Schools of Choice: 10 tricks to get the school you want



  1. There are no tricks. It was just a catchy headline. But I do have 9 pieces of advice
  2. Why do we have Schools of Choice? Because our neighborhoods are not economically diverse, and the leadership wants diverse schools.
  3. Figure out your own goals. Do you want a “balanced calendar” school? Does location matter? What is most important to you?
  4. Read up on the Magnet programs and the school profiles to see what schools offer (56-page booklet)
  5. Look up which school you have “proximity priority” to: (here are the schools in google maps)
  6. There are (currently) 12 elementary schools, each with a limited number of seats. You can list any or all in an order of preference (aka, “rank order”). Your “priorities” (sibling, proximity) apply to your first choice. I suggest ranking them all. If you do not, are you ok with the slim possibility of having an “assignment pending” status?
  7. There is a small chance you might not get one of your top choices – is such a case, you will be placed on a waitlist. Hypothetically speaking, would you relocate your child a week after school started?
  8. Talk to other parents: chambanamoms is a really good resource for connecting with other parents and sharing thoughts on Schools of Choice. Or start a conversation here.
  9. Visit the schools. Even before January or after March. Visit the Family Informatiodon't-panic-iPadn Center (also called FIC).
  10. Don’t panic. I know there is a lot of information to consider, but all the schools have something great to offer. It’s ok.

Other resources

Final notes

At a recent Choice Committee meeting, there was a general lament that there is a lot of misinformation “out there”. To the best of my knowledge, everything I share about Choice is accurate – if not, I ask that you call me out. Likewise, understand the difference between opinion and facts. Everyone has a difference experience going through “Schools of Choice”, and some people will want to deep-dive on all the nuances, while others just want to go to the closest school. If at any point you feel frustrated or confused, know that you are not alone and that there are people who want to help.

5 Responses to “Schools of Choice: 10 tricks to get the school you want”

  1. AmyPH Says:

    This is incredibly helpful. Thank you.

  2. Kathy R. Says:

    Great summary Charles. I would only add that the system works best if you avoid pinning all your hopes and dreams on a single school. Visit schools and ask questions. Good luck!

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      I was thinking, if someone really really really wanted to go to Dr. Howard, well, they can pin all their hopes on that choice. It’s the great “it depends”, Charlie Brown.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        Just to add a little more clarity, I based the “it depends” statement on the fact that several schools historically have enough open seats for all first choices, and some schools have enough seats for a lot more than that. Here are some pictures to demonstrate what I am talking about:

        So, in the context of the numbers from years past, if one really really wanted to go to Dr. Howard, Garden Hills, BTW, Kenwood, South Side or Robeson (meaning you made that your first choice), you would have no problem at all. Note that these are all historical numbers – things might change next year. “It depends.”

        Here is the thing to remember – the charts do not reflect the quality or the “likeability” of a school at all. It just a pure aggregation of how many people chose each school. Nobody on the entire planet has a clue why all those choices were made. We can speculate, theorize, research, and make wild-ass guesses, but in the end, we don’t have any answers to the “why” question.

        Was I picking on Dr. Howard? Sure. I have no problem highlighting a school that is relatively easy to get into and has lots of good things going for it. It is a good choice to pin one’s hopes on. 🙂

        But like Kathy said, it is a good exercise to learn about the others as well. And there are lots of ways to do so; read the booklet, visit the schools, talk to parents, read blogs, look at the Illinois Report Card, etc.

  3. Kindergarten registration: it’s not a race, so slow down | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] I suggested previously, I highly recommend you figure out what you want first (ie, a school nearby? balanced calendar? […]

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