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CHICAGO TO UNDERTAKE $100 MILLION HIGH SCHOOL REFORM EFFORT: City Joins Movement Toward Standard Curriculum in High Schools

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"The challenge remains that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved in educating our children, some high schools continue to underperform," Daley said.

Future high school graduates from the nation’s third-largest school district will be better prepared for college and the workforce under a ten-year, $100 million initiative announced last month by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. At the heart of the initiative to revamp Chicago’s almost one hundred high schools is a plan to implement a core college-preparatory curriculum in English, mathematics, and science that is aligned with Illinois standards and college entrance requirements.

“The challenge remains that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved in educating our children, some high schools continue to underperform,” Daley said. “No major urban school system in America has yet developed the blueprint that fully addresses this challenge, [but] no system is working harder to improve our high schools than we are in Chicago.”

Daley said that reducing the district’s one-year dropout rate was one sign that the school system was making progress, but insisted that much more work was needed. “One dropout is too many-and 10,000 per year is an economic and social crisis that will cost us billions of dollars each year,” he said. “Let’s be honest: All of the poverty programs in the world will never match the impact of a quality education. This is the best investment we can make.”

According to an article in Education Week, Chicago’s efforts mirror reforms already underway in Boston and Philadelphia to standardize what is taught in high schools. In Boston, all high school students are enrolled in district-mandated courses in English, mathematics, science, and history. Philadelphia high school students are in their third year of a common high school curriculum in ten core subjects in grades nine through eleven.

As a first step in the initiative, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) issued a request for proposals for “comprehensive new high school English, mathematics, and science instructional support programs that will include learning materials, teacher training programs, and intensive classroom coaching.” CPS will invite fifteen high schools to join the new curriculum model each year, beginning in fall 2006. Under the initiative, high schools that opt in will be able to choose from two or three instructional models that are aligned to state standards and college expectations. Currently, high schools choose from dozens of curricula, few of which are properly aligned.

The reform effort will also include scorecards that track test scores at individual schools, student outcomes after graduation, teacher absence rates, and other factors. Scorecards for every school in the district will be published later this year, in time for students and parents to decide where to apply next year.

In order to more adequately prepare students for the rigors of the new high school curriculum, CPS is focusing more attention on developing and improving students’ critical thinking, independent learning, and writing in grades six through eight. The proposal would also use some of the lessons and structures from high schools in the middle grades. For example, it would “departmentalize and specialize” teachers, as they are in high school.

Mayor Daley’s announcement is available at http://www.cps.k12.il.us/AboutCPS/PressReleases/September_2005/hs_plan.htm.

 

Kentucky School District Receives $25 Million to Prepare Students for College 

The GE Foundation recently awarded a $25 million grant to the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) in Kentucky to improve math and science achievement, close the achievement gap, and increase the college-going rate among its students. The grant is part of the GE Foundation’s new national five-year, $100 million expansion of its successful College Bound program. Louisville is one of four pilot sites for the program.

“The world becomes more competitive every day,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “The need to strengthen education has never been more urgent, especially for disadvantaged and under-represented youth. The College Bound District Program is designed to help fill that need-using research to identify challenges, empower teachers, enrich curriculums, and elevate students.”

With the grant, JCPS will create a “district implementation team” composed of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, district staff, and broad-based community groups that will put standardized math and science curriculum into practice and use research to drive important decisions. As part of the grant, JCPS will work in collaboration with the local GE Consumer & Industrial business unit to bring in GE volunteers and individuals from the community who can share their skills and professional capacity with the schools.

“This generous College Bound grant from the GE Foundation will enable the community to refine our focus on student achievement,” said Dr. Stephen Daeschner, Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent. “In this global economy, the U.S. falls behind other industrialized countries in math and science. This grant will support our district, schools, and community to prepare our students for academic success.”

JCPS is made up of 150 schools and 97,000 students. The district’s college-going rate in 2004 was 69 percent. Only 38 percent of students scored at grade level or above in math and only 37 percent scored at grade level or above in science.

The complete press release is available at http://www.ge.com/foundation/grant_initiatives/education/collegebound_pr.html

 

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