The Big Question: “School Choice in Chicago.”

The Big Question: “School Choice in Chicago.”

As parents in Chicago, I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the anxious feelings that surround school choice in the city.  You’ve probably been hearing it since your child was just beginning to figure out how to climb the jungle gym at the playground.

“What school will you send ____ to?”

“Are you thinking public or private?”

“Have you started the application process yet?”

“Are you going to move to the ‘burbs?”

Such is life for parents who love city living and all that it has to offer families, but must deal with a hyper competitive and confusing educational landscape.  I myself am a mom of a three and a half year old and a one year old and know very well how quickly those innocuous playground discussions transition from talk about sleep training and strollers to what preschool program will afford your child the best opportunity for all future educational and therefore life opportunities.  Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but if you’re like most parents, it doesn’t feel like one.  If you’re like me you’ve probably spent what feels like an unreasonable amount of time thinking and worrying about which school is best for your child, and equally important, how to secure a seat in that school for your child.  The good news is that there are schools of all philosophies, curricular focus, size, and even price range in our city.  There are excellent public, private, and parochial schools throughout the city.  The bad news is that competition for seats in many schools — from pre-k thru high school — is stiff and getting stiffer as more families choose to raise their children in an urban setting.

Wading through all the choices is a complicated and often intimidating process for even the most well informed parents.  To make the best choice for your child, it’s important to know how to evaluate schools.

At the start of any search, it’s imperative that parents do an honest assessment of their child’s learning needs.  What kind of learner is your child? What are his/her strengths and weaknesses?  What kind of learning environment works best for your child? Next, define your ideal school.  What’s important to you? Class size, experiential learning, and arts education, for example.  What about extracurriculars, school community, and social climate?  From here, research and make a list of all schools that meet your criteria.  Check up on each school’s stats, but know that numbers cannot tell the whole story.  Couple the hard facts with the experiences of students, parents and staff in a school.  Talk to as many people as possible!  When it’s time to visit, go armed with questions, a critical eye and an open mind.  Take note of the tone of the school, how students and adults interact with one another, the goings-on in classrooms, teaching methods, and the school itself.

Finally, now educated on all the available opportunities, learn about the application and enrollment processes.  Prepare your child for testing and interviews if the schools you’re interested in require those elements.  Support your child with extra help if needed, especially when applying to middle and high school.  Grades matter! Rank the schools you hope to receive offers from, and create a back-up plan, just in case!

For more information of the services that Educational Endeavors can provide in school admissions consulting, click here, or email Sara Aldinger at