Learn to obsess about Academic Centers

September 15, 2009 at 10:45 am 93 comments

A reader contacted me recently about CPS’ Academic Centers, thinking readers might be interested in learning more about them.  I’d heard about the Whitney Young program briefly when I toured Decatur.  Since that school only goes up to 6th grade, they do their best to try to get their students placed in these centers. Besides that, I knew nothing about them, but was thrilled (ha ha) to learn that there is yet another step I can obsesses about before High School application time arrives.

Academic Centers: Hidden Gems

What’s an Academic Center? And why might you care?

One of Chicago Public Schools’ best kept secrets are its Academic Centers. These are middle schools that offer accelerated programs for 7th and 8th graders and a guaranteed path into their associated high schools.

Four of Chicago’s six Academic Centers rank among the top 50 middle schools in the State of Illinois.  On average, students from all six Academic Centers scored 35% above national norms on the EXPLORE test, a predictor of ACT performance.  These Academic Centers are: Harlan Community Academy, Kenwood Academy, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Morgan Park High School, Taft High School, and Whitney Young.

Two of these Academic Centers (Whitney Young and Lindblom) are associated with a Selective Enrollment High School. So if your child is admitted to the Whitney Young or Lindblom Academic Center, he or she automatically gets a spot in the High School. Nice…

Many parents are relatively unaware of Academic Centers. Since most elementary schools run through 8th grade, school administrators often do not proactively provide parents with information about these schools. Surprisingly, in some cases information generated by these schools themselves is sparse.

Admission to these programs is based on 5th grade ISATs and grades and a special entrance exam that is given in 6th grade.  Some schools (those that only go up to 6th grade) give the entrance exam at the school whereas other families need to apply and go to a central testing location.

For more information about Academic Centers and the Academic Center admissions process, check out:


(Selective Prep is a company who can help kids study for the entrance exam they take in 6th grade.)

From me: So is it worth the stress of trying to get a 5th grader concentrating on their grades and having them take an entrance exam in 6th grade?  Well, if you’re looking to get into Whitney Young (and who isn’t) it probably makes sense to have your child take the test and give it a try.  You always have another (probably more competitive) chance going into high school.

If your child is in a school that you feel isn’t academically challenging but they haven’t tested into a gifted program, this could also be a chance for more accelerated classwork and better preparation for high school.

The tough part, of course, would be deciding whether to move your child in 7th grade if you’re happy with your current school (and possibly facing the wrath of an angry pre-teen.)

Entry filed under: Academic Centers, CPS Policy / Resources. Tags: , .

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93 Comments Add your own

  • 1. 5th grade mom  |  September 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for this post. Academic Centers have always been on my radar but I didn’t (though I should have) realized that admission was based on 5th grade ISAT’s.

    As a fifth grade mom I was wondering if there are any parents out there who have used different programs to help students with the ISAT’s. Kumon? ? / Score? ? ? something else? ? ? .

  • 2. chicago parent  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:44 am

    SelectivePrep has a 7th grade ISAT program since the 7th grade ISAT is 30% of the Selective Enrollment admissions score. Some K-6 schools are looking for a 5th grade level class to address this issue.

  • 3. Mayfair Dad  |  September 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Don’t forget about the IB Prep programs at Lincoln Elementary and Ogden International School. Both are considered feeder schools into Lincoln Park High School IB Diploma program, although many IB Prep kids are accepted into selective enrollment High Schools.

    IB Prep program starts in sixth grade, so admission is also based on 5th grade + attendance + entrance exam + ISAT scores = a maximum of 1,000 points. Typically 1,000 kids test for 60 spots. Bussing provided since it is considered a gifted program.

  • 4. hopeful  |  September 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    McPherson also has an IB program. They are located at Lawrence and Ravenswood.

  • 5. Y  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I went through an academic center years ago and had a great experience. I was able to take high school algebra and Latin in 7th grade and start with a full freshman load of classes in 8th grade, which led to expanded opportunities in high school and college. From recent test scores, there is a concern about the performance of some of the high school components of the academic centers. It looks like the students in academic centers (7 and 8th grades) perform well but the students in the high school are not (non-passing AP scores and low exceeding percentages on standardized tests). This might indicate that students are transferring to other schools for HS or are not getting the level of instruction needed at the HS of the academic center.

  • 6. Y  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Lindblom is a SE high school but I would put them in a lower tier than Whitney Young. Only 3% of Lindblom students exceed state standards where 1/3 of WY students exceed.

  • 7. chicago dad  |  September 17, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I’ve heard from kids who have taken the test—if your child takes the Academic Center Admissions test, be prepared—the questions are a lot different from the usual ISAT questions. There are some math and vocabulary questions, but no reading. Most importantly, there are “figural” questions which give your child a series of shapes and ask your child for the next logical figure in the sequence. There are math sequence questions, too. There are even a few logic questions.

  • 8. curious  |  September 17, 2009 at 10:41 am

    On Wednesday, my scholastic academy second grader was tested for placement level class. All of the kids were tested on laptop computers with a laptop mouse. I’m just wondering how accurate those tests can be. My dd for one, has never touched a laptop and spent huge amounts of time trying to move the screen up and down. What about the kids who don’t have a computer in the home at all? (Yes, I’m sure they exist). So evidently, the test is also a test of computer skills…BUT does it accurately test reading/comprehension?

  • 9. chicago parent  |  September 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Dear curious: It sounds like there may be some validity issues for your 2nd graders test. CPS administered tests — for gifted, classical, academic centers, selective enrollment — do not use laptop computers for their testing so this shouldn’t be an issue.

    The academic performance of the various Academic Centers & Selective Enrollment High does differ. Lindblom is a relatively new school — about 3 years old to much older for WY. I would expect the numbers to improve. Additionally one thing to note about the Academic Center vs. High School performance is that in the high school portion of some of these schools other students who are not rigorously selected as they are at the Academic Center (and who are tracked in a different program) — this performance gets mixed in & it mixes the results.

  • 10. Friend of a friend  |  September 28, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Taft is a horrible option. They even go as far to (maliciously or benignly) sabotage your child’s grades and profile so as to undermine matriculation in a competing HS program. And Taft academic center does not guarantee acceptance into Taft HS. The program is widely disliked. Stay away from it.

  • 11. Taft AC parent  |  October 22, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Friend of a Friend is wrong about Taft. Taft is becoming more & more popular with the NW side families (Edgebrook, Sauganash, Palmer, Decatur). Taft accepts those out of attendance boundary AC kids who have a C or better average and no major disciplinary action into its HS. Face it- it the kid doesn’t have a t least a a C average and is a discipline problem- wha should Taft keep them? In 8th grade, the AC kids have all Freshman classes for HS credit. In my experience, WY does sabotage its 7th graders’ grades to prevent them from transferring to a SE high school. Get your facts straight before you post

  • 12. Adele  |  April 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Whitney Young AC is very well liked for good reasons. Classes are taught by high school certified teachers, a big plus. Look at the teachers highly detailed curriculum outlines for their 7th & 8th grades on their web site. (Ms. Gandhi’s Algebra 1 honors curriculum, in particular.) There’s nothing like that level of planning at my dds’ school.

  • 13. 7thGradeTaftACStudent  |  April 16, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Dear friend of a friend,
    you are completely wrong about the Taft Academic Center. I am currently attending TAC, and it is wonderful, and actually the teacher try there very hardest to make sure that you have the best grade possible. Many of the teachers give up their free periods to help students, and do after school tutoring, and spend time in class to help everyone understand. Also, you leave with 6 high school credits, which are Freshman Algebra, French, US History, Survey Lit, Computer Tech, and a science class. I believe that you were very misinformed. This year 14 of our eighth graders got into Northside prep, and the others got into equally good schools such as Lane Tech, Walter Payton, Whitney Young or the Taft IB. Taft Academic Center is a wonderful program to be apart of, and I am extremely delight to be able to participate in this program.

  • 14. GO DOLPHIN  |  November 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Taft AC Parent,
    Why would WY sabotage their 7th grade students? WY is a SE highschool, one of the best in the STATE. Taft can’t compete and wish it had Young’s reputation.
    As for another poster commenting that Lindblom is “new”, it isn’t. Perhaps the academic center at Lindblom is and if it’s worth your kid dodging bullets to take advanced algebra then go right ahead.

  • 15. IB&RGC Mom  |  December 11, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Does anyone know the average points needed out of 900 to get into WY AC? My daughter is currently in a RGC and did very well on her ISAT’s, but did have 1 B on her 5th grade report card in one of the 4 classes that are counted. I am worried that the 25 points off will hold her back as we know that the A’s in the advanced programs hold no more weight then the A’s in the neighborhood or magnet programs. For that reason if she does not get into the AC I am thinking about transferring her into a magnet or other school next year. I have been CPS obsessed (LOVE the blog by the way) for about 8 years now and want to do what is best for my daughter and her future. Any advise on workbooks or programs to prepare for the AC entrance exam?

  • 16. Last Thought  |  February 8, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    My daughter attends Lindbloom Academic Center by CHOICE, GO DOLPHIN she hasn’t dodged a bullet one day since she has been there. I think perhaps before you make a statement that lacks cultural competence you should gather your facts first.
    I attended WY High school and traveling to the west side of Chicago was no more or less safer than traveling to Englewood!

  • 17. my kid attended taft's ac  |  March 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Taft’s AC is, at best, benignly neglectful-sure the kids are doing high school level work, but at the most basic levels (knowledge, comprehension, some application maybe). At worst, I agree that they very nearly sabotage those kids-the admin WANTS your smart kids to stay on for their IB program and make ’em look good. Without the AC kids, their scores would be dismal.

    After school activities are only available to those who can get home on their own. Teachers don’t respond to email. Kids are graded arbitrarily. The coordinator is kind hearted and sweet-but completely incompetent. The principal, holy moly, could he be LESS interested in being a leader?

    In the end, the only people losing out are the kids, because they have no idea what it COULD be like-instead they simply have to bear the screaming security guards, the uninspiring teachers, the crowded halls with stoned seniors. And pray they get into a SE.

  • 18. IB&RGC Mom  |  March 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    @17 – Good Luck. I am hoping my daughter will be attending next year as well. We will find out next week!

    @18 – I have read a post on Great Schools or maybe on this site elsewhere that also stated Taft AC sabotages kids grades. Any examples of how they do that? I waiting to find out if my daughter did get into an AC. I live on the NW side and put Taft as the second choice to possibly consider, but I really want to make the best choice for my child for her schooling next year. If you don’t mind answering, what school did your child go to before attending the Taft AC? I am really seeing mixed reviews about Taft so I am confused, but I appreciate your detailed post as it definitely makes me think if that is going to be a choice we have to make. Any additional info on Taft AC you can add or anyone else wants to add would be appreciated!

  • 19. my kid attended Taft's AC  |  March 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I love how we can work/parent all day and still be posting on blogs at 11:30 at night! 🙂

    Let me start by saying that I am one of those crazy parents and former teacher that actually believe that a good education involves a lot more than information regurgitation. Without going on and on, all students, but especially bright ones, should be given the opportunity to both learn the material in different ways and to PROVE they mastered the material in different ways.

    That said, Taft AC teachers were basically HS teachers working with younger kids-same material they taught freshmen. To my knowledge, they are not given any training in middle school development, nor any training in gifted education-in fact, I got the feeling from many of them that they had disdain for the AC kids-that they are privileged in some way.

    My first red flag should have been that there is NO parental involvement encouraged. Number one indicator of a school unwilling to hear the needs of the community is not welcoming, encouraging, even demanding parental support.

    There are a LOT of kids that go to Taft’s AC who came from Decatur. Those kids, for the last 5, 6 years, have had homework skills DRILLED into them. If your kid does NOT have those skills, they will be left to their own devices. I repeatedly asked for help, for notification when my kid hadn’t turned in work, when an important assignment went missing. I asked for timelines, for a syllabus so I would know what was to be covered, for a weekly check in. I was denied (“I have 120 students”) or ignored repeatedly. Thus 2 Bs in 7th grade. And a kid with her self esteem in the can.

    Reality is, an AC kid getting a C, much less a B, is of no matter to them-they have bigger problems. Legit problems. But this is where the disconnect is so great-many of these teachers have no idea that the whole SE process is such a nightmare. Again, they don’t understand these kids, or their parents. This goes for the teachers, the coordinator, the counselor and the principal. I truly, truly feel that their goal was to keep the kids at Taft. And as far as their IB program goes, let’s see them post their kids scores, like LPHS does. The problem with touting a program like IB (which is a great program) is that there is NO oversight as to how it is instituted (just like schools who say they offer all these AP classes…uh, ok, but what do your kids score?), and many parents don’t realize that just because it’s IB curriculum, their kid may not be getting an IB education.

    BUT… I believe WY’s AC is FAR better equipped to work with bright kids-the teachers work with bright high schoolers. They understand why-and how-the kid who can’t find his pen on a daily basis can ace the test, or how the perfectionist who color codes her notes can FAIL the test.

    I am also a huge supporter of Lane Tech getting an AC, for the same reasons. I will tell you that having to uproot your kid in 7th, only to have them make friends at that terrible age only to have to START ALL OVER again 2 years later-ugh. Heartbreak all around.

    And my kid came from Stone, which is whole other story on a school that has a reputation of being good but I found to be depressingly lamentable.



  • 20. my kid attended Taft's AC  |  March 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    As I reread my post above, I also wanted to add that a.) I didn’t know the emoticons would change to actual smileys, and I am not a smiley kind of person. But b.)…

    The change up for some of these kids-some the ONLY one from their home school-at age 12, 13, is HUGE. You all remember junior high? Well imagine if you-and dozens of others-were the new kids.

    Again, there were a lot of Decatur kids in my kid’s class. They had a support system that moved with them. Many of the other kids did NOT, and it didn’t take me long to see that the AC sorely needs to address this. Both with their students and their teachers. This has to account for some of the difficulty with adjusting during the worst year-7th-we as CPS families go through. You would think a support system would be put in place, and yet it is completely non-existant.

    I promise I am done now.

  • 21. to #20  |  March 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I would love to ‘chat’ with you off this board. Could cpsobsessed give you my email? ? It is questionable whether my child will get in anywhere but we are having HUGE problems at Stone (after 7 years of giving the school the benefit of the doubt and supporting it wholeheartedly). So doing it all over would you still pick Taft over 2 more years at Stone?

  • 22. my kid attended Taft's AC  |  March 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    D’oh! “nonexistent”.

  • 23. my kid attended Taft's AC  |  March 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    As crazy as this sounds…yes. My kid WAS surrounded by smart, driven, less-caught-up-in-the-drama-of-tweenage-angst peers. Again, this has nothing to do with the school, it has to do with the pool of kids they get.

    And sure, if cpsobsessed can do that behind the scenes it’s fine, or I can post a less “revealing” email address of mine if that’s ok with the board rules…

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  March 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I talked to a neighborhood mom who had kids who went to Taft AC. One stayed for 8th grade while the other left for a private school for their final year before HS.

    She also feels the AC could use some improvement and is not near the caliber of WY (probably not a surprise given WY’s reputation.) It sounds like the overall caliber of the teachers is not that high. Also, the fact that Taft is a very large neighborhood school means that the school has to be “tougher” on the kids. The entry process of going through security and metal detectors is not handled in a friendly way and the security guards are rather bristley.
    She felt that for kids who are very smart/academic, the school might not be challenging enough, whereas for kids who are the low end of AC standards it could be a decent challenge.
    I did point out to her that perhaps it was worth it because both her kids got into a top SE high school, but she didn’t feel it was a wise choice (but for some Decatur kids, sounds like one of the only north side choices.) I also recall her once telling me her child complained about kids smoking in the bathrooms. Ick. (Although I suppose that probably went on in my upscalish suburban high school… just hard to think about putting a 7th grader in that environment.)

    It really depressed me that CPS can’t intervene and whip this program into shape. I know there are plenty of examples of this in CPS. I recall touring one of the Regional Gifted programs when my son we entering K and I wasn’t impressed with the program from an administrative sense. It just seemed like an easy fix to send a strong person out to get it organized/inspired/marketed, etc.

    Anyhow, I’m just passing on one person’s opinion and it’s helpful to me having not ever set foot in a CPS high school during school hours.

  • 25. IB&RGC Mom  |  March 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks for all the info. It is very helpful hearing everyone’s opinions since it may be a choice we will have to make very soon! “My kid…” it is also helpful to know that you were a teacher so I know you know things to look for in a school and in other teachers. You also bring up a good point that it will be hard on them to move them for 7th and 8th just to end up moving them again. I have considered that, but haven’t thought too much about it recently since I am more anxious for the results. There are reasons I do want her to change schools for 7th, but hopefully it will be to go to a school that she will stay at for high school as well and that would not be my intent if she was to go to Taft.

    And yes I am officially obsessed with this blog if I didn’t mention it before.

  • 26. Stressed by CPS  |  March 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    -cpsobsessed: Sounds like I know your friend who sent her kids to Taft and are now at at SE school. My child also went to Decatur thus had to leave after 6th grade. He was accepted into 2 AC’s (not Whitney) and one RGC. He chose Taft because about half of Decatur’s 6th grade class was accepted there and he knew that he would earn HS credits. No it will never have the reputation of WY and with the fact that the HS isn’t that great, that will never change.

    I agree with many of the comments posted about Taft not being very connected with parents. The director is sweet but not the right person for the position. I did like the school in general but did not love it. My child is now at a SE high school and never even gave Taft IB a second thought. We are minorities and Taft is mostly white. My child just wanted more diversity.

    A lot of the things I presented to the AC were shut down. I was very invoolved at Decatur-PTA VP, Room rep, always involved, but at Taft, I didn’t really feel compelled to go to any PTSO meetings. But I did like that they offer sports for AC kids. The HS kids were kinda ghetto. When I would go there, they were always rude, loud, and ignorant. At my son’s SEHS, I have not run into that problem at all. The vibe is just very different. The AC kids at Taft were pretty good. But it is true that some of them are not really ready for a “rigorous” program. The brighter kids seem to have less of a benefit whereas an average student might really feel challenged. I have mixed emotions about the AC but for sure, the HS was NOT an option. I see HS kids all over the city who smoke on school grounds. That isn’t the worst thing that can happen. But the lack of communication with the AC teachers is a negative. The principal spends all his time saying things like he can’t believe kids would leave Taft for Lane. Thank God Lane will have an AC now which will be better for northsiders. If you live on the NW side, Taft is a great option. Travelling hours on end just for high school isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    I also agree that Taft will do whatever it takes to make your child stay for HS and with those tactics…why would anyone stay? My child has a 504 plan which none of the teachers ever even cared to read or accomdate to my child when needed. The case manager even forgot to do his annual meeting in 8th grade and I had to call her to remind her and she said if nothing has changed then she would just change the dates and that’s that. I was really excited about it when he was first accepted and I tried to like it but now as I am typing this and looking back, I guess it wasn’t all that great. I don’t regret it because my child had a good time, made a lot of friends, had 6 HS credits and very good grades. But that was all him. The staff had nothing to do with his success at Taft. It’s a good option but if you choose to send your child there, just be very involved and stay on top of the staff and adminstration.

  • 27. Alejandro  |  March 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    So should I go to Taft AC?

  • 28. cpsobsessed  |  March 19, 2011 at 7:37 am

    @28 Alejandro: Have you visited the school? See where you get in and also think about the new Lane Tech AC as an option as well. Keep us posted!

  • 29. WYAC Offered  |  March 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks so much for this blog, CpsObsessed- it’s informative and addictive!

    I just wanted to pass along that Whitney Young AC has Shadow Days offered on 3/28, 3/29 and 3/31 from 7:30-2:35 and the sign-up info is in the packet that was received today. Space is limited and it’s not required. Otherwise, Programming Day including placement tests and auditions for accepted AC students is on 4/1, info in the packet. Another notable set of dates is 8/2-8/26 when there is a 3 week summer orientation (half days). They definitely want the kids to ease into the program as much as possible which is excellent.

    They also make no bones about the fact that theirs is a RIGOROUS and challenging program that may not be suited to all qualified 7th graders. They had a handout with 5 excellent questions to consider before accepting a spot at WYAC and the last line states: “Parents: If your child is talkative, inattentive, or disruptive in class, then he or she does not have the maturity level necessary to enroll in this program.” They want both parents and kids to feel confident in their decision to attend and I applaud them for laying it out up front. Otherwise it’s not fair to both teachers and students who DO want to be there wholeheartedly.

    Congrats on everyone who got into WYAC- they seem very well organized and certainly have a fabulous reputation!

    Tier 3, 830

  • 30. skittles  |  April 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Just wondering if anyone had a child who got into Whitney Young last year and had to take the 3 weeks summer orientation. My son got accepted to W.Y. this fall but I didn’t know about this orientation and we will be out of country that time, already bought the tickets. I wonder how tremendous the impact it will be on my son if he misses those 3 weeks. Is it considered part of the class so when school starts they will just continue, or will it be repeated when actual school starts. Thanks.

  • 31. wyparent  |  April 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    My child is at WYAC and the program is rigorously challenging. My child loves it and is thriving. It is not for everyone. It’s been a very rewarding time for my child. The school is demanding, but also it really fosters a strong connection with the other kids that are accepted and the teachers are committed to your child to help them succeed and do well. They do everything in their power to help every child at that school.

    @31 The three weeks orientation, I feel, is very useful to the child, regarding time management, the way the teachers teach/grade, aclimate to the child’s peers and preparing them for the 1st day of school. That being said, I’m sure your son will be fine; however, the summer session is not repeated. The summer session prepares them for the first day of class. I would tell the director about your plans and find out what is due in english for the first day along with algebra. Good luck~I’m sure your whole family will love it.

  • 32. 6th grade mom  |  May 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    @31-we’re in the same boat, we planned our summer vacation for early August thinking that any orientations would happen right before school and so my kid will miss 1/2 of the orientation. Hope they’ll be ok anyway!

  • 33. EM  |  May 16, 2011 at 12:47 am

    My daughter is going to Taft this fall. It’s a long way from home and I have to say the school is really an eyesore. Also, when we visited there was group of kids out front and one of them called his friend a ‘f—–g bi—” as we walked by, which you can imagine put a very bad taste in my mouth. Wouldn’t it be nice if CPS tried to make things even slightly more equitable between schools?

  • 34. David  |  October 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    LANE AC parents…
    What are your thoughts re: LANCE AC?
    How’s the homework load and ability for extracurricular activities?
    Did your children adjust quickly? How much interaction with high schoolers?
    Are students and parents pleased with the academics?
    Pros and Cons, please.

  • 35. Marianne  |  November 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I teach 7th grade in Chicago at a regular elementary school. I don’t know how much this will help, since it was posted earlier that the admission test for ACs is very different than the ISAT. However, many schools in CPS use Buckle Down ISAT books for test prep. We have been told that these prep books are made by the same company/ people who create the ISAT tests. Our students do very well on the ISATs. Each year we have students who are readily admitted to Northside, Whitney Young, Lane etc.

    Also, I have a sixth grade daughter whose application for admission into an AC we mailed off today. So, our wait begins.

    This blog is great. Thank you cpsobsessed, and everyone who so thoughtfully shared their concerns and experiences. It is tremendously helpful.

  • 36. mom  |  November 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    When are the test dates for academic centers? where are they given?

  • 37. ChiSchoolGPS  |  November 26, 2011 at 11:48 am

    To test for the Academic Centers, you need to apply for the schools you are interested in first. Go to http://www.apply.cps.edu and fill out Step 1 for your PIN number, then when you receive it in the mail, finish your application by filling out Step 2.

    Once you apply, you will get assigned a testing date which is given at IIT in a group setting. Testing occurs on a rolling basis until late February, I believe.

  • 38. Academic Center Applicant  |  December 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I applied for most AC’s on the application this year. I wanted to know which one to consider and which one not to consider.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  December 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I believe that all the academic centers are very well regarded and would be a good choice. Those that provide a spot into a selective enrollment high school are usually the most in-demand. Did you rank them on your application?

    You will be admitted to one school based on your scores and grades and then you can either accept the spot or turn it down hoping for a spot in a higher choice. So the consideration part will be somewhat limited come spring when the notices go out.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 40. JJ  |  December 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Hi. Apply to them all but don’t set your heart on any one in particular. Our child is at Taft and had set his heart on going to Payton. When he didn’t get it he was crushed. The division that occurs after the selection process is the most painful thing about the entire process — families we were closest to whose kids now go to Whitney withdrew in a sort of smug self-congratulatory way. But halfway through the first year at Taft we feel lucky. He comes home happy (though with much much less homework than his previous school.) He told me the other day that a friend told him her face hurts when she goes home at the end of the day from laughing so much. The AC kids at Taft are having fun and I have heard repeatedly about how “nice” they all are. The building is an eyesore — the “I’ from the High School sign is loose and tilted downward and for me this just symbolizes the lower status the school has within CPS. My best advice: don’t focus or fret too much about getting into Whitney, and when your kid takes the entrance test make sure he or she knows to finish as many questions as possible. Ours was told he didn’t have to finish — a lie, basically — and that influenced him and other kids in the class to not focus on finishing.

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  December 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Ok, I get what you’re saying now. I guess one could do the math and see which option offers more chances to “poor” kids.
    Still not sure that’s the most compelling argument but not sure what is except “if it aint broke don’the fix it.”
    But then there’s the saying about lincoln’s over-enrollment which is “something’s gotta give.”
    If someone has a good idea will work for the next decade or so and makes sense geographically I’d hope cps will consider it.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 42. Academic Center Applicant  |  December 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I did rank them my choices were:
    1. Whitney Young
    2. Lane Tech
    3. Taft
    4. Kenwood
    5. Lindblom
    @JJ I took the test yesterday 12/17/11 and you’re right the teachers said not to worry about finishing but I did knowing that that would affect me.

  • 43. ChiSchoolGPS  |  December 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

    All academic centers not only allow your middle schooler to begin taking courses for high school credit, but they also allow you to avoid the high school application process because you are already guaranteed continuing onto that school’s high school program (some are selective enrollment high schools- Lane, Lindblom & Young, others are not).

    You are, however, free to apply to other high schools in your 8th grade year should you desire. The same application requirements apply (for SEHS: 900 point total based on 7th grade ISATs, 7th grade core subject final grades, and 8th grade SEHS test) or you can even go on to private schools, etc. There are kids who do switch from Taft to Northside or Whitney to Payton, etc, but plenty are happy to stay where they are and avoid the stress of high school admissions and 7th grade pressures.

    Regarding the Academic Center test itself, it is a one hour aptitude test with 72 questions involving reasoning skills, pattern recognition, sequences, logic, etc (similar to an IQ test). The proctors do tell you to not worry about finishing all 72, just to do the best you can. I don’t know about penalties for not finishing or answering incorrectly, but the year my child got accepted to WYAC, she did NOT finish 3 questions.

    Every child receives a letter in early spring showing their score on the test (based on a 300 point scale) regardless of whether they were accepted to their school of choice, so it’s a good “trial run” for getting your child used to a proctored test setting.

    The Selective Enrollment HS test, by the way, is a totally different test (3 hours, 4 subject areas, more like ISAT or IOWA/Terra Nova) and is only used to gain admittance into the 9 CPS Selective Enrollment high schools. All other CPS high schools do not require your child to sit for an entrance test (but they may require applications, interviews, auditions or essays).

    Hope this helps, and good luck!

  • 44. Taftmom  |  December 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    My daughter is also deliriously happy at Taft and is having much of the same experience as JJs son. Up to this point it isn’t that difficult academically even with the 92-100 grading scale. While most kids at Whitney and Lane are in algebra the Taft 7 th graders take prealgebra. They do have a placement test but this year (even with the kids from Decatur etc) no one passed. I think it’s just a different philosophy.

    The teachers seem to be split about the program. Some seem to promote SEHS while others encourage the kids to stay for the IB program. I must say that even with the transportation challenges it’s nice to have a viable backup. So much so that my Odaughter will NOT BE TAKING selective Prep
    For isats this year

    One thing that is different is the way the ACs calculate grades. I don’t know if this is good or bad bit grades are cumulative each semester instead of each quarter like with elementary schools.

  • 45. JJ  |  December 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Yep, we’re taking a break from testing this year too, Taftmom.

  • 46. WRP Mom  |  December 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    My child took the Academic Center test yesterday. 72 questions in 40 minutes (not an hour as was previously posted). I know there has been much speculation as to what test they use. It was the OLSAT. They SAY don’t worry about finishing the test but they’re NOT penalized for guessing. Mine finished just in the nick of time. Now we have to wait 3 months for the results.

  • 47. Academic Center Applicant  |  December 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    When I took my test yesterday the test was 150 minutes(2 hrs and 30 min) The test I took was OLSAT and I applied for RGC’s, IGC’s, and AC’s and I only took two test.(OLSAT and the CPS Classical School Examination.)
    It seems as if the OLSAT is the RGC,IGC, and AC test.

  • 48. mim  |  December 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    We received a letter that my 7th grader’s testing for an AC would be 70 minutes. #47–do you think you had a combined test?

  • 49. WRP Mom  |  December 19, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    My child only took the gifted test (which is for AC, RGC, IG) but I know a child who also applied for classical as well. She took the classical test and then the gifted test, which evidently is also what #47 did.

    Yes, the letter says testing for the AC is 70 minutes, but that time includes getting the applicants situated in the room, passing out booklets, instructions, bubbling in their names etc. The actual test itself is 40 minutes.

  • 50. mil mom  |  December 20, 2011 at 12:45 am

    For anyone who does end up at WY next year, it is wonderful and my kid couldn’t be happier but the algebra is REALLY hard for my formerly straight A kid. I don’t think he’s the only one either. He did not have pre-algebra and maybe this is part of the issue. If I had it to do again I would have had him take pre-algebra tutoring or intensive prep work over the summer, but for now we’re in catch up mode. I second the recommendation to finish the test as completely as possible, a couple unfinished questions can still produce a very high score but not finishing or coming close does seem to be a common way to lose points. Good luck, all.

  • 51. skittles  |  December 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I totally agree with you, “mil mom”. My son, a 7th grader is also having a difficult time with Honors Algebra. He currently has a high B but that can easily be drag down with just a low homework, quiz or test. He spends hours everyday just doing Algebra homework and doesn’t have time to read the book and really sink in the concepts. Its really advance Algebra, good thing my husband can tutor him, but it can be frustrating. Although there are some kids who do well, I’ve heard several parents had the same issue. I’m just lucky he’s such a trooper and never complains. Its the mom feeling sorry for her son that’s complaining. 🙂 I wish he could spend more time being a kid too and having some free time during weekends and holidays instead of doing homework non-stop. But inspite of everything, my son really loves going to Whitney Young and I have to say the teachers are very good, they do want to help your child succeed once they’re in the program.
    Now I will have to wait for my 2nd son’s W.Y. test results in March next year. This year the test was 40 minutes for 72 questions I believe. He finished the test and had 10 minutes left to review. I hope and pray he gets in too. Living in tier 3, he needs to score much higher, so I relate to those tier 4’s.

  • 52. Academic Center Applicant  |  December 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I did indeed have a combined test. Classical and Academic Center.

  • 53. mil mom  |  December 20, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    skittles- glad (I guess!) me and the kid aren’t alone in this struggle. I don’t blame the teacher, I just think my kid wasn’t well prepared and therefore can’t move as fast as he needs to in order to keep pace and especially figure out which strategy to apply (and how) on the tests. We will get tutoring and see if that helps.

    Good luck to your second son, it is such a fantastic opportunity, even with all the algebra!

  • 54. RL Julia  |  December 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    My son is at Taft, currently in 8th grade. Its been a mixed bag. On the one hand, socially its been great -generally the kids are really friendly and pretty nice, however, coming from a neighborhood school that was extremely warm, Taft does have a lot of rules that are enforced. There is a uniform and kids will be sent home if they are out of uniform. My son once a got a detention for wearing his coat inside – and this is a kid who is very good at avoiding getting into trouble with school authorities.

    This year the 8th graders were basically all enrolled in high school level classes (in an effort to keep up with Lane, I imagine) which is great except that the credits will count towards their hs gpas which seems pretty unfair to me as it penalizes kids who didn’t have the opportunity to take high school level classes. Taft adminisitration also is not so interested in having their 8th graders leave for other cschools- we didn’t find out my son’s hs exam date until the Tuesday before the test was being held and that was only because I called the central office about why I hadn’t heard anything.

    On the other hand, I think my son has benefitted from attending Taft overall. He has had some good teachers and while the classes haven’t been as hard as we thought they would be he doesn’t lack for work. If only because of its size and because it is a high school, Taft is able to offer more things than your average elementary school. At Taft, everyone takes a language everyday, has gym/fine arts 2-3 times a week and technology everyday as well.

  • 55. dad  |  January 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    My child took the academic center test and she told me that there was writing all over her test booklet. The prior student had put asteriks and stars in the book. As she was taking the test, the proctor told her not to write in the book. She said it was already written in and they looked to the end of the test and said okay. Then another child was accused of cheating and he admitted it and was removed from the class very upset. These test conditions are horrible! It’s hard enough to answer 72 questions in 40 minutes but these distractions are really unfair and they should check the test booklets for notes after and before the tests!

  • 56. mom  |  January 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Does anyone have any idea how many current 7th graders apply for 8th grade openings?

  • 57. IB&RGC Mom  |  January 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I guess that depends on what school. I believe I saw a post that Taft had 10 8th grade spots last year, and I spoke to the OAE to find out if it was worth while to apply to WY for 8th and it sounded like they never really have openings, but go ahead and apply if you want. We didn’t bother.

    I think there is always a slim chance for an opening or two in any advanced program because if there are kids that are not used to or do not have the support necessary to keep up, they may end up going elsewhere. We saw this year after year in a regional gifted program.

    Good luck.

  • 58. WRP Mom  |  January 18, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I heard Lane will have 30 spots for 8th grade for this fall.

  • 59. anothermom  |  January 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    How many students test for the AC programs?

  • 60. joyce  |  January 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

    We are now waiting for the results to see if my 6th grader will be accepted into the WY academic center. I hope he gets in. My other son is a freshman there who started two years ago in the ac and LOVED being an ackie. Lots of homework but never complained. I don’t like how as a tier 4 my son has to get such a higher score than others~I don’t really think it’s fair but I hope he gets in with his brother!

  • 61. 6thgradegirl  |  February 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I am also waiting for my Whitney Young letter! I think they are coming on March 23rd- not so sure. I fell in love with Whitney when I went to the open house for the high school with my 8th grade sister, and then to the AC open house.

  • 62. Tier 4 Mom  |  March 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

    The AC test scores are due to be sent on March 19. It has been a long wait.

  • 63. WRP Mom  |  March 6, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    @62..Are you sure about that March 19 date? I believe that was the date mentioned in the presentation when my child went in for testing, but for the last several weeks the OAE website had stated elementary letters are scheduled for the week of March 26.

    In past years, the elementary letters were sent out in batches, with the youngest applicants (kindergarten) mailed out at the beginning of the week. I wouldn’t be surprised if the AC letters don’t go out until the very end of that week. I expect we will receive our letters over spring break. Look how delayed the high school letters were!

  • 64. chigirl  |  March 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Oh I hope they come on March 19 that would be great!!

  • 65. Tier 4 Mom  |  March 14, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    @63 The March 19th (mail date) was announced at IIT while students were taking the SE entrance exams. Could the March 26th date be strictly for elementary schools? (I hope.)

  • 66. WRP Mom  |  March 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    @65 Academic Centers ARE elementary programs! Even though they are housed in a high school, they are still 7th-8th grade. I have been following this process for a couple years now & the AC letters always come out the same week as the other SEES letters, usually at the end of the week.

    Just because they announced the Mar 19th date back during December SE testing doesn’t mean it’s written in stone.

  • 67. I MUST GET INTO WYAC  |  March 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    The letters are being sent out tommorrow. However, they may not be recieved until next week. Good luck to you and I!

  • 68. mom  |  March 23, 2012 at 6:49 am

    How do you know they are being mailed out today?

  • 69. cpsobsessed  |  March 23, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I think the date of march 23 was originally posted, but has now been revised to the “week of march 26th”.
    Good luck!!

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 70. mom  |  March 23, 2012 at 7:30 am

    that probably means April 4th.

  • 71. cpsobsessed  |  March 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

    If they follow the same path as the high school letter, should arrive april 1st-ish.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 72. Tier 4 Mom  |  March 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you for the info. So the wait continues.

  • 73. Vivian  |  March 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I attend the Whitney Young Academic Center, and I’m in 7th grade. If you get in, be sure to attend Shadow day! You get to follow a 7th grader around school to see what a typical day is like.You’ll also get a chance to meet the teachers that you will have next year. And remember to go to programming day in April, when you test for a math class and elective. Also go to family night in May, there’ll be food and lots of fun, you’ll get to meet your new classmates too. And Summer orientation! There, you’ll find your way around school,as well as the curriculum covered. I think that’s about it. I just can’t contain my excitement about the incoming “ackies”(that’s what the 7th and 8th graders are called)! Good Luck!

  • 74. Sharon  |  March 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    My child got in to Young and does not want to go. I know it is an awesome program and school. How do I help him see what he may miss? We are all happy with current grammar school making it more difficult….

  • 75. WY  |  March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Well, if he cares about his education a lot, then you can tell him that in the end, the AC will benefit him the most. It will also give him a seat into the 6 year program if he keeps his grades up, and he’ll be able to go to Whitney for high school without going through the SE process.

  • 76. MayfairAM  |  March 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    When I told my daughter that she got in she was also very hesitant. but the AC at WY has been the greatest thing for her. Can you get him to talk to some kids that go there? Also, try to make it to the family night coming up I think in April. It will show him how unique and wonderful it is.Let me know if he would like to get in touch with some current students.

  • 77. Wondering  |  April 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    If anyone has any information about/experience with Kenwood’s Academic Center, please share. Thank you.

  • 78. Kelly  |  April 9, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    I’m wondering if anyone can tell me if the kids enrolled at Taft Academic Center that remain there for high school are automatically a part of the general high school program, or if they are enrolled in the IB Program?

  • 79. Sharon  |  April 13, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Thank you. We are officially a whitney young family. He has decided it is the best thing and even though the shadow day was boring (not fully involved, just a spectator) but later very excited about the mythology and science. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • 80. What to do?  |  April 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    My son just accepted a seat at Lindblom for 7th grade. I know he wants to attend WY with his sister for high school. As parents, we were torn between letting him stay at his current school (he may have a better chance of making the straight A’s needed to get into WY) or attending a more rigorous 7th/8th grade program that could better prepare him for whatever high school options he may want to pursue. I was very impressed with Lindblom’s 7th/8th program and the culture of the school. Does anyone have any experiences they can share about Lindblom’s academic center and high school?

  • 81. WY  |  April 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    @ 79
    Of course, good luck to your son! Whitney young AC is a wonderful opportunity. 🙂

  • 82. Motherof3  |  August 21, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I have a daughter who is going to be attending Taft AC for 8th grade (she did not attend it for 7th). With school not even started, we have noticed the lack of school to parent communication. My daughter, who tends to worry and likes to know stuff way ahead of time, is getting a tad nervous/stressed out about the lack of communication from Taft. Although, we have gotten the more important stuff in the mail, such as summer reading list and math homework. I think the main reason why she switched over from our local neighborhood school to Taft was because the envoirment of taft is way different than her old school. Also, she didnt really fit in at our neighborhood school, being kind of mature and slightly uptight for her age. Hopefully at Taft she can find the right group of friends.

  • 83. AC IB mom  |  August 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Taft is not great at communicating, but you will find out pretty much everything you need to know at the Academic Orientation (or whatever it is) next week. I have had my kids at 5 public schools, none of which were great at communicating. And almost all very good schools. I think Taft has a great program and even though my daughter ended up with a 90% B in one of her classes in 7th, I am glad I made the switch for her.

  • 84. west rogers park mom  |  August 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I have an 8th grader at Taft and spent a good part of an hour last week trying to reach someone at the school because we are going to be out of town for the orientation/registration day. I then got the email from CPS about not missing the first day of school and ended up calling the hotline number and ranting to the poor person that answered the phone about it. I claimed that my kid would miss the first day of school (apparently one of the seven deadly CPS sins) if I couldn’t reach anyone.

    The reality is that I will probably arrive before 7 with my daughter on Sept 4 and stand in a long line for a few hours and get it taken care of then.

    Seriously though if you have any questions the guidance counseler, Christine Eischen responds to emails. cleischen1@cps.edu

    The best communication tool for Taft is a facebook page that the kids set up. While it is full of the regular young teen stuff the kids are generally responsible and they also post assignments, due dates, questions about tests, etc.

    Hope that helps.

  • 85. mikeandike  |  August 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Hmmm, I’ve been waiting to hear back from Ms. Eischen all summer about something and have yet to.

  • 86. RL Julia  |  August 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I found it hard to get anyone at Taft to answer the phone -especially during the summer months. If you need to get a hold of Ms. Eischen call the general number and then transfer to the counselling office – I found calling her direct line to be hit or miss. On the other hand, the teachers were usually very responsive when contacted by e-mail – it was all just the administration.

  • 87. 8thGraderAtTaft  |  January 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    @78 Kelly
    I’m an 8th grader currently at the Taft AC. I’m just going to put it out there right now that I thoroughly love the academic center and I feel better prepared for high school, and have also meet some great friends and teachers.
    To answer your question, AC kids are automatically accepted into the IB program here if you send in your application to the counselor (not hard or confusing at all). I read in the beginning of this thread that we aren’t automatically accepted so I hope that this clears that up as well.
    The curriculum changed for the AC as of fall 2011 (when I was in 7th grade). We actually get high school credits for Biology in 8th, English in 8th, US History in 8th, 2 credits for your language (Spanish or French), Environmental Science in 7th, and Informational Technology in 7th. At the end of 7th grade, you will find out if you will be in 8th grade algebra or Freshman algebra in 8th grade. If you are in Freshman algebra and pass the exit exam at the end of the year, you will get a high school credit for that class as well. I am currently taking Freshman algebra and the course is difficult, but the teacher is great. She (and MANY other AC teachers) are willing to help with tutoring after school and during lunch. This has definetly helped me out in the past.
    I hope that this answers a few questions!
    ~Go Eagles!

  • 88. HS Mom  |  January 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    @87 – Taft student – that’s an excellent write up. Should be very helpful. Thank you for your insight. Good wishes on your high school path.

  • 89. Handwashing Facts  |  July 21, 2013 at 3:49 am

    We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with useful info to work on. You have done a formidable job and our entire neighborhood will probably be thankful to you.

  • 90. Kathryn Jackson  |  March 23, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Seeking input: My 6th grader is at Agassiz Magnet. A good school on many levels but not great with the middle graders for a lot of reasons related to curriculum to classroom management to leadership to plummeting parental involvement (it goes thru 8th). She loves school and is frustrated with not being challenged. She is very high on the Disney II WL and waiting for a letter from the AC process. This might seem like an easy choice but im stuck. I want her to be challenged but is the Lane pr WY AC too much of a step up? Welcome your input. Thx.

  • 91. to ashaya  |  September 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Why don’t you also apply to Kenwood Academy’s academic center, which is in Hyde Park like Murray?

  • 92. AC Advice  |  September 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Ashaya – Can you meet with the Counselor at your current school and ask her to walk you through the process?

    Basically, your 6th grader will need to take the CPS Academic Center Selective Enrollment test.

    Here are the details in signing up for the test from an earlier post by Chicago School GPS.

    CPSOAE is allowing families to schedule their own test dates for SEES exams now. That, as well as possibly being able to test before applying. The deadline to apply is Dec. 12, 2014, and the portal to schedule your own test date opens on Oct. 1, 2014. You can request your PIN starting 9/19/14. Good changes!
    “Starting October 1st at 9 a.m., you can go to the online site and schedule your child’s test (for Regional Gifted Centers [grades K-8], Classical Schools [grades K-8], International Gifted Programs [grades 6-8] and/or Academic Centers [grades 7-8]) for the times and dates that are most convenient for you. Then, any time between October 1st and December 12th, you can identify the schools to which you want to apply and submit your Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools application. Remember — this is a two-step process: (1) SCHEDULE, then (2) APPLY.”

    I recommend your child study for the Selective Enrollment Academic Center Test – a course may be offered at your school for a fee or perhaps your counselor can provide some resources to help review material for the test.

    Your child’s 5th grade grades and your child’s NWEA MAP scores will be combined with the score she gets on the Selective Enrollment Academic Center test.

    Consider applying to more than one Academic Center. If you are on the Southside, consider WY, Lindbloom, Kenwood, and Morgan Park. Rank WY #1, and the others in the order of your preference. If you are on the Northside, you can still get to WY and then maybe consider Lane and Taft as back-ups.

    Good luck! Just post your questions. Plenty of people on this website will be happy to help. Also remember each school has tours so you can learn more about the schools. The list is posted on the CPS website.

  • 93. visit this website  |  September 22, 2014 at 12:14 am

    visit this website

    Learn to obsess about Academic Centers | CPS Obsessed

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