Sold on CPS?

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Created three years ago with the encouragement of Mayor Daley, tuition-based preschool was another way for the district to attract more middle class families into the system. So far, the plan is working.

More than 63 percent of the 161 5-year-olds who were enrolled in tuition-based preschool last year stayed at the same school for kindergarten this fall.

“These numbers show the program has been successful,” says Lucinda Lee Katz, chief officer of early childhood education.

Principal Gladys Vaccarezza of Blaine Elementary reports three out of four tuition-paying preschoolers who were eligible for kindergarten stayed at Blaine.

“Of our 21 students, 15 stayed at Blaine and four went to other public schools,” she says. “The other two—one went to a private school, the other moved out of state.”

At Ray Elementary in Hyde Park, the tuition-based preschool program has become a pipeline for the school’s kindergarten classrooms, which recently expanded to three, says Principal Cydney Fields.

There, 10 of 12 students stayed on. “Most of our tuition-based preschoolers go to our kindergarten,” she says. Filling another classroom has not been a problem, she adds.

Other schools note that some tuition-paying preschoolers enroll elsewhere in the system. Stock Elementary in Edison Park has kindergarten only for special education students. Many of its preschoolers have enrolled in nearby Ebinger Elementary, says Stock Principal Richard Smith.

Principal Robert Lewis says families in Bouchet Elementary’s tuition preschool are going elsewhere for other reasons. “The design of these programs is to get [middle-class] children in CPS schools. After kids have this well-grounded, enriched program here, they leave us and go to magnet schools.”