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Academic Enrichment Opportunities

Academic enrichment programs offer CPS elementary and high school students innovative, challenging, and fun learning experiences to supplement their education both inside and outside the classroom.

Students in grades K-12 can participate in a wide range of exciting enrichment programs designed to teach them how to apply knowledge in ways that develop college and career skills such as problem solving, research, and critical thinking.

Districtwide Programs

  • Advanced Arts (AAP): CPS high school juniors and seniors can pursue their interests in the arts in a supportive and academically rigorous learning environment at AAP at Gallery 37. Professional artists teach two-hour, year-long courses at the honors or AP level, and students enjoy enriching cultural experiences across the city. To learn more, visit AAP.
  • Districtwide Arts Programs: An arts education can have a powerful impact on young minds and spark a lifelong interest in the arts. CPS offers free performing and visual arts programs, including All-City Performing Arts, All-City Visual Arts exhibitions (elementary and high school), and All-City Music Festivals. To learn more about music, dance, theater, and visual arts programs for grades 3-12, visit CPS Arts Education.
  • Math Circles: Students in grades 5-12 can explore math on a deeper level outside the classroom at no cost. Math circles are a noncompetitive group activity that focuses on math concepts not covered in the standard school curriculum. After-school weekday, Saturday, and summer math circles take place at locations across the city. Enrollment takes place on a lottery basis. Students who enrolled in Math Circles the previous quarter and attended at least two sessions can re-enroll at the same site during priority registration. To learn more, visit Math Circles.

Academic Competitions

Competitive activities in academic subjects inspire and motivate students to master new skills and excel in academic subject areas. These exciting, dynamic programs contribute to improved classroom learning, higher graduation rates, and increased college enrollment and matriculation.

All Academic Competition Programs are offered at no cost to students, and they are inclusive for all academic levels. Depending on the activity, programs can take place at the student's school, during the school day or after school. Tournaments take place on weekends at a central site, and student transportation is provided for some tournaments.

Academic Competition Programs are offered at schools across the District. Contact your local school to learn more about specific opportunities for your student. 

Students and their families who need information about specific program events can contact Sylvia Nelson Jordan, Manager at snelson@cps.edu.

First Move

First Move is an in-classroom chess curriculum offered during math classes. The First Move organization provides materials and lesson plans for classroom instruction and additional materials to study at home. First Move uses chess as a tool for increasing critical thinking skills, strategy, reading aptitude, math, technology, writing as well as social and behavior development. For second and third grades.

Academic Chess

Academic Chess is offered by individual schools and includes after-school practices and weekend tournaments, including the CPS All Stars Tournament, CPS Academic Chess City Playoffs, City Championship, and optional State and National tournaments. For kindergarten through eighth grade and ninth grade through 12th grade.

Cops and Kids Initiative

In partnership with the Chicago Police Department and Renaissance Knights Foundation, the Cops and Kids initiative uses the game of chess to promote positive relationships between youth and police officers. The year-round program offers an after-school chess program at designated sites, two annual tournaments, and a three-week Summer Chess Institute. For fifth grade through eighth grade and ninth grade through 12th grade.

Academic Decathlon

Academic Decathlon provides students of all learning levels the opportunity to excel academically through team competition, simultaneously creating excitement for learning new topics and enhancing research techniques and job readiness skills. Academic Decathlon also expands student knowledge base in improving study habits, research skills, critical thinking, time management, and knowledge preservation skills. For fifth grade through eighth grade and ninth grade through 12th grade.

CPS Exhibition of STEM Research (Science Fair)

The CPS Exhibition of STEM Research is a regional science competition where students select, plan, and present their research projects. STEM research allows students to investigate a problem scientifically and develop their science skills to improve their critical thinking, literacy, research, and time management skills among peers in a competitive setting. Students have an opportunity to showcase their projects and interact with professional scientists to communicate what they have learned. All students are allowed to participate in local school fairs and regional network science fairs. Advancing students can participate in the CPS city science fair, state science fair, and international science fair. For sixth grade through eighth grade.

Chicago Junior Math League (CJML)

CJML contests allow middle school students to solve mathematical problems individually and as a team in a competition setting. Students hone their math skills and develop mindsets that are essential for continued success in high school mathematics classes and competitions. For sixth grade through eighth grade.

City of Chicago Math League (CCML)

Math competitions challenge students on both the individual and team levels. Students compete in five contests that consist of 20 questions that must be completed in 50 minutes, plus a collaborative team challenge. Contests take place at three regional sites, and winners advance to the citywide finals. For ninth grade through 12th grade.

Debate

Academic debate teaches students to formulate informed opinions and how to communicate them effectively. The skills students learn in debate foster college readiness and can help them improve their grades. CPS offers competitive programs for middle school and high school students through the Chicago Debate League, the largest urban debate league in the nation. 

Citywide Spelling Bee

The Spelling Bee program is designed to help students improve their overall spelling, increase their vocabularies, and develop correct English usage. The competitive program also promotes self-esteem, character development, and sportsmanship. For first grade through eighth grade.

Summer Career Readiness Experience (Summer Jobs)

High school students who participate in the Academic Competitions program can apply for paid summer job opportunities. The goal of the three-week program is to create opportunities for students to work in professional environments and help them learn valuable skills needed for personal and professional advancement. Interns are placed at locations such as Allstate, IIT, Mayer Brown LLP, Cook County Assessor, local and state elected officials’ offices, and various local and state government offices.

Summer Debate Institute

Middle school and high school students can improve their debate skills in a fun, supportive environment at the Chicago Debate League summer program. The program fee is reduced for CPS students, and fee waivers are available for eligible students. To learn more, visit the Summer Debate Institute website.

Summer Chess Institute

Middle school and high school students can attend a three-week chess workshop during the summer to improve their skills.