New 6 Year High School Program Offers Hope

The Chicago Public Schools system is testing out a new tactic to improve graduation rates.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, the nation's third-largest school system has partnered with technology companies to create a new six-year program which will allow students to earn an Associate's degree and be considered for jobs at graduation.

The program offers a hopeful alternative for parents and students alike who have not been pleased with the quality of schools or options available for college placement.

[The 2010 graduation rate for Chicago Public high school students was just over 55%.]

This announcement comes just days after parents protested the school board's unaminous decision to close high schools such as Crane Tech and Dyett.

Many community activists have expressed fear that any kind of demographic shift with students--who may live in different neighborhoods--can create more harm than good.

"It would be helpful to incorporate [ideas from] the Chicago Crime Commission's Gang Book," says community activist and blogger Jim Allen.

"This would help [officials] decide where to send students who are from outside areas."

Allen, creator of Tha Movement blog, is a former gang leader who knows firsthand how dangerous things can get if students are moved to unfamiliar territories.

In 2009, Fenger High School student Derrion Albert was beaten to death in an after-school melee. It was later speculated that rivalries between students from different neighborhood may caused the tragedy. In turn, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to Chicago to find solutions for the rise in violence with students.

But the technology companies appear to be focusing on the potential of students instead of their problems.

Stanley Lithow, IBM's Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, told a room of reporters today: "We want to hire them all." [Source: Chicago Sun-Times]

Five high schools will offer the program this fall including: Corliss, Clark, Lake View, CVCA, and a school being constructed near 77th and Homan.

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