The Challenge

High school graduation is the critical achievement of adolescence and predicts everything from health outcomes to incarceration and lifetime earnings. Yet, too many students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are not adequately supported to complete high school, hindering their chances of succeeding in college and the workforce. Just over 82% of CPS students graduate by the age of 19 (To&Through Project, 2019), which is well below the national average of 88%. Americans, 25 years and older, who do not graduate from high school have a 4.3% unemployment rate, compared to 2.2% of those with Bachelor's degrees or higher (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022).
Only 58.8% of CPS graduates will enroll in a four-year college in the year following graduation (UChicago Consortium, 2023). According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, students who do not graduate from college will make nearly three-fourths less than their peers with Bachelor's degrees. The UChicago Network for College Success brings deep expertise to help schools develop effective change strategies to support and sustain higher student achievement.


Our Beginning

In 2006, Professor Melissa Roderick answered the call for fundamental change when high school principals approached her to improve their school outcomes regarding academic achievement and graduation. Thus, the NCS was established out of a growing need for research-based education reform in Chicago.
Initially, NCS served as a voluntary group of principals working together. However, in 2009, NCS partner schools formally became Area 21 within CPS (similar to a sub-district). Sean Stalling, the former principal of an NCS partner school, was appointed the Chief Area Officer and thus ensured the NCS model across all Area 21 schools. Area 21 enabled NCS to expand its services to include coaching and professional learning communities for principals, Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs), 9th Grade teachers focused on 9th Grade transitions, and counseling teams focused on college access and enrollment. In 2011, the District-level Areas were re-organized into Networks under the new CPS administration. Thus, NCS returned to the volunteer model, with all NCS principals opting to continue working together to improve their schools.


The Present

In 2021, NCS's Partner School Network comprised of 18 schools and 300 educators, serving over 15,000 students. These partnerships represented approximately 15% of the district's high school student population. NCS also collaborates with the city's district leaders, providing ongoing training and thought partnership. 
In 2020, NCS established the Freshman Success for Equity Improvement Network, a second Network for School Improvement (NSI) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which serves 11 CPS high schools. Currently, NCS is expanding its support to high schools outside of Chicago.
To date, NCS has formed partnerships with various high schools and districts in Colorado and Texas, as well as schools in Kankakee and Waukegan, Illinois.


NCS has a dedicated team of professionals that brings a collective wealth of experience as educators and administrative leaders. Click here to meet the team.