Chicago Public Schools will soon require students graduating from high school to show proof of what they plan to do after graduation.
Students graduating from any public high school in Chicago must show proof of a job offer, an acceptance letter to college, an apprenticeship for a trade, enlistment in the military, or a gap year program, the Washington Post reported.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who got the idea from former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan, said he wants the third-largest school system in the U.S. not only to guide students through K-12 schooling but also guide them to their paths post-graduation.
“We are going to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed,” he said. “You cannot have kids think that 12th grade is done.”
Chicago’s Board of Education approved the requirement in May, and it will take effect beginning in 2020, making Chicago’s school system the first large city school district to require high school graduates to have post-graduation plans.
Students and parents say the district’s move will help teens who might not be able to get guidance from their parents about what to do after graduation or how they can achieve their post-graduation plans.
“It means they have a plan instead of graduating and not knowing what they want to do,” said DeAvion Gillarm, who recently graduated from Morgan Park High School.
“Maybe it would make parents get invested in their kids’ education,” said parent Carrie Patterson, whose son Caron is entering his sophomore year at Morgan Park.
Critics are skeptical that the cash-strapped district will be able to provide the necessary counseling to help its most underprivileged students succeed.
“It sounds good on paper, but the problem is that when you’ve cut the number of counselors in schools, when you’ve cut the kind of services that kids need, who is going to do this work?” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union who opposes Emanuel’s plan.
Other critics argue that the city’s community college system, which accepts any student who graduates with a high school diploma, is not prepared to handle the influx of students from low-income families.
Chicago measures its high schools’ performances based on how many students go to college and stay enrolled for a minimum of one year.
Forty percent of Chicago public school students from the Class of 2015 matriculated at four-year colleges, slightly below the national average of 44 percent in 2015.