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Clemente latest high school to adopt International Baccalaureate program


Updated: June 21, 2012 7:18PM

Clemente Community Academy High School in Humboldt Park will become Chicago’s third public high school devoted exclusively to the rigorous International Baccalaureate diploma program tailor-made to prepare students for college.

Clemente joins Senn High School and the new Back of the Yards High School, scheduled to open in 2013, as the only “wall-to-wall” IB high schools in the Chicago Public Schools.

Two more are scheduled to be announced in the coming weeks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement at the high school at 1147 N. Western that’s named for former Pittsburgh Pirates superstar and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. Clemente currently has a student body of 1,500.

“Every student in every neighborhood in Chicago should have access to a high-quality education, and Roberto Clemente’s adoption of the rigorous IB program is another step towards that goal,” the mayor said. “Chicago’s students deserve every opportunity to excel, and we’ve seen time and time again, when you set the bar high, they rise to meet that challenge.”

For months, Emanuel has been working to provide high-caliber high school choices in an effort to keep middle-class families from fleeing to the suburbs.

In late February, the mayor disclosed that five technology giants would join forces with CPS and the City Colleges to offer a six-year program that would allow high school students to graduate with an associate’s degree and have the skills needed for jobs in the high-tech sector.

The following month, he announced plans to double the size of the city’s international baccalaureate program and devote five neighborhood schools exclusively to that program to prepare 3,500 more students for college.

The mayor subsequently announced that DePaul would join forces with Microsoft to help Lake View H.S. make the conversion to one of five so-called STEM high schools specializing in science, technology, engineering and math and that Loyola University would help Senn H.S. make the leap to one of five wall-to-wall IB-only high schools.

Earlier this month, the mayor said the new Back of the Yards High, set to open to 1,200 students in the fall of 2013 at 2111 W. 47th St., would become the second all-IB high school. The Chicago IB program that’s been stuck in place since 1995 selects students based on several factors and weeds out those unlikely to succeed. That will not be the case for the five new exclusive IB schools.

“The current programs within schools have a filter. … There is an interview. You look at the ISAT scores, teacher grades, etc. The wall-to-wall schools will accept any student in the neighborhood who wants to make a commitment to the program. … The wall-to-walls will not look to filter students out,” schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard told reporters earlier this year.

The decision to take all comers does not sit well with some IB specialists, including Sharyl Barnes, beloved coordinator of the IB program at Curie High School, 4959 S. Archer.

During a Curie news conference earlier this year to announce the IB expansion, Barnes told reporters that the program that requires juniors and seniors to take seven university classes needs to weed out those who can’t cut it or risk setting kids up for failure and losing them when they do.

“We want them to be successful and we want students who are ready to work hard. … It’s six-to-seven hours of homework a night for juniors and seniors,” Barnes said.

“Any expansion needs to be well thought out.”

A study conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research showed that IB students are 40 percent more prepared to attend a four-year college and 50 percent more likely to get into a selective college. Roughly 90 percent of all IB students stay in college for at least two years, the study showed.

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