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Shock and denial are the words that sum up my experience with Chicago Public Schools thus far. While visiting several schools from out of town last year before our move, I never found one that was the right fit for us. I chalked it up to us not being comfortable with the system yet, and enrolled Caleb in Kindergarten in a small private school, Chicago Friends School. I figured Caleb is a smart kid (he was reading by the time he was 4), and we are smart parents, so I wasn't going to stress over it.
Not smart! It is now April, and I still don't know where my child will be in school next year - public, private, city, suburbs - which means I also have no idea where we will live! I know that many of you share the same stress that we do. Here are some of my major concerns:
Class size - With a ratio of 35:1, how can a teacher teach effectively? This is nearly double the ratio in most school districts today! If a teacher can't differentiate properly, are any of our children benefitting?
Quality of schools - How is it that only 15 percent of all students enrolled in CPS elementary schools are exceeding state standards? As parents, how can we accept that 85 percent of our children will not be on par with other children in Illinois, simply because we live in the city of Chicago? With the astronomical real estate prices here, and coordinating real estate taxes, why is it that our schools are not receiving the funding that they need for more teachers, better teachers, and the tools that they need to support this city's future?
Safety - As I waited for Caleb to finish his testing for the selective enrollment schools, I heard stories of parents desperately wanting their children out of their current schools because of stabbings (in elementary school!), molestation (in pre-school!), and gang violence. As parents, it is our job to protect out little ones. How can we release them into that type of environment knowingly? There has to be a better choice.
School accessibility - My son tested in the 98th percentile, and still didn't gain entry to a single selective enrollment school for first grade. With 410,000 children in the CPS system, why can't every school accommodate every level of learner?
Those are some of the questions keeping me up at night. What about you? Do you think Rahm will be able to address and reform this properly? It's time for this city to get its priorities straight!