Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to require all Chicago Public Schools students to show proof of a post-high school plan in order to graduate, unveiling an ambitious “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” initiative on Wednesday.
Starting with this year’s freshmen, the class of 2020, the mayor proposed that all students must demonstrate an acceptance letter into college, trade school, the military, a job or apprenticeship, or even a gap year, in order to receive a diploma.
The project will admittedly place more burden on high school counselors, for which CPS promised to provide more training. And while the majority of students already have a plan, 40 percent do not, and that's who the mayor said he is targeting.
"We expect to see that group that we have not been able to capture, so it's really about taking those numbers to a higher level,” CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said at a news conference announcing the proposal.
"This is a shift, not just for our kids, but for our system,” Emanuel added.
"Expanding their possibilities and telling them this is much bigger than high school, and that this is about the rest of your lives is a really, really important message to send to kids,” said Amundsen High School principal Anna Pavichevich.
Recent CPS graduate Brittany Wilson counts herself as among those in support of the initiative.
"With this program, if it does go the way it is supposed to and it is successful, which I believe that it can be, then students will feel more purposeful, they will feel like they have a purpose, they will feel like they will have some type of idea that they want to go after in life,” Wilson said.
Some critics question how the new requirement will be implemented – and CPS has pledged more training for counselors who already have high case loads.
“Right now, our counselors do have an expectation to do college advising,” Jackson said. “What they haven't had is the additional training, so that's the first investment that we want to make.”
The school board, with all members appointed by the mayor, must approve the new initiative for it to take effect. Emanuel said that while no other school district has this requirement – he believes others may soon choose to opt for it as well.