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.

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