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City tapping tech to track after-school activities for CPS

MarBurdette12 practices Chicago School Rock AshlAvenue where she takes class after school Blaine Elementary. The program is not affiliated with

Marin Burdette,12, practices at Chicago School of Rock on Ashland Avenue, where she takes a class after school at Blaine Elementary. The program is not affiliated with CPS. | Michael R. Schmidt-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 4, 2013 6:02AM



The city wants to use its technology prowess to improve parents’ access to the scattered after-school programs available.

The Chicago Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Cooperative, as one example, counts more than 500 groups running 2,032 out-of-school STEM programs. The city is in the process of creating a Web portal, ChicagoYouthOpportunities.org, to give parents and older students links to the websites of major city agencies and nonprofit organizations that run after-school programs, said Beth Swanson, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for education. The link is expected to be live this fall.

There also are many after-school activities run by private businesses, such as martial arts classes and music lessons, but those will not be included in the city’s compilation of programs.

The city has met with its partner agencies and more than 100 nonprofits to figure out how summertime and after-school activities can be coordinated with Chicago Public Schools, city libraries and the Chicago Park District, Swanson said.

For example, a nonprofit that offers after-school STEM programs could provide activities in elementary and middle schools that feed the city’s five STEM-focused high schools, giving students logically progressive experiences, she said.

To figure out what programs are needed and where, the city for the first time this summer tracked students who earned digital badges for participating in the Chicago Summer of Learning Initiative. “We can see students as they collect a virtual backpack of badges from programs sponsored by private and public institutions,” Swanson said.

The goal is to coordinate summer and after-school activities, and let parents sign up their children with a few mouse clicks. “We want the city to be more strategic in allocating its resources and programs, be able to see gaps or duplication of services and, eventually, learn what works and what doesn’t,” Swanson said.

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