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CPS Joins Initiative to Close the Participation Gap in College-Level Courses

26 October 2017

New Partnership Will Encourage More Low Income and Minority Students to Enroll in AP and IB College-Prep Courses

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

CHICAGO - Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools announced today that CPS is joining the Lead Higher Initiative, an innovative partnership with the national nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools to close the racial and socioeconomic participation gap in rigorous college courses. Launching at six CPS high schools, this program will help ensure that all students have access to the most rigorous classes, as well as move CPS closer to Mayor Emanuel’s ambitious goal that 50 percent of CPS students graduate with at least one early college or career credential by 2019.

“Every year since 2011, CPS has expanded access to IB, AP, STEM and dual credit and dual enrollment for its students,” said Mayor Emanuel. “In partnering with Equal Opportunity Schools on the Lead Higher Initiative, we are moving even closer to closing the racial and socioeconomic participation gap to ensure all students have access to the most rigorous classes.”

Through this initiative, each participating school will work with EOS to conduct a data analysis of the equality landscape at their school to help define the root causes of participation gaps. After the initial evaluation, schools will develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing barriers to equitable participation, set enrollment goals and recruit students who could benefit from AP and IB coursework. Once enrolled in the courses, each student will have an individualized plan designed to ensure they are receiving the support they need to succeed.

“Rigorous coursework provides students with the opportunity to excel in high school and earn college credits, which makes a postsecondary degree more affordable and attainable,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. “We believe that working toward more equitable access and outcomes is a moral imperative and joining the Lead Higher Initiative is an important step toward fulfilling this vision.”

“CPS is a national leader in urban education, and that means looking inward, asking tough questions and working to give every student the same opportunities that I had,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “I’ve seen firsthand how extra encouragement and support can give a student the self-confidence they need to challenge themselves academically – and it can be life-changing. CPS is investing in this partnership because we believe this will change the life trajectory of many of our students and provide us with new insights that will inform innovative programming throughout the district.”

CPS’ Vision outlines its commitment and strategy for fostering equitable academic outcomes for all students. The Lead Higher Initiative will help the district realize its goals by increasing low income and minority student participation in rigorous courses, and helping 50 percent of CPS students graduate with at least one early college or career credential by 2019.

Lead Higher’s goal is for high schools to fully reflect their racial and economic diversity at the highest academic levels, and elevate the national conversation about low-income and students of color beyond achieving proficiency to a focus on academic excellence. Lead Higher’s initial district-wide data analysis found encouraging rates of AP and IB participation for low income and minority students compared to national rates, but also areas where CPS can grow.



National Average

Percent of 11th and 12th grade low income and students of color participating in AP/IB per school



Percent of 11th and 12th grade middle/upper income white and Asian students participating in AP/IB per school



Schools were chosen after a rigorous vetting process in which they demonstrated a strong focus on equality and robust supports to successfully carry out the program. Selected schools represent a variety of neighborhoods and school models to ensure we are closing the participation gap and gaining insight into barriers to participation at different types of schools.

The following schools will participate in the initiative:

  • Chicago Agricultural High School
  • Curie High School
  • King College Prep
  • Lake View High School
  • Mather High School
  • Morgan Park High School

The Lead Higher Initiative is funded through a grant from EOS and a matching financial commitment from CPS of $27,000 per school. The Chicago Board of Education approved this partnership at its August 2017 Board Meeting.

EOS has partnered with more than 350 high schools in 26 states to help over 33,000 students succeed in rigorous high school courses. Out of over 650 schools considered for Lead Higher, CPS’ schools are among 120 new schools selected for participation during the 2017-18 school year. The initiative is a national effort spearheaded by EOS, in collaboration with International Baccalaureate, the College Board and in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative launched by former President Barack Obama.

In recent years, CPS has established itself as a national leader in AP and IB attainment and participation. CPS is the first large urban district in the United States to be named to the AP Honor Roll for four consecutive years, an achievement that highlights districts with exemplary participation, growth, and pass rates on AP exams. CPS is also home to the nation’s largest IB network, with 46 schools (22 high schools and 24 elementary schools) serving more than 15,000 students enrolled in IB coursework citywide.

AP and IB have been critical drivers in helping prepare CPS students for the rigors of college and earn credits. Last year, more than 43 percent of CPS graduates earned one or more college or career credentials through IB, AP and other rigorous programs – representing a 39 percent increase since 2014.

Chicago Public Schools serves 371,000 students in 646 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.