Emanuel moving to remedy defect in his new high school graduation requirement

SHARE Emanuel moving to remedy defect in his new high school graduation requirement

Staff from City Colleges of Chicago, which include Wright College (shown) will help Chicago Public Schools students fulfill a crucial requirement for earning a diploma: coming up with a plan for what they’re going to do after graduation. | Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving to remedy a key defect of his new graduation requirement for students at Chicago Public high schools: a shortage of guidance counselors to help students develop the required “plan for post-secondary success.”

Addressing students at Monday’s Mikva Challenge MLK Youth Summit, Emanuel said the key to alleviating that shortage lies in forging an even stronger partnership between CPS and the City Colleges of Chicago.

“If Amy and I and our three kids need support as they plan for their education, we can do that. But, that’s not true for everybody. It’s essential, then, that CPS and the city step in and ensure that every child has that plan because … you cannot be reckless or careless with that future. We have to help you plan for that,” the mayor said.

With newly appointed Schools CEO Janice Jackson at his side, Emanuel said: “Later this week, Janice and I and [City Colleges Chancellor] Juan Salgado will be laying out a plan on how to ensure that, not just some kids, but every child has the support they need to do that.”

Last spring, Emanuel announced that, starting with the current freshman class, CPS will make “having a plan for post-secondary success” a graduation requirement.

That means in order to graduate, members of the Class of 2020 and beyond must present a letter of acceptance from: a four-year college; a community college; the military; or a trade. Without a “post-high school education plan,” they won’t graduate.

Jackson acknowledged on that day that guidance counselors would need additional training in college counseling. But she did not explain when, where and how they would get it. Nor did she say whether new counselors would be hired.

Those lingering questions opened the door for Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to warn that the new graduation requirement would place an additional burden on guidance counselors whose caseloads had already increased exponentially thanks to several years of punishing budget cuts.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the new graduation requirement last year at Malcolm X College. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the new graduation requirement last year at Malcolm X College. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

On Monday, Jackson accompanied the mayor to the Mikva Challenge Youth Summit. She was asked to explain how the City Colleges would fill the void.

“All of our schools have counselors. That’s part of the collective bargaining agreement. [But] when the mayor met with his students on the Mikva Mayoral Council, one of the things they said to him was that some schools need additional support,” Jackson said.

“So, we’re gonna be working with City Colleges to put more support in schools that need more support with counseling kids.”

Jackson was asked whether the influx of City Colleges personnel would be employees, students or both.

“I can’t get ahead of the announcement,” she said.

Also on Monday, Jackson responded to last week’s raucous public hearing on her plan to close Englewood’s remaining neighborhood high schools — Harper, Hope, Robeson and TEAM Englewood — to make way for a new high school.

Jackson was asked whether it is written in stone that none of the students currently attending the four, soon-to-be-shuttered high schools will have the benefit of attending the new high school.

Instead, the plan calls for the new $85 million high school to open to freshmen in the fall of 2019 and add another class of freshmen in each of the following three years, ultimately serving 1,200 students.

“Our model at CPS is to open schools starting with the 9th grade. As an educator, I know that’s the best way to develop — not only the culture in the school, but also to ensure that kids have the right course sequence. You can’t just throw kids in from out of the school and expect everybody to graduate and have all of their credits,” Jackson said.

“The plan we put forth on December 1st is the plan CPS is trying to push forward. But, part of the community meetings is to hear directly from people. We’re hearing from people who think it’s a good plan. But we’re also hearing from people who want to see some change. … We will listen to the community and make the best decision for kids.”

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