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Facts: Northwestern and Chicago Public Schools

Longstanding and current partnerships

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced today joins a broad spectrum of Northwestern University programs designed to collaborate with CPS and the city of Chicago in educational partnerships.

The new academy builds on Northwestern’s Good Neighbor Great University initiative, which helps motivate CPS students to pursue college and assists them financially on a number of fronts if they elect to come to Northwestern. The academy will prepare talented students for success at highly selective colleges and universities across the nation. Fifty ninth-grade students will be selected yearly to participate in multi-year enrichment programming and receive support services during their high school years. 

Northwestern University in recent years has directly or indirectly impacted the education of some 30,000 CPS students, by one estimate. The new Northwestern Academy announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro will continue, expand and deepen that engagement.

Many existing and expanding programs with CPS students and teachers are led by the University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) and by the school’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP). (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

Other initiatives are conducted by SESP and different Northwestern University schools in collaboration with CPS students and teachers on subjects ranging from music, journalism and communication to leadership, science and engineering instruction.

OSEP works closely with the mayor’s office and facilitates numerous partnerships with CPS schools, including support for strategic planning and implementation of five new Early College STEM Schools and a partnership with the U.S. Navy.

Among the other OSEP programs linking the University and CPS are:

  • Institute for STEM Teaching and Research at Northwestern University (iSTAR@NU) -- A professional development institute for teachers providing STEM curricula, learning technologies, lab equipment and a computer loaner program, research and job-shadowing, along with in-classroom coaching.
  • Biotechnology Summer Professional Development Series -- An OSEP partnership with Lindblom Math and Science Academy, its Biotechnology Center of Excellence (BCoE) and Baxter International Inc., to help CPS teachers get experience and professional development opportunities in biotechnology.
  • Reach for the Stars: Computational Models for Teaching and Learning in Physics, Astronomy and Computer Science -- Funded by the National Science Foundation, this program places Northwestern STEM doctoral student fellows into K-12 science classrooms for an entire academic year to adapt computational methods and modeling tools from their research work to classroom activities connected to the existing math and science curriculum. (This is a partnership with the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.)
  • FUSE -- A new type of interest-driven exploration program in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts/design, math) disciplines that engages youth in hands-on exploratory challenges at libraries and after-school programming, funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
  • Next Generation Science Exemplary Professional Development System -- Two study groups of 15 science teachers from CPS commit to 10 weeks of study using a new online professional development system to support K-12 science teachers in learning how to teach science with Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Computational Thinking in STEM (CT-STEM) -- CT-STEM introduces students to important 21st-century skills by developing classroom activities that blend computational thinking ideas and skills with STEM content. CT-STEM provides teachers with classroom-ready materials including lesson plans and assessment items.

To see a listing of Northwestern University’s OSEP Partner Network of CPS schools and a map of their locations, go to (If the link does not work, copy and paste the URL into your browser.)

Other Northwestern schools and their CPS programs include:

Bienen School of Music

  • Maud Hickey, associate professor of music education, has been working the past four years in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) researching the impact of music composition on youth in detention. She also oversees a program in conjunction with the Center for Civic Engagement, called “AMPED,” where Northwestern University students mentor residents of JTDC one-on-one in their music composition work. Her research is funded by the Chicago Community Trust. 
  • In a recently concluded program, the Bienen School worked for eight years with Ravinia's Reach/Teach/Play program to provide experiences with classical music to children in CPS schools. The school worked last year with 44 CPS teachers and seven teaching artists in nine schools to provide music instruction to approximately 1,200 children.

School of Communication

  • Students from CPS high schools are among the participants in the annual Clarion Dewitt Hardy National Invitational Tournament in debate, held on the Northwestern campus every spring. The program is hosted by the Northwestern Debate Society, the "winningest" debate program in the country.
  • Debate also is offered at Northwestern’s National High School Institute, known as the “cherubs” programs, where high school students learn skills in filmmaking, performance and debate; many participants are Chicago students, and many of the instructors are CPS teachers on summer leave.
  • Researcher Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology, Physiology and Otolaryngology, is working with a number of Chicago Public Schools to conduct studies on the impact of music education on nervous system and learning outcomes.

School of Education and Social Policy

  • High School to College Transition Project -- At 58 high schools in Chicago Public Schools, professor James Rosenbaum’s project studying the high school to college transition analyzes programs to improve college attendance. This investigation includes evaluating the impact of a new college counseling model on college enrollment and examining ways ordinary counselors assist students’ college application process.
  • Strengthening Student Engagement in Chicago Public Schools -- A research team led by Professor Jonathan Guryan is studying the effects on school engagement of efforts to strengthen the social capital and support to nearly 500 elementary and middle school students within CPS. The goal is to test the effects on school attendance and subsequent learning outcomes of an adult mentoring and case management program known as Check & Connect. Guryan, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Chicago and Northwestern, is also co-director of the Urban Education Lab, which provides evidence about education strategies that are effective and cost-effective.
  • Charter Schools -- SESP professor Carol Lee co-founded Betty Shabazz International Charter School, which now has three campuses and 916 students. These Chicago Public Schools campuses balance instruction using African-centered themes, arts and humanities, technology and linkages to local community resources as well as to South Africa, Brazil and Ghana.
  • New Civic Journalism Project -- Eva Lam and Matt Easterday, in collaboration with Jack Doppelt of Medill, are teaching immigrant students to use cultural resources and journalism to educate and engage communities in public problems. The program promotes media literacy and multimedia storytelling by drawing from students’ community and family experiences and their bilingual skills to develop journalistic stories.
  • Cities Stress and Learning Study -- This research project led by Emma Adam aims to identify both chronic and everyday life stressors facing students in the Chicago Public Schools, and to examine how those stressors impact students’ emotions, stress hormone levels, sleep, executive functioning and academic outcomes. 

The Graduate School

  • The Science Club is an educational research project at The Graduate School funded by the National Institutes of Health and designed to promote science interest and engagement among urban youth. This mentor-based after-school program allows middle school students to directly engage with a wide range of science issues through hands-on experimentation. The program provides the students invaluable exposure to Northwestern scientists and STEM concepts not typically accessible through their schools. Graduate student and postdoctoral fellow volunteers provide guidance with concepts and lead the students through the given experiments for the week.

Kellogg School of Management

  • Education Lab – CPS projects -- Long-term partnership with Chicago Public School administration to improve the quality of science instruction, increase the number of students achieving high standards and improve the graduation rate.
  • Kellogg has a number of partnerships with CPS from top administration to student level: teacher training (NFTE), leadership and student preparation.
  • Kellogg’s Center for Nonprofit Management provides scholarship assistance to school leaders who want to participate in leadership development programs. Over the years, the center provided leadership development programs for more than 250 principals.

McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

  • McCormick regularly hosts students from CPS schools on campus to learn more about engineering and the opportunities it can provide. The CPS students participate in lab tours, observing engineering demonstrations, participating in hands-on activities and interacting with undergraduate students. This summer 10 CPS students involved with the Museum of Science and Industry Science Achievers program worked on campus and participated in a week-long engineering exposure program.
  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) sponsors the High School Initiative Program (HSIP), which is an annual outreach event for CPS high school students organized and set up by SHPE members. SHPE invites more than 50 CPS high school students to participate in an all-day event with science workshops, lectures given by McCormick professors and hands-on activities geared to motivate students to pursue a STEM degree.
  • The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) holds its main outreach event, the annual Career Day for Girls, in February. Around 70 volunteers from McCormick help plan and run the event targeted towards middle and high school girls. The event consists of design activities, lab tours, student panels and guest speakers to show female students that science and engineering are exciting paths for them. Students from 22 different CPS schools attended this event last year. SWE also runs a non-residential three-day summer program for girls going into grades 7, 8 and 9.

Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

  • Medill Media Teams -- Medill created an initiative for West Side and South Side Chicago teens to unleash the power of their voice -- now and as future leaders. Medill Media Teens is a news literacy outreach program based on the approach that consistently participating in and producing media builds knowledge, interest and discernment about news media and improves individual commitment. Medill partners with the Gary Comer Youth Center on this initiative and involves both CPS and charter high schools (such as Gary Comer College Prep, Kenwood Academy and Hirsch Metropolitan High School). In its three-year run, Medill Media Teens has shown measurable advancement in school performance and an increased interest in academics and higher education among participants.

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

  • The Admission Office Symposium called “Immerse Yourself” is held in May and is an event designed to provide a taste of undergraduate life for Chicago Public School students. The daylong program includes a sampling of seminars taught by Weinberg faculty, a panel discussion by current Northwestern students, a campus tour and an informational session on college admissions and financial aid. William Haarlow, director of college-admission relations and undergraduate research, said the event is intended to reach underserved minority groups in high schools that haven’t traditionally sent many students to Northwestern. It’s about getting the students excited about college.
  • Chicago Public Schools holds an annual citywide science fair where hundreds of students, grades 6-12, present their science projects. The Teresa K. Woodruff Middle School Science Fair Award was created to support women in science by honoring the work of a female CPS middle-school student. Student awardees win a $50 prize and a half-day in the lab, learning how scientists conduct real research. They also get to meet with Woodruff, director of Northwestern University’s Women’s Health Research Institute, to discuss her project and learn about oncofertility.
  • The department of Spanish and Portuguese sponsors an initiative called NU Heights for CPS students. NU Heights is run and organized by Northwestern students who have tutored grade-school kids at Peirce Elementary in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood. Under the program, about 60 Northwestern students make weekly trips to Peirce, and the program benefits Northwestern students as well as those from Peirce. The students’ training in Spanish in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences department has played a central role in shaping the program.

Office of Summer Session and Special Programs

  • The Summer College Bridge Program is a partnership program with Chicago Public Schools in which a select number of high-achieving CPS students enroll in undergraduate summer courses at Northwestern. Tuition is fully funded through the Office of Summer Session and Special Programs. A total of 27 students participated in the program in summer 2013. For the past two decades, Northwestern has remained committed to diverse, academically talented youth through the summer College Bridge program, supporting CPS students with valuable opportunities to achieve college credit and demonstrate success at the college level, as exemplified in their significantly higher percentage yield compared to the University’s overall undergraduate acceptance rate. For example, of the College Bridge students graduating from CPS in 2013, 56 percent applied to Northwestern; 27 percent were admitted to the Northwestern class of 2017, compared to the overall admit rate of 14 percent.
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