Improving Postsecondary Success
Prospering in today’s economy requires that students graduate from high school with a clear plan for furthering their education or career. Beginning early in high school, we must guide students to explore postsecondary options, plan for the future and take steps towards achieving their goals. By learning early on what drives each student, we can help best prepare students for success in the future.
Only about half of the nation’s school counselors say that their certification programs adequately prepared them to provide college and career advising to high school students. During the 2014-2015 school year, CPS, in coordination with Thrive Chicago and the Options Institute-Goddard Riverside Community Center in New York, piloted a program to be at the forefront of improving the advising practices of school counselors and college coaches. CPS established the Chicago College and Career Advising Credential (CCCAC)—a comprehensive, 8-week training program for school counselors that is designed for counselors to best meet the needs of CPS students.
To ensure students are graduating with clear plans for their futures, school counselors and college coaches are increasing the amount of time spent advising students on their postsecondary options for further education, job-training and employment. Schools will leverage Postsecondary Leadership Teams as well as Naviance, a software tool used by students and schools for comprehensive college and career planning, to better monitor and support students’ progress towards postsecondary decisions.
Additionally, to help remove the financial barriers to college for CPS students, Mayor Emanuel partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago to create the STAR Scholarship, which provides eligible students with free tuition at all CCC campuses. Since launching, the STAR Scholarship has served more than 2,000 graduates from 100 CPS high schools, and City College graduation rates have reached their highest rates on record. In 2015-2016, students received $1.16 billion in scholarships, compared to $226 million in 2011-2012. Both the scholarship support and focus on a clear postsecondary plan will drive better outcomes for CPS students.
College enrollment for CPS graduates has grown steadily in recent years but primarily for students who are among the district’s top performers, according to a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. There has been little growth in college enrollment for students with “C” averages, the study found. These students will also be actively recruited for opportunities including college fairs, college tours, job shadowing and college application and financial aid workshops.
Of CPS students who enroll in college, only 70 percent remain beyond the second year, and even fewer will persist until college graduation. To increase the number of CPS graduates who earn college degrees, CPS has joined with 25 colleges and universities in Illinois to establish a group known as the Higher Education Compact. The Compact meets quarterly to analyze retention data on CPS graduates who attend member colleges, identify roadblocks to remaining in college and share successful strategies.