March 30, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 13

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    University ready to challenge grades 9-12 at its new charter high school

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Joyce Rucker (foreground) gets the good news that her nephew, Bernard Hampton, now an eighth grader at Wadsworth School in the Woodlawn neighborhood, will be attending the new Woodlawn High School, which will become another campus of the University of Chicago Charter School. Rucker, who is a University employee, represented her nephew at a unified lottery that was held at the NKO campus last Wednesday for all three of the University’s charter school campuses. Hampton will start the ninth grade when the high school opens in the fall.

    The Chicago Public Schools Board of Education on Wednesday, March 22, approved a site for the University to create an innovative high school campus in the nearby Woodlawn neighborhood as an expansion of the highly successful University of Chicago Charter School.

    The new campus will be called Woodlawn High School campus and will be located in the Wadsworth facility at 6420 S. University Ave., sharing space with the existing Wadsworth School.

    The new high school, which will span grades six through 12, aims to prepare students who are eager to learn and willing to work hard for success in four-year colleges.

    In addition to taking challenging course work, the students will have an opportunity to work under the guidance of University faculty on research projects in the humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences, said Barbara Crock, Director of the new high school.

    “The new school will ensure that interested students, regardless of their tested eligibility, develop the habits of mind, work and heart to be successful in college as well as leaders of their communities,” said Crock.

    Richard Saller, Provost of the University, said, “The school is an essential part of the University’s broader Urban Education Initiative, designed to bring the research capacity of the University to bear on the challenges of primary and secondary education.”

    Henry Webber, Vice-President for Community and Government Relations and Chair of the University of Chicago Charter School Governing Board, added, “We view this school as the latest example of the important partnership between the University and Woodlawn. Other aspects of this partnership include University support of Woodlawn schools, expansion of the University police service area into Woodlawn, investment in affordable housing and becoming a junior partner to community groups in the development of a five-year plan to improve the quality of life in Woodlawn.”

    The Chicago Public Schools Board of Education also approved the attendance zone that Woodlawn community leaders had requested at its Wednesday, March 22 meeting. The boundary is essentially from 60th Street to 67th Street and from Stony Island Avenue to Evans Avenue.

    Alderman Arenda Troutman, whose 20th Ward includes Woodlawn, said, “This is a very important step for Woodlawn. This new school will be a meaningful asset for our community. We cannot forget about the other schools in Woodlawn, however, and I am pleased that the University will continue to collaborate with them as well.”

    The high school campus of the University of Chicago Charter School received more than 500 applications for 160 openings. Student selection took place last week at the North Kenwood/Oakland campus in a public lottery. Priority was given to applicants who currently are eighth-grade students at North Kenwood/Oakland, applicants who live in the high school’s attendance area and applicants who are siblings of students at the University of Chicago Charter School. The charter school also includes the Donoghue campus at 707 E. 37th St., which opened last fall.

    The new high school will serve grades six through 12 and will build upon the best design elements of NKO and Donoghue, as well as the expertise of the University’s Center for Urban School Improvement, which provides leadership, professional development and other support to the charter school campuses.

    A gift from Chicagoans Ken and Anne Griffin and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds new secondary schools throughout the country, are funding the new high school, said Timothy Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement.

    “We are proud to support the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement in providing a high quality education to nearly 600 Chicago-area high school students and believe this initiative will serve as a model for improvement across the country,” said Ken Griffin.

    A veteran educator, Director Barbara Crock has 14 years of experience as a former mathematics teacher, instructional improvement coach and high school administrator in public schools in Chicago, Boston, Mass., and San Francisco, Calif. Victoria Woodley, who also has extensive experience in Chicago public schools, is the Director of Academic and Social Supports.

    During the 2006-2007 school year, the new school will enroll 50 students in sixth grade and 110 students in ninth grade. Each year, as students progress through the grades, the school will grow until it reaches its full enrollment of 590 students in grades six through 12 during the 2009-2010 school year. The first class will graduate in 2010.

    Students at the new campus will study issues of importance to the city of Chicago, especially the historic South Side, and will contribute the products of their research to a digital library that members of the community will be able to access. The campus also will serve as a professional development site where teachers and principals will gather to study improvements in teaching and learning.

    The school day will run from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. to provide time for coursework and study and enable students to participate in co-curricular activities. The students will attend school for 190 days, two weeks longer than Chicago Public Schools students.

    The curriculum and graduation requirements are linked to college entrance requirements. Students will study algebra in the eighth grade. Between ninth grade and graduation, they must complete three years of laboratory science and social sciences, and, by taking double periods during their freshman year, they will study English and mathematics for five years. Multiple assessments will enable the faculty to continually answer the questions: Are the students learning? How do we know?

    Students will participate in single-gender advisories and work with an adult mentor through high school. A comprehensive college readiness program will ensure students are well-prepared for the transition to college.

    The University of Chicago Charter School has achieved success, with three-fourths or more of its third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students meeting or exceeding state standards in mathematics and half or more meeting or exceeding state standards in reading, all during the 2004-2005 school year.