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Record number of CPS students graduating with college, career credentials

Sun-Times file photo

The number of Chicago Public Schools graduates leaving high school with early college and career credentials has hit a record level, district officials said Friday.

CPS said 46.6 percent of students graduating in 2018 earned such credits, up from 43.4 percent last year. The figure represents a 50 percent increase from 2014, when less than a third of graduates had such credentials.

The majority of the growth came among African-American students, district officials said, although growth occurred among all racial groups. African American students earning credentials increased by 4.4 percentage points, while Hispanic students increased by 2 percentage points over 2017.

Provided by CPS
Provided by CPS

At a ribbon-cutting for new classrooms at Byrne Elementary School in Garfield Ridge Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the growth.

“We collectively set the goal and you can see the incredible growth. We’re nearly at our mark,” Emanuel said. “One, they’re better prepared for college, and two, parents don’t have to pay for that credit; they can get it free.”

CPS noted that there were some schools where more than 90 percent of graduates earned credentials or credits. They included Devry, Walter Payton, Phoenix Military, Prosser, Instituto Health, Legal Prep, Jones, Kenwood and Marine Leadership.

“Every year, our students earn more college and career credentials, proving that high school graduation is not the goal but rather a stepping stone to success at the college or career of their choice,” district CEO Janice Jackson said. “… Students are gaining a head start on their postsecondary education and gaining the confidence and skills they need to succeed after high school.”

Emanuel also touted achievements in the district’s math and reading scores on standardized tests, which were announced earlier this week. A record of 56.6 percent of students met or exceeded the national average in math scores, and 61.4 exceeded the average in reading scores on the 2017-18 NWEA MAP assessment. However, the gains were slight, as math scores increased by .7 percentage points and reading scores remained unchanged from 2017.

Last year, CPS announced new graduation requirements for the class of 2020 that will make “having a plan for post-secondary success” a graduation requirement. In order to graduate, students will be required to present a letter of acceptance from a four-year college; a community college; the military; or a trade.

“Early College programs are helping Chicago students accelerate their path to a college degree or certificate, saving them time and money, and proving to themselves and others that they can succeed in college,” City College of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado said.

In 2018, the State Seal of Biliteracy was added to the list of recognized early college and career credentials. The seal, established by state law in 2014, becomes part of a graduate’s transcript or diploma after they demonstrate proficiency in English and another language by earning a 4 or higher on an AP exam. Earned credentials include Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, STEMP, and Career and Technical Education courses.

A breakdown of the earned credits:

AP: 5,640 students at a total of 107 CPS high schools earned credits.

International Baccalaureate (IB): 1,442 students earned credits on IB exams, which is more than double the number of students who graduated with credit in 2014. The district has the largest network of IB schools in the nation, and enrollment in IB programs has quadrupled over the past five years.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): 1,550 students earned an industry certification, which includes technical programs tailored to specific careers.

Dual Credit: 2,956 students earned college credit through a dual credit course.

Dual Enrollment: 1,644 students earned college credit through a dual enrollment course.

JROTC: 999 students earned a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps credential.

Seal of Biliteracy: 1,984 students earned the State Seal of Biliteracy.