Choosing the right place to live for you and your family is important. Let us help give you the resources you need to make your best choice of neighborhood and school.

A note about  families from Olivia:

          A big theme among our clients is that they want to get closer to family: maybe physically closer to grandparents, closer to friends who are family, or closer to where they can envision their family blooming. It often means a home near a good school, in a great neighborhood. Our team intrinsically understands this and we can help you strategize so you can reach that goal. Having grown up in a small midwest town, I am regularly asked, “What’s it like to raise kids in the city? How do you do this!?”

          My husband and I have made the decision to put a stake in the ground in Chicago and to raise our family here. As long as our jobs and hearts have us here – we will invest here. Everyday is an adventure. The Carlson’s love adventure! Being in the city allows our children unmatched access to museums, unique schools, art/science/music programs, sprawling parks and beautiful Lake Michigan. On any given week, my son participates in a private class at the Zoo, attends a music program and bakes bread with friends at Waldorf. He plays at the beach and swims at the pool. He gets to ride his bike along the Lake Shore Path – considered a Runner’s World’s Rave RunWe hope that rubbing shoulders daily with people from diverse backgrounds, will allow our children more thankful, patient, welcoming, and expanding of their worldview. It’s a wonderful adventure and challenge!

          At the forefront of our client’s minds is how to manage the Chicago Public School System. Between the cost of living and the media focus on the issues with CPS, it sounds like a daunting place to call home. Luckily, we are blessed to have really fabulous public and private schools in this city. The media misses what’s great about our local schools. 

        My team is prepared to guide you to the right investment in the city. Together, we regularly tour public and private schools so that we are up to date on the accomplishments and flavor of each. Below is our guide to navigating the city. Whether you have a family in tow or not, you will find excellent resources here.  Nothing is comparable to joining me for a cup of coffee to learn your goals first hand. It would be a privilege to help guide you into the right spot to call home.



Olivia Carlson



Chicago is known for its neighborhoods! Each one features unique reasons to call them home.


Whether you are interested personally in schools for your family or you follow the philosophy that it’s always wise to invest in a good public school district, we have the resources for you! There is no one size fits all school- and there are endless options and opportunities. We have tried to organize resources for you here- and are just a phone call away if you want to discuss more!

Quick Links:

Chicago Public Schools website ( is a rich resource including an easy school locator toola comprehensive school rating database. Many general CPS are quickly answered here.,, Chicago Magazine and also rate schools and can be another resource to identify how a school is performing.

Chicago School GPS is also a helpful resource to parents. They offer workshops/group information sessions, school fairs and a comprehensive School Tours calendar.

Neighborhood Parents Network is a comprehensive resource, including a great school directory.

To help you navigate the schools here are the various types of schools you will come across in your search:

Early Childhood Education

Pre-school programs are offered throughout the city through public and private schools. Since you have to pay tuition, even at CPS, many of my client’s choose to take the opportunity to pay for preschool at a private school, knowing they will partake in public school once their kids hit kindergarten. 

CPS only offers tuition based preschool at select schools. There is huge demand for a limited number of spots, so enrollment occurs the January before the school year. Neighborhood children are given preferential treatment, but not guaranteed.

There are 3 non-tuition based magnet preschools (Drummond, Suder and Inter-American) and applications for these schools are due by mid-December. You can find applications for these schools here:
The City of Chicago and CPS are working towards providing a seat to every four-year-old in Chicago by 2022. More information here:

This is also a great resource for CPS Preschool parents which includes how to apply and enroll:

Neighborhood Public Schools (K-8)

Neighborhood public schools must enroll any student who lives within their boundaries. Generally, the elementary schools are K-8, with grades 9-12 for high school.  Every student has a neighborhood school they can go to. You can find the assigned school for any address at:

Selective Enrollment Schools (K-8)

These are Citywide accelerated schools that are meant to challenge Chicago’s gifted and talented students and require testing and application for entrance.

    • Kindergarteners can attend their neighborhood school or apply to either a Regional Gifted Center or a Classical School within the Selective Enrollment School Program, which does involve testing. Kindergarteners must test into Selective Enrollment schools. You can request a test date once you have received an activation code and ranked up to 6 schools on Testing takes place between the first week in October through the 2nd Friday in December. Kindergarteners will take two tests on the same day- one for the Classical Schools, which measures reading and math achievements and another for Regional Gifted Centers, which measures critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving aptitude. 
    • Students grades 5-8 are selected based on their NWEA test scores.
    • 7th and 8th graders can test into Academic Centers at 7 High Schools in Chicago. They qualify for the admissions test based on their NWEA scores. These programs provide an accelerated curriculum that enables students to earn limited high school credits, in a high school setting, while still in elementary school. The high schools that house these centers are: Harlan High School, Kenwood Academy, Lane Tech High School, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Morgan Park High School, Taft High School and Whitney Young Magnet High School.
    • No one is guaranteed a seat because of where they live. Most of the seats are filled through the tier system. CPS Tier descriptions found here.

Special CPS Programs

  • Regional Gifted Centers – Provides an accelerated instructional program that places an emphasis on thinking, reasoning, problem solving and creativity. In addition to rigor in the core content areas, instruction includes a world language or Latin, laboratory science, computer science and fine arts. Apply using the Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) Application ( + an entrance exam. More information on the exam is found here:
  • Below is a list of schools that offer the regional gifted program, should your child qualify. CPS assigns which school your child will attend, taking into account the region of the city where you reside.
  • Classical Schools – designed to provide a challenging liberal arts course of instruction for students with high academic potential. Transportation is provided to students who live within designated street ranges. Apply at OR
  • International Gifted Programs – This intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research is designed to allow intellectually-able students to learn at an accelerated pace. It is offered at Lincoln Elementary School and the Ogden International School of Chicago for gifted sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

Magnet Schools (K-8)

Magnet schools admit students within their boundaries based on a lottery. Any leftover spots are opened up to students citywide based on the tier system, much like a selective school. So nearby students are not guaranteed a seat, but they have much better chance of getting in.

There are 41 Magnet schools in Chicagoland area, listed here: You can apply to a magnet school here:

Charter Schools (K-8)

Charter schools set their own enrollment policies. You can learn more on how to select a charter school that is right for you through the Illinois Network of Charter Schools at

Contract Schools (K-8)

Contract schools are public schools open to all CPS students. These schools are operated by private entities under contract with CPS to provide an additional education option for students.  More info found here:

Private Schools (K-8)
Private schools include Waldorf, Montessori, Parochial (a private school maintained by a religious body), etc. Tuition ranges from $7,000 +Application processes vary from school to school. 

Here is a list of popular private schools: 

  • St. Andrew
  • St. Bens
  • St. Sylvesters
  • Waldorf
  • St. Clements
  • Catherine Cook
  • Francis W Parker
  • The Latin School
  • The British School
  • The French School
  • North Park
  • Chicago City Day
  • Chicago Montessori
  • Rogers Park Montessori
  • … and the list goes on and on!


All CPS students have the option to attend their neighborhood public high school, to test into a Selective Enrollment Program, or enroll into a private school.

The 11 Selective Enrollment High Schools are: Brooks, Hancock, Jones, King, Lane, Lindblom, Northside, Payton, South Shore, Westinghouse, and Whitney Young. A student’s NWEA Test Score and grades will determine if the student is eligible for Selective Enrollment Programs. Students take the NWEA Test in 7th grade. Students must rank up to 6 Selective Enrollment schools and up to 20 Choice Programs on their application. The order of preference they place them in, is the order in which they will be considered.

If a student is applying to a neighborhood school outside of their personal neighborhood school boundaries, this would be called entering the “Choice Program.” Admittance is based on a lottery or a points-based system, but are not tested into.

Students with Priority Preferences (proximity to school, or having a sibling at the school, etc.) will be placed in separate lotteries. Students who qualify will receive one Choice Program offer and one Selective Enrollment offer.

For more information and very informative videos, visit:  


Our team consistently delivers proven results with the highest level of expertise, service, and integrity resulting in exceptional client satisfaction. Let’s talk about how we can help you!


Our team consistently delivers proven results with the highest level of expertise, service, and integrity resulting in exceptional client satisfaction. Let’s talk about how we can help you!