Applying to CPS

Ah, the pressure of picking the perfect school for your child – we all know it well. We also know that the CPS application process can seem daunting so we’ve asked FITL guru Mandee Polonsky, Education Director of Right at School, to guide us through the ins and outs. Consider this your little black book to the public school system, compliments of Families in the Loop!

Applying to CPS

Hello, fall! As the leaves begin to turn and your family’s mission to land the largest Jack-o-lantern gets under way, so begins the process of choosing and then applying to school for next year.  Breathe easy, as there are many great options for your family.  Take each step of the CPS process in stride with these tips:


CPS refers to the programs they offer as Options for Knowledge. These include: magnet schools, magnet cluster schools, open enrollment schools, Regional Gifted Centers, Regional Gifted Centers for English-Language Learners, Classical Schools, Academic Centers, the International Gifted Program, the Comprehensive Gifted Program, and the Specific Aptitude Programs.

The CPS website can help guide you through factors to consider such as test scores, student-to-teacher ratio, demographics, and specific programs offered at the schools such as languages, cultural arts, after-school options, etc.


For parents unsure of the best options for their child, I suggest attending the CPS Options for Knowledge Fair at Malcolm X College on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 9 am.

You can learn valuable information by visiting; this lets you compare schools side by side.

The Neighborhood Parents Network (NPN) is hosting two upcoming fairs with public AND private schools and other vendors exhibiting on September 24th for the Southside and on October 15th for the Northside. For more information or to register, go to


Start your search by checking out your neighborhood school as well as nearby magnets or gifted programs. To find them, visit Definitely pay all of the schools a visit to decide if any are a fit for your family. For those that you are interested in, ask about the registration process, as each school has different application deadlines and requirements.


If you’re not crazy about the schools within your coded neighborhood, you can easily visit and apply to other schools. The application process for the 2012-2013 school year begins on October 1, 2011. Paper applications and the Options for Knowledge Guide will be available at You will have the option of applying online or submitting a paper application.

To apply online, the first step is to request a Personal Identification Number. You may request a PIN starting on September 28, 2011, at

Good luck with the process and remember, you’re not alone and there are lots of options out there for your family!

About FITL Education Guru Mandee Polonsky

If you have questions about Chicago public schools, Mandee Polonsky has the answers.  Having worked in the CPS system for almost a decade, she has collaborated with hundreds of principals, teachers, and parents to better meet the needs of students and to help our local schools.  Mandee was formerly the Manager of Enrichment Programs in the Office of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and served as Executive Director of After-School All-Stars Chicago.  Currently, she is the Education Director at Right at School, an innovative organization that provides meaningful enrichment programs to students before and after school.  Mandee holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She is also the proud mother of two boys and is looking forward to the adventures of school with them.



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