Chicago Schools: Special Needs and Enriched Academic Programs

Chicago Schools:  Special Needs and Enriched Academic Programs
We’ll examine some of the programs offered by Chicago Public Schools to provide services to special needs students and help high-achieving students reach their full academic potential.

Chicago Public Schools faces many challenges today, as it strives to educate a wide and diverse student body. To achieve that end, the school system offers a wide range of programs to help students succeed and even excel in their academic endeavors. Check out these six programs currently offered by the Chicago Public Schools district.

Academic Decathlon

Chicago Public Schools boasts the highest enrollment in this national competition than any other school district in the country. Approximately 70 schools compete within the local district in the Academic Decathlon, with nine-member teams representing each school. Each team must consist of three students with an A-average, three students with a B-average, and three students with a C-average.

Students compete in seven different academic areas and on three different levels of competition. The purpose of this activity is to foster a spirit of teamwork, while individual members work toward academic excellence. Nearly all of the students that participate in the Academic Decathlon through CPS graduate from high school, and more than 70 percent head to college after graduation.

Arts Education

The Department of Arts Education strives to offer Chicago students more opportunities to explore various forms of art outside the classroom setting. The department provides offerings in dance, theatre, music, and visual arts. In addition to providing programs for students, the Department of Arts Education serves as a resource for teachers and administrators within the Chicago Public Schools system.

The goal of the Arts program is to expose students to a wide range of artistic outlets so that they benefit from a well-rounded educational experience. The department provides a list of organizations throughout the city that provides instruction in the arts to students. It also maintains a calendar of events for performances and other opportunities within Chicago Public Schools. The department provides workshops, both in and out of the classrooms to expand student knowledge in these areas.

This video offers a look at the arts programs.

After School All-Stars

This after-school program through CPS runs approximately four hours a week, 20 weeks out of the year. The program is designed to offer students enrichment activities after normal school hours so that they can explore specific areas of interest and activities. After School, All-Stars offers a wide range of activity options for students, including dance and drama, sports, cooking, and technology.

After School, All-Stars was originally created to provide students with a safe and stimulating environment in the afternoon hours after school. Students who participate in this program have opportunities to grow academically and socially while engaging in activities they enjoy. Those who participate in the program are more likely to earn higher marks and graduate from high school. They are also less likely to get involved in criminal activity or substance use after school.

Keep Kids Learning

This summer enrichment program is designed to keep kids learning during the summer months. It is available to students from third to seventh grade, and it provides opportunities for enrichment on academic, physical, and social levels. Keep Kids Learning began in 2006 with just 10 schools in the Chicago Public School system, and the program quickly grew to encompass more than 40 schools in 2011, serving more than 4,000 students.

Keep Kids Learning strives to produce summer learning gains through small classroom sizes and activities to engage students in the learning process. The program is primarily targeted at students who are in need of some academic help over the summer months but do not qualify for the district’s bridge program. Students participate in fun and safe summer activities that change their overall outlook on learning and academics.

This video offers a look at the One Summer Chicago program.

Youth Engaged in Schools (YES) Scholars

In an effort to improve graduation rates, as well as career and college readiness after high school, CPS created the YES Scholars initiative. This program targets ninth-grade students coming into Chicago high schools, providing them with the necessary support to succeed in high school. The initiative equips students with the tools they need for success and provides sufficient support to take students through the next four years.

The primary goals of the YES Scholars initiative are to improve student attendance rates in high schools across the city, as well as reduce the risk of gang involvement and engagement in criminal activity. The program uses after-school programs created to foster leadership skills, career exploration, and school preparedness. Individual mentoring is also offered through this program.

USA Global Classroom

The global classroom is a national program created through collaboration between the United States and the United Nations Association. This program is designed to introduce students to a global perspective, through exploration of current world issues and interactive classroom activities. The program centers on the Model United Nations, which is focused on issues of concern to the United Nations.

Students who participate in the global classroom will tackle complex issues like human rights, poverty, the environment, and sustainable practices. Students work together to find solutions to global problems in a spirit of cooperation and unity. To this end, students hone important life skills like debate, negotiation, and conflict resolution. The program enables students to work as UN ambassadors in the future.

Chicago Public Schools faces many challenges today, but there are also many things this expansive school system is doing right. The district has many programs available for students today, before and after school, as well as over the summer vacation months. With numerous programs available for students of all ages throughout Windy City, students are not lacking opportunities to succeed academically today and prepare for their future.

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