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Saturday, December 17, 2011

CPS Selective Enrollment, NYC Co-Ops and the Pre-K & Kindergarten Circus

In Chicago nearly every parent of a 4 or 5 year old is researching, considering strategies and praying for their child to be accepting into one of the city's gifted or classical schools for Pre-K, Kindergarten or 1st grade programs. These public selective enrollment schools offer your kid a coveted seat in some of the state's most exceptional elementary schools for free. The alternative is to place your child in a less rigorous neighborhood school, or pay out the wazoo for a private or parochial education where tuition ranges from $10,000 to upward of $25,000. Moms and Dads like myself have likely already invested anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000 in private preschools hoping to prepare our offspring for placement tests.

Test stress plagues us as we try to keep our children relaxed and unaware of how important it is to do well. But performance isn't everything. The newly employed "tier system" is organized so that every Chicago address falls within a specific census tract. CPS looks at five socio-economic characteristics for each census tract: (1) median family income, (2) percentage of single-family homes, (3) percentage of homes where English is not the first language, (4) percentage of homes occupied by the homeowner, and (5) level of adult education attainment. Lastly, they consider a sixth characteristic, the achievement scores from attendance area schools in each census tract. Based on the results of each of these six areas, each census tract is given a specific score; these scores are ranked and divided into four groups – or ‘tiers’ -- each consisting of approximately the same number of school-age children. The 4 tiers will each be given an equal number of spots in the remaining 60% of seats after top-scoring kids (gifted/classical) or neighborhood kids (magnets) get chosen. For more information on tiers visit

Last year, Chicago’s 39 magnet elementary schools received 13,678 applications for 2,097 slots for the 2010–11 school year; the well-known magnets include Disney, Drummond, Franklin Fine Arts, Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, Inter-American, LaSalle Language Academy, Mayer, and Stone. The selective enrollment elementary schools got 18,259 applications for 1,211 spots; these include regional gifted centers such as Keller, Bell, Edison, Lenart, and Pritzker, as well as the classical schools—Decatur, McDade, Poe, and Skinner North and West. Statistically it's easier to gain admission to Harvard undergrad.

Today I ran across an article in the New York Times written by a NYC Mom, Soni Sangha, who shares her anxiety, as well as her community's creative way of adequately (also kind of illegally) educating their children through parent developed co-ops. It was a great read, highly recommended to provide additional perspective on the Preschool circus that is the norm in our nation.

1 comment:

Lady MgAnthony said...

That sounds so scary! I have a 6 month old and I've got my thoughts on a Montessori school for pre-school and I've even considered home-schooling, but I have not done any hard investigating. Should I? It sounds so deep. Do I have time or should I start now? How early can you put them on the "list?"

That's really food for thought!