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Chicago Gifted Programs

Chicago Gifted Programs offer a plethora of choices for your gifted child’s educational needs. The Chicago Public School (CPS) system is one of the largest school districts in the United States, so there are many elementary school options to consider. In addition to general education programs, CPS offers magnet and magnet cluster schools (special emphasis on a topic area such as Fine Arts or Math & Science), along with charter (privately run), and Regional Gifted Centers and Classical Schools (academically advanced).

Take Note: Within designated magnet, magnet cluster and open enrollment (neighborhood) schools, through school assessment, there are Comprehensive Gifted Programs, which serve students in 1st – 8th Grade in all subjects. Also, Specific Aptitude Programs are pullout programs in specific subject areas, for specific grade levels in these schools, as well.

However, our focus here is on the Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), specifically, the Regional Gifted Centers (RGCs) and Classical Schools. If you are seeking a “free” academically-advanced curriculum for your gifted child, this is the way to go. SEES are designed to meet the needs of academically advanced students.

Where to Begin

Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools (SEES) are offered through the Options for Knowledge program of Chicago Public Schools. All SEES and application-based elementary programs are managed by the Office of Access and Enrollment (OAE). Regional Gifted Centers and Classical Schools offer academic programs to challenge children identified as gifted. These are students who consistently demonstrate superior general reasoning ability and the potential to excel in a specific academic, creative or artistic areas.

You would follow the same process to apply your child to a Regional Gifted Center or a Classical School Program.

You apply for your child to take the test in the fall one year before your child’s entry into the program you are testing for. Children who turn 5 before September 1 are eligible to apply for the Kindergarten entrance test in the fall when they are 4-years-old and children who turn 6 before September 1 are eligible for first grade entrance testing in the fall when they are 5-years-old.*

All students must be tested. There are no pre-qualification requirements (i.e., test score and grades) to take the admissions test for children applying for kindergarten through 4th grade entry. Students applying to 5th grade and above must pre-qualify for testing eligibility based on a student’s standardized testing percentiles in reading and math. Cut-off scores vary based on the program to which your child is applying.

Eligibility requirements for Selective Enrollment Elementary Schools can be found here.

If you apply to Regional Gifted Centers AND Classical Schools, your child will need to take two separate tests. The number of test appointments required depends upon the grade level for which your child is applying. Your child will only require one appointment if he or she is applying for kindergarten. Your child will require two separate appointments if he or she is applying for grades 1 – 4.

Information for Non-CPS Students Regarding the 2019-2020 Application Process

Regarding Testing: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Access and Enrollment (OAE) does not disclose the names of the tests that they administer for admission to their programs. They do, however, release the skills that are assessed for each program. We have sample practice questions for tests that assess the same skills that CPS states are covered by their exams.

What is the Curriculum?

Regional Gifted Programs

  • Receive instruction at up to two years above grade level
  • Emphasis on critical thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving, and creativity
  • Rigor in the core content areas
  • Expose students to a world language or Latin, laboratory science, computer science, and fine arts
  • Timeframe leaves time for projects, term papers, and group work that take the student deeper into the subject matters

Regional Gifted Centers for English Learners

  • Specifically designed to meet the needs of high-ability students whose primary language is Polish, Russian, or Spanish
  • Provide gifted bilingual students specialized and individualized instruction at up to two years above grade level
  • Emphasis on critical thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving, and creativity
  • Rigor and differentiation in the core content areas
  • Develop fluency and literacy in English and the home language, with exposure to laboratory science, computer science, and fine arts

Classical Schools

  • Provide challenging liberal arts instruction for students with high academic potential
  • Program in these schools is accelerated and highly structured for strong academic achievement in literature, mathematics, language arts, world language, and the humanities
  • Classical Schools begin in kindergarten and serve students through sixth grade (with the exception of Skinner West and Skinner North, which serve students through eighth grade). Curriculum is accelerated one grade above current grade level.

Find a school near you that offers a gifted program.

*There are some exceptions where a younger child can apply for a first grade seat, and we recommend that you consult with our test experts for advice if you have a child in that situation.

Test Prep Tip

Do I really need to prepare my child using all 3 tests?

Yes, we highly recommend using all 3 tests to prepare your child. Since they do not name the test they use, you will want to prepare using the OLSAT, NNAT and CogAT. Each of these tests has different subcatgories, too, so you will need to practice all 3 to make sure your child has practiced all possible question types.

Tell us about your experiences

8 Responses

You. Rock. Thank you for helping me get smarter!!

Thanks for making my kids smart


4th grade


Thanks so much! I found a workbook on amazon. My daughter is in preschool and a perspective for the kindergarten gifted programs. Should I purchase preschool and kindergarten workbook or 1st grade (1 grade level above)?

Hi Vandana,

If your child is in PreK, then I would recommend using the Prek-K workbook. Most schools will test incoming Kindergarten students at Kindergarten level.



My child, will turn 5 between 9/2 and 12/31 and will test this spring for early entrance to Kindergarten in CPS. If my child meets the requirements of the Developmental Survey for Kindergarten readiness, then they will sit for an academic and cognitive test at a CPS testing center.

How can I prepare my child for the tests beyond getting a Pre-K workbook on Amazon (Thanks Verdana for the tip!)?


Hi Emily –

CPS does not provide the test that they use for admission to the Gifted or Classical programs. One of the tests that they have used in the past is the CogAT and we do sell a workbook for the CogAT on Amazon that you can purchase here:

All the best,



Thanks Marcus! And thanks Vandana!

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