Mayor Rahm Emanuel

City Colleges scholarship has benefits, drawbacks

Since City Colleges began taking applications for a plan widely advertised as “free college” by a campaigning Mayor Rahm Emanuel, more than 1,000 students have applied for the offer of waived tuition, books and school fees. But research shows that City Colleges are not the best post-secondary choice for high-achieving students who will benefit from the Star Scholarship.

Urban Prep "college signing day"

Charter schools stress college-going support

College counseling has become more important to high schools since CPS now rates them on the college enrollment and persistence of their graduates. It's an area in which charters sometimes have a distinct advantage.

Black Chicago under Rahm

Black Chicago by the numbers

When Rahm Emanuel ran for mayor four years ago, African-American voters pulled him across the finish line without a run-off. He won about six out of every 10 votes cast in predominantly black wards—largely on the say-so of his former boss, President Barack Obama. But as the February mayoral election nears, Emanuel’s approval ratings among the voters who carried him to City Hall have tumbled, according to aChicago Tribune poll. 

Kelvyn Park High School students have differing opinions on how the school should deal with drug use. One says suspension just gives students more time to get high. But another says the staff should be more strict so students will be deterred from using. [Photo by Bill Healy]

Quick to punish

Students caught with an ounce or less of marijuana are more likely to be arrested in school than a student who starts a fight or steals. Hundreds of teens are arrested each year for drug offenses involving pot—offenses that may warrant only a ticket for adult Chicagoans.

Jesus Velazquez got involved with a group fighting against suspension and expulsion after he went through an expulsion hearing for having a marijuana pipe. Instead of being expelled, he was sent to an intervention program. [Photo by Michelle Kanaar]

Threatened with expulsion

CPS says it wants to lower expulsions. But a new policy allows schools to send students threatened with expulsion directly to alternative schools, even before a legal hearing.

In early April, students, parents and staff from three schools held a vigil in front of School Board President David Vitale’s house to protest plans to turn around the schools. Later that month, all the turnarounds were approved. [Photo by Marc Monaghan]

Turnaround to turnover

In the summer before a turnaround, schools that have been left to languish for years experience an adrenaline rush of frenetic energy. But at many of the turnarounds, the optimism almost immediately begins to unravel. Nowhere is this more evident than with the revolving door the turnaround sets in motion with teachers. 

Field Elementary School Principal Brian Metcalf sits in on Saul Rodriguez’s fifth-grade reading class. Last year, Rodriguez and one of his colleagues suggested they split the students into all-girls and all-boys classes. Metcalf was hesitant, but tries to treat his teachers as professionals, so he let them give it a try. [Photo by Marc Monaghan]

Keeping a faculty whole

Principal Brian Metcalf didn’t try to clear the decks when he took over Field Elementary. Instead, he jumped in the trenches to work with teachers instead of showing them the door.

Gregory Elementary Principal Donella Carter looks at a “data wall,” where teachers track homework completion, test scores and other statistics. Carter says she works to retain her teachers by empowering them and giving them leadership roles. [Photo by Lucio Villa]

Jumping the ship

The price tag to replace the thousands of teachers who leave CPS schools each year is $71.5 million. The academic cost of turnover is highest for poor students of color in distressed communities, who are most likely to see their teachers leave for easier jobs in other districts and other careers.

Gage Park High School senior Harriet Agymang stands in front of a leaderboard in the Equipment and Technology Institute classroom that tracks students’ college applications and acceptances. [Photo by Marc Monaghan]

A new end game

Career education is no longer just about preparing students to enter the workforce. In line with a national trend of ‘college for all’ and the reality that most good-paying jobs require education beyond high school, CPS has overhauled its career education programs to make college the ultimate goal.