School system easing transition for freshman

Mayor Daley announced today that Chicago Public Schools will use more resources and new strategies to ease the transition from elementary to high school.

The increased attention to ninth graders comes on the heels of a study by the Chicago Consortium on School Research showing nearly half of the students with attendance problems during freshman year drop out.

“We want education for the children of Illinois to be the best in the country,” the mayor said, speaking from John Hancock High School, on the city’s southwest side. 

The new “freshman challenge” will provide extended resources to make sure that ninth graders are able to transition smoothly.

“We think the freshman challenge is a big step for many young people,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arnie Duncan.  “Over the years, we have tried to strengthen the transition from elementary school to high school and now we are doing a better job.”

This year, CPS has held summer orientations for soon-to-be-high schoolers and principals have prepared ninth grade transition plans for their incoming freshmen.  Further, counselors and school staff will visit homes of “no shows” on the first day of school, which is Sept. 4. 

The mayor also asked the state legislature for money to help with the new programs.

“We haven’t received money from Springfield in two or three years, in regards to infrastructure,” said the mayor.  “And we need increased funding for the education of the children of Illinois.”

Echoing Daley’s sentiments were Chicago Board of Education president Rufus Williams and Museum of Science and Industry CEO David Mosena. The museum is offering three vouchers for free admission to each student who attends the first day of school.

“We want to set an example of learning and discovery that doesn’t appear in text books,” said Mosena.

After his remarks, the mayor was asked if he expected school to start on time given the unresolved labor contract with teachers.

“I hope they do," he said. "No one wants turmoil in their school system.”

He also fielded questions about the Chicago Police Department’s latest shootings.  The first occurred Saturday when Gefery Johnson died after police tried to subdue him with a Taser and pepper spray.  Police had been called to his Gresham home for a domestic dispute.

On Monday, in North Lawndale, 18-year-old Aaron Harrison was shot after allegedly pointing a gun at an officer.

“The police department is not out of control,” said Daley.