College-going on the upswing for Chicago Public Schools graduates

Print More

College-going rates for CPS graduates continued on an upward trend, district officials reported Tuesday, although the rate remains far below national averages.

College-going rates for CPS graduates continued on an upward trend, district officials reported Tuesday, although the rate remains far below national averages.

College-going by black and Latino students is driving that increase, officials said. 86 percent of CPS students are African American or Hispanic.

In 2004, under then-CEO Arne Duncan , the district forged an agreement with the National Student Clearinghouse and began tracking the number of graduates who enroll in college. The first news was startling: At the time, half of 9th-graders graduated from high school and only 43.5 percent of them went to college.

In 2009, the graduation rate rose slightly to 54.5 percent, and college enrollment rose at a somewhat higher rate to 54.4 percent.

While still well below national averages, CPS officials noted that the city’s increase outpaced the national one.

But there’s much about current college-going rates that the district didn’t release, including a school-by-school breakdown of college enrollment and information about which universities they enroll in. Eileen Rudden, the new head of the Office of College and Career Preparation, said eventually they plan to release such data.

CEO Ron Huberman and Mayor Richard M. Daley credited three things, all started under Duncan: AVID, a elective course for middle-tier students, that teaches study skills and other college-prep skills; college coaches, who are not certified counselors but are charged with taking students on college tours and helping them fill out financial aid forms; and an increased in Advanced Placement enrollment.

The district’s 2011 budget, just released Monday, includes fewer staff in the citywide and central offices for college and career preparation. But Huberman said he didn’t take away funding for college coaches or AVID.

“This is one area where we held the line,” he said. Huberman said the district also is taking some new steps, such as reaching out to students whose ACT scores indicate they could go to selective or very selective schools and encouraging them to apply to these types of schools. A Consortium on Chicago School Research study found that higher-achieving CPS graduates often enroll in less-selective schools that are below their academic level.