I thought three postings about public school choices would provide enough information to help decide where your child will go to school.  Then it dawned on me that I have spoken to enough people who have had no clue about options outside of their neighborhood schools that I should go on to part four and discuss how to pursue these options.

Your Planned Property Management home is within the boundaries of an excellent Chicago Public Schools elementary school, but there are several other paths one can take.  I will concentrate on magnet, classical, and gifted schools, as these are the most likely alternatives for elementary school.  After that, I will outline paths to Chicago's Academic Centers, International Gifted Centers, and end with selective enrollment for International Baccalaureate high schools.

Magnet Elementary Schools - Magnet schools specialize in a specific subject area, such as math/science, fine arts, world languages, or humanities. These schools accept students from throughout the city and reflect diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Students are randomly selected through a computerized lottery. No testing is required.  Magnet high schools offer one or more specialty programs, such as fine and performing arts, agricultural sciences, or International Baccalaureate programs.  The application process usually begins in September of any given school year for the following year’s inclusion.  Cut-off for applying is normally in the second week of December.  CPS performs a computer lottery toward the end of the month in February.  Notification letters are mailed the third week of March. Siblings of students who will still be enrolled in the school are given preference, but still must apply.  Each school has a few different permutations.  All the schools offer tours to interested applicants. A couple of links to more information are: www.cpsoae.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=72701&type=d for a list of magnet schools and https://apply.cps.edu/for application information and a list of frequently asked questions.  Each school also has information detailing admissions criteria.

Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools – These include Regional Gifted Centers and Classical Schools. The application process starts in the beginning of October for the following school year.  All regional gifted centers in Chicago require testing for admission. Children are selected for entry based on their performance on an aptitude test administered by the Office of Access & Enrollment (OAE). Your child is eligible to apply for first grade during the fall application period of the year they turn 5 by September 1. This is typically his or her kindergarten year. Fill-in spots in the Options Program may be available in second through eighth grade.  Acceptance criteria include the Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) application and an entrance exam.  Admission testing is required. All age-appropriate students applying for grades K-4 will be tested. Testing eligibility for students applying for grades 5-8 is based on the student's NWEA MAP scores in reading and math. Enrollment for classical schools is by application and examination. Children entering kindergarten through sixth grade are eligible to apply.  The process is very similar with the Regional Gifted Centers.  A link to the CPS page for Classical Schools is http://cps.edu/Schools/Elementary_schools/Pages/Classical.aspx and it contains a list of schools and application procedures.  For information on CPS regional gifted centers, go to http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Elementary_schools/Pages/Regionalgiftedcenter.aspx.  All the schools give tours.

Academic Centers and International Gifted Centers:  Academic Centers offer an accelerated program for students in grades seven and eight. The programs are housed in seven high schools.  You apply in sixth grade.  Admissions are determined by a combination of GPA, the score on the standardized du jour, and an Academic Center entrance exam.  International Gifted Programs are for grades 6-8. You apply in fifth grade. The program includes intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research.  The admission process in similar to that of the Academic Centers.  Start looking for application dates at the beginning of October.  A great resource is found at the following link:  http://cpsobsessed.com/category/academic-centers/ .  This site also has information about elementary options.  The CPS web page can be found at http://cpsoae.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=72695&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=151356 for International Gifted Centers and http://cps.edu/Programs/Academic_and_enrichment/SelectiveEnrollment/Pages/Academiccenters.aspx for Academic Centers.  These programs normally have specific tour dates for prospective students and their parents.  Some schools do not inform students of these options, as they do not wish to lose their top students.

Selective Enrollment and International Baccalaureate High Schools:  Selective Enrollment High Schools provide academically advanced students with a challenging and enriched college preparatory experience.  The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is a comprehensive and challenging pre-university program for academically advanced and highly motivated students.  As a rule, students apply for both to increase the likelihood of gaining a spot at a top CPS high school.  Admittance is based upon GPA, the score on the standardized du jour, and a Selective Enrollment entrance exam (only for Selective Enrollment high schools).  Some IB high schools have adopted the program school-wide but have a separate intensive program for top students.  Start inquiring about the admissions process at the beginning of the 8th grade school year.  Many schools will inform students of dates for applying, testing, and tours.  It's best to stay on top of it yourself.  http://cpsoae.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=72696&type=d will get you to the CPS site for the Selective Enrollment process and questions.  http://cpsoae.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=87448&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=165451 takes you the CPS site for the IB High Schools.

All the programs described above are highly competitive.  If you speak with parents, stories will range from total delight to absolute horror.  Best to gather all the information yourself and find out for yourself.  I found it stressful but ultimately satisfying.