CPS Students Get Voice in Battling Dropout Rate

CHICAGO -- Concerned with a dropout rate of 45 percent, Chicago Public School kids spent 1½ years trying to figure out what to do about it, including visiting 12 standout high schools nationwide.

Tired of those grim statistics, they are launching a new pilot program that specifically targets freshmen. The group of students leading the initiative is VOYCE -- Voices of Youth in Chicago Education -- made up of youth leaders from Chicago Public Schools, high schools, and community organizations in Chicago.

As part of the program, at-risk incoming freshmen will attend one retreat just before high school and go on two more freshmen year to build bonds with peers and teachers and work on four-year graduation plans, CPS chief Arne Duncan announced.

Students will give input at their schools on what they're learning, and how they're learning it, on everything from textbooks to teaching techniques. Duncan has even agreed to help students advise curriculum vendors on how to make textbooks more relevant.

"Students are a huge part of the answer. I want to do everything I can to continue to empower them to help themselves and help their peers," Duncan said.

Initially, eight Chicago public high schools will participate in the program, including Senn High School, Roosevelt and Kenwood Academy, WLS-TV reported.

To help fund the project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has offered a generous contribution along with Communities For Public Education Reform.

The Chicago Sun-Times has more details on the project.

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