Academic Progress

Academic Progress

Improving High Schools

CPS has outstanding college and career preparatory programs and is a national leader in raising its graduation rate. Our high school strategy will build on that success and work to ensure that all students have a high quality, open-enrollment high school option within three miles of their homes. The high school strategy has three areas of focus: equity in access, excellence and advocacy.


Simplify High School Application and Enrollment

Many families find the CPS high school admissions process stressful and burdensome, as gaining admission to a choice school often requires multiple applications, each with different requirements and deadlines. In late spring, students may receive multiple offers or be consigned to wait lists, creating uncertainty for families and delaying some class scheduling and planning for schools that are unsure of who will be enrolled in their freshman class. In addition, this process can lead to inequities, as some families have more time and resources to navigate the process.

To address these issues, CPS is working with high school principals and civic leaders to simplify the high school application and enrollment process. Beginning in 2017-18, families of 8th graders will be able to complete a single application for all of their high school choices through GoCPS (Charter schools will be encouraged to participate). As part of the process, families will rank their preferences for schools, and students will receive a single best offer to the best school they ranked and are eligible to attend. This single application will allow more incoming freshmen to be matched quickly to a school of their choice, while high schools will know the makeup of their incoming freshman class sooner. In both cases, important planning for the next school year can begin earlier and with more confidence. Simplifying high school enrollment will create more equitable access to schools of choice for families who are unable to navigate a complex process.

Improve High Schools to Strengthen Quality Instruction

The heart of a high quality high school education includes a strong core curriculum, effective classroom instruction and classroom assessments that allow teachers to monitor student progress and adjust their instruction so that all students can achieve. They are inextricably linked and, with proper and sustained support and development, can propel student achievement to higher levels. To further strengthen the work around instruction and create high expectations for academic rigor, the Office of Network Support and the Office of Teaching and Learning will provide individualized support to high schools. To do so, schools will specifically engage in Instructional Core walks in which school, network and district leaders observe instruction in many classrooms and then reflect on strengths and weaknesses. Schools will also be guided to analyze the results of classroom observations and assessments to pinpoint areas of weakness and plan improvements. Instructional Core walks ensure schools engage in cycles of continuous improvement, which align to the school’s Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP), and the principal evaluation. The goal is to build common practices across the district that lead to academic improvement in every high school.

Recruit University and Corporate Partners for Neighborhood High Schools

University and corporate partnerships can invigorate neighborhood high schools with new ideas, resources and learning opportunities for students. Many high schools are already improving teaching and leadership with coaching from university experts. Others have partnered with local employers, such as engineering or construction companies, that can advise on career curricula, lead career-related activities and field trips or even provide internships for interested students. While some CPS high schools have many deeplyinvolved partners, others have none. We will work with principals to recruit partners for every neighborhood high school to increase the equity of these partnerships.

Engineering Partnership Program

To truly develop 21st Century skills in our students and better prepare them for today’s workforce, CPS has sought to create many STEM opportunities, including the program “Engineering Futures.” This initiative has paired eight CPS high schools with corporate engineering partners to provide robust services and experiences in engineering to students.

Through both grants and in-kind services, these organizations have immersed more than 1,600 students in the field of engineering. They have provided guidance on our pre-engineering curriculum, offered professional development to teachers, and funded the creation of “makerspace” labs in our schools. These partners have also invited our students to experience hands-on, project-based learning in authentic workplace environments. At Bowen High School, for example, their partnership with Accurate Engineering Group allowed students to tour a geothermal facility to learn how concrete foundations are prepared for building bridges. The students then worked with Accurate engineers, and with the sponsorship from Siemens Technologies, entered a bridge building contest to put their learning to work.

By rooting our students in the STEM experience, where they focus on collaborative problem-solving, we are helping develop the skills that will be attractive to their future employers. For this reason, our goal is to expand our corporate and philanthropic partnerships to include more CPS students in these opportunities districtwide.

Expand High Quality College and Career Programs to More High Schools

Offering college-level coursework in high school better prepares students for college, and allows them to earn college credits for free or at a reduced cost. For young people pursuing a trade, earning career certification in high school can provide confidence, direction and a head start on their futures—not to mention experience attractive to future employers.

In 2015, 41 percent of CPS high school seniors earned college credit or career certification. To provide the same opportunity to all students, we will expand college and career programs equitably to high schools across the city and strengthen existing programs. By 2019, at least 50 percent of all CPS high school students will graduate with a college or career credential.

Opportunities to Earn a College or Career Credential Include:

International Baccalaureate (IB) programs

International Baccalaureate (IB) programs offer a chance to earn college credit through advanced coursework in literature, social science, mathematics, science, world or classical language, career studies and the arts. Many elementary schools now offer a Primary Years and Middle Years IB program to prepare students for the high school program. By school year 2018-2019, we will increase the number of 11th and 12th-graders enrolled from 3,079 to 3,400, which nearly triples the enrollment over the Mayor’s tenure from 1,146 in 2010-2011.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

Advanced Placement (AP) courses also allow high school students to earn college credit. By school year 2018-2019, we will increase the number of students enrolled in AP courses to 24,000, up from 22,606 in 2016 and 15,993 in 2011, while improving pass rates from 44 percent to 51 percent. This gives more CPS students the opportunity to be ahead of their peers in their first year of postsecondary study, putting them on a faster track toward graduation.

Early College STEM programs

Early College STEM programs prepare students for future employment in the fast-growing areas of computer programming, information technology and computer networking. Students are able to work with leading industry professionals, acquire industry certifications and earn significant college credit. Many will earn associate degrees from City Colleges of Chicago along with their high school diplomas. With only a few years under way since its inception in 2012-2013, Early College STEM programs now enroll 5,700 students. By school year 2018-2019, we will launch Early College STEM programs in more high schools to raise total student enrollment from 5,700 to 6,000.

Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment

Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment allow students to earn both high school and college credit simultaneously in a variety of subject areas. Dual Credit courses are available at 65 high schools through a partnership with City Colleges of Chicago, while Dual Enrollment courses are available at participating colleges and universities to any qualified junior or senior in CPS. During its inaugural year of 2011- 2012, there were 720 students enrolled in Dual Credit or Dual Enrollment. By school year 2018-2019, we will raise the number of students enrolled in Dual Credit or Dual Enrollment programs to 6,950, from 5,031 in 2015-16.

Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education programs prepare students for good jobs in 12 industries through rigorous coursework, pre-apprenticeships, internships and a chance to earn industry certification while still in high school. More than 17,000 CPS students already are enrolled. This year we have developed a new model for Career and Technical Education, creating a regional center at Dunbar high school with afternoon classes open to juniors and seniors attending high school anywhere in the city. The program, called Chicago Builds, offers four construction career pathways, including carpentry and electrical work. To provide more equitable access to career programs, we will establish additional regional vocational centers offering career programs in fields where there is strong demand from local employers.

Military Academies

CPS has the largest network of military academies of any school district in the country—boasting six Service Leadership Academies (SLAs), one SLA within a school and 38 Service Leadership/JROTC schools. Students in these programs have the opportunity to earn early college credit if they pass their junior and senior level JROTC courses with a “C” or above. To ensure that military academies are aligned with the job force, college, and military training demands of today, we are expanding STEM offerings (such as more courses in coding and cyber security) at Service Leadership Academies and in JROTC programs. Next year, with support from the Driskill Foundation, the Air Force Academy will be adding in new flight simulators and a mock air traffic control center so students can have more real-world and STEM-related experiences while in high school. With the support of our generous funders and innovative principals, we hope to expand on these and other opportunities for our students.

Support Student Advocates to Improve Their Schools

School and district decisions that directly affect students are often improved when students have a voice in shaping them. The CPS Student Advisory Council, facilitated in partnership with the Mikva Challenge, is a group of engaged high school student leaders who work directly with CPS leadership to provide a student voice on district policies and develop district recommendations to improve school culture and student learning. At the local level, 50 high schools have Student Voice Committees, along with 20 elementary schools, to advise on school policies and practices. CPS will encourage more high schools to form committees that give students a voice in school improvement. By 2019, CPS will have a Student Voice Committee in every high school. Doing so will benefit our schools today and develop young people’s advocacy skills so that they are better able to contribute to our city in the future.

Learn more about Student Advisory Council .

It’s very cool to see students take that leadership and step forward by themselves or with the group to change the school that they go to. Like, this is a problem, I want to fix it, this is how we’re going to fix it.

Page Last Modified on Thursday, January 04, 2018