College & Workforce Readiness

Chicago Wants High School Students to Create Postsecondary Plans

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — April 05, 2017 2 min read
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In Chicago, high school students may soon be required to outline a plan for after graduation in order to earn a diploma as part of an initiative called “Learn. Plan. Succeed.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—who controls the city’s school system—said the initiative should help ensure that young people don’t see high school graduation as an “end point.”

If the district’s board approves the plan, the requirement will kick in in 2020, when students who are freshmen in high school today graduate.

According to a press release, the district would require students to have one of the following in hand before graduating:

  • College acceptance letter
  • Military acceptance/enlistment letter
  • Acceptance at a job program (such as a coding boot camp)
  • Acceptance into a trade-related pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship
  • Acceptance into a gap-year program
  • Current job/job offer letter

The district said that teachers and schools are “being called upon to play new and important roles in the lives of their students due to the increased rigor and demands of planning for college and career today” and cited a decade-old report from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research about the barriers students face as they transition from school to the postsecondary world. Chicago is also offering training for its high school counselors to help them guide students through decisionmaking about postsecondary plans.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the City Colleges of Chicago community college system accepts any student who is on track to earn a diploma from Chicago Public Schools, so any student should be able to obtain at least one acceptance letter. But one expert told the Tribune that a flood of new applicants or students could put a strain on that system.

The approach mirrors the approach of some charter schools, which require all of their students to apply for college and often celebrate when students are admitted to a school. Of course, having an admittance letter from a college doesn’t mean that students will graduate—or even attend.

The plan has been received less than favorably so far, at least on Twitter: On social media, some wondered whether the push will result in an increase in students applying to for-profit institutions and others pointed out that many teenagers don’t have concrete plans but still turn out just fine.

The online news site Slate referred to the plan as “bizarre” and wondered why the initiative involves punishing students who don’t develop a plan by preventing them from obtaining a diploma. (Unsubtle headline: Rahm Emanuel Has a Half-Baked Plan to Micromanage Chicago Students’ Post-Graduation Life Choices)

Watch Emanuel talk about “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” on CBS:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.