April 25, 2012
The Chicago Board of Education today approved two new schools that will increase Chicago Public Schools’ ability to serve the education needs of at-risk students, including students who have dropped out of school or who are transitioning from the juvenile justice system. The new schools will create more than 500 seats next school year with the potential for greatly increasing the District’s alternative education seats over the coming years. The Board also renewed contracts for three existing safe schools and two alternative school vendors. These measures mark an unprecedented step forward in addressing the needs of alternative education students in need of specialized academic supports within the District.
“As a District, we have an obligation to reduce the dropout rate by creating more high quality, alternative education seats and working with proven vendors that will best serve the needs of students who have dropped out of traditional schools,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “If placed in a supportive, structured environment, we believe these students can succeed academically, and it’s imperative that we continue to expand these options for all students throughout the District.”
Camelot Schools, a proven national operator, will operate Chicago Excel Academy, a contract school that will add 375 alternative education seats for at-risk students. Currently, Camelot operates successful schools in Philadelphia and Florida, and offers a wide array of programming geared towards addressing the special needs of alternative education students. The operator will partner closely with CPS to identify the future location of its school site based community need and feedback.
The Board also established Instituto as a multi-site charter operator and approved the first campus of the new Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy, which will provide a curriculum based on the principles of social justice and student-centered learning. The school will open with 165 seats in September 2012, with an option to add 1,875 seats in the future. Instituto currently operates the Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy (RLLA) charter school as part of the Youth Connection Charter Schools system, but will dissolve that partnership at the end of this school year.
Separately, the Board renewed agreements with three safe school operators, which provide services for students who have been suspended or expelled from their schools due to disciplinary issues. The primary goal of safe schools is to return students to their regular education setting within CPS, while ensuring that each student continues to make progress towards graduating from high school. The program operators which received renewed agreements include Human Resources Development Institute Inc., Richard Milburn High School Inc., and Banner Schools LLC. Together, they operate three sites serving a total of 277 CPS elementary and high school students.
Existing alternative school providers Banner Schools LLC and Pathways in Education – Illinois also received contract renewals. These providers are part of the Alternative Learning Opportunities Program (ALOP), which was created by state statute to establish alternative education opportunities for students at risk of academic failure in traditional school settings. ALOP aims to ensure that every student has the opportunity to graduate from high school by offering personalized re-entry options to students who have become disengaged from the school system. These program operators serve about 670 over-aged and under-credited 17 to 21 year olds who have dropped out of traditional schools, as well as students who are transitioning back to school from the juvenile justice system.
Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.