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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

  • 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.

Academic Competitions Program Offerings

The Department of Academic Competitions is pleased to announce its program offerings for SY 2022-2023. We are delighted to afford these dynamic programmatic opportunities to schools and students from across the city. Below you will find the program offerings and their respective links to register and/or express interest in the programs. Please complete the Letters of Intent or Letters of Interest to be included in our 22-23 program roster.

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.

CPS Academic Elementary and High School Chess Programs

Academic Chess provides elementary school and high school students in grades (K-12) from diverse communities across the city with an opportunity to participate in vibrant chess programs. The CPS Academic chess students participate in after school practices as well as in competitions and tournaments throughout the year. Tournaments include the CPS Academic Chess City Play-offs, City Championship, as well as State and National tournaments. 

Note: We will maintain a hybrid (in person and online) tournament schedule for SY 22-23. 

2022-2023 Academic Chess LOI

First Move Chess Program (ES)

First Move is an in-classroom curriculum for second and third graders. The First Move organization and CPS partner to implement this dynamic program. The First Move organization and private donors fund the program, so it is at no cost to CPS schools. In addition, 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. First Move lessons are provided for an hour once a week for 28 weeks during math instruction. This program is easy to implement and doesn’t require prior chess knowledge.  Additionally, First Move teachers receive training and on-going support as needed throughout the year. The program incorporates an imaginary character called the “Chess Lady who teaches chess through a weekly video that features games and activities.

Note: First Move lessons are online; teachers will receive training by the First Move staff on how to best incorporate FM lessons during remote math instruction.

2022-2023 First Move LOI

CPS Chess Queens (K-5)

The Chicago Public Schools, Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation, in collaboration with Queens United Chess, developed the CPS Chess Queens Initiative. CPS Chess Queens is a year-round program intended to empower female chess leaders, foster an inclusive and engaging environment for girls, and expand the chess community. We will accomplish this by increasing engagement opportunities to females from diverse communities throughout the city and employing female high school students to serve as mentors and role models through chess centered programs.

Part of CPS Chess Queens includes free introductory chess lessons which are led by female Queens United Ambassadors. These 1 hour weekly introductory lessons are designed for elementary-aged students, and can be held in-person or virtually for the 2022-2023 school year. Please contact Arlecia Taylor (ajtaylor@cps.edu)  for more information.

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.

Cops and Kids Program (5-12)

In partnership with the Chicago Police Department and the Renaissance Knights Foundation, the Cops and Kids initiative promotes peace in schools and communities by increasing positive relationships between youth and police officers while utilizing the game of chess as the vehicle for engagement. Each week, Chicago Police officers visit school-based clubs to interact and play chess with the students. C&K is a year-round program that features an after-school program, 2 tournaments with students, police officers and other law enforcement professionals and a 3-week Summer Chess Institute.

The initiative also incorporates Restorative Justice Practices such as Peacemaking circles, community building, and check-in and check-outs.  Coaches will be trained by RJ experts to incorporate peace making process and build relationships within the school community

2022-2023 Cops & Kids LOI

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.

Academic Decathlon (HS)

Academic Decathlon is a nationwide competition that promotes academic excellence through teamwork by high school students of all achievement levels.  The students are tested on various subjects including Art, Economics, Music, Language Arts and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, as well as proficiency in Speech, Interview, and Essay writing.  The content varies from year to year based on the national topic, which is determined by the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) Board of Directors. 

Note: Both competitions (1st Round and City Championship) and practices will be conducted remotely for this upcoming school year. The Speech, Interview and Essay portion of the competition will be held at Whitney Young Magnet High School on Feb 11, 2023

2022-2023 Academic Decathlon LOI

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.

The CPS Exhibition of STEM Research is an international science competition where students select, plan and present their research projects. Science fair allows students to investigate a problem scientifically and develop their science skills.  Students have an opportunity to showcase their projects and interact with professional scientists to communicate what they learned. It is our hope that all schools will participate and allow their students who excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics showcase their research among their peers in a competitive setting. Students improve their critical thinking, literacy, research, and time-management skills.

2022-2023 STEM LOI

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.

The Chicago Junior Math League encourages middle-graders from all over Chicago to challenge themselves mathematically. Each year, over 600 students compete in math contests. The CJML has three goals: 

  • To institute a series of contests that complements the content of and improves performances in Math counts and other statewide competitions;
  • To provide the type of preparation and experience that students who are interested in high school math competitions will need to succeed; and
  • To have ALL students interact with each other to hone and develop their mathematical and problem-solving skills.

Note: Our tournaments and practices will be conducted online  due to the District's plan to implement remote learning for the first quarter of the school year. 

2022-2023 City of Chicago Junior Math League LOI

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.

The City of Chicago Math League encourages high school students from all over Chicago to challenge themselves mathematically. Each year, over 500 students compete in five contests to determine the city champion and to prepare for competition at the state level.

Note: Our tournaments and practices will be conducted online  due to the District's plan to implement remote learning for the first quarter of the school year. 

2022-2023 City of Chicago Math League LOI

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. 

Chicago Debates (CD) & Chicago Middle School Debates (CMSD)

Chicago Debates is a national research-based extracurricular program that provides students with the necessary tools to excel academically.  Chicago Debates is an academic debate program for Chicago’s high school students and the Chicago Middle School Debates program for middle school students.  Together, they are the largest urban debate league in the nation.

Academic debate is a proven strategy to improve GPAs, graduation rates, and college readiness for students across the academic spectrum. The skills students learn in debate are closely aligned to the Common Core State Standards and college readiness standards. Debaters develop these skills through many hours spent in highly rigorous practices and competitions—motivated by an activity that students find uniquely engaging.

2022-2023 Chicago Debates LOI

2022-2023 Chicago Debates Middle School LOI

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.