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Published in Print: March 14, 2012, as Chicago Touts Partnership With Tech. Companies

Chicago Touts High-Tech Partnership

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is touting the benefits of a partnership with U.S.-based high-tech companies that will allow high school students in the city to develop technology skills and prepare for possible jobs at the firms. But he was hazy about how enrollment will be handled if the programs prove especially popular at some of the schools.

The five early-college schools will offer instruction to grades 9 to 14 in areas such as Web development and software programming, database management, and network engineering and security. They will be run by the 404,000-student Chicago public school system, and a different company will help set the curriculum at each school, the mayor said. Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, and Verizon Wireless are the corporate partners.

Students who complete a six-year program that focuses on technology and career skills will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree from City Colleges of Chicago. They will be "first in line" for an interview at the company that partnered with their particular school, Mr. Emanuel said, though employment will not be guaranteed.

Asked what will happen if there are more applicants than spots at the five schools, Mr. Emanuel said: "That's a better problem than the one you've got now."

Enrollment Questions

The mayor went on to promise that political considerations—which have helped some clout-heavy students get into sought-after public school programs in Chicago in the past—will not play a part in the process. But he stopped short of explaining exactly how enrollment will be decided.

"I got there were politics. Doesn't mean there will be politics in the future," Mr. Emanuel said at a news conference last month at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, a high school in the Calumet Heights neighborhood where Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Solutions will help design the curriculum.

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District officials explained the class-size standards at three of the five schools, but Chicago Vocational was not among them. In an email, district spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the "projected freshman enrollment" at Chicago Vocational for the technology program is 150 students. If applicants exceed that number, "[The Chicago public schools] will consider re-evaluating the size of the program," Ms. Sainvilus said.

At the new South West Area High School, slated to open for the first time in the fall in the Ashburn neighborhood, the enrollment process has not yet been established for the program, which will be designed by Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, Ms. Sainvilus said. The freshman class is expected to include 230 students, she said.

Lake View High School, where Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. will help set the program, and Corliss High School, where New York City-based Verizon will partner with the school district, are neighborhood schools that will accept as many applicants from their areas as they get.

The fifth school, Michele Clark, is a selective-enrollment high school in the city where students have already tested in for next year, Ms. Sainvilus said. Michele Clark students who don't want to take part in the Cisco-linked technology-career program will be given a chance to go to another school. Cisco Systems Inc. is based in San Jose, Calif.

Vol. 31, Issue 24, Pages 12-13

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