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 data), which is well below the national average of 88%. Americans who do not graduate from high school have an 8.6% unemployment rate, compared to 2.7% of those with Bachelor's degrees or higher (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). Only 43% of CPS graduates will enroll in a four-year college in the year following graduation. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, students who do not graduate from college will make, on average, two-thirds less than their peers with Bachelor's degrees. NCS 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 Network for College Success (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 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 freshman transitions, and counseling teams focused on college access and enrollment. In 2011, the District-level Areas were reorganized 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.

In 2021, NCS partnered with 18 schools and 300 educators, serving over 15,900 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.

Professor Melissa Roderick

Professor Roderick is the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor at the UChicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice; the Senior Director at the UChicago Consortium on School Research (the Consortium), and a member of the University of Chicago’s Committee on Education. Read more...