Chicago Schools: "No Plan, No Diploma"

Chicago Schools: "No Plan, No Diploma"
Susan Dutca-Lovell

It's senior year of high school and you're just about ready to graduate and move on to the next chapter in your life. Have you been accepted to college, enrolled in the military or a trade school, planned a "gap-year" or secured a job? If not, you may not be eligible to receive your diploma. Starting in 2020, Chicago high school seniors will have to demonstrate any one of the above in order to graduate.

The "Learn. Plan. Succeed" initiative, approved by the Chicago Board of Education will be the first of its kind in any major city school system, but not everyone believes that the initiative will guarantee high school seniors in the nation's third-largest school system on a "path toward a successful life." Some critics, like Chicago Party Chairman Chris Cleveland believe that "denying a kid a diploma because they didn't get into college or get a job is absurd."

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis also isn't too thrilled about the plan that "looks good one paper" but assumes that "kids know what they want to do at or accomplish at 17 years old." "I can't imagine you do all the work you do to graduate that you get your diploma withheld from you," Lewis said. Mayor Rahm Emanuel states that, "Yes, it is a requirement, but we're going to support you to also ensure you have a post-high school educational plan."

Although the high school graduation rate is roughly 73 percent in Chicago, the percentage of students that go on to college is "not promising." Only 18 percent of ninth-graders graduate high school and move on to earn an undergraduate degree within a decade of starting high school. The city's move from a K-12 model to a pre-K to college model aims to change this. Do you support this new plan? Why or why not?

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