City will Use UChicago Urban Labs to Target Potential Dropouts in CPS

Orientation and summer programs will target students considered at risk of dropping out before reaching high school.

By Emily Kramer

On January 11, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson proposed two new programs focused on preparing incoming high school freshmen for social and academic success, both of which will be funded by recently imposed taxes.

UChicago Urban Labs is supporting these initiatives. Urban Labs seeks to address the various challenges facing urban areas today. These challenges include—but are not limited to—poverty, overpopulation, and crime.

“Urban Labs helps cities discover what works to improve lives,” said Kelly Hallberg, the scientific director for the Education Lab. “Our approach is informed by the insight that the persistence of many urban challenges, such as gun violence and poor educational outcomes for youth, is not the result of the lack of innovative approaches, but the lack of feedback about what works.”

In addition to offering a one-week orientation program to prepare the 20,000 incoming high school freshmen, CPS will provide summer programs for rising eighth graders. These summer programs will target students that both CPS and UChicago Urban Labs view as being at risk of dropping out before even reaching high school.

According to Hallberg, Urban Labs’ role will be to help identify these at-risk students, to work with the city and CPS in designing the summer program, and to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs and investments.

“In-depth high school orientation that focuses on both academics and social adjustments is critical in ensuring that all students who come through our doors are successful from day one,” Jackson said in a press release from the mayor’s press office.

Both CPS programs will begin this upcoming summer and will be funded by revenue from new tobacco taxes.

The city of Chicago plans on imposing a citywide tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars starting later this year, the revenue from which will be entirely directed toward funding these programs.

“This ordinance is a win-win,” Emanuel said in the press release. “It not only invests in the education of our youth, but works to prevent them from ever picking up smoking.”

Emanuel stated that these programs and investments will allow CPS to attain a graduation rate of 85 percent by 2019, 15.1 percent above the 2015 graduation rate.

“Our students, teachers and schools are making great progress every day in our classrooms, and we are pleased that this new investment will allow us to continue building on the success we have already seen,” Jackson said.