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CPS to Increase Access for Diverse Learners at Selective Enrollment High Schools as Part of Long-Term High School Strategy

14 December 2020

Selective Enrollment Schools Will Provide Offers to Diverse Learners Proportionate to the District Average (over 14 percent) and Receive District Support; District Launches ‘High School Strategy’ a Vision-Aligned Roadmap for Improving Opportunities and Outcomes for CPS High School Students 

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CHICAGO - Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today launched the CPS High School Strategy - a comprehensive roadmap that builds upon the district’s 5-Year Vision by outlining specific strategies, goals and commitments to increase opportunities, outcomes, and support for high school students and schools to achieve critical benchmarks by 2024. As part of the High School Strategy, the district is launching a new initiative to provide additional resources and support to significantly increase the number of diverse learners who attend selective enrollment high schools. In the 2020-21 school year, approximately 6 percent of students enrolled in selective enrollment high schools are diverse learners while 14.6 percent of CPS students are diverse learners. Through this initiative, selective enrollment high schools will provide offers to incoming freshmen for the 2021-2022 school year that are proportionate to the 14.6 percent of district students who have special education needs. 

"All of our students, regardless of their circumstances, deserve access to high-quality instruction along every step of their academic careers," said Mayor Lightfoot. "The High School Strategy will not only help to turn this goal into a reality, but it will also give our diverse learners opportunities to join and engage in academic spaces they have been shut out of for far too long. I look forward to working closely with CPS to fully implement this roadmap in the upcoming school year and further build on our citywide commitment to educational equity."

“The High School Strategy builds upon the pillars of equity, investment and values in the District’s 5-Year Vision in order to provide schools with targeted support and strategies to increase opportunities and improve outcomes,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “While we are proud of the district’s success in recent years, which has resulted in more of our students graduating high school and enrolling in college, we must also see progress in core instructional areas, such as math and English in order to continue our record-breaking progress and we must aggressively strive for more equitable access to high-quality programming. The challenges presented by COVID-19 require us to do everything in our power to continue improving our schools, and the High School Strategy provides a roadmap for schools to improve in core areas that are fundamental to long term student success.”

Increasing Equity and Representation at Selective Enrollment Schools 

While 14.6 percent of Chicago Public Schools’ students are diverse learners, the average percentage of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) enrolled at selective enrollment high schools is only 6 percent. In order to provide additional opportunities for diverse learners and ensure that selective enrollment high schools are structured to effectively support diverse learners, the district will require that selective enrollment high schools offer 14.6 percent of their incoming freshman seats to students with IEPs bringing the total number of offers provided to students with IEPs from 184 for the 2020-21 school year to a goal of approximately 500 for the 2021-22 school year, depending upon the total number of selective enrollment offers made this year.

“All students benefit from inclusive, diverse learning environments, and increasing diverse learner enrollment at our school will benefit everyone,” said Vanessa Puentes Hernandez, Principal of Hancock College Preparatory High School. “By working with the district to ensure our school has the necessary support to allow a larger group of diverse learners to thrive, our school will grow even stronger in the years to come.”

To ensure schools can successfully support their diverse learners, the district has formed a student support task force composed of district subject matter experts who will support principals through key implementation steps, such as providing scheduling support, parent engagement, programming and planning support. In order to ensure selective enrollment high schools have the support and resources needed to significantly increase the number of diverse learners it welcomes, each school will develop an implementation plan, which will outline what resources and structures will be needed to create a welcoming environment where all students are supported and can succeed. Examples of potential resources available to schools include positions, programming support, academic supports and accessibility resources. 

“The district is committed to providing selective enrollment high schools with the additional support and resources needed to create welcoming and positive learning environments in order to equitably serve diverse learners,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “Expanding selective enrollment access for diverse learners is a matter of equity, and by increasing access to high-quality schools for our diverse learners, we are enhancing the educational experience for the entire school community by creating a more diverse and inclusive school environment.” 

To ensure as many students as possible are able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by selective enrollment high schools, the district will no longer use minimum cut scores to determine student offers. Offers for all students will continue to be made based on each student’s qualifications — with 14.6 percent of seats held for diverse learners — but there will no longer be a minimum cut score to determine placement. All students must still meet the minimum NWEA eligibility requirement to apply.

The GoCPS deadline to apply to high schools is January 8 and all students will have the opportunity to take the selective enrollment exam in January or February to be considered for admissions.

High School Strategy: Equity-Focused Roadmap for Long-Term Progress  

In order to lay the groundwork for sustained, long term progress for high school students, the district created the High School Strategy, which includes  $5 million in additional resources for schools as well as specific strategies and benchmarks for success by 2024. 

Through the High School Strategy, the district is working to empower schools so that all students who enter our doors leave with a strong postsecondary plan and share a common profile for success. The goal of the High School Strategy is to help students become graduates who are:

  • Inquisitive Learners who possess the knowledge, skills, and confidence to successfully pursue personal, professional, and civic goals.
  • Ethical and Collaborative Leaders who demonstrate a commitment to the growth and development of themselves and others, consider multiple perspectives when making decisions, and are willing to speak boldly, take on challenges, and step up for the betterment of others.  
  • Engaged Community Members who work in pursuit of the common good, imagine new possibilities, and take justice-oriented actions aimed at strengthening our communities and our democracy.
  • Empowered Decision Makers who reflect on personal strengths and interests to shape their paths, actively seek out information and resources, respect others’ opinions, and are creative and visionary in setting and achieving goals.
  • Adaptable and Independent Thinkers who cultivate a sense of self in order to persevere through challenges, take ownership and responsibility for actions, remain flexible in changing circumstances, and critically analyze and synthesize information to thoughtfully question or challenge harmful ideas or systems.

To move this work forward, the district is focusing on a set of key initiatives that are proven to advance student success. These initiatives include: 

Promoting Equity and Expanding Access to Advanced Math Through the Early High School Math Initiative: A key component of the High School Strategy is ensuring that all students are able to make the most of their time in high school and leave with the strongest possible background for postsecondary success. In order to do that, we have to ensure that all students in elementary school have access to the courses that meet their needs and abilities. Until now, many elementary school students who qualify for algebra have been unable to enroll in algebra until high school due to a shortage of elementary teachers who are certified to teach the course. Through the district’s new Early High School Math Initiative, which is leveraging innovations pioneered during the COVID-19 pandemic, CPS is working to aggressively expand access to algebra at the elementary level so that all students — regardless of where they attend elementary school — can enter high school with the strongest possible background in mathematics. 

By 2023-24, CPS will offer at least one algebra course to every elementary school to ensure all students who qualify for algebra in elementary school can enter high school having taken the course. Although the district is working aggressively to staff high-needs subjects at high-needs schools, students who are nearing the end of elementary school do not have the luxury of time and need to be supported now. To make that a reality, the district launched the first Early High School Algebra courses this year, which currently provide remote algebra instruction for more than 500 students from 80 elementary schools that do not currently offer algebra. The year-long classes, which are led by certified CPS teachers, were launched at the beginning of this school year and predominantly serve Black (62 percent) and Latinx (33 percent) students. While remote learning has not been successful for many students, this effort represents a unique instance in which it has created an opportunity to greatly expand access to much-needed advanced instruction. As the district works to bolster staffing in all schools, we will continue to offer remote elementary algebra courses for students who would not otherwise have access to algebra so that they can be better prepared for success when they begin high school.

Through the Early High School Math Initiative, CPS will increase the number of 8th graders successfully completing high school algebra to 6,000 students in 2023-24 from the 3,800 8th graders who successfully completed high school algebra in the first year of the district’s five-year vision

Key Stats:

  • 58 percent of elementary schools offer algebra to 8th graders
  • 81 percent of eligible 8th graders attend a school that offers algebra
  • 30 percent of 8th graders meet algebra eligibility criterion

Increasing Access to Rigorous College-Level Coursework: Chicago Public Schools has one of the largest and most robust Advanced Placement (AP) programs in the nation and is the only district of any size to be named the AP District of the Year more than one time for its achievements in expanding access and improving outcomes. As part of the High School Strategy, the district is increasing equitable access to AP for Black and Latinx students. This will be accomplished in part by expanding the AP Capstone Program, a two-year diploma program that guides students to complete an original, college-level research paper and oral defense. As part of the High School Strategy, CPS will increase the number of AP Capstone campuses from the 12 campuses in place in 2017-18 to 30 campuses by the 2023-24 school year, with an intentional focus on neighborhood high school campuses.  

Over the next four years, CPS will expand professional learning opportunities to increase the number of high schools with a teacher certified to teach AP Capstone courses, which includes the opportunity to participate in AP Summer Institutes that are held at Loyola University Chicago, in addition to ongoing professional development provided by the district. Over the next three summers, the district plans to train up to 40 additional AP Capstone teachers to support this expansion.

Providing Students a Seamless Path to Higher Education Through the Chicago Roadmap: Many of the initiatives outlined in the High School Strategy are also part of the Chicago Roadmap, a comprehensive plan introduced earlier this year by CPS and City Colleges of Chicago intended to double the rate at which CPS graduates who matriculate to City Colleges earn a college degree. Over the next four years, CPS and City Colleges will work hand-in-hand to ensure CPS students are well prepared for college and that students who enroll in City Colleges will have a seamless education pathway from high school through college. By ensuring students leave high school positioned for success and are guided through their postsecondary studies, the Chicago Roadmap will establish the most cohesive system between any K-12 and community college system in the country.

As part of the Roadmap, CPS will work with City Colleges over the next four years to develop dual credit pathways in health sciences, advanced manufacturing engineering, and information technology, to build on existing dual credit opportunities for students. By 2023-24, the district plans for 800 students to graduate from high school with at least a full semester of college credit, and at least 100 high schools will offer dual credit courses enrolling more than 6,000 students

Chicago Public Schools serves 341,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.