The Chicago School

by on April 12, 2012 at 7:39 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Education | Permalink

In Launching the Innovation Renaissance I wrote:

In the United States, “vocational” programs are often thought of as programs for at-risk students, but that’s because they are taught in high schools with little connection to real workplaces. European programs are typically rigorous because the training is paid for by employers who consider apprentices an important part of their current and future work force. Apprentices are therefore given high-skill technical training that combines theory with practice—and the students are paid!

In the United States there are some experimental programs moving in this direction. One of the most interesting is being pushed by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel:

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students will have the opportunity to attend five Early College STEM Schools (ECSS) that focus on technology skills and career readiness – as well as earn college credits– under a partnership agreement with five technology companies, CPS and City Colleges of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced…

The five technology companies, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft Corporation, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless, will help develop a unique curriculum at each new school to teach students the skills required in that marketplace, as well as provide mentors and internships.  Upon graduating from these tailored programs, the students will be prepared for careers in science and technology.

…All of the new schools will open in September 2012 with a class of ninth graders.  Each student will be able to graduate in four-years with a high school diploma with college credits, with a goal of graduating within six years with an Associate of Science (AS) degree in Computer Science or an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Information Technology. The college courses will be taught by professors from CCC.

Emanuel is also redesigning the City Colleges of Chicago along similar lines:

Rahm fired almost all the college presidents, hired replacements after a national search, and decreed that six of the seven city-run colleges would have a special concentration. Corporations pledging to hire graduates will have a big hand in designing and implementing curricula. “You’re not going for four years, and you’re not going for a Nobel Prize or a research breakthrough,” he says. “This is about dealing with the nursing shortage, the lab-tech shortage. Hotels and restaurants will take over the curriculum for culinary and hospitality training.” Already AAR, a company that has 600 job openings for welders and mechanics, is partnering with Olive-Harvey College; Northwestern Memorial Hospital is designing job training in health care for Malcolm X College.

It’s too early to judge these developments but Emanuel’s op-ed on this subject was surprisingly good. The key question, which I haven’t yet seen answered, is whether the the companies will have real skin in the game, which I see as critical to success.

Hat tip: Ben Casnocha.

Andrew' April 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

Possibly good for education. Definitely good for feathernesting.

The Engineer April 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

If Emmanuel is really serious, the first thing that should be done is to change the name of Malcolm X college to something more benign. It should still be named after an African-American, but someone with a more positive legacy.

Other than that… I admire Emmanuel for what he is doing in Chicago regarding early career development, which is what these changes really are.

DanC April 12, 2012 at 11:19 am

Once upon a time Chicago had some excellent vocational education i.e. Washburne. The trade unions supplied teachers and offered coop programs in a variety of trades to mostly high school students. The Culinary and building trade programs were outstanding.

Regretfully the teachers union destroyed the school. Demanding more minority teachers they replaced the trade union supplied instructors. Racial politics and teacher union demands destroyed the school. (Some of the culinary program switched to the City Colleges.) Also admission was often based on going through the union apprentice program. This was claimed to be racist, by some, and was ended.

Also, It also wasn’t that long ago that a white nursing student was forced out of Malcom X college with taunts from other students that Malcom X was for black students and that white students had other options at other schools.

Can these schools attract good students? How will the teacher unions respond? Will political jobs at these institutions be eliminated?

Neil B April 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Rahm has very little tolerance for anything (or anyone) that stands in the way of getting things done — especially those things that are a part of his plan. I don’t think it will be an issue.

DanC April 12, 2012 at 11:29 am
The Original D April 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Is there any evidence that the name is discouraging students from going there? Malcolm X was as much about self reliance as he was revolution.

Disclosure: In the 90s I used to live near Malcolm X college. It was a nice campus in a semi-rundown neighborhood. Not too far from UIC. Not sure how much it’s changed since then.

The Engineer April 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

The changes around the United Center are nothing short of startling. Yet another made from nothing at all Hipster neighborhood, of which there are many in Chicago.

Hispanics are taking over the west side, that’s why I think that a name other than Malcolm X might be more appropriate. The future of the school is Hispanic.

Jo in OKC April 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm

If students are graduating from high school in 4 years, with college credits, why does it take an additional 2 years to earn a (2 year) associates degree (as evidenced by the statement that they’d graduate in 6 years with an associate’s degree)?

Larry April 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm
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