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By Laura Gradman, Chicago Pre-School Pro, BCB’s Resident Pre-School Expert
QUESTION: I have heard a lot of talk at the park from other moms about certain nursery schools “feeding” into elementary schools. As a first-time mom, I have no idea what this means. Can you please fill me in?
LAURA’S ANSWER: I call it “the feeder school question”. So many of the families with whom I work on preschool admissions ask if feeder schools exist. I try to respond with some food for thought. If feeder schools do exist, what does that mean for the school admissions process? When we label a school “a feeder school”, are we implying that by attending a specific preschool we are guaranteed a spot at a certain elementary school? The short answer is no. There is much more to it than that.
If you ask me, the term “feeder school” carries with it a lot of implications. By definition, a feeder school is a school from which students are selected to attend another school. For example, if an elementary school feeds directly into a middle school, all of its students transition, or have the opportunity to transition, from one to the other. When we put it into the context of schools to which we have to apply, this indicates that students are selected to attend elementary schools solely based on where they attended preschool. It certainly sounds easier than tours, applications, interviews and play parties. It also implies that all of these things are meaningless.
So where does the term come from? Let’s face it-the admissions process is tough. Many of the best schools in the city get over 200 applications for fewer than 50 spots. As parents, we look for ways to improve our chances of being in that lucky 50 (or less). Hearing that attending a certain preschool may improve our chances of getting into a specific elementary school gives us hope that we are doing everything possible to get that coveted spot. Truth be told, among other things, admissions directors are looking for diversity in every sense of the word—including the preschools from which their students come. If you choose a preschool based on what is best for your child, a preschool that has a solid mission statement, dedicated teachers and an active parent community, you are taking a positive step towards landing them in the right elementary school.
To refer to a school as a feeder school takes away from the integrity of both the schools and the families in attendance. Are there trends as far as families moving between schools? Of course. For many reasons. Does this make them feeder schools? No. There is much more to it than that.
Laura Gradman is the Chicago Pre-School Pro and Bump Club and Beyond’s Resident Pre-School Expert. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor with ten years of experience as an educational consultant, guidance counselor and teacher. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she promptly started working as a middle school teacher. While she loved her work, Laura never lost her passion for learning. This enthusiasm led her to pursue a Masters of Education in Human Services and Counseling, and subsequently her professional counseling license (LPC). Laura went on to become a guidance counselor for the Academic Center at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, one of Chicago’s most elite high schools. As the only counselor in this gifted program, Laura was responsible for guiding 80 eighth grade students through the high school admissions process annually. This included reviewing applications, keeping track of dates, providing verbal and written reminders, writing letters of recommendation, communicating with parents and following up with various schools regarding application status. Students graduated from the Academic Center and went on to such schools as Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Northside College Preparatory High School, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Now, as a mom of two raising her kids in the city of Chicago, Laura has once again become immersed in the process. Personal experience, combined with countless conversations with other parents about navigating the often-overwhelming task of finding the right school, led to the creation of Chicago Preschool Pro.
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