April 24, 2015

UChicago partners with high schools to devise a new K-12 school system

The University of Chicago is collaborating with Amundsen and Lake View High Schools to develop a new K-12 school system. The goal of this initiative is to relieve students of some of the stresses that come with the selective enrollment high school process and enhance their families’ chances of staying in the city for high school and college.

The collaboration is made possible by UChicago Impact, which offers specific programs to help improve students’ academic performance on exams. One of its plans involves enforcing several programs within Grow-Community that focus on literacy for pre-K through third grade students in comprehension, fluency, and accuracy. They will use strategies that were deemed successful study guidelines from 20 years of research from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Forty-seventh Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, 40th Ward Alderman Pat O'Connor, and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney are a part of a group called Grow-Community, which aims to improve the educational system in Chicago by lobbying Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education. Emanuel says he is keen on providing students, parents, and teachers with the resources they need to improve their educations.

“Every parent and child in Chicago deserves to have a high-quality public school in their own neighborhood to help every student reach their full potential and through this innovative partnership, we will work together to achieve that goal. From principals to parents, city leaders to community leaders, we all have a role to play in the education of every child in Chicago. Through this collaboration we will identify what works so we can build on it to reinvigorate neighborhood schools in every part of our city,” Emanuel said in a statement.

“Thanks to decades of hard work by parents, teachers, and community members, Chicago has more excellent elementary schools than ever before. This partnership will catalyze a more aligned, challenging and cohesive educational experience for all types of learners,” Pawar said. 

UChicago Impact also works with the Urban Education Institute’s 6to16 college preparatory program, which handles students in sixth through 12th grade. This program focuses on preparing students and their families for college by assisting them with questions about potential financial aid, preparing them for the college admissions process, and ultimately matching them with schools that fit their needs academically and financially.

According to Grisel Maldonado, UChicago Impact Director of College Success, “The 6to16 curriculum helps students get on the path to college attainment by first guiding them through the development of their own college and life vision beginning in the 6th grade. The curriculum then assists students in building a path to achieve that vision through the development of high school, college and career knowledge, as well as the student success skills needed to be successful in college and beyond.... We plan to stay committed to providing this timely curriculum to Amundsen, Lake View, and any school system that is committed to preparing students for college success as early as sixth grade and up through 12th grade.”

Emanuel and CEO of UChicago Impact John Gasko will lead the development of the new K-12 system, along with the three aldermen, principals, teachers, parents, and community leaders.

“Everyone benefits when public schools excel and prepare students to succeed not only in high school, but also in college and beyond,” Gasko said.

Maldonado says that there are a few obstacles that the program must overcome but that he is confident that it will be successful. “Although the Chicago Public Schools have come a long way in college attainment ever since the groundbreaking Freshman On-Track research, our current CPS 14 percent college graduation rate is still far from where it should be and can be. 6to16 was developed to meet the needs of schools in Chicago, and nationwide, that are fighting the potholes on the road to college. Our aim is to continue using innovative new research to support schools in preparing students for college success,” Maldonado wrote in an e-mail. 

Seong-Ah Cho, Associate Director for Communications and Media Relations for the University of Chicago‘s Urban Education Institute, says that more concrete project details will be released at a later date.