Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel promoted a new graduation requirement for high school seniors in Chicago Public Schools during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“We live in a period where you earn what you learn,” Emanuel said Tuesday.
The new graduation requirement requires students to present some form of documentation about their plans after completing high school. This can include a college acceptance letter, trade school enrollment, proof of enlisting in the military, a gap-year program, or a secured job offer.
According to CBS Chicago, the idea was inspired by charter schools, but Chicago would be the first to implement such a requirement citywide.
Although questions of concern were posed to Emanuel, he responded with a firm belief that if these expectations are set, students will rise to meet them with the proper support. Graduates in 2020 will be the first held to the new requirement, according to the Chicago Tribune.
These expectations for the students will start manifesting in elementary school. Emanuel shared that some elementary schools already hang college banners in the hallways to spark students to contemplate college from a young age.
According to Emanuel, this new requirement is part of an effort to modify the mindset that education spans from kindergarten to high school, and encourage students to believe that the true timeline is from preschool to college.
Connecting with Chicago’s diverse economy, Emanuel reiterated that this alteration in mindset will come at no cost to the parents.
“It’s morally wrong to ask parents to take out a second job to give their kids… a chance at the American Dream,” Emanuel said.
High schools across the city plan to implement more opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school, including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual credit-dual enrollment. Graduating high school with these credits can alleviate some financial burdens for families.
Emanuel noted that over 60 percent of future jobs will require at least two years of post high school education. Programs such as Chicago Star, which allow students with a B average to earn two years of free community college, came to existence in response to the growing need for higher education.
“We don’t leave it to chance,” Emanuel said.