Yesterday I saw Chicago win big at U.S. Cellular Field — not in baseball, but in education.
The seniors of Urban Prep Academy had gathered at "the Cell" for a school tradition called "Signing Day." The students publicly announced their college choices and signed their names into the school book. For the second year in a row, every single Urban Prep student had been admitted to a four-year college or university.
Unfortunately, too few our of our schools are producing results like Urban Prep. Overall, just 53% of CPS students graduate high school; of CPS graduates, barely half go on to enroll in college.
Urban Prep's philosophy and practice are helping students achieve tremendous results. Chicago should look closely at the Urban Prep model and ask how its achievements can be replicated across the CPS system.
Instructional time: At Urban Prep, the school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Most Chicago schools end their day at 2:30 p.m. or even earlier. Simply put, Chicago students aren't getting the instructional time they need to compete with their peers in other cities. From kindergarten through twelth grade, children in Houston get the equivalent of three more years of schooling than children in Chicago. That's why I strongly support an education reform bill passed by the Illinois Senate that would allow Chicago to extend the length of the school day. The bill is currently awaiting passage by the Illinois House.
Extracurricular activities: Urban Prep emphasizes a rigorous program of academic study for all its students. But academics is only one of the four "arcs" that Urban Prep students follow. Community service, sports teams, clubs and work experience round out the Urban Prep curriculum. I strongly believe that every CPS student should have access to after-school programs with artistic, athletic and academic options. I want to make sure young Chicagoans spend their after-school hours on the basketball court, in the dance studio, or in the classroom — not on the street corner.
Focus on college: Every component of the Urban Prep curriculum is geared to help students focus on their mission: obtaining a college education. From the morning school rally to the classroom to extracurricular programs, the Urban Prep environment is designed as a bridge to college. Students are motivated to keep their eyes on the prize and their teachers, coaches and counselors are dedicated to helping them towards that goal. For Chicago to thrive, all Chicago schools need to adopt a strong intentional focus on graduation and college achievement.
Every CPS student deserves an excellent education. We know what it takes to hit a home run. Now it's time for Chicago to step up to the plate for our children.
Rahm Emanuel is the Mayor-elect of Chicago.