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Chicago Public Schools Celebrates Historic Graduation Rates, Early College Credits Earned, More than $2 Billion in Scholarships

31 October 2023

Dyett High School Hosts Celebration as Federal, City, and District Leadership Celebrate Progress and Community Partnerships

CPS Office of Communications

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CHICAGO–U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona, Mayor Brandon Johnson, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez Tuesday celebrated the District’s progress in preparing more students for success in college and careers with record-breaking graduation rates, growing participation in Early College and Career Education programming and more than $2 billion in college scholarships awarded last year alone. The celebration at Walter Henri Dyett High School for the Arts emphasized collaboration with private, public, non-profit, and higher education partners across the city that are equipping CPS graduates with the knowledge as well as the skills and experiences to soar in their post-secondary lives.

“I applaud Chicago Public Schools, CEO Martinez, and the dedicated educators for their relentless efforts to Raise the Bar for academic achievement and create new systems of support for students’ social and emotional wellbeing,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The exciting results and improved outcomes we see here demonstrate the effective use of the American Rescue Plan dollars and are promising signs for the future of education in Chicago as it emerges from the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.”

Several Class of 2023 alums joined Tuesday’s celebration, highlighting how the District helped them find success in college and the workplace through specific high school pathways and programming and strong community partners like the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Bright Star Community Outreach, which have both supported Dyett High School’s climate and culture. KOCO provides mentorship and restorative justice programming and other initiatives that elevate student voice and engagement.

“Our CPS graduates reflect the best of our city. Through collaboration with our teachers and community partners, nearly half our graduates are leaving CPS with more than a high school diploma,” said Mayor Johnson. “They challenged themselves, going above and beyond by earning college credits in high school, better preparing themselves for the rigor of college - and saving on the extraordinary expense of a college education.”

The Class of 2023 achieved an 84 percent graduation rate, setting a record at CPS, surpassing the Class of 2022 achievement of 82 percent, and continuing an upward trend; the CPS graduation rate was 59 percent just a decade ago, in 2013.

“We have made intentional investments in addressing our student's needs as individuals and now we see CPS students taking advantage of these opportunities,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “They are graduating at a record pace with scholarships and college credits and have developed tools that will help propel them toward a successful future.”

The Class of 2023 collectively earned more than two billion dollars in scholarships, the highest amount ever awarded to a CPS class since 2013. Fourteen schools reported earning scholarships totaling $20 million or more. CPS graduates are attending higher education powerhouses like Stanford, Harvard, Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, Michigan, and institutions around the world.

Early College Attainment
Exposing students to advanced coursework has become a cornerstone of the District’s approach to ensuring they are prepared to succeed after high school graduation. The Office of College and Career Success (OCCS) continuously promotes social and economic mobility for students by creating opportunities for CPS students to explore career paths. These efforts include the Early College and Career Education (ECCE) which provides students with access and additional support for students to take advantage of college-level courses while earning their high school diplomas.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the Class of 2023 graduates earned Early College Credits through the Early College Programs, a five percent increase from the previous school year. This includes a three-and-a-half percent increase among Black students and a three-and-a-half percent increase for LatinX students earning college credits simultaneously to their high school diploma. These alums were all freshmen during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and through their hard work and tenacity, earned 124,888 in college credit hours, saving an estimated $18.2 million in tuition expenses.

“My career and technical education classes were some of my favorites in high school because they were so fun and hands-on, and my teacher showed me that they could lead to a future career,” said Miriam Ibarra, who graduated from Prosser Career Academy and now works at Gurtz Electric Co. “In high school, I was exposed to all of the different pathways I could pursue as an electrician, and that helped me get to where I am now.”

More than 25 percent of the Class of 2023 students participated in college-level classes, earning college credits in the Advanced Placement (AP) program. These college freshman-level courses in subjects including English, History and Social Sciences, Math, and Computer Science, among others, allow students to attain college credits that can be applied to their General Education requirements at most colleges or universities.

Through the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) and The Chicago Roadmap initiative approximately 18 percent of these graduates took college-level courses at their high schools through the District’s Dual Credit partnership. Dual credit courses count towards CPS high school graduation and meet the same standards as those taken at a CCC campus taught by CCC-qualified CPS teachers.

“Participating in my school’s Early College Program allowed me to take college-level courses at Daley College and ultimately earn my associate degree with my high school diploma,” said Zaid Orduño, a member of the Class of 2023 at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy. “This made me feel amazing and has prepared me to succeed as a civil engineering major at Illinois Tech.”

Eight percent of our Class of 2023 graduates stepped onto a college campus to participate in the CPS Dual Enrollment Program. CPS juniors and seniors stepped outside of their high schools and enrolled in college courses at one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). These high school students persevered and simultaneously met the expectations of their college professors and high school teachers.

More than 11 percent of these graduates earned the Illinois Seal of Biliteracy which is awarded to students who have attained proficiency in two more languages before their high school graduation. That’s a three percent increase from last year which reflects the District’s intentional investment in bilingual and dual-language programs. Dual language programming provides instruction in both English and Spanish, ensuring students are bi-literate and bilingual in both languages.

“I grew up not always understanding English, so earning the State Seal of Biliteracy for my bilingualism in English and Spanish showed me how far I have come,” said Orali Nicasio, a current freshman at DePaul University and graduate of Curie High School. “I know that this ‘official’ symbol of my bilingualism will bring me so many opportunities in the future.”

District students learn of the various early college and career programs through initiatives like Learn.Plan.Succeed and expanded partnerships built through the Chicago Roadmap which are all used to provide students with the opportunity to explore a variety of careers and develop a plan for their future.

In March of 2019, the District embarked on a Five-Year Vision to build on years of growing success. However, the District's goals and objectives like so many others were interrupted by COVID-19. As we reemerged CPS launched the Three-Year Blueprint which focuses on Academic Progress, Operational Excellence and Building Trust.

By maximizing our investments the historic success of the Class of 2023 demonstrates the value of these focused efforts, ultimately driving student achievement and growth. Through the Equity Framework CPS works to ensure these resources and opportunities meet the unique needs of every school. We continue our work to acknowledge and eliminate existing opportunity gaps and are focused on several Core Values to guide our daily practices and long-term goals. The District’s focus is student-centered and aims to support the whole child while striving for academic excellence through community partnerships and continuous learning. CPS has worked to ensure students are taught in reasonable class sizes, and have access to intervention supports and the arts. Our schools are able to prioritize their communities' individual needs providing the students the individual support needed to succeed.

The District’s historic graduation rates, college credits earned, and scholarship dollars awarded are a direct result of the District’s investments to directly support our students and the wrap-around services provided by community partners like KOCO as well as Bright Star Community Outreach, both making a difference at Dyett High School.

“They make an impact every day and I’m so grateful for them,” said Dyett Principal Dori Butler. “They’re equipping our students as well as our adults to restore and repair relationships as we move forward as a school community.”

The District’s efforts to prioritize our students continue to ensure their ultimate success. As of October 2023 more than 87 percent of our freshmen are currently on track to graduate in four years, a testament to a system and city that is working together.

“It’s important to note our system and students are not moving forward alone. Our District and schools leverage partnerships with local and national businesses, public and non-profit organizations and university partners to support our amazing scholars,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova. “We remain grateful for all our partners and committed to welcoming more champions as we work together to help all students create their own path and reach their full potential.”