Chicago City Day School Promotes Success at Your Own Pace

Chicago City Day School provides individualized instruction for its junior kindergarten through eighth grade students, offering a non-competitive educational approach that boosts student success.

Setting your child up for success is a key concern when choosing a school. Every child has different learning needs and parents soon discover that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

Since its founding in 1981, Chicago City Day School has embraced this fact with a non-competitive approach that can be felt in every aspect of school life, from the classroom to the playground. “Our curriculum is unique in that it is based on each child,” says Aimee Iwersen, Curriculum Director at Chicago City Day School. “We hold students to a high standard, but they are only measured according to their own capabilities and potential.”

Chicago City Day uses small group learning that targets both a student’s academic and social-emotional needs. “If swift progress is made, or more help is needed, the small group size makes it easier for teachers to make immediate adjustments,” says Iwersen.

Best of all, individualized instruction reinforces students achieving at their own pace, whether they are achieving beyond grade level or struggling with a subject.

Individualized instruction

Chicago City Day School’s Reading, Math and Language Arts courses are broken up into small groups according to learning styles, skill sets and social-emotional requirements, says Iwersen. Groups can be as small as two people and can change as the students either make progress or need additional support. For example, one group of first graders might be sounding out words, while another group has moved on to chapter books.

“Our students are used to moving in and out of small groups and working on different things than their peers. Because we don’t measure progress with letter grades, the kids are focused on learning and achieving organically, which makes them more likely to want to take on greater academic challenges,” Iwersen explains. “We find that when they are given the chance to challenge themselves without risk of failure, they do.”

Small group size makes it easy to accommodate the fluid nature of children’s learning. Iwersen points out that adjustments can be made immediately due to a teacher’s deep awareness of what each child’s strengths are. “Teachers get to know their students very well, very quickly,” she says. “They can change the content or structure of a group as soon as they see a need. No child has to wait to move forward or to get extra help.”

Inclusion and community

A non-competitive approach doesn’t just apply to learning at Chicago City Day School. The community is a welcoming, inclusive place where students are encouraged to respect each other and interact from the earliest grades.

This philosophy applies to everything at the school, including the arts, extracurricular activities and sports. “Everyone who wants to join something can,” says Iwersen. “We don’t exclude anyone and because of that, our students get to explore things like sports, music or theater that they may not have had a chance to do otherwise. We encourage engagement and participation, rather than competition.”

Chicago City Day School even extends its sense of community to the lunch table, a hot-button issue for many kids. “We assign lunch table seats beginning in junior kindergarten and rotate them monthly. Everyone gets a chance to interact with everyone else and acceptance of others is just part of the school culture,” says Iwersen.

“You feel our positive environment the minute you enter our school. Our students get to know everyone and we strive for an inclusive, cohesive community that is enhanced by our non-competitive approach to learning. Our eighth graders refer to it as ‘The City Day Way.’”

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Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.


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