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Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education announced at its latest monthly board meeting that rising eighth grade students will be able to apply to high schools using a single application – GoCPS. The move to GoCPS comes on the heels of school choice advocates, teachers, parents, and students calling for a less convoluted method for selecting the schools that best fit incoming CPS freshmen.

Organizations like Kid First Chicago (KFC) help families find the specific school(s) that best fit the needs of their student(s). KFC’s aid was, at times, pivotal in helping families locate choices that would have otherwise remained hidden– with some as close as a few blocks from students’ homes. The task of selecting a school within CPS’ network could be daunting for individuals unfamiliar with all of the available options. According to its website, CPS lists a total of 652 schools within its network including 480 elementary schools.

“GoCPS will simplify the high school enrollment process and create a more equitable system to ensure that students have access to their best possible option for high school,” said Dr. Janice K. Jackson, Chief Education Officer for CPS. “Parents, counselors and community members have made it clear that this process needs to be simpler and more equitable, and we are taking action to provide the streamlined application system our families deserve.”

According to a CPS press release, GoCPS will apply to all district-operated schools, magnet, military, and participating charter schools with criteria for admissions. The BOE revealed GoCPS is slated to launch in the fall of 2017 and will include a website that will give families access to CPS’ high schools and programs.

Daniel Anello, chief executive officer of New Schools for Chicago, said his organization in partnership with the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice prepared a report entitled “Parents Discuss their Challenges with Public School Choice in Chicago” based on focused groups with more than 100 parents. The report, which was released in February 2017, highlighted possible communication options between CPS families and administration.

“We were trying to get a sense of some of the biggest challenges they were facing when it came to navigating schools and gaining access to high quality options and all of the pieces that fit into what CPS does for families,” said Anello. “Having access and understanding where high quality options are or what programs are offered to families is something that is really hard to come by.”

Anello said most of the families who recently attempted to enroll a ninth grader in a high school in CPS’ network believed a change was “critical.” He said there needs to be better communication around what these school options are and what they offer.

“I think the first step is a single application system but that doesn’t solve all the information gap,” said Anello.

Anello said he’s seen families driven to tears over searching for quality schools and hopes the single application process will “level the playing field.” He said there’s still some discussion over the role of charter schools and that more work needs to be done. 

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