First day of school

September 6, 2010 at 10:55 pm 46 comments

Good luck and have fun on the first day of school.  It’s so bittersweet adding another year to your child’s grade.

My normally reluctant son is actually pretty cool about starting.  I’m sure after a somewhat isolated summer (with too much Club Penguin) he’s ready to get back to the business of trouble-making.  He just informed me that he is “in league” (which I take to mean something like “in cahoots”) with Bart Simpson and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.  Good luck to his 2nd grade teacher.

I feel lucky to have him in a class with a teacher who parents have raved about, following 2 years of fantastic teachers in K and 1st grade.  I feel like he’ll be in good hands, which is nice.

Report in with any funny stories or news.  As people have mentioned in some posts, there’s been a little movement in the past week with kids getting offered spots at the last minute.

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46 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rich  |  September 7, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Out of curiosity, how many students are in your son’s class? Our kids are in a cushy private school now (pre-K), and we will try to test in to the gifted programs, but I am struggling with the class size issue.

  • 2. newtocpsmom  |  September 7, 2010 at 10:12 am

    We took our child to K at Skinner West this morning. It was quite chaotic. So far we are dissapointed with how unfriendly our child’s teacher comes off. When you are leaving your child in a new environment a smile goes a long way. Hoping we didn’t make a mistake. Fortunately our child was happy and content. Seems to be 32 students in the class.

  • 3. Mayfair Dad  |  September 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Pandemonium or lack thereof on Day One is a pretty accurate reflection of school leadership. A good principal knows how to keep the chaos to a minimum. Allowances for rookie parents notwithstanding 😉

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  September 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Oh man, the chaos. I was thinking how happy I am that I’ve passed the point of worrying about initial chaos. I remember when I first went school tours of CPS it was the noice and chaos that freaked me out (doesn’t help when your child is only 3-4 years old, of course.)
    I remember a friend telling me that the principal at one of the well-regarded CPS schools said “it might look like chaos, but everyone knows where they’re going and where they’re supposed to be.” That certainly holds true throughout the year, but that first day, yikes. I believe my son’s school is very well-organized, but like me, they use the “wing it” approach to getting thing started, knowing that by day 2, lineup will be organized and within a couple weeks will be a well-oiled machine.

    @newtocps: aw, that makes it so hard, doesn’t it? Give it a couple days – maybe she was stressed out. And some of the best teachers don’t smile all the time. You do kind of expect it for Kindergarten though. 32? Yikes again.

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  September 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    @Rich: My son’s class (2nd grade) has 29 kids (we added 1 spot this year.) I looks unweildy, to tell you the truth. I think it goes without saying that big class size is one of the key drawbacks of CPS and nobody would argue with that. Wait, actually I hear a lot “a good teacher can handle a class of any size.” To which I have rolled my eyes and inwardly proclaimed “bullshit.” Yes, a good teacher is MUCH more capable at handling that class and can do a fine job of teaching them (heck, most of the baby boomers were educating in giant classes). But I think it is way less than ideal for many reasons. I sense an idea for a post forming….

  • 6. Christine  |  September 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I left my baby in the hands of The System this morning at Skinner North. One good thing about SN is that it only goes up to 3rd grade so the chaos was there, but it was mostly caused by the Kindergarten parents! There are 30 kids in both of the Kindergarten classes at SN — which seems outrageous to me, but I am trying to have faith.

  • 7. smp  |  September 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I dropped off one twin at Franklin today for kindergarten so also having to deal with separating them into two different schools – everything was very organized and he felt comfortable immediately. I am very impressed at how organized the kindergarten teacher and school are. 30 kids in the class……hope it goes well.

  • 8. magnet school mom  |  September 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    This at Franklin were good this morning. No more chaos than the typical day. Kids were excited to see their friends again.

  • 9. Mayfair Dad  |  September 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Disney II was well organized this morning. Parents invited to stay for coffee in the cafeteria after drop-off, allowing anxious first-timers to network with more seasoned parents. Beautiful.

  • 10. Hawthorne mom  |  September 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Hawthorne was great this morning. A lot of people in the halls makes for a bit of chaos, but overall, it was fun. Like Disney II, we also had a coffee time and networking time offered for newcomers with returning parents. Best of it was, both my kids coming out of school at the end of day, deliriously happy.
    Next best thing was the news that Daley is retiring. Personally, I don’t have a lot of strong feelings either way on him, but his leaving means the end of Huberman. Yay!!!!!

  • 11. anonymous  |  September 8, 2010 at 5:55 am

    yeah, but what if Huberman runs for mayor…and wins! Yikes!

  • 12. klem  |  September 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

    What would you consider to be an appropriate class size?

    When I was growing up we have 30 to 32 students in a room, so what I see at CPS doesn’t look odd to me.

  • 13. LR  |  September 8, 2010 at 10:18 am

    28 kids in my daughter’s class at Bell – but talk about chaos! I now know what people mean when they say that the school is literally “bursting at the seams.” The one thing that caught me off-guard is the traffic on Western both at drop off and pick up. I don’t know if it is just because Lane Tech (and probably Coonley and St. Ben’s) gets out at the same time, but a drive that according to Google maps should take me 7 minutes, took 20 minutes! At least a couple of that was circling to find a spot.

    Of course, she has a “back to school” cold already, so I don’t know if the second day was any smoother than the first.

  • 14. Worry Wart  |  September 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Unfortunately, I’m too green to even tell what’s chaos from just normal hustle and bustle. My daughter started K so seeing all the big kids running and doing big kids stuff was interesting to both of us. My husband didn’t seem the least bit concerned! Geesh, do boys ever stop wrestling as a way to say hello to each other. Couldn’t they just hug like the girls?!! Parking was a nightmare. Might have burned a half tank before finally finding a partially legal spot to park. That was after getting blown at by the bully school buses. Definitely an adjustment from our small private preschool. So far so good, though.

  • 15. cps mom  |  September 8, 2010 at 11:01 am

    On the high school front

    Jones is everything we thought it would be. We feel very lucky indeed. Due to changes in class size – up to 38 in May, down to 32 in July, back down to 28 in August – now around 25 to a class, he has had his schedule changed 3 times. Locks were not available first day so they had to carry 7 heavy text books – bruised shoulder, but he’ll live. Starting high school is kind of like the first day of Kindergarten only without your mommy.

    For the 2nd year, Jones and other HS’s were able to offer a Freshman Connection program introducing the kids to the school, making new friends and some “fun learning” too. Great experience. My son is excited about this new phase and I have to give credit to the school for doing it right.

  • 16. rgcmom  |  September 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

    First day of K at Edison for my son went well. He’s on the bus for the first time from our neighborhood school. Thankfully he had a couple of friends from the neighborhood on his bus, which helped put him at ease. Bus was about 20 min late yesterday morning, but seems better today.

    Regarding “movement” at schools, I received a call from CICS-Irving Park last Thursday that a spot opened up for my son. I think we were in the 30’s on the waitlist (and declined the spot) so hopefully others are receiving calls as well.

  • 17. Stressed Out  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I dropped off my daughter both yesterday and today at Skinner North. What a difference a day makes. It seemed that yesterday the parents were a little chaotic but today things went very smoothly.

    Also, the first day of the afterschool program seemed to go well.

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I’m kind of surprised about Skinner North having 30 per class. I wonder how they decide to go to 30 whereas some of the gifted/classical classes are at 28?

    I think my son thrives better in a little bit of chaos, compared to the quiet, organized nature of his private preK (where elem age boys still wrestled in the grass btw.) He likes to be a little bit stealth and anonymous…

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Just a report from my son’s first day of school. My mom (who picks him up) reported that he said he didn’t know his teacher’s name (a lie,) 2nd grade is boring (I’m sure he thinks that) but that he was in a good mood and not obstreperous. That is about the best I can hope for.

    When I left the classroom, my son was getting squirrley, as he has trouble with new, chaotic situatons (yes, i said he likes chaos, but familiar choas.) She had asked them to write 2 things they were excited about and 2 things they might be nervous about. He said he wasn’t excited about anything and was grumbling. He reported to me later that when she saw his frustration, she asked what he liked (Club Penguin!) and told him to write 3 things he likes about that. That got him writing like a maniac. I love that.

  • 20. Stressed Out  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    @cpsobsessed – That’s a good question. I was told that 59 kindergarten students have actually enrolled.

  • 21. cpsobsessed  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    @Stressed out, that’s great! I think taking parents out of the mix makes things run more smoothly (and I’m sure that’s what teachers say behind our back all the time LOL.)

  • 22. Not a happy camper  |  September 9, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Our son started kindergarten yesterday at Mary Lyon, our neighborhood school. He was just a few percentage points off from the gifted cutoff, and did not get accepted into a magnet school through the lottery.
    1.His classroom size is only 21. He was assigned a “monolingual” class. I’d like to know why there are kids that can not speak ANY English in his classroom. How will they learn?
    2.I’m sorry. The kindergarten curriculum is terrible. It will be as if I put my son in a remedial class. They are teaching kids how to count to 20, shapes colors, write their names, stuff that he mastered at age 3. He already knows simple multiplication tables, can identify states by shape, and recognize 150 sight words. We are screwed.
    3.I was pissed that we did not receive our school supply list until the first day. I had to drive to 2 different stores in order to find the supplies as most were already out of stock.
    4.I find it a bit nerve racking that after the first day, parents are not allowed past the front door without permission.
    5.Apparently school lunches have gone up and I’m not thrilled that we are one of very few that will be paying full price in his classroom.

  • 23. Mayfair Dad  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Dear Camper:

    You are obviously new to the CPS campground. Please allow me to show you the ropes.

    1. Welcome to Chicago. Repeat after me: diversity is a good thing, diversity is a good thing…

    2. It is a PUBLIC school, meaning many of your child’s classmates have never attended Pre-K or the Lyric Opera. Some will wet their pants for the first month because they are not yet fully potty-trained. Many do not know the alphabet. Academically it will be a wasted year for your young Einstein, but he/she will make a few swell friends and a lifetime of memories. You will need to lower your expectations and continue the real lessons at the kitchen table.

    3. This is bad, no excuse. School website should have had it posted weeks ago. Mention this to the principal.

    4. Its this new thing we have in the US called security. Does the name Columbine ring a bell? Fenger? School administrators generally frown on adults wandering the halls unaccounted for.

    5. In the future, just lie about your household income when you fill out the form like everybody else.

    Hope this tutoral helps.

  • 24. smp  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:16 am

    To Mayfair Dad – thanks for the humor this morning… made my day.

    To Not a Happy Camper – I just looked up your schools scores and they are very impressive…much better then our neighborhood school. Get involved – they could use your support and organization skills!

  • 25. Edison1st grade  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

    28 kids in the class. 5 new this year. My DS has proclaimed that this is his ‘favorite teacher ever’ which was a huge relief because prior parents forewarned of her being very strict/demanding. I guess he likes the structure. We are to expect 45 minutes of homework each night (yuck). My friend’s child is at Bell…they are sometimes so overwhelmed with homework that the parents do it!! I wonder how often that happens (tempting, tempting).

    Mayfair dad – I always enjoy your posts, thanks.

  • 26. Stressed Out  |  September 9, 2010 at 11:08 am

    @ Not a Happy camper – The 2011-2012 Options for Knowledge Elementary School Fair is October 12th at Malcolm X. Prepare your son and hopefully he’ll get into a select enrollment school. Good Luck!

  • 27. angie  |  September 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    @Mayfair Dad That is the funniest thing EVER!

  • 28. UnhappyNewbie  |  September 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I’m with @Not a happy camper on the issue of curriculum — my four-year-old could do the homework that my soon-to-be 6-year-old Kindergartener is getting. I am fortunate though that my husband is a math and science endorsed teacher, so he can make sure that we supplement learning at home. However, the entire school selection process was a complete FAIL for us. I love living in this city, but I’m heading for the suburbs as soon as we can sell. The funny thing is that I want diversity, but we don’t have it at our CPS school and will be able to have it in the suburbs.

  • 29. KS  |  September 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Two days in, its probably a little early to be calling the curriculum a joke. Give them some time to get the kids into the routine. Personally, I think its ok that to not overwhelm our kids their first week in K. This year should be about building a foundation to encourage a love of learning thorough their school career. I am sure that it might take a couple of days to sort out math, reading levels, etc. But once your child’s teacher is able to do that, let’s hope that they are able to challenge your child appropriately.

  • 30. cps mom  |  September 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Boy, big expectations for kindergarten. Nine years ago I was dismayed when they were teaching cutting and pasting techniques at first. Give it some time, it ramps up fast. No need to freak out a child starting school for the first time. Even then, the kids had homework and were split into 2 different reading groups. Our school (as others) had foreign language at the K level. There is also a standardized test, report card and failure notices. Take advantage of any down time now while you can because there will be plenty of challanges. Before long you’ll be complaining that you can’t take Johnny out of school for a week to go to Florida.

    Suburbs are no different.

  • 31. chicagoteacher  |  September 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    When judging a school, don’t look at percentage of kids meeting or exceeding. Only look at the exceeding numbers. A top neighborhood school should have 40 to 50% exceeding.

  • 32. smp  |  September 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    @chicagoteacher – the number of public schools where 40-50% exceed state standards – how many are there in chicago? I’m thinking its a pretty small percentage.

  • 33. Natalie  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    @Camper I agree with others’ comments about the curriculum–you have to give the teacher some time to get to know the kids! He/she has to start low to look for red flags, administer assessments, etc., and will quickly get the ability levels sorted out and start working to meet each kid where they are at.

  • 34. SWSideJen  |  September 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    My son just started at a RGC and he has 22 (maybe up to 24) for his K class. I couldn’t be happier with the staff and curriculum so far.

  • 35. Hawthorne mom  |  September 10, 2010 at 7:26 am

    I actually looked the other day at 7th grade scores and which schools had 50% or more at that grade level exceeding. Without counting the RGC’s or Classical schools, there were 8 schools total in the entire city of Chicago this past year. Those schools were neighborhood or magnets.

  • 36. Mayfair Dad  |  September 10, 2010 at 8:57 am

    @ 31 Chicago Teacher

    50% Exceeding is a pretty tough nut to crack. During my time with the LSC of our neighborhood school, the AIO told us the 90/30 rule:

    90% or better Meeting or Exceeding
    30% or better Exceeding

    I agree the Exceeding number is the more meaningful statistic (indicating a school culture that really pushes kids to achieve)
    but you also want to see the vast majority of kids meeting state standards for grade level. And Illinois since state standards are so laughably low, this should be the expectation not the exception.

    All of this info is available on the Illinois State Board of Education website under school report cards. Lots of other good stuff too.

  • 37. RL Julia  |  September 10, 2010 at 11:43 am


    I am with Mayfair Dad and all other advice. Had your son too – and Kindergarten was a great learning year for him. He didn’t need help with the academics but this is what he learned:

    How to get along with other kids who were nothing like him (He was the only kid in his class that didn’t’ speak something else besides English).
    How to relax.
    How to make friends.
    How to be a leader (although that took more than just kindergarten).
    Develop a few new interests.
    How to be creative (if you finish your work ahead of everyone else, how are you going to entertain yourself in a productive way).
    Being patient with one’s self and others.

    After a few weeks, when stuff settles down a bit, ask for a conference with his teacher and ask if they can pull him out for reading or give him extra math. A good (kindergarten) teacher looks at the whole child’s development -not just the academic piece. If the academics are in place, kindergarten is a great time to focus on all that social/emotional learning.

  • 38. Chi Mom  |  September 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Does anyone know what is the difference between the following two:

    “Students exceeding state standards for the highest grade enrolled” (29%)


    Students exceeding state standards (43%)

  • 39. Hawthorne mom  |  September 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Yes, meeting state standards is a very low standard. Illinois has lowered the percentage needed to “meet” standards several times so that fewer students are failing.
    Exceeding state standards is a higher mark. In terms of getting into a good HS, pretty much the only kids getting in have scores on the high end of exceeds.

  • 40. Paul  |  September 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Chi Mom,

    The difference is “for the highest grade enrolled.” For most elementary schools, that means 8th grade. So, the 29 refers to the percentage of 8th graders that exceeded standards, whereas the 43 refers to the percentage of all the students tested (probably 3rd through 8th grade).

  • 41. Hawthorne mom  |  September 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Oh, geez, I guess if I had read more carefully, I would have seen what Paul saw. Oops!

  • 42. cps mom 5  |  September 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    One of my sons has 32 students and the other has 31 student’s in their class. I thought class sizes weren’t going to go up?

  • 43. sciencemom  |  September 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    My child’s Kindergarten class has 34 with one teacher and no aide. Thank goodness the teacher is very experienced. I also thought class sizes were limited, but I am wondering if the CPS sibling policy prevents schools from turning siblings away if the class is full. Does anyone have thoughts on this as a reason for the large class sizes?

  • 44. @42 & @43  |  September 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    My son’s classical 3rd grade has 27 because two students transferred at the last minute. My other son’s magnet 6th grade has 31 because one student transferred at the last minute. Many principals over enroll to keep the “specials”.

  • 45. sciencemom  |  September 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    How can Classical and Magnet schools have last minute add-ons to the classes. Classical should require testing, which would eliminate the supposed walk-in neighborhood kids and/or siblings. Magnet schools have to allow siblings, but wouldn’t the school know about those students before the first day of school if other children from the family are enrolled? I thought the preferential treatment / principal priority had been addressed and eliminated at selective enrollment schools.

  • 46. to science mom  |  September 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I’m not sure I follow you. There are NO last minute add ons. Since the parents waited until the school year started to transfer their children then NO children get the seats. There is still a list to pull from before the first day of school for classical/magnet/gifted schools if students transfer BEFORE the start of the school year. However, I have read on this blog that some think that the lists are thrown out at some point for the magnet non testing schools…

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