Last week, Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson had the opportunity to speak on the important issue of school choice. Her audience was the 2017 fellows from Leadership Greater Chicago – an organization that works to familiarize new generations of Chicago leaders with multiple perspectives on the challenges, opportunities, and resources that define this diverse and thriving city.

Here’s what Dr. Jackson had to say:

If I’ve learned one thing in my time with CPS, it’s that educating children is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. That’s why I’m proud that CPS is a district of choice.  From strong neighborhood schools to charters, and from IB schools to those focused on STEM, Career and Technical Education, and the Arts, we offer families a wide variety of options for educating their children well.

Every student has unique talents, interests and needs, and they deserve the chance to find the learning environment that will help them most to grow. I had that choice as a CPS parent, and I am grateful to have found a school that will help my daughter reach her full potential.

There’s a misconception that offering school choice means helping students avoid their neighborhood schools. In CPS, nothing could be further from the truth. CPS students are guaranteed a spot in their neighborhood high schools, but they don’t always know how much those schools have to offer.  One of our goals moving forward is to institute systems like the Common Application, which we hope will improve both understanding and access for our families.  

Right now, the process for applying to CPS high schools is overly complicated.  Families have told us that they are grateful for the amount of school choice, but find it overwhelming to locate and complete separate applications for various types of schools.  The Common Application will change all that by creating a single application for all CPS high schools.

Simplifying the process for families is important, but the main goal of the Common Application is to increase equity among CPS students. With the system we have right now, some of our 8th-graders receive multiple high school admissions offers while others receive none.  This is not the way to make sure that all students are receiving the quality education they deserve- regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic background or country of origin.

We hope to roll out the Common Application for all high schools in fall 2017. We want charter schools to be a part of this system and will strongly encourage all charter operators serving CPS students to sign on from the very beginning.  Their buy-in will be important if we are to create a system of school choice that is equitable for all students and that gives every child the best chance to succeed.

Every child deserves a learning environment that will inspire and challenge them. A school that will fuel their love of learning while meeting their widely diverse needs. CPS is proud to offer our students that choice and to ensure that no matter what school they choose, they are receiving a quality education that prepares them for success in college, career and community.