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New six-year tech high schools in Chicago to offer associate degrees

Chicago Vocational High School 2100 E. 87th Street will become one several new high schools this fall thwill specialize tech

Chicago Vocational High School, 2100 E. 87th Street, will become one of several new high schools this fall that will specialize in tech training and wil offer students an associate's degree after six years. | John H White photo

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The five high-tech high schools

1. Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland (400 students)

2. Corliss, 821 E. 83rd (115 to 135 students)

3. Michele Clark, 5101 W. Harrison (160 to 175 students )

4. Chicago Vocational Career Academy, 2100 E. 87th
(150 students)

5. The fifth school, masterminded by IBM, will be at the new southwest area high school under construction at 7651 S. Homan. It will have a freshman class of 230 students.

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Updated: April 1, 2012 8:11AM

Five technology giants will join forces with Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges to open six-year public high schools that allow students to graduate with an associate’s degree and the expertise they need to qualify for high-tech jobs.

IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Verizon will develop curricula, mentor students, provide summer internships and guarantee every student who completes the program a “first-in-line” job interview after graduation.

“We want to hire them all. All they need to do is be able to successfully complete a curriculum through Grade 9 to 14 that’s gonna be their ticket to a good-paying job and to the middle class,” said Stanley Litow, IBM’s vice-president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the five “STEM” high schools — an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and math — will help students learn under the guidance of some of the fastest-growing technology corporations in the world.

“They have a shortage of workers. We have a student population ready to fill those jobs if they have the educational opportunity to do it,” the mayor said.

“I love this cooperation between CPS and the Chicago community colleges and the other four-year institutions that will be stepping up to give the children of Chicago a chance at this education.”

The mayor said it’s fitting that the new tier of six-year high schools was being created “the very week” that letters are going out to parents about high school acceptance.

“We are adding a level of high school seats in our city of educational excellence in the fields that will be essential. … The skills you learn in a STEM education are gonna be the foundation of your employment opportunity in the future,” the mayor said

The five new high schools will open to roughly 1,090 freshmen this fall at: Lake View H.S., 4015 N. Ashland (400 students); Corliss H.S., 821 E. 83rd (115 to 135 students); Michele Clark H.S., 5101 W. Harrison (160 to 175) and Chicago Vocational Career Academy, 2100 E. 87th (150 students). The fifth school, masterminded by IBM, will be located at the new southwest area high school under construction at 7651 S. Homan. It will have a freshman class of 230 students.

The new schools will be modeled after an IBM-shaped and bankrolled high school in Brooklyn that opened last fall and allows its students to attend grades 9-14 and graduate with an associate’s degree in computer sciences.

“Right now, it has the highest attendance of any high school in the city of New York — including schools that have exams to get in,” Litow said.

“That demonstrates that, if you do something significant and important, it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you do it in. It doesn’t matter what the student population is. The kids will rise to the top.” Last fall, IBM awarded a $400,000 “challenge grant” to the Chicago Public Schools and used it to develop a “playbook” for the five high-tech high schools — and more, if Emanuel can round up more corporate and educational partners.

The demand is there. Already, Chicago Tech Academy, a CPS high school which is partnering with Microsoft and other companies, received 2,000 applicants for 150 spots in the school’s next freshman class, which was chosen by lottery last week, a school spokesman said.

The mayor on Tuesday refused to say what would happen if there are more applicants than openings for the first freshman classes for the new high schools. He would only say, “That’s a better problem than the one you’ve got now” and that all five areas in the city would get one of the six- year high schools.

“My first job is to create an opportunity that had not existed for the children of Chicago. …You’re gonna have five new high schools — five partnerships that never existed before,” Emanuel said.

“I got there was politics” in the selective enrollment process in the past, he said. “It doesn’t mean there’s gonna be politics in the future. I also got there was a politics of denying an opportunity.”

CPS officials later explained that there would be “no selective admissions criteria” for the five new high schools.

Clark is a magnet with an admissions process that has already closed. Lake View and Corliss are neighborhood schools with enrollment boundaries. Boundaries have not yet been established for the new Southwest Area high school, but there will be a preference for neighborhood students. CVCA also has a preference for neighborhood students.

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