Chicago Student Success Initiative

To help address long-standing racial disparities in high school graduation rates in Chicago, the Crime and Education Labs began partnering with Chicago Public Schools in 2016 to assess how students attending the city’s alternative schools, known as “Options Schools.” — fared. The goal of the partnership was to identify what was working in these schools and what was not so that more effective student supports and interventions could be implemented.

Here’s what the Labs found: 

  • One in nine public high school students in the 2016-17 school year interacted with the Options Schools, a higher share than expected. 
  • While students attending Options Schools were doing so because they were behind in credits or at risk of dropping out, they also faced other significant challenges in their lives. 
  • Twenty-two percent of Options School students experienced homelessness or housing instability and almost 40 percent reported being a victim of crime — substantially higher rates than non-Options School students. 
  • These barriers impact outcomes: While the district-wide graduation rate has climbed to almost 80 percent in the last decade, the Options Schools’ is less than half that, hovering at around 35 percent. 

These numbers make clear that supporting Options Schools is a matter of improving equity and opportunity for students facing challenges both inside and outside of the classroom. 

That’s why the Crime and Education Labs launched the Chicago Student Success Initiative. The project is operating in six Options Schools and in three neighborhood schools where students also face significant challenges.