Budget, Pensions, CTU – where is your head at right now?

Was talking with someone today about the CPS budget and potential CTU strike and whether people’s opinions on this matter have shifted at all over the past year.

On the one hand, I feel like Bernie helped drive some sympathy toward unions overall. He did for me, at least.

On the other hand, I think we’re all more acutely aware of the severe financial issues in CPS and the real impact of increased property taxes.   I was hit especially hard here (am still trying to fight it.)

To summarize, decades ago, CPS kicked the financial can down the road over and over, so to speak. To please the teachers (to make up for screwing them in other ways) the city promised a pension-pick up.  This made sense decades ago (kind of) but didn’t take into account inflation, teacher salaries, and longevity.

As a result, the pension burden has become massive.   It was promised.  Now we owe it.  But there’s not enough money.

This guy explains it very well:


Short of travelling through time and slapping silly the guys who got us into this mess, it’s difficult to find a way out that feels fair to everyone.

Now the teachers are threating to strike.   I’m unclear if it’s just for the pension or other elements of the contract too.

So what do you think? I know we’d rehashed this discussion every year.  But have your attitudes shifted at all?  Do you support the teachers and their strike?  If not, what is the solution?

September 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm 349 comments

Back to School Fall 2016


Welp, here we are.  On a bright note, more CPS schools are air-conditioned than ever before.  On the downside, we may face a strike this Fall.  Oh, and principals and teachers seem to be moving out of the city/system (hard to blame them.)

I will be embarking on the high school application year, which now seems less stressful than 7th grade did.  I feel exceedingly more comfortable about the HS options now than when I first started this blog 8 (!) years ago.

Feel free to share any first-week of school experiences.   Our/my main events have been:
-Homeroom/science teacher got plum job in Evanston last week and left unexpectedly
-Child finally gets a male homeroom teacher for the first time ever
-I signed up for the bus but didn’t receive any kind of notification about anything so I need to track that down
-Ongoing discussion of whether all school supplies must be taken at once or doled out over time
-I’m wondering if the lunch options will be better next year in High School so that I can finally stop packing lunches after 9 years
-I occasionally wonder if now that the stress of 7th grade is over, that I’ll somehow space out on getting the PIN and signing my son up for testing, etc. and somehow miss the HS application deadline
-Pondering the weirdness of kids being over-protected throughout childhood and then suddenly told they have to make their way to a giant high school on public transportation






September 6, 2016 at 11:33 pm 41 comments

Chicago Magazine’s Top Schools 2016

Chicago Mag

Wanted to share the lists from a new Chicago magazine piece that ranks CPS elem and high schools (also suburban rankings for those interested.)

The rankings take into account a mix of test scores, attendance, and 5-Essentials ratings (a very helpful resource to understand how parnets and teachers rate their school.)  https://cps.5-essentials.org/2015/

As we know, CPS’s selective schools typically top “ranking” lists due to taking the top-scoring students in the city.  This elementary list is a bit different because it uses MAP test growth rather than attainment.  This explains why some non-selective schools popped up on this list while Decatur and Edison are not on the list.  These schools may have also lost some points on the 5 Essentials rating (I cannot fully tell how Chicago Mag pulls the 5 Essentials number for its rating.)

In any case, as with any ranking list, it’s not about the fine details of who is better than who, but rather to help parents look at options they many not have considered.  The lists may shine light on some schools that are doing good things but aren’t necessarily “on the radar” for everyone.

Here’s the link with full info:


ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS (does not include charters)

  1. Skinner West (S) – Near West Side
  2. Wildwood IB World Magnet School – Forest Glen
  3. Blaine – Lake View
  4. Dixon – Chatham
  5. Hawthorne – Lake View
  6. Skinner North (S) – Near North Side
  7. McDade Classical (S) – Chatham
  8. Healy – Bridgeport
  9. Powell Jr. Paideia Com Acad – South Shore
  10. Whistler – West Pullman
  11. Edgebrook – Forest Glen
  12. Sherwood – Englewood
  13. Mitchell – West Town
  14. Prescott – Lincoln Park
  15. Coonley – North Center

HIGH SCHOOLS (non charter)  S=Selective (I’ve added the CPS rating after each school)

  1. Payton (S) – Near North (1+)
  2. North Side College Prep (S) -North Park (1+)
  3. Whitney Young (S) – Near West Side (1+)
  4. Jones (S) -Loop (1+)
  5. Lane Tech (S) – North Center (1+)
  6. Brooks (S) -Roseland (1+)
  7. Von Steuben (S) – North Park (1+)
  8. Lindblom (S) – West Englewood
  9. Phoenix Military Acad (S) – Near West Side (1+)
  10. Kenwood – Kenwood (1+)
  11. Lincoln Park – Lincoln Park (not noted as selective in Chgo Mag, but probably has selective programs) (1+)
  12. Senn – Edgewater (1)
  13. Chicago High School For Agricultural Sciences (S) – Mr. Greenwood (1+)
  14. World Language HS – West Lawndale (1)
  15. Westinghouse (S) – East Garfield Park (1+)
  16. Amundsen – Lincoln Square (1)
  17. Alcott – Lake View (1+)
  18. Prosser Career Acad (S) – Belmont Cragin (1)
  19. Rickover Naval Acad (S) – Edgewater (1+)
  20. Solorio – Gage Park (2+)
  21. Mather – West Ridge (2+)


  1. Noble Butler – Pullman (2+)
  2. Chicago Math and Science Acad – Rogers Park (1+)
  3. Noble UIC – West Side (1+)
  4. CICS Northtown – North Park (1+)
  5. Noble Baker – South Chicago (2+)

August 28, 2016 at 11:02 am 73 comments

Academic Center Admission by Tier

AC Admission 2016

I was able to get this info on Tier Admission for the ACs.

Interestingly, unlike the SE High Schools, Tier4 kids have a lower chance of admission than a Tier 1 kid, because SO MANY Tier 4 kids apply.  Over 3x as many Tier 4 kids apply as Tier 1 kids (2931 vs 853.)  Not sure why that is, although location may influence this.

Lane and Young are the most selective for all tiers.

So not like this is any surprise, but getting in an AC is much more difficult than getting in an SEHS.


July 3, 2016 at 9:22 pm 75 comments

Wahoo! 7th grade is over!


Just a brief moment of celebration that the long-awaited, stressful, angsty year of seventh grade is over for us.   Gaaaaahhhhhh it feels gooooood!

No more parent portal!  No more bugging about homework!  Time to cancel the IXL.com subscription!

My kid learned the art of getting done what he needed to jussst keep the 90% for grade.  I suppose that is a valuable life skill.

MAP testing was literally within the final few days of school, interspersed with a Springfield field trip, class parties, and slumber party.  We survived.  Time to relax.

It was an interesting year, walking a balance of hovering over the grades and test scores and letting him navigate it himself.  We found a balance with me given “gentle reminders” and pointing out the current progress of grades.

Test prep was the 1 day TestaPalooza class, as I couldn’t rally commitment for a weekly class.

Ultimately the goal was to give him options.  We have Amundsen as our neighborhood school, a 2 minute walk away.  So that’s an option.  Exploring performing arts programs.  Lots of kids talk about Lane.  It’s hard to override the middle school talk about certain schools.  I feel there’s still a tipping point that is waiting to happen to get the kids on board for the neighborhood high schools.  I hope that point is very near.

OK, time for more wine.  It’s been a long journey.  Thanks to those of you who’ve been on it with me.  We’ll see what happens next year…


June 21, 2016 at 11:17 pm 34 comments

SEHS Principal Discretion 2016

Breakfast Club

PD letters are due to be mailed this Friday, May 13.

As a reminder, each SEHS principal can allocate 5% of their seat based on their discretion, using whatever criteria they like.

A student can apply to only one school for PD.  These supporting documents are not required, but recommended as part of the application:

  • A personal statement, written by the applicant, no more than 1,000 words
  • Up to three letters of recommendation
  • Copies of recent awards, achievements and honors

Below is the number of Principal Discretion seats at each Selective Enrollment school:

Lane: 58
Young: 22
Jones: 18
Lindblom: 16
Northside: 14
Brooks: 12
Payton: 12
Westinghouse: 10
King: 9
Hancock: 5
South Shore: 3

We’ve had very few readers report that their child got in via PD. One who did said that she allowed the child to write the essay themselves.  Anecdotally, I believe some of the school seem to give priority to siblings.  WY is always rumored to prioritize kids good at sports.  Rumor also has it that it helps to have listed the school first on your list.  I don’t know if principals actually have access to this information (I doubt it) but it probably sounds good in an essay.

Please share any information you have about students who gotten a spot via PD.  Thanks and good luck!

May 9, 2016 at 7:21 pm 83 comments

SEHS Admission by Tier 2016

SEHS Acceptance Rates 2016I

I got this information a few years ago, but figured it was e for an update.  This shows the # of applications and acceptances to each school by Tier.   I still need to get the # of applicants by tier, so I estimated that for now using the # of applications and the average # of applications by tier from 2013.  (Tier 4 kids apply to fewer schools than other tiers do.)

This shows that overall, Tier 4 kids are more likely to get an SEHS spot than the other tiers are.

You can also see the acceptance rate by Tier for each school (although this is distorted since students can apply for up to 6 schools.)  So while the Tier 4 acceptance rate looks like 17%, some of the applications were likely only putting Lane as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th choice.

Overall, ~ 1/3 of the kids who apply are offered a spot at one of their choices.



April 26, 2016 at 8:49 pm 202 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts




Blog Stats

  • 6,157,688 hits