Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced the addition of 10 new high schools to the CPS Opportunity Schools program for the 2019-20 school year, bringing the total number of Opportunity Schools to 62. Since its start in the 2016-17 school year, the CPS Talent Office’s Opportunity Schools program has provided recruitment and retention support for schools with the greatest staffing needs to help ensure they have equitable access to highly-qualified educators. Nearly 500 teachers have been placed in Opportunity Schools to date, and the expansion announced today will ensure many more teachers are connected with the CPS schools who need their support the most. By investing in educators through an individualized matching process that provides mentorship and professional support throughout their first year of teaching, the program has been successful in increasing the retention rates for early career teachers by 19.1 percent and reducing teacher vacancy rates at the schools by 9.1 percent.
“As a city, we must guarantee all of our children receive an education that is comprehensive, challenging and prepares them for meaningful work, civic engagement, and life-long learning,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Opportunity Schools are focused on helping schools to support and retain high-quality teachers who play a central role in the lives and education of our children.”
“With equity at the forefront of the district’s vision for the future, ensuring principals have equitable access to qualified, passionate teachers is critical to continue building upon the district’s significant academic progress,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “The Opportunity Schools program is an investment in schools and teachers’ continued development by providing them with mentorship and unique professional development opportunities to lay the foundation for a successful career.”
The Opportunity Schools program was launched by the CPS Talent Office to ensure schools have equitable access to highly-qualified educators by identifying and supporting schools experiencing higher levels of vacancies and turnover than the district average. Since the program’s inception, Opportunity Schools vacancy rates have decreased from 6.6 percent in the 2016-17 school year to 6 percent at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, representing a 9.1 percent decrease. Additionally, early career teachers in their first three years at Opportunity Schools were retained at 67.3 percent in 2018-19, up from 56.5 percent the prior year—a 19.1 percent increase.
Schools often face higher rates of vacancies due to factors independent of the hard work and progress that has occurred within their schools, and Opportunity Schools provides principals with intensive recruitment, retention and professional development support to ensure they have equitable access to highly qualified educators. More than half of the educators recruited through the program are teachers of color and more than two-thirds teach in hard-to-staff subjects such as special education.
“Joining the Opportunity Schools program is helping me assemble a dynamic team of high-quality educators who are invested in the success of our students,” said Charles Anderson, Principal of Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School.“This additional support will help our school community be further defined by our dedicated educators, staff, families and community members who come together to provide the best possible education to our students.”
As part of the Opportunity Schools program, the district recruits and invests in highly-qualified educators by providing them with mentoring and professional development during the first year in their new position. Through the program, teachers are given an early offer and are matched with a school through a personalized onboarding process. After they are hired, each new teacher is paired with a veteran teacher who serves as a mentor. They also receive support from instructional coaches throughout the duration of their first year of teaching.
“The Opportunity Schools program has empowered me and provided me with support and training so I can give the best possible educational experience to my students,” said Marlon Henriquez, a Bilingual Education Kindergarten teacher at Pilsen Academy. “The mentoring I received through the program has helped me become a valued member of the Pilsen Academy community while giving me the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of my students.”
The 10 high schools joining the Opportunity Schools program for the 2019-20 school year are:
- Air Force Academy High School
- Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School
- Michele Clark Magnet High School
- George H. Corliss High School
- Edwin G. Foreman College and Career Academy
- Gage Park High School
- Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy
- Greater Lawndale High School for Social Justice
- Kelvyn Park High School
- Multicultural Academy of Scholarship
The Opportunity Schools program is part of a larger CPS initiative —Teach Chicago —to attract and retain high-quality, diverse teachers, particularly for the hardest-to-staff schools and in high-needs positions such as Special Education and Bilingual teaching. The CPS Talent Office has launched several key programs over the past two years to attract and retain the best, most diverse teacher workforce in the nation. In addition to Opportunity Schools, opportunities include teacher residency programs —in partnership with local colleges and universities — for those who would like to get into teaching after starting in other careers. Other initiatives include partnerships with educator preparation programs to help new teachers get ready for day one in the classroom, teacher leadership opportunities, and growing the teacher diversity pipeline.
Key philanthropic partners of Teach Chicago and Opportunity Schools include the Crown Family and the Joyce Foundation whose generous support helped the district to pilot and test the intensive retention strategies developed for leaders at Opportunity Schools, and to build a data platform to help inform policy and practice. To learn more about Teach Chicago, please visit www.cps.edu/teach
Chicago Public Schools serves 361,000 students in 644 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.