Today I received an email from a wonderful colleague and teacher at Hancock High School in Chicago. I have worked with the science faculty at Hancock for the last six years on a variety of projects to improve student learning in science. During that time, the school has seen significant growth in student outcomes. Last year, all of the students were accepted to college, several of them to highly selective schools, despite the fact that over 95% of the students are low-income. To celebrate the accomplishment of the senior class, the graduation has traditionally be held in a "run-down school auditorium with torn seats, bad lighting, and A/C that is not dependable." I have contributed to their fund raising campaign to give the wonderful students of the class of 2015 a proper celebration of their accomplishments.
I find it ironic that the Chicago Public Schools has decided to convert Hancock into a selective high school at a time when the students and faculty have to raise funds for a proper graduation. Talk about throwing crumbs to your constituents. Despite the dilapidated conditions at the school, the faculty have developed a successful neighborhood school model. Now the neighborhood will suffer the double indignity of eliminating a successful neighborhood model and being thrown a mere bone for a selective program so that the city can say that there is a selective school on the Southwest side. If you have had the chance to visit some of the other selective school campuses in Chicago, like Walter Payton College Prep, you will see that those campuses rival many college campuses. In fact, CPS is providing $17 million to Walter Payton merely for an expansion of the already wonderful campus to accommodate more students. The $10 million crumbs that the city is providing to convert Hancock to a selective school campus may well be just sufficient to provide a proper graduation venue.
If the city wants to provide a selective option on the Southwest side in deed and not just in name, they should leave the neighborhood model alone, give Hancock the $10 million to fix up the school, and then build a real selective school campus on the Southwest side. In the meantime, consider giving money to the class of 2015 so they can have a proper celebration.