Preview of Whitney Young Documentary Film


I think I mentioned sometime last Fall that a documentary film was being made about Whitney Young and the selective enrollment high school process.  I’m very excited to present to you…. a preview!

This was incredibly fascinating for me to watch.  In the 6 minute preview, I think it encapsulates so many of the things we discuss on here – the competitive, the open house, the principal!, the speculation about the kinds of kids who get some of these top spots, the “narrow margin of error” on the test scores (I am quoting a 6th grader from the clip.)

As a parent of a now-5th grader, I’ve been hearing about the SEHS tours (and the WY tour) for years and this was my first real glimpse at it.

There is some interesting history on the school as well.  (They are still looking for old video clips from the school if anyone knows someone who attended and might have some footage.)   It’s really all very thought-provoking.

This is still being developed into a feature length documentary scheduled to be released in 2015.

I asked the producer what the big “story arc” about WY and SEHS was going to be and she said “One of the reasons we are making this documentary is to help promote and shape a national discussion on public education.”

Anyhow, take a look and share your thoughts.

Couple caveats:

If you recognize any of the young kids who are applying this year, please don’t post a “spoiler” about whether they got into the school or not. That will be part of the drama of the final film.  Also, at least one of the kids featured is a reader of this blog, just as an FYI.



April 10, 2014 at 12:10 am 67 comments

CPS Announces Uniform Application Process for Selective Enrollment Seats

Chicago Public Schools said today that the standardized test being used for the first time in applications to the city’s top selective enrollment schools will also be required for private school students, but that those children won’t have to take the test until next fall.

Leaders of the city’s Catholic Schools last month had complained that the district’s switch to the Northwest Evaluation Association-Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA-MAP) test would put their students at a disadvantage.

In a letter to CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Chicago’s Catholic Schools, said private school students would have just two months to prepare for the test, and that they would have to take it at a CPS site over the course of two Saturdays.

CPS students, she pointed out, would be able take the test in the classroom during normal school hours, and had at least an extra month to prepare because the district notified them of the switch earlier.

Following the district’s announcement today, McCaughey issued a statement saying while the archdiocese is satisfied that parents and students now will have time to prepare, the “site and manner of testing remain problematic.”

In her earlier letter, McCaughey had complained that test would be online in a computerized format unfamiliar to non-public school students, and had requested that CPS pay for the test to be administered at private schools so students could take the test in their own classroom.

CPS officials today  said private school students will be taking the NWEA-MAP test between Sept. 6, 2014, and Oct. 11, 2014.

CPS students will take the NWEA-MAP test at their schools later this spring.

When CPS first announced the new test for public school students, district parents were furious at the switch, complaining that their kids would be at a disadvantage because private schools students would be allowed to take the same standardized test they’ve always taken. CPS kids took the NWEA-MAP test last year, but the scores were not used for the selective enrollment process.

The need for a new test arose because the state changed a portion of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test—the standardized test used for public school students in previous decisions for selective enrollment schools. The ISAT this year is aligned with the new Common Core curriculum but is no longer providing the district with a percentile score that ranks CPS students against other students nationwide. That score is used as part of the selection process.

CPS officials said the policy laid out today ensures a level playing field.

“Assessments are an important tool for measuring a student’s academic growth and success and have always been a factor for admission to our selective enrollment programs,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. “After hearing feedback from parents, students, teachers, principals and community members, we’ve made a decision to require scores from a uniform assessment in order to streamline the evaluation process and make sure that students across the city are afforded equal opportunities to these competitive schools.”

Officials with the city’s Catholic school system were not immediately available for comment.

All the gory details here FROM CPSOAE.ORG:

April 8, 2014 at 1:49 pm 74 comments

Can “giftedness” be taught? To all kids?


Let us continue the nurture/nature debate here.  Interesting stuff on Norwood’s blog.  I will add more in the comments section.

Interesting stuff there in terms of his long (obsessive – yeah!) journey into the efforts to get a child into a selective enrollment school.  As he points out, the test prep is but one element of success/luck that occurs on the test day, based on the mood-whims of a 4yo.

I have stated before, I believe in test prep, for sure.  Much much less so (if at all) for 4 year olds.  I’m interested to read more though, to see if I can be convinced that any random child could get an SEES-worthy score with enough practice.
The author of, “Norwood”, has agreed to share his view of the selective enrollment tests on the condition
that he doesn’t have to take his mask off (to protect the innocent). In his own words as a guest columnist…

I first heard about the selective enrollment tests in October of my oldest son’s Kindergarten year.   I didn’t know anything about tests
or test prep but gave we gave it a shot.  Despite my help, my son was accepted to the program after 17 rounds of qualified kids declining
the offer.

I vowed to do better with son number two.  I had 2 years until the K test and 3 until the 1st grade test.  Thus began 2000 hours of

I started out reading the work of test authors and their grad students looking for guidance on test questions and test content.  Failing
that, I moved on to measures of intelligence, child phychology, early childhood development, anything on gifted.  I tried all of the test
prep on the market, devised my own material, took a course on teaching math, and cornered parents at parties and grilled them on their child rearing habits.

The question “how do I prepare for the test” becomes a series of other questions about gifteness, intelligence, values, ethics, child
rearing, early childhood education, Tiger parents, and school policy. Can children be taught the skills that the tests are measuring?  Can
“giftedness” be taught?  Is 99% on an achievement test a desirable or realistic goal?  Can all children excel?  Is it necessary or good to
segregate performers?  Can our schools do better?

My current working theory is that the tests measure skills that underpin success in school, and these skills can be taught.  Let the
debate begin.

If you want to Norwood’s progress, feel free to visit

April 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm 124 comments

South Side Schools Thread (Guest Post by Maureen Kelleher)

South Side

We now have an official South Side post where people can share information and questions about schools on the South Side – written by an ex-CPS writer! Woo!

As long as I’m posting, I’ll out myself. My name is Maureen Kelleher and I spent 10 year covering CPS for Catalyst Chicago, mostly focused on high schools. These days I write about education beyond Chicago and am raising a four-year-old with my husband in Back of the Yards, so knowing the South Side schools has become personal. I’m focusing on elementary schools and throwing in all kinds: CPS, charter, and parochial.

For this post I’m going to list schools by neighborhood that are (or perhaps should be) getting buzz on the blog and invite South Side readers to add, comment and share their impressions.
Orozco is a bilingual gifted center that should have more kids going on to academic centers and selective enrollment high schools. Got a new principal recently and I don’t know how that is going. Two Catholic schools: St. Pius and St. Procopius. Pius is small and looking to grow. Procopius has a strong dual-language program I know of CPS teachers who send their kids there. On Zillow, Walsh and Perez get high ratings. I believe Perez is on the upswing from what parents tell me. It’s small. Jungman in East Pilsen was on the closing list and fought its way off.
James Ward has the numbers as a great neighborhood school. Sheridan Math and Science magnet is here and is well-regarded. Healy gets good reviews on Zillow. Armour was on the school closing list last year but won a reprieve.
Chinatown/Bronzeville I’ll kick off with NTA, both for its neighborhood program and RGC, Haines, which gets good reviews and has good test scores (if memory serves), and St. Therese, which offers Mandarin to everybody and conversational Spanish. (We thought about it but rumor has it you have to get on the wait list when your child is born.) Daystar Academy is a Christian school in South Loop/Bronzeville that I know has drawn families.
Little Village: Saucedo is a magnet that made news for boycotting ISAT. It shares space with Telpochcalli, a neighborhood small school with dual-language Spanish, a strong arts program, and test scores that scare some people away.
McKinley Park/Back of the Yards
Namaste Charter in McKinley Park offers the option of dual-language Spanish and focuses on health and wellness. Chavez Elementary is Level I and apparently didn’t accept out-of-neighborhood kids this year. It is very strong in math and improving in literacy. I’ve been there and I’m impressed.
Other RGS in mid-South
Beasley RCG is at 52nd and State, in the heart of what was the Robert Taylor Homes. I just met one of their kindergarten teachers and liked her, but the school has struggled for years to attract and keep families from beyond the immediate area. Carnegie RGC in Woodlawn has had pretty similar struggles, I believe–feel free to correct me on this.
Non-Beverly Far South RGCs and Classical Schools
Lenart is small, located at 81st and LaSalle (so near the Ryan). Poe is at 105th and Langley. I visited there years ago and really liked it–Poe parents, tell us how it is now! McDade Classical is at 88th and Indiana.
Hyde Park
Ray has long been the most coveted neighborhood elementary school in the area, but it has been through some principal turnover lately and I gather parents are feeling disenchanted. Shoesmith is an up and comer; as is Harte.
Kershaw has an IB Primary and Middle Years program–they teach Mandarin.
A Near North Montessori veteran founded The Montessori School of Englewood to bring Montessori back to the children Maria Montessori started the whole thing with. I toured it last fall and think they will grow into a marvelous school. (But they don’t do Spanish–at least not yet–so we won’t be going there now.) Almost hate to put it here but figure they won’t get deluged, even by us South Siders.
Vanderpoel, Kellogg, Sutherland get rated above 5 on Zillow. Clissold has Montessori. Keller RGC is here.
I’d do more but I have to go make dinner. Bring on your comments!

March 26, 2014 at 10:41 pm 290 comments

2014: Annual Elementary MAGNET and NEIGHBORHOOD Mailbox Watch

Babar Letter

OAE has confirmed that letters are mailing out today.  Let’s see what Saturday brings…
If you’re willing to share, please include:

Grade applying for

Schools and Lottery #s
Proximity or other lottery

*2014 contest* the person with the highest lottery number (such as #832 at hawthorne) will win a prize!

As a VERY KEY reminder, SO SO SO much changes after these initial letters mail out.  So many spaces open up and people with VERY low lottery numbers ended up getting into some good schools last year.  So please, don’t despair yet.   This is just the first step in a somewhat long admissions process that will continue through September.

March 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm 1,503 comments

2014: Academic Center Letters and Intl Gifted Programs




Link to information on the Lincoln and Ogden International Gifted Programs:

“The International Gifted Program is offered at Lincoln and Ogden Elementary schools for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.  Formerly known as the International Baccalaureate Preparatory Program, this initiative includes intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research.  The International Gifted Program is designed to allow intellectually able students to be schooled in their least restrictive environment and to mature at an accelerated pace.”

Post news, questions, and discussion about Academic centers here.

If you are willing, place include:


Child’s Score

School they got into with that score (or didn’t get into)

March 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm 365 comments

2014: SEES Gifted and Classical Letter Thread


OAE confirms the letters are mailing today.

Post your news about Gifted and Classical Elementary admission here.

If you’re willing to share, please include your:

Child’s Test Score
School they got into or didn’t get into based on that score
If that was your first choice

And.. anything else of interest you’d like to share.  Angst, happiness, concern, questions.  We are here to answer them!


March 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm 1,317 comments

Older Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,020 other followers



Get up to the minute obsessive updates on Twitter

  • SE Elementary and AC letters have started arriving. 1 month ago

Blog Stats

  • 3,546,435 hits


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,020 other followers