University of Chicago to open two new high schools with help from Gates grant
The University of Chicago News Office
May 19, 2005 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

University of Chicago to open two new high schools with help from Gates grant


Students work in a computer lab at the North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School.

The North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School, the first charter school operated by the University, has proved itself to be a source for academic achievement, as enrolled students continue to improve their standardized test scores. NKO recently expanded with the opening of a middle school.

The University of Chicago plans to open at least two new secondary schools on the South Side in the next three years. The University-sponsored schools will provide eager students regardless of their tested ability or socioeconomic background with dramatically enriched learning opportunities to prepare them for college and success when they get there.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the University a grant of $6 million to support the design and start-up of up to seven new high schools on the city’s South Side. Two will be the University’s schools and up to five others will be started by other groups with the Center for Urban School Improvement’s assistance. The University-sponsored schools will be additional campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School, which has been operated since 1998 by the Center for Urban School Improvement.

“Our plans align well with the Gates Foundation vision and theory of action for how to create effective high schools for urban children,” said Timothy Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement. School leaders and faculty will enact a college-preparatory curriculum – that is interdisciplinary and rich in project and laboratory based experiences - and provides students and teachers opportunities to work together over the course of several academic years.

Design work is already underway for the first school, which is expected to open in the 2006-2007 school year and will eventually serve grades 6-12. The second school is projected to open in 2008 and anticipated to serve pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students when it reaches its full capacity.

In addition to design support, the Gates Foundation grant will provide start up funds for the two new schools, which will have a threefold mission: provide students with a rigorous college preparation program; serve as sites of professional development for CPS teachers and instructional leaders; and play a vital role in community building in the neighborhood in which they are located.

“The two new schools will be small, “effort-based” college preparatory institutions that will have personalized learning environments to encourage engagement in school work, high academic expectations, and the necessary extra supports to enable all students to achieve them,” Knowles said. Student activities that colleges look for—service learning, opportunities for exhibition, activities that cultivate leadership, and freshman-, sophomore-, junior- and senior-year research projects—will be embedded in the school design.

“Struggling students will be given extensive support—and sufficient time—to succeed. For instance, students unable to meet a grade’s exit standards will have available summer school, extra classes during the school day, and regular tutoring services. While the standards will be non-negotiable, the time needed to achieve them will be elastic,’ Knowles said. “Equally important, students meeting standards will be expected to participate in deeper —both on and off site. In short, every graduate will be well prepared to succeed in a four-year college.’

The schools will grow in a phased manner, Knowles said. When complete, the campuses may enroll up to 600 children in the grades 6-12 campus, and 700 in the pre-kindergarten to grade 12 campus.

The University’s Center for Urban School Improvement operates the University of Chicago Charter School, which has a highly successful North Kenwood/Oakland campus and will open this fall a new campus in the former Donoghue School.
Last modified at 01:00 PM CST on Thursday, May 19, 2005.

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