A Digital Series: 9 Episodes
CENTRAL STANDARD: On Education follows five kids, in five neighborhoods across Chicago, as they prepare for high school.
For nine months, we went to school with them, did homework with them, and listened to them.
The goal: to show the different paths kids travel, and the challenges they face, in an increasingly fragmented public school system.
We wanted to cut through the policy conflicts that dominate the headlines, and instead show the real-world impact our education system has on kids and their families.
Their stories can help us gain insights into our public education system – and to answer the questions: What is standard? What is possible?
Focus on Selective Enrollment Schools
Four of these five eighth-graders are hoping to enter one of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) ten selective enrollment high schools, targeted at academically advanced students.
Kids who make it into these schools are more likely to graduate than those in the general CPS high school population (91.4% vs. 65.4%). They’re more likely to attend college (83.9% vs. 56%). They have access to programs that kids at other CPS high schools do not.
Competition for positions at selective enrollment high schools is steep. More than 16,800 eighth graders applied for 3,200 freshman spots available for the 2014-15 school year.
Watch as these kids stake their hopes on a system struggling to give all students the best education it can.
Episode 1 introduces five 8th graders. Hear Robert’s, Emma’s, Natalia’s, Gina’s, and Kyle’s hopes and concerns, see what they do for fun, and how they feel about school. The drama builds as the highly competitive process of getting into one of Chicago’s top high schools is introduced.
Episode 2 profiles five schools. Each school’s underlying philosophies are revealed through the way that principals, teachers, and administrators set the tone and interact with students. Kids who make it into these schools are more likely to graduate than those in the general CPS high school population (91.4% vs. 65.4%). They’re more likely to attend college (83.9% vs. 56%). They have access to programs that kids at other CPS high schools do not.
Episode 3 contrasts five communities. The stark demographic differences between the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, the North Center neighborhood, the city of Dolton, the Humboldt Park neighborhood, and the Wilmette suburb become apparent through the five students’ home lives and the concerns of their parents.Competition for positions at selective enrollment high schools is steep. More than 16,800 eighth graders applied for 3,200 freshman spots available for the 2014-15 school year.
Episode 4: “5 Classes”
Episode 4 examines five classes. S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum is used as a case study for examining different teaching styles, uses of technology, and concerns over testing in the schools.
Episode 5: “5 Ways to Get into High School”
Episode 5 follows five ways to get into high school. Guidance counselors, parents, and students navigate the complicated selective enrollment process in Chicago, which is contrasted to suburban districts and boarding school options.
Episode 6: “5 High Schools”
Episode 6 presents five high schools. See the best that Chicago Public Schools has to offer as students attend open houses and shadow days, and how these schools compare to suburban and charter schools. The drama grows, as the hyper-competitive stakes to enter the top high schools are seen first-hand.
Episode 7: “5 Administrations”
Episode 7 analyzes five administrations, focusing on the effects of privatization on five different schools and communities. See how school administrators work to fund their schools, close the achievement gap for low-income students, evaluate teachers, or simply prevent their school from being closed.
Episode 8: “5 Futures”
Episode 8 reveals five futures. The story comes to a climax as the students open their notification letters. Find out where the students will attend high school, and gain insight into the stresses of the process, on top of the emotional challenges of becoming a teenager.
Episode 9: “5 Reflections”
Episode 9 facilitates five reflections. The students participate in a roundtable discussion, posing questions about their schools and communities, and reflecting on the experience of being in a documentary.
Watch the Series