schools


Finding the right school can be daunting, especially as it relates to also finding the right home for your family. There is no one size fits all for city schools, and there really is a seemingly endless amount of information and choices to be made.

I’ve outlined the basics of the who, what and where, but as with most big life decisions, sometimes more information leads to more questions.

early years


birth to three years old

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) works with non-school-based child care centers in communities across the city through Community Based Partnership Program to serve working parents with full-day childcare.

preschool

There is huge demand for the limited number of CPS neighborhood schools that offer preschool. While neighborhood children are given preferential treatment in the application process, typically there are more applications than preschool spots, so living within the boundaries of the school does not guarantee placement in the school.  There are two CPS preschool types:  1) Tuition-Based Preschool: Offers a 10-hour school day for a fixed tuition during the school year only 2) Ready to Learn: Otherwise known as Preschool for All, offers free standardized curriculum, half- and full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year olds with disabilities, and those with the greatest financial need

 
“...typically there are more applications than preschool spots, so living within the boundaries of the school does not guarantee placement of the school.”
 

elementray (k-8)


neighborhood schools

Every residence in Chicago feeds into one neighborhood elementary school.  Review neighborhood boundaries here. While an application is not necessary, typically a lease or bill of sale for a home within the neighborhood boundaries is required to register.

 

Magnet Schools

These specialized elementary schools customize their curriculum to one particular subject area such as math/science, humanities or Montessori.  Instead of attendance boundaries, most magnet schools require an application. No testing is required and kids are selected through a computerized lottery that considers the tier system.

Two lotteries exist for magnet grade schools, the sibling lottery, and the general lottery. Transportation is usually provided to most magnet school students who live more than 1.5 miles but less than 6 miles from the school. Magnet elementary schools are designed for all students and do not provide an accelerated curriculum.  There are 48 magnet grade schools in Chicago.

 

selective enrollment schools

Citywide accelerated schools are meant to challenge Chicago’s gifted and talented students and require testing and application for entrance.

Regional Gifted Centers: K-8 institutions that offer accelerated curriculums focusing on organizational skills and problem-solving.  Students applying to grades five-eight must pre-qualify to take the admissions exam, based on their NWEA scoresApply online. Read about Regional Gifted Centers for English Learners here.

Classical School: K-6 institutions, (except Skinner West which offers K-8), that feature a highly structured, accelerated environment approximately one grade level above the current grade.  Students applying to grades 5-8 must pre-qualify to take the admissions exam, based on their NWEA scores.  Apply online.

Academic Centers: Grades 7-8 college prep program for academically advanced middle-schoolers, housed in high schools.  Academic Center students may earn limited high school credits, and take advanced placement college-level courses as early as tenth grade. Completion of grades 7 and 8 in academic centers guarantees students a high school spot in the same school.  Students must pre-qualify to take the admissions exam, based on their NWEA scores.  Apply online.  

International Gifted Program: Grades 6-8 at Lincoln Elementary School.  This intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research is designed to allow intellectually-able students to learn at an accelerated pace.Students must pre-qualify to take the admissions exam, based on their NWEA scores.  Apply online.

Comprehensive Gifted Programs and Specific Aptitude Programs - Grades 1-8 in-school curriculum designed for academically-advanced students.  Specific Aptitude Programs are pullout programs in particular subject areas, for individual grade levels.  Testing is not required.  Students must be accepted through the computerized lottery system or enrolled via attendance boundary; assessment will then be done to determine whether students are eligible.

Open Enrollment Schools

A number of neighborhood schools offer programs outside of the academic curriculum that attract students residing outside the attendance boundaries. Applicants outside of the neighborhood attendance area can be admitted through the CPS computerized lottery system.  No testing is required and neither the sibling nor general lottery is contingent on the tiers system.  To apply, visit CPS Office of Access and Enrollment.

 

Magnet Cluster Schools

These specialized neighborhood schools accept students who live within the school’s neighborhood boundaries. Their curriculums focus on either fine and performing arts, world language, International Baccalaureate Primary or Middle Years, or technology.  

Students who live outside of the neighborhood attendance boundary may apply to any magnet cluster school through the CPS computerized lottery system.  Magnet cluster schools offer both a sibling application lottery, as well as a general lottery, neither of which consider tiers.  To apply, visit CPS Office of Access and Enrollment. Over 100 magnet cluster schools operate in Chicago.

 

charter schools

Public schools approved by the Chicago Board of Education, but that operate independently.  These schools are open to all Chicago children and are operated by community organizations, universities, foundations, and teachers, yet held accountable for academic achievement through CPS.  

Charter schools often challenge standard education practices and may specialize in a particular area, such as art, technology or basic core-subjects. Some offer smaller classes and more individual attention.  Students must apply and are traditionally admitted based on lottery.  Each school’s curriculum, hours of operation, school calendar, and admissions process is different.  For a list of current Chicago Charter Schools, Search Schools and type charter.

 

high school


neighborhood schools

Every residence in Chicago feeds into one neighborhood high school.  Review neighborhood boundaries here. While an application is not necessary, typically you will need a lease or bill of sale for a home within the neighborhood boundaries to register your child in-person.   

charter schools

Public schools approved by the Chicago Board of Education, but that operate independently. These schools are open to all Chicago children and are operated by community organizations, universities, foundations, and teachers, yet held accountable for academic achievement through CPS.  

 

Military academies

Academically rigorous environments that focus on leadership and citizenship.  Designed for highly motivated students, each academy focuses on a specific branch of the military, and is led by a small team of retired military personnel.  Final acceptance determination is based on an overall score of points based on NWEA MAP scores, 7th grade GPA and a two-part assessment.  List of Military Academies.

International Baccalaureate® (IB) Programs

Rigorous programs that encourage international-mindedness. Attending an Information Session, pre-qualification through NWEA MAP scores, and 7th grade GPA are required for admission. Students are selected on overall applicant score of points: those who meet or exceed the minimum cutoff scores will be offered entrance.

 

Magnet High Schools

Schools located throughout the city, which do not rely on attendance boundaries.  Each offers one or more specialty programs, such as fine and performing arts, agricultural sciences, or International Baccalaureate.  Students must pre-qualify for application based on scores from the NWEA MAP, and are then selected through a CPS computerized lottery, which consists of the sibling, proximity, and general lotteries that consider the tier system.  Magnet programs also exist within high schools and offer specialized programs to students enrolled in the schools.

 

selective enrollment high schools

Challenging college prep curriculum schools that provide academically advanced students with a rigorous load of honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Pre-qualification based on NWEA MAP scores is required before selective enrollment testing can be conducted.

Applicants should learn everything they can about what the competition is like at each of the Selective Enrollment High Schools, including attending an Open House or shadow day.  Students are selected using a High School Selective Enrollment points system that take the tiers system into consideration.

 

Career & Technical Education (CTE) College & Career Academies (CCA

Hands-on training schools that give students a head start on preparing for their futures in specific industries. Both Lottery Academies and Selective Academies exist. Selective Academies choose student based on highest overall applicant score of points from 7th grade GPA and NWEA MAP scores.  Apply online.

 

private schools


Just under 500 private schools serve approximately 80,000 Chicago students. These schools rely on tuition payments from parents and often funds from nonpublic sources such as religious organizations, endowments, grants, and charitable donations. Per PrivateSchoolReview.com, the average tuition for Chicago private elementary schools is $7,694.  Private schools usually require applications and may be co-ed or single-sex.

 

independent schools

Non-profit schools that are governed by a boards of trustees and are traditionally independent in philosophy and financing.  While they may be affiliated with religious institutions, independent schools do not draw funds or guidance from those institutions.  Some independent schools are members of the National Association of Independent Schools, which means they are state accredited and agree to practice nondiscriminatory policies.

 

proprietary schools

Schools run for profit. A relatively new category of school, proprietary schools do not answer to a board of trustees or elected officials. Many belong to an organization called the National Independent Private Schools Association. Tuition is comparable to that of private, nonprofit schools.

Parochial schools

Schools owned and operated by religious affiliates.  About half of the private schools in Chicago are Parochial.  Traditionally, the academic curriculum is enhanced by mandatory daily religious instruction. Teachers may be clergy or laypersons, with or without formal teaching degrees.  Some parochial schools do not require student affiliation with the chosen religion of the school, but will still require participation in daily religious education and prayer.

 

Millie, John, and their grandson at school

Millie, John, and their grandson at school

Please reach out directly with your questions. I would love to help you navigate this difficult process.