CPS Selective Enrollment: A Veteran’s Tale

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 down:

  1. You’re going to pick schools that require testing (see http://cpsmagnet.org/)
  2. You’re going to send some stuff in
  3. You will receive a test date in the mail
  4. On the day of the actual test, and against your better judgment, you will promise your kid a puppy if he/she does well
  5. You’re going to wait. A very, very long time

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 directed).

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?

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