CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett Recommends Expanding Option Schools 

With this Expansion, CPS Has Doubled Access Since 2010 to Option Schools and Will Serve More than 11,000 At-Risk Students across the City by Next School Year

CHICAGO— Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett today announced recommendations to expand access for 2,500 additional students to attend an option school next School Year 2014-15 (SY 14-15), extending the District’s reach to re-engage tens of thousands of at-risk Chicago youth not currently enrolled in school. With this expansion, CPS will have doubled access to option schools and will serve more than 11,000 students across the City by next school year.

"Every child has potential and should have a quality education option that meets their specific needs," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "By expanding access to option schools and working with school leaders and the community, we can re-engage many youth in their education and reach our goal as a city that all of our students graduate 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound."

There is an estimated 56,000 school-aged youth in Chicago who are currently not enrolled in school. The majority of out-of-school youth are over 17 years old, and in need of a different educational option. In order to accommodate these students, the District must increase its capacity and work with providers who have proven success in serving these students.

CPS has made significant progress in the last three years to develop and execute an option school strategy that bring students back to school. Since 2011, CPS has expanded partnerships with successful providers that specialize in work with students who have gotten off-track and made targeted investments to grow capacity at its alternative Option Schools, particularly in Englewood, Roseland and Lawndale. These efforts have more than doubled the amount of available seats, from 5,339 in 2010 to over 11,400 for next school year.

“At CPS, we believe in the potential of every single child, and we will not give up on any student. By increasing the number of quality options and alternative pathways, we can help the hardest to reach children and provide them a chance to succeed in school,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “With parents, teachers and principals working together, we can bring students who are out of school back onto a path to help reach their goals and maximize their potential.”

This year the District will be add approximately 1,800 seats through existing providers and another 625 seats at two contract schools run by Camelot Schools, which was approved during last year’s RFP process. CPS will be proposing new campuses for Camelot SAFE Schools, Ombudsman, Magic Johnson Bridgescape, and Pathways in Education in Illinois and in response to growing demand, will increase enrollment at Magic Johnson Bridgescape: North Lawndale, Ombudsman, and Banner West.

The proposed expansion will add additional seats to neighborhoods with the greatest need and will rely on community support and engagement to identify and bring back into the system CPS’s out-of-school and off-track youth. This strategy, which aligns directly with Pillar 2 of the CEO’s five-year action plan, includes:

  • Expanding and diversifying the number of seats in new and existing quality education Options schools and programs, particularly in underserved communities
  • Establishing a common and higher bar for quality for our Options schools and programs
  • Proactively reaching out and re-engaging students in school

CPS remains dedicated to growing existing and recruiting new high-quality providers who can deliver education pathways shown to be most effective in re-engaging, retaining, and graduating out of school youth and students at-risk of dropping out. Last year, the District also launched Student Outreach and Re-engagement (SOAR) Centers in Garfield Park, Roseland and Little Village to proactively find these youth and support their return to school.

Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.