November 6, 2014

New Initiative in 34 CPS Middle Schools Aims to Increase Students’ Likelihood of Future Success

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation today announced a new initiative – the Success Project - providing students in 34 CPS neighborhood schools with the academic preparation, social support and college counseling necessary for success in high school and beyond.

The project is a unique partnership between the Urban Education Institute’s UChicago Impact, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, the Chicago Public Schools and the Academy for Urban School Leadership. The partnership will embed a proven high school and college success curriculum into middle grades and provide staff support, training and analytic support to participating school – extending into middle schools the principles that have made 9th grade on-track rates soar CPS-wide.

“If we invest in every child in every neighborhood at every level of their education, there is no challenge we can’t address, and no opportunity we can’t seize to build a great future for the City of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Thanks to the hard work of our students, teachers, principals and parents, our students continue to set record freshman on-track and graduation rates and the Success Project partnership will drive these rates even higher.”

The Success Project is designed to help thousands of students in schools located in diverse, high-needs communities across Chicago. All 34 schools in the Success Project will implement UEI’s proven college readiness curriculum, called 6to16. A team of highly trained Success Coordinators–all with past teaching or counseling experience–will work full-time in 10 of the 34 schools beginning in January. Every 6th, 7th and 8th grader will receive weekly classes that will provide the academic preparation and know-how required to transition into a “right fit” high school, help them stay on track through high school and prepare them for success in college and beyond. In addition, 23 CPS turnaround schools managed by AUSL will receive training and professional development to implement the Success Project. Over time, the project will provide insights into the culture, staffing and practices necessary to dramatically increase the number of middle school students who are high school ready.

The Success Project was catalyzed by two forces. First, by Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, who recognized that some of the city’s greatest talent lies in neighborhood middle schools and wanted to invest in interventions that support thousands more students to transition successfully into high school. Second, by Chicago’s remarkable success in improving freshman on-track rates in high school. Since 2008, the city’s freshman on-track rates have risen from 55 to 84.5 percent, with a significant rise in high school graduation over the same period.

The Success Project will extend key lessons from Chicago’s on-track work to middle schools. Success Coordinators will use real-time, student-level data to ensure all students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades remain on-track in grades and attendance, they will promote teacher collaboration to problem solve around individual student needs and they will deliver a college readiness curriculum designed specifically for middle school students. The immediate aim is to better prepare students academically, in non-cognitive skills such as perseverance and self-motivation and practically, to support smart decision making when it comes to selecting high schools and colleges. UEI’s Consortium on Chicago School Research will study program efficacy.

“Chicago has made remarkable progress improving freshman on-track rates, and the Success Project aims to take that work to middle school, ensuring children from neighborhood schools across the city have the opportunity to excel in and complete high school, and enter a college of their choice. Liz and Eric Lefkofsky and the Chicago Public Schools have been remarkable partners in getting this important work airborne,” said UEI’s John Dewey Director Timothy Knowles.

The partnership, which originated with a $2 million philanthropic investment from the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, is matched by a $1.8 million investment from the Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education, and also includes the Urban Education Institute and the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

“High school is an incredibly formative time in students’ lives, and it’s critical that they have access to the best resources to take the next steps in their educational futures,” said Liz Lefkofsky. “Only in Chicago -- with the support of some great partners -- could we take an idea from concept to reality in less than nine months for the benefit of thousands of Chicago middle school students. The Success Project will better equip students across the city to make informed decisions about the high school options that are right for them."

Joining UEI’s John Dewey Director Tim Knowles at today’s announcement was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett, AUSL Executive Director Donald Feinstein and Liz and Eric Lefkofsky of the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, a private charitable foundation established in 2006 to advance high-impact programs that enhance the quality of human life in the communities it serves.