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What Chicago Public Schools Are Doing Right

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It's easy to focus on how much needs to be fixed or improved in our public school systems (and there is a lot, from school lunches and funding to the cutting of programs and No Child Left Behind). But, every once in a while it's good to recognize what's going right in public schools.

Take this story on Chicago public schools. The school system has arranged for the 250 students deemed most at risk of being shot to have 24/7, on-call advocates -- a combination of a role model, tutor, guardian, and friend. These advocates help their charges (many of whom come from broken homes or are homeless, and are in danger of dropping out or joining gangs) stay on the straight and narrow, helping them with homework, finding them jobs, moving their families to safer neighborhoods and ensuring the students get to and from school safely (even if it means driving them personally).

The article chronicles the relationship between an advocate and her student, Big Sunshine (his real name was withheld), who, when he first started out, had three gunshot wounds and was on the fast track to dropping out. A few weeks ago, he was buying a suit for high school graduation and had filled out college applications.

This initiative has worked so well that Chicago schools are expanding it to include 1,500 high-risk students next year. Attendance is up, bad behavior is down. When the program started, half of the enrollees weren't in school. All are now.

The article is truly inspiring, and holds hope for other public school systems with high-risk students. Would you like to have a similar program implemented for your public schools?