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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Not a gang school any more

Enrollment is soaring at Benito Juarez Community Academy. Photo: Amadou Diallo/Hechinger Report

Choice has emptied many low-performing Chicago schools, but enrollment is climbing at Benito Juarez Community Academy, reports Hechinger’s Amadou Diallo. A skills-mastery model adopted in 2013 got the school off academic probation. Juarez now ranks 49th out of 658 Illinois public high schools based on test scores and college readiness.

When Principal Juan Ocon started in 2008, Juarez was seen as a “gang school,” writes Diallo. More than 80 percent of students failed to meet state proficiency standards; less than half earned a diploma.

Ocon eliminated Ds, Fs and deadlines.

Students progress through a related series of tasks, each meant to develop a discrete skill. If a student fails to demonstrate mastery of a given skill, they are provided with additional resources and time. Juarez has extended its school calendar into August for students who require additional opportunities to prove their proficiency. . . . un-graded evaluations occur regularly so that students and teachers can make adjustments as necessary to ensure that mastery of a benchmark is achieved for every student.

With five other Chicago high schools, Juarez will help develop a competency-based curriculum as part of a state pilot.

Seventeen Chicago high schools have lost most of their enrollment as students choose better or safer alternatives, reports the Chicago Tribune. Tilden High has room for 1,900 students; it enrolls 250. “None of the 17 campuses attract more than 13 percent of CPS students assigned to the school.”

The district plans to close four of these schools.

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