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Rahm Emanuel Launches Chicago “Early College” STEM High Schools

Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) —

Rahm Emanuel, flanked with executives from five large technology companies, announced the formation of five innovative “early college STEM schools,” which are six-year high schools focused on preparing students for a modern, information-laden, tech-savvy future workforce. Students will also have the opportunity to be “first in line” for interviews with the companies after compeletion of the program. The program will start with incoming freshman in Fall 2012.

The five tech companies involved with these innovative schools are Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Motorola Solutions, and Verizon Wireless, each of which will “adopt” a specific school in the Chicago Public School system (which will still run the schools). Students will graduate after six years with not only a high school diploma but also an associates degree from City Colleges of Chicago, who also participated in the announcement.

Chicagoland is excited. News of Mayor Emanuel’s announcement has not only already been picked up by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times, but sources tell me that there’s a lot of off-the-record buzz about this, too.

What’s the Microsoft angle? I can’t say it any better than Microsoft’s general manager of U.S. education Sig Behrens did in his blog post yesterday,

We want to empower and inspire students to reach their full potential and we want to help teachers do what they do best…teach. We believe it is imperative that the private and public sectors come together to make a real impact to improve education and welcome collaboration with Cisco, IBM, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless who have also been selected to adopt schools to make great things happen in Chicago.

For its part, Microsoft is adopting Lake View High School, in Chicago’s 47th Ward. Some aspects of the new program are still being determined, but here’s what we know. This is a neighborhood program, and all freshmen in the next entering class will be enrolled. Students will have the opportunity to earn college credits during their first four years. And the curriculum and student mentorship will be rigorous and developed in a partnership between Chicago teachers and Microsoft.

Speaking of leadership and mentorship, here’s a shot of the Microsoft team that helped make this possible (l-r): Shelley Stern from citizenship, Sig Behrens the GM of education, and Kelly Cebold, the account manager.

What kind of assets will Microsoft be bringing to bear at Lake View? They include many tried-and-true programs we have, such as:

Microsoft DreamSpark provides Microsoft world-class software development programs at no cost to students. Students also receive access to outstanding training resources to learn how to use these products. Schools can outfit their computer labs and provide students with the same software development tools that millions of engineers around the world use today.

Microsoft IT Academy is a fantastic program designed to help schools offer students and educators learning solutions for IT skills training and certification. It gives students hands-on experience with Microsoft’s latest technologies so they are able to obtain industry-recognized certifications that employers are demanding. It’s something they can put on their resume and immediately have an edge in the competitive job market. Just today on www.careerbuilder.com, there are more than 2,500 jobs available in Chicago alone looking for Microsoft skills.

CareerForward is an online program to help students assess their career interests, explore career options, and create an educational development plan. Career Forward program gives students a global perspective, and helps them develop financial literacy skills and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. CareerForward was developed through a public/private partnership between Microsoft, the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Virtual University.

Students to Business (S2B) is a Microsoft community initiative that connects Microsoft partners and customers with qualified students for entry-level and internship programs. S2B helps to solidify the link between education attainment and economic growth by preparing and connecting students and helping to enable their success. We have 500 Microsoft employees in the Chicagoland area committed to mentoring and providing job shadowing opportunities.

Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition. Competing with their peers from around the world, students gain real-life experiences, make new friends, and turn their ideas into reality. Students compete in categories ranging from Software Design and Digital Media to Embedded Development and Game and Mobile Phone Design.

Microsoft Partners in Learning is a 10-year, $500-million global initiative designed to actively increase access to technology and to improve its use in learning. Its goal is to help schools gain better access to technology, foster innovative approaches to pedagogy and teacher professional development, and provide education leaders with the tools to envision, implement, and manage change. We will be adopting Lake View High School into the Innovative Schools Program. School leaders and teachers will have access to the Partners in Learning Network where they can enhance their personal development and the classroom experience for their students by sharing resources, lesson plans, learning activities, and tutorials. Microsoft will also provide Microsoft Innovative Educator training to help teachers integrate technology into the classrooms.

TeachTec Tools can help students and teachers find and download more than 100 resources developed for them by Microsoft. These innovative tools and applications, when combined with Microsoft Office and the Windows operating system, create a robust, creative, and collaborative learning environment. All TeachTec resources will be available to the school to help teachers effectively integrate technology into their curriculum.

Ultimately, this is a big win for the neighborhoods involved, the city of Chicago, and all the innovative tech companies that are participating. A commitment to inspiring students to be interested in, and training them with skills in STEM topics is critical to having a real impact on America’s future competitiveness.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC.

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