CPS wants to turn Hancock High School in McKinley Park into a selective enrollment and career and technical education (CTE) school, saying that families, elected officials and community leaders in the area want more selective admissions seats.
The decision, which still must go through public hearings, prompted criticism from one of the leaders of a well-regarded University of Chicago initiative that works with neighborhood high schools to improve academics and increase college-going.
Young people from neighborhoods with some of the highest unemployment rates in the city and state were trained, mentored and equipped for success in the only remaining electrical shop in the Chicago Public Schools. The program was reinstated, but now is not the time to rest. It is essential that CPS not only maintain its existing career and technical education programs but expand on them.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced in 2012 that the district would open 10 International Baccalaureate programs in high schools across the city, a small but telling detail didn’t make the news: The IB’s then-new Career Certificate program, designed to give students a rigorous IB-style education while tailoring coursework to their career interests, would be a cornerstone of the “wall-to-wall” programs.
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.
A career-related certificate administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization—more widely known for its advanced, rigorous IB Diploma Programme—is the cornerstone of CPS’ efforts to expand its high school IB offerings in new “wall-to-wall” IB schools.
Part of the CPS push to improve career education is to have students gain relevant work experience through internships and earn industry-recognized credentials to help them get jobs. But on both fronts, the district is falling short.
In any given week, James Zeckhauser juggles myriad tasks—hustling to find candidates to fill job orders, doggedly following up on applications his students have submitted, helping students practice for job interviews, and coaching them as they fill out online applications and call prospective employers. His main task is to help students find work, but the ultimate goal is broader: to get students to connect with something—anything—that will put them on a path toward post-secondary education or a career.