worth defining it here (directly quoted from the Office of Access and Enrollment):

“Designed to provide appropriate services for children identified as gifted. The Regional Gifted Centers provide an accelerated instructional program that places an emphasis on thinking, reasoning, problem solving and creativity. In addition to rigor in the core content areas, instruction includes a world language or Latin, laboratory science, computer science and fine arts. A differentiated, enriched curriculum allows for skill development appropriate for the gifted student’s abilities and interests.”

Application and Testing for Selective Enrollment Schools takes place in the fall before the entry year. More information can be found here: http://cps.edu/AccessAndEnrollment/Pages/Apply.aspx.

“Magnet”, “Magnet Cluster”, and “Open Enrollment” Schools

“Magnet” Schools: Specialize in one particular area (arts, technology, Montessori, humanities, etc.) and have NO neighborhood boundaries. All students must apply through a lottery system if there are fewer spaces than applicants.

“Magnet Cluster” Schools: Specialize in one particular area and ALSO IS a neighborhood school with an attendance boundary. Students wishing to attend this school from outside of the boundary must apply through a lottery system if there are fewer spaces than applicants.

“Open Enrollment” Schools: Neighborhood schools with a traditional curriculum and with an attendance boundary. Students wishing to attend this school from outside of the boundary must apply through a lottery system.

Requires Application: Yes.

Requires Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: Yes, as space allows, siblings are often given preference for enrollment at all three types of schools.

South Loop Elementary School: Open Enrollment school. Has received applications and admitted students through the Open Enrollment application.

National Teachers Academy: Open Enrollment school. Has received applications and admitted students through the Open Enrollment application.

Applications for Magnet, Magnet Cluster, and Open Enrollment schools are submitted in the fall before the entry year. More information can be found here: http://cps.edu/AccessAndEnrollment/Pages/Apply.aspx.

“Tiers”

Tiers are the categories applied to each census tract based on socio-economic criteria (income level, homeowner occupancy, adult education level, native language, percentage of single-parent households, and achievement scores).

You are assigned one of four tiers based on this data (regardless of your personal situation) and this tier is factored into admission decisions in an effort to provide an equitable opportunity for students to access Selective Enrollment and Magnet schools regardless of the typical socio-economic profile within their neighborhood.

To determine your tier, you can go use the same map we used to determine your neighborhood school: http://cps.edu/ScriptLibrary/Map-SchoolLocator/index.html.

  1. Type in your address.
  2. Click on the magnifying glass.
  3. Click on the “Overlays” icon that looks like four lines on the right hand side.
  4. Select CPS Tiers
  5. Put your cursor over the yellow push pin and your tier will appear. See example below

 

How the “Tier” System Works:

Admission to schools via the lottery system may be based on up to 3 factors, depending on the school type.  According to the CPS website, the criteria used to determine admission to each school type is listed below.

Magnet schools:  Applicants are accepted in the following order of priority.

  1. Students who already have a sibling attending the school.
  2. Students who live within 1.5 miles of the school.
  3. The remaining seats are distributed evenly across the four Tiers and students are selected randomly by a computer program.

Example:  There are 30 kindergarten seats available.  14 students who have applied already have a sibling at the school.  They are admitted.  4 students who have applied live within 1.5 miles of the school.  They are admitted.  The remaining 12 seats are allocated as follows:  3 to Tier 1 students, 3 to Tier 2 students, 3 to Tier 3 students, and 3 to Tier 4 students.

Magnet Cluster and Open Enrollment Schools:

  1. Students who already have a sibling attending the school.
  2. The remaining seats are distributed evenly across the four Tiers and students are selected randomly by a computer program.

Example:  There are 30 kindergarten seats available.  Of the students who have applied to the school, 14 students already have a sibling at the school.  They are admitted.  The remaining 16 seats are allocated as follows (picked randomly by computer from each Tier group):  4 to Tier 1 students, 4 to Tier 2 students, 4 to Tier 3 students, and 4 to Tier 4 students.

How are seats allocated in Selective Enrollment programs?

Selective Enrollment (RGC and Classical programs):  Students must first take a test to determine eligibility for their application to be considered.  If they are eligible, seats are allocated as follows:

  1. The first 30% of seats are awarded to the applicants with the highest test scores, based on rank order.
  2. The remaining seats are distributed evenly across the four Tiers and the students with the highest test scores within each Tier are selected.

Example:  There are 30 kindergarten seats available.  Of the students who applied to the school, the first 10 seats are allocated to the 10 students with the highest test scores.  The remaining 20 seats are allocated as follows:  the 5 students with the highest scores from Tier 1, the 5 students with the highest scores from Tier 2, the 5 students with the highest scores from Tier 3, and the 5 students with the highest scores from Tier 4.

 Charter Schools”

Charter Schools are public schools open to all Chicago children and are approved by the Board of Education, but they operate separately from the Board and from each other. In most cases they do not have an attendance boundary and anyone may apply to any school.

The South Loop is home to one Charter School, Perspectives Charter School, which is located at 1930 S. Archer and serves students in grades 6-12.

Each charter school has a different curriculum focus and a different application process. It is best to contact an individual school if you are interested in applying. A list of charter schools and a side-by-side comparison tool can be found here: http://cps.edu/Schools/Find_a_school/Pages/SchoolSearchResults.aspx?Type=1&Filter=CPSSchoolGrade=Elementary school;CPSSchoolType=Charter

Requires Application: Yes. Spots offered through a lottery system if there are fewer spots than applicants.

Requires Testing: No.

Sibling Preference: Yes, as space allows.

South Loop Elementary School: Is not a charter school.

National Teachers Academy: Is not a charter school.

In summary, there are many school options for students within the CPS, and the process for a student to gain admission to a school other than their neighborhood Open Enrollment school is complex and can be stressful for parents as they try to get their child placed in what they hope will be the best possible school to serve their needs.  We’ve included a simplified “cheat sheet” below to help capture the main points in a more visual format.

In part 2 of our series on CPS school options, we’ll delve into the high school application and placement process.

Education Update: Summary of Community Meeting to Discuss a High School for the South Loop, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armour Square, and north Bronzeville

 News  Comments Off on Education Update: Summary of Community Meeting to Discuss a High School for the South Loop, Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armour Square, and north Bronzeville
Jun 092017
 

Take our survey to provide input that we will summarize as a voice of the community.

The rumors and speculation that have been swirling around the South Loop for weeks were clarified Tuesday evening (June 6), as CPS unveiled a proposal to repurpose the National Teacher’s Academy PreK-8 school into a high school which would serve the South Loop, Chinatown, Armour Square, Bridgeport, and north Bronzeville neighborhoods.

June 6, 2017 CPS Community Meeting at 2nd Presbyterian.

After a presentation by CPS of the proposed plan and rationale, representatives from South Loop Elementary, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, and National Teacher’s Academy spoke, followed by a series of community members who shared their feedback and questions to CPS about the plan.

The key themes from each community group’s remarks were as follows:

The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community shared how their community has struggled with high school options due to needs for bilingual support / support for students who may still be achieving fluency in English and the lack of proximity to a quality high school that is not populated via selective enrollment or a city-wide lottery-based admission process.

Representatives from the South Loop Elementary Local School Council (LSC) shared how the history of overcrowding at South Loop Elementary has necessitated the plans to construct a new building, which is planned to open in the second semester of the 2018-19 school year with capacity of 1200 students. The building is planned to be the third building in the South Loop Elementary campus, in addition to the existing main school building at Plymouth Ct. and the Early Childhood Center at 19th and Federal. Together, the three buildings are projected to have a total capacity of 1800 students.

Representatives from National Teacher’s Academy (NTA) included the principal, Issac Castalez, and the head of the NTA’s Local School Council. They shared their disappointment that NTA was not included in the plans or dialogue about the proposal; a proposal which impacts NTA’s student population the most. Mr. Castalez shared that he learned of the plan on social media, not via communication from CPS directly. This lack of transparency has led to mistrust of the motives of CPS and a small special interest group who they feel have been driving a secret, closed-door agenda.

It was clear that of the three groups, NTA stands to lose, while each of the other groups will gain; Chinatown/Bridgeport et al gain a high school nearby, which they assume will be better than the Level 2 neighborhood high school options available to them today, and South Loop Elementary will gain the new building they have been asking for for years, since overcrowding became a concern.

The current plan calls for the Regional Gifted Center (RGC) which has been transitioning from South Loop Elementary to NTA over the past 4 years to be relocated to South Loop Elementary, and the neighborhood attendance boundaries for South Loop Elementary to be extended southward to 22nd Street (Cermak). Students living within the new boundary would move to the South Loop Elementary campus when the new building opens, as well as 7 students who live within the tiny remaining NTA boundary.

NTA parents expressed concern for the 383 students who are not included in these aforementioned groups. NTA, by nature of its history, has a number of students who live outside of the attendance boundary because they or their families resided in the Harold Ickes Homes, a CHA housing project which occupied the now grassy land directly to the East, along State Street. When their homes were torn down, these residents were assured that while they would be scattered from their neighbors to secure housing in other parts of the city, they would always have a school home at NTA. It is critical to maintain the promise of a community tie for these students and their families. NTA also participates in the CPS Options for Knowledge program, which allows for a number of seats in schools which are not at capacity to be filled via a city-wide lottery designed to provide school mobility to students whose own neighborhood schools are not highly ranked. There are currently 383 students at NTA who reside outside of the NTA attendance boundaries due to their affiliation with the Ickes Homes or the Options for Knowledge program, and because CPS has specifically noted that the other two student groups (RGC and those living within the new attendance boundaries) WILL be offered seats at the South Loop Elementary campus, community members are concerned that these 383 students, the majority of whom are low-income and African-American, will be forced to relocate to non-Level 1 neighborhood schools, negatively impacting their academic growth.

Feedback from the majority of the community members who spoke on behalf of the South Loop Elementary School and Chinatown/Bridgeport neighborhoods included messages that while the prospect of having a high school closer to their community is exciting, it should not come at the expense of students who are thriving and have found a school home in a better school than would otherwise have been available to them. Many NTA parents remarked after the meeting that it was refreshing and inspiring to hear members of our broader community affirm that students at NTA, regardless of their physical address, are indeed a part of our community and we have a duty to ensure that their best interests are also protected.

Some community members questioned what other alternatives, if any, were considered, and requested attendance projections to better understand whether the planned capacity of 1000 students in a converted NTA as high school would be enough to serve all of the communities who are clamoring for access. Others asked how CPS would ensure that this new high school would be of better quality than the existing Level 2 rated high schools in the area. Many residents expressed concern about the short timeframe in which the community meetings are scheduled, which affords little opportunity for constructive dialogue between meetings. One parent likened CPS’s current approach to the community meetings held in 2012 to discuss the proposal to relocate the RGC from South Loop Elementary to NTA, which he stated felt like a mere formality.

Prior to the presentation of this plan, many people in the neighborhood knew very little about NTA and its dramatic improvement, moving from a Level 3 (lowest rating) school to a Level 1 (second highest rating) in just three years. Unfortunately this rapid improvement is not yet reflected on sites which provide school ratings on real estate sites like GreatSchools.org, as data is not updated annually; the current data on that site for NTA is from 2014, when NTA had a far different climate and was only beginning its rise.

The goal of the Greater South Loop Association is to bring neighbors together in an inclusive manner to build community in our rapidly growing neighborhood. The challenge at hand presents an immense opportunity for our neighborhood to show leadership and affirm the reason why many of us chose to move here in the first place; to experience an urban lifestyle in a vibrant neighborhood which is among the most diverse in the city. Two key themes emerged through Tuesday evening’s dialogue; CPS needs to work transparently with the community on a comprehensive plan that considers current needs and planned future growth, and that plan needs to ensure that it does not come at the expense of any students in the school communities most impacted by it.

If you feel that our neighborhood can work together with CPS to solve this challenge in a way that provides the best opportunity for all, please share your thoughts and ideas via this short questionnaire or email them to us using the form below.

Comments or questions are welcome.

* indicates required field

Powered by Fast Secure Contact Form

Name
Email
Comments