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Students at 17 Chicago high schools to get chance to sharpen math, English skills

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an announcement about increasing educatiopportunities for CPS high school students Malcolm X College Chicago Monday December

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an announcement about increasing education opportunities for CPS high school students at Malcolm X College in Chicago on Monday, December 10, 2012. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: January 12, 2013 6:18AM

Students at 17 Chicago public high schools will get a chance to sharpen their math and English skills, earn college credits, and reduce their college tuition costs — without ever leaving their high school classrooms.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman are dramatically expanding the so-called “dual credit” program now open to 250 students at six CPS high schools.

Aimed at boosting college readiness, the program is currently confined to: Amundsen; Bronzeville Scholastic Academy; Infinity Math, Science and Technology; Benito Juarez; Wendell Phillips, and Rickover Naval Academy.

By Spring 2013, the program will include: Foreman; Taft; Clemente; Curie; Daniel Hale Williams; Hancock; Harper; Hyde Park; Julian; Roosevelt, and Sullivan high schools.

That’s in addition to the fast-growing “dual enrollment program” that has allowed 374 CPS students to take college-level courses at Chicago’s seven City Colleges.

“The sooner you demystify college, the better [off] you’re gonna be,” Emanuel told a news conference at the soon-to-be replaced Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren.

“Part of the dual enrollment and dual credit programs ... is giving kids who may be the first one in their family the exposure to college, taking the mystery out of that process as well as the education and showing them they’re capable.”

Expansion of the dual-credit program follows release of a new report about the devastating economic consequences of becoming a high school dropout.

“We have to design programs specifically that reach both Hispanic and African-American males because they have a higher proclivity to drop out. That’s not true for females,” the mayor said.

The mayor noted that newly appointed Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is taking steps to intervene before students arrive in high school — when sixth, seventh and eight-graders exhibit behavioral problems.

“Deal with it on the front-end so it doesn’t become a dropout problem,” Emanuel said.

“Getting with it earlier. Getting exposure to college. It not only saves you money. It gives you the confidence to go on with that.”

For Chancellor Hyman, the dropout report hit close to home.

“I was once a high school dropout. I did not have the dual credit or dual enrollment program that was made aware to me or that I knew about,” said Hyman, an Orr H.S. dropout who left home to escape drug-addicted parents.

“Had that happened, maybe I would have had the hope that I got later on to go on and get four degrees in order to help keep me there.”

Nicole Perez, a senior at Benito Juarez Community Academy, said she was somewhat intimidated before joining the dual-credit program. But, she has since gained the knowledge and confidence she needs to get accepted to Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois.

“It’ll give me the opportunity of graduating a little earlier and save me money on my tuition,” she said.

“Getting an early taste of college work is important. It’s also been challenging. But now that I’ve taken the class, I have more confidence as far as taking college classes, and I feel as if I’ll be able to succeed in college.”

Also on Monday, Emanuel chose not to respond in kind to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s surprising attack against his education and crime-fighting strategies.

Emanuel said he doesn’t “really care” about the politics behind Preckwinkle’s claim that the “miserable education system” has “failed” too many children and that Emanuel’s crime-fighting strategy is too focused on making arrests.

He only knows that he and Preckwinkle have “immense agreement” on both issues and that the mayor’s top priorities are “public education and public safety.”

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