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Rahm Emanuel to middle class: Don’t leave for better schools

Mayor Rahm Emanuel  |  Sun-Times files

Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Sun-Times files

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Updated: April 26, 2012 8:22AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a message to the middle class: Don’t leave my city in pursuit of a high quality, high school education for your kids.

The message accompanied a promise, issued during an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday — the same day the mayor announced he was doubling the size of an International Baccalaureate diploma program in the Chicago Public Schools. A recent study deemed the program extremely successful in preparing neighborhood high school students for college.

“Don’t head for the doors when your kid’s in fifth grade or sixth grade — for the suburbs — because the city of Chicago is going to give you a high-quality life with a high-quality education for your children,” said Emanuel, speaking in his office and flanked by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

“That’s our commitment to the families of the city of Chicago. And we’re well on our way to starting to put that down payment down,” he said.

Emanuel, who inherited a school system on which his predecessor Mayor Richard M. Daley left his own mark, outlined his vision for public education: a focus on expanding access to quality high school options beyond the hard-fought for but limited selective enrollment seats.

Those nine elite public high schools — created by Daley in part to keep the middle class from bailing out of the system after eighth grade — this year alone drew 14,284 applicants for 3,200 seats.

And CPS data recently obtained by the Sun-Times indicated that at the most elite of the system’s selective-enrollment high schools, it took near perfect scores and perfect grades for eighth-graders to win admission.

Key initiatives in the last few months have been part of his larger vision, Emanuel said. Those initiatives include the 10 new International Baccalaureate programs announced Friday; the five new Early College STEM schools emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math announced in February, and the announcement in December of the planned opening of two new charter schools by the ballyhooed Noble Schools Network each year over the next three years.

Under Emanuel’s plan, five neighborhood high schools devoted exclusively to the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum — touted by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research for producing “dramatic” results — will come online in the fall of 2013, one in each of the city’s high school regions, and will accept all comers. An additional five schools — also in each zone — will offer the program alongside traditional curriculums, but unlike the neighborhood IBschools, they will have IB admission requirements.

In the new Early College STEM schools, five technology giants have joined forces with CPS and City Colleges to open six-year public high schools allowing students to graduate with an associate’s degree and the expertise to qualify for high-tech jobs. The schools will open to roughly 1,090 freshmen this fall, with no selective admissions criteria.

Finally, Noble, the only charter franchise last year to produce higher test scores than the Chicago average at each of its campuses and trumpeted by Emanuel, has been granted two new charters each year through 2014. Noble picks its students by lottery.

“To all those parents who are standing in line at the selective enrollment or other choices, there’s going to be more choices for you,” Emanuel said. “And when I say choices, I mean across the spectrum. We’re going to have good, high-quality high schools that are going to prepare your kids, whether they’re going to junior college, the armed forces or four-year institutions. Your child’s education and your child’s opportunity at a good-quality high school education just improved.”

The Chicago Teachers Union did not respond to a request for comment on the mayor’s plans.



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