College coaches to help students get work credentials, jobs

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Buoyed by the results of a program that put college coaches in some high schools, CPS is expanding the focus to include work-related credentials and jobs. Not all students are destined for college, notes Bernard McCune, the new head of CPS Office of College and Careers, yet many will need a “piece of paper” besides a high school diploma. Now college and career coaches will guide those students as well.

The move is in line with the district’s much-needed efforts to revamp career and technical education.

Buoyed by the results of a program that put college coaches in some high schools, CPS is expanding the focus to include work-related credentials and jobs.

Not all students are destined for college, notes Bernard McCune, the new head of CPS Office of College and Careers, yet many will need a “piece of paper” besides a high school diploma. Now college and career coaches will guide those students as well.

The move is in line with the district’s much-needed efforts to revamp career and technical education. About a quarter of high school students—some 24,000–take a career and technical education class, but only 3,100 complete a full battery of courses, and even fewer earn industry-issued credentials, according to Catalyst analysis.

Seven of the first 12 schools that got college coaches in 2005 continue to outpace other schools in sending graduates to college, according to recently released 2008 data. Currently about 50 high schools have coaches. That will grow to 67 next year, McCune says.

Initially, central office picked up the full tab. Beginning this year, schools have had to pay half. Since the coaches are not on the teacher salary schedule, they cost less than a counselor would – about $41,000 a year, compared to up to $79,000 for a certified counselor. Coaches must have only a bachelor’s degree.

Everett Edwards, principal at the School of Entrepreneurship on the South Shore campus, says the outlay from this budget is worth it. He says his coach helped send nearly 60 percent of last year’s graduates to college, compared with 34 percent the year before.

 “Because it seems to be working, we want to keep it,” he says. “We will have to rethink other things.” 

The college coach program is a hallmark of Greg Darnieder’s tenure as head of the office of post-secondary education. Darnieder is now a special assistant on college access to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In launching the program, he said: “The question is, `Can I put a little bit of money on the table and make a difference?’” Apparently, that’s happened, as the program has had some success.