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Old 03-27-2011, 10:53 AM
 
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Hello -

My family will be moving from Westchester Cty (suburb of NYC) to Chicago this summer for my husband's job.

We are deciding between Lincoln Park and close suburbs to the city such as Winnetka, Wilmette, Hinsdale, Oak Brook etc.

School quality is very important to us as we have school-aged children (6 yr old, 4 yr old, 2 yr old).

I would be interested in hearing feedback (good and bad) from parents who have actually sent their kids to the public neighborhood schools in the Lincoln Park area/potentially considering Lakeview (Lincoln, Alcott, Bell).

I am also interested in the academic quality of neighborhood Catholic schools such as St. Josephat.

I understand the public schools in the suburban towns we are considering are top-notch. I am hoping there might be public schools in the city that, while not quite as good as these suburban schools, are still very good - the idea would be that I could supplement their education with all the city has to offer (kids classes in the museums etc). I lived in NYC for many years and believe raising kids in the city can be a great experience, but am struggling to decipher the Chi public school system from afar!

Many thanks in advance!!
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Old 03-27-2011, 03:18 PM
 
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I was a teacher in CPS and still have friends that are. The performance, as measured on weak standardized tests that are administrated in Illinois really does not reveal the extent of the differences.

Yes, the raw numbers of the "best performing" CPS elementary schools are similar to that of good suburbs, but really there are huge differences in the way the schools are run, the kind of parent involvement, the opportunities for enriching experiencing , the creativity and professionalism of the teachers and attitudes of administration.

I also like the work of parochial schools, but again the mix of parents, the quality of teachers / kinds of creative teaching strategies and overall feel of even the finest parochial schools is quite different than that of top notch suburban public schools..

Fairer comparisons MIGHT be possible between CPS and more affordable inner ring suburbs, but again the motivations of parents in each area is markedly different. In parts of say Berwyn or Oak Lawn there are handful of very dedicated parents -- many of whom are more supportive of schoolsmthan the average CPS PARENT, but nothing as strong as in the top notch burbs...
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Old 03-27-2011, 03:43 PM
 
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Thank you very much for your response. It is extremely helpful to get an "insider's view"!
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Old 03-27-2011, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Jefferson Park Chicago, IL
537 posts, read 951,141 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
I was a teacher in CPS and still have friends that are. The performance, as measured on weak standardized tests that are administrated in Illinois really does not reveal the extent of the differences.

Yes, the raw numbers of the "best performing" CPS elementary schools are similar to that of good suburbs, but really there are huge differences in the way the schools are run, the kind of parent involvement, the opportunities for enriching experiencing , the creativity and professionalism of the teachers and attitudes of administration.

I also like the work of parochial schools, but again the mix of parents, the quality of teachers / kinds of creative teaching strategies and overall feel of even the finest parochial schools is quite different than that of top notch suburban public schools..

Fairer comparisons MIGHT be possible between CPS and more affordable inner ring suburbs, but again the motivations of parents in each area is markedly different. In parts of say Berwyn or Oak Lawn there are handful of very dedicated parents -- many of whom are more supportive of schoolsmthan the
average CPS PARENT, but nothing as strong as in the top notch burbs...
You are painting with an extraordinary broad brush. Did you or any of your friends teach in any of these top performing CPS elementary schools? Do you or any of your friends have children in any of the top performing schools?

I can pick and choose bad performing schools in many suburban districts and make your same arguments. Did you ever think some of top performing elementary schools perform well for the very reasons you laid out; better faculty and better parental involvement?

You post basically states that parents who chose to raise their children in Wilmette and Winnekta are better parents than those of students in the entire CPS system. I have friends and co-workers with children in some of the schools mentioned by the OP and they would be very offended by your elitist attitude.
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Old 03-27-2011, 05:53 PM
 
28,461 posts, read 78,568,953 times
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Default In a word: YES!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomcho View Post
You are painting with an extraordinary broad brush. Did you or any of your friends teach in any of these top performing CPS elementary schools? Do you or any of your friends have children in any of the top performing schools?

I can pick and choose bad performing schools in many suburban districts and make your same arguments. Did you ever think some of top performing elementary schools perform well for the very reasons you laid out; better faculty and better parental involvement?

You post basically states that parents who chose to raise their children in Wilmette and Winnekta are better parents than those of students in the entire CPS system. I have friends and co-workers with children in some of the schools mentioned by the OP and they would be very offended by your elitist attitude.
I did work in some of the TOP high schools in CPS, those that also had seventh graders. I am still friendly with some teachers that work in those same schools. I also gave friends that work are selective admissions elementary schools of CPS. Neither they nor I consider ourselves "elitist". Some of them choose to send their own children to CPS, others choose private / parochial schools, some were fortunate enough to have been employed in CPS when they were allowed to take advantage of living wherever they cared to..

I have younger friends with kids that are currently attending top performing CPS schools as well as neighbors whose kids are in top performing suburban districts. I do make an effort to "cross compare" their experiences and try to do so in an unbiased way.

I do not agree that those who do invest the time and effort to get an understanding of how the CPS selective admission process works, go through the major hurdles that is part of actually gaining admissions to a desirable school and then remaining involved in that school and their child's education are in any way less good parents than those who choose to love in area with top performing suburban schools. They will, however, have a very different experience and so will thier children.

Without revealing too much of what friends have told me in confidence I can say that there is a much broader "middle ground" in a the suburban elementary schools. Put simply, not all kids whose parents can afford to live in a desirable suburb are the kinds of academically driven types that gain admission to the selective enrollment schools of CPS. They might more interested in drawing cartoons, singing in chorus, playing soccer or Little League or just having a lot more free time being able to stroll from neighborhood school to nearby home or parks. That is much less common among CPS selective admissions programs that often involve little more than academic acceleration.

The sort of "pleasures of city living " attitude is more commonly found by those who choose privets schools though there are some folks of relatively modest means that also can engage in at least some of of this should thier schedule allow.

Even in simple things, like birthday parties or "play dates" the folks I have talked to with kids in CPS schools that have a broad mix of economic backgrounds / races represented there is little more diversity of experience than in the most homogenous of suburbs except for a handful of schools (notably those in / near Hyde Park...).

Quite truthfully I wish things were not this way. I run into a handful of kids of various backgrounds from when I taught in CPS and saddest thing about the success they have found after formal school is that those who did have professional parents are vastly more successful than those that did not EVEN when those from more humble backgrounds may have shown a particularly notable talent in high school. This is a not "skin color" thing either. I had kids who were born in Poland or the Eukraine right next to kids whose families were / are prominent professional with a long history of being leaders among the African American community in Chicago. Those talented kids without "connections" may have graduated near the top of their high school class and gone on to UofI but after that had less stellar career paths. Meanwhile the "connected" folks have had much more fortunate roads open for them.

Conversely of my kids suburban classmates a much larger percentage of bright kids that had no special connections did go on to impressive college and good careers. Sure, some of "spoiled" kids have had spectular blow-outs too, so that is the risk that goes with "reward"...

My point was NOT to suggest that one set of choices was necessarily "worse"; quite the opposite the OVERALL choice of city vs affluent suburb and even of public vs private in EITHER setting implies so much difference that the yardstick / scale one would need to measure all such options is really less important that the total sum of lifestyle choices and priorites that one commits to / accepts in anyone those scenarios.

No normal parent will ever have a shot at being elected to the school board of CPS. No parent, no matter how inflential, will be able to change certain curricular mandates of parochial schools run by the Archdiocese. No amount of speedy Metra service will make it possible for surbanites to take their kid smelt fishing before the start of the school day or walk by a MLB ballpark on the way home from school. Stuff like is impossible to say is "better or worse".
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Old 03-27-2011, 10:39 PM
 
Location: Jefferson Park Chicago, IL
537 posts, read 951,141 times
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I appreciate the thorough response and I agree with you, the middle ground is much larger and shall I say much more middle in the average suburban school. I wish your second reply was your initial reply, I feel in interest of a quick response you came across as disparaging against any parent who would chose to enroll their children in a CPS school. There are indeed a few diamonds in the rough, especially at the elementary level and many parents think the diversity of the student population is a good thing not to mention all the cultural and ancillary benefits that come with living in the city.

In interest of full disclosure I have a 6 month old daughter and we'll soon be putting our house on the market to get something a bit bigger. I'm currently debating the hand full of CPS elementary schools I'd feel comfortable with her attending versus the can't go wrong areas of Park Ridge, Wilmette, Glenview, etc.

I work in the loop and 99% of our entertainment dollars are spent in the city, so it is indeed a tough choice for us.

Last edited by tomcho; 03-27-2011 at 11:03 PM..
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Old 03-28-2011, 05:53 AM
 
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Hey, I know it ain't easy-- where you live doesn't really "define you" but it does have a big impact on the sorts of things you can do with your time away from work and the experience your kids will have growing up. Very important decisions.

With a six month old you have far more time to make up your mind than someone relocating and I tend to focus on the sharper differences that folks in such situations are likely to face. If you have a few years to sorta kick around options it ought to be less stressful than having to pull the trigger on a new job/ home / lifestyle in the space of a couple of weeks...

CPS is dysfunctional. Any other school district in the region does a much better job of anticipating the needs of families that relocate. I suppose the endemic corruption of Chicago and persistent attitude of "if there is a loophole it will be exploited" are what prevent CPS from treating relo's better is what makes this especially tough, but I don't anticipate any easy way to change those problems...
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:06 AM
 
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The problem with suburban schools, at least to some degree, is they are one size fits all. Within CPS there are options for children who need more of a challenge, as well as specialty charter schools like the new Quest Academy that is scheduled to open this fall I believe, which is based on video game design!

We've already moved once because the suburban school we were zoned for had a bilingual kindergarten program - English and Russian. My kid doesn't speak Russian! Now we're on school number 2, and they aren't able to cater to more advanced students. If we were in Chicago we could have applied to other schools, in the suburbs we have to move. We're actually planning to move back to Chicago and considering a lot of the same schools you are.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:42 AM
 
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While I appreciate chicagojlo's frustration with bilingual kindergarten I have to disagree that "one size fits all" is the norm in desirable suburban school districts. Quite the opposite the greedy tax slashing types rail against the excellent differentiated instruction which is admittedly more costly than "one size fits all" but is expected in areas with high acheiving parents. While Federal mandates protect the rights of those identified as having special needs, the option to offer talented students more challenging course work or that more aligned to the wide range of artistic and creative skills often found in even small classrooms requires parents to make these things a priority in the face of tight budgets.

Per pupil spending, and the amount of property wealth that each district has to support that spending without placing an undue burden on any one home owner are primary reasons that I advocate finding the most affordable home you can in the nicest area.
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Old 03-28-2011, 12:00 PM
 
5 posts, read 18,138 times
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Relocation and the tight timing does exacerbate the situation - we just found out will be moving in June and need to have a 1st grader & pre-k 4 registered for September so unfortunately any of the magnet or specialized schools (and private schools for that matter) that require an application process are out of the question. Given this, we were exploring the CPS neighborhood route.

As an aside, you may find it amusing that I called Lincoln, Alcott, Bell, Blaine & Burley to see if I could arrange a tour - all five offer tours on different days of the month, and none were willing to allow me to visit outside of the tour day even though I was flying in for only 2 days from NYC. I understand that they have their process, but they sure don't make it easy!
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