I've got three days to decide if I want to go through the
process of trying to get my middle son into the same Selective
Enrollment school as his older brother. With the Dec. 16 cut-off
looming, I have been procrastinating since October.
My middle son barely missed getting into his brother's school
two years ago. When I had him tested the following year, he still
had a good score, but it wasn't enough. He is now happily
entrenched in the neighborhood school, but the pressure remains.
These SE schools are the finest in the state. As parents, aren't we
wired to always seek the best education possible for our kids?
In trying to figure out my plans for testing, I was suddenly
overcome with a strong sense of déjà vu. It came not from my years
of engaging in this educational rat race, but rather from another
unlikely source: "The Canterbury Tales."
You might wonder what a Middle English story has to do with CPS.
Let me explain. In "The Canterbury Tales," a bunch of random
pilgrims from all walks of life bundle together to flee the Black
Death. They engage in a story-telling contest to pass the time. Yet
throughout the tale, there is an underlying friction between the
social classes of the day.
Sound familiar yet?
Welcome to "A Veteran's Tale." If you're thinking of testing
your kid for Selective Enrollment, here's how it's going to go
That's the formal process. But before all the snow melts in
April when you hear back from CPS, you're also going to read up on
the tier system, ratios for placement, principal picks, sibling
preferences, and all the other bureaucratic bullsh*t that
exacerbates class warfare and cronyism within the school system. It
is a wretched and horrible process that I believe is designed to
keep CPS parents fighting with each other instead of turning their
wrath elsewhere (and I'll let you decide where that wrath should be
So, I'm going to help you out. Don't. Just don't. There
is no amount of obsessing that will change the outcome. Your kid
will either get into one the preferred schools or he won't. Work on
accepting or planning for both possibilities. Don't yell at your
mailman. Don't stalk the Office of Academic Enhancement. Don't
promise your kid that puppy. I made all of these mistakes and I
regret them whole-heartedly.
I have driven myself crazy during the last few years over
something beyond my control. I understand that many parents are
desperately fleeing a sort of Black Death of Education given that
many of the worst-performing schools in the entire nation are right
here in Chicago.
Yet if you're still set on spending the winter making yourself
nauseous after testing, be sure to visit cpsobsessed.com. The lady over there knows her
stuff. And you will find others just like you. An entire army of
Chicago parents visits regularly: obsessing, commenting, posting
test scores, and even putting together spreadsheets on cut-offs for
the current year for all the different SE schools. The level of
devotion is astounding. I commend their spirit and willingness to
fight the good fight. I was once one of them.
But this year, things have changed. I might just pour myself a
big glass of Merlot and opt out. I'm so very tired and unwilling to
let a seriously flawed system ruin my winter. I need to remember
that if the laundry in my house can make anxious, just
imagine what another round of SE testing could do to me.
I could die.
Then who would they get to finish all this flippin' laundry?
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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