Chicago Public Schools, our experience
When we became parents, my husband and I assumed we would raise our daughter in Chicago and began paying close attention to school options in the city. We went to school fairs and read blogs on the topic.
We quickly learned that the school search in Chicago was, quite frankly, brutal. We were not crazy about our assigned neighborhood school. Private or parochial school were available, but I believe in public schools and felt they would be the best option for our family. I started touring schools when my daughter was 2. I ruled some out immediately (40 kids in kindergarten?! No way!!) and fell in love with some as soon as I approached the front door (chickens and gardens!!).
Over time, my husband and I compiled a list of our favorite schools; Chicago Public Schools (CPS) allows you to apply to up to 20. We considered the likelihood of getting in to each, mapped them out, considered our options for moving within the city or to the suburbs, and requested the pin number needed for the application process. We left before we ever made it to the point of receiving acceptance or, more likely, rejection letters for our then 4-year-old.
Our Milwaukee area option
Fast forward a few years. We ended up in a Milwaukee inner suburb chosen in part because of it’s great schools (find out more about our move from Chicago to Milwaukee here). We appreciate that our daughter can walk to school, and that she sees her classmates in the neighborhood. We love our life here, and absolutely feel we made the right choice, in both school and community. There is progressive curriculum, an involved PTO, and the historic school buildings are charming. Despite my love for our current school, I sometimes think about all the interesting school options and increased diversity offered by a larger urban district, and wonder what type of school experience my daughter might have had if we had stayed in Chicago.
Milwaukee Public Schools, my impressions
This morning, I had an opportunity to see another option: Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). MPS hosted a school tour for local Realtors to help us learn about the school options and admission processes, so that we can better serve home buyers. We toured Sherman Multicultural School and Milwaukee French Immersion School and met with administrators from the district. I was so impressed by the whole experience and especially by each of these schools.
Additionally, the types of schools available in Milwaukee are impressive. The district has 8 Montessori schools and 8 duel language programs, with more planned to open in the next few years. Languages represented include French, Spanish, Italian and German. If Montessori or language immersion are not your thing, there are many other school options as well.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned about the admission process in MPS. Like CPS, Milwaukee assigns each address a default neighborhood school and also allows parents to apply to other options throughout the city. In Milwaukee, each family applies for 3 schools. 90% of families get into their first choice school. 98% of families get into one of their top 3 picks. Did you see those statistics?? 90 & 98%!! That is great news. For those 2% of families that do not receive a top choice, the district asks them about their priorities for their child and what drew them to their initial choices. Efforts are made to match them with other options that will meet their goals and be a good fit for the student.
If you are thinking about buying a home in Milwaukee, and wondering about schools, please get in touch. I would love to share what I’ve learned, and to show you homes near schools that appeal to your family. If you’re currently navigating the Chicago Public Schools admissions process, or apprehensive about doing so in the future, let’s chat. I would love to talk to you about Milwaukee as an alternative to Chicago or the Chicago suburbs.