Chicago's New Graduation Requirements: What Do You Think?

Chicago's Board of Education recently approved three additional, or new, graduation requirements for high school students.

Science Requirements

Starting with the 2018 - 2019 school year, students in Chicago's public schools will be required to take Biology, Chemistry and Physics to graduate.  The school system believes that the exposure to science will help prepare students for the 21st century and that it will expose them to opportunities that they might not otherwise be exposed to if they were not given these skills.

In 2016 The Office for Civil Rights, under the Department of Education, released a report entitled, The 2013 - 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).  It collected data from:

  • 16,758 school districts (which is 99.2% of ALL school districts)
  • 95,505 schools (which represents 99.5% of ALL public schools)
  • encompassing 50,035,744 students

The report found that:

"More than half of high schools, in America, do not offer calculus, four in ten do not offer physics, more than one in four do not offer chemistry, and more than one in five do not offer Algebra II, which is considered a gateway class for success in college."

For high schools with > 75% black or Latino student populations, the numbers were even more staggering:

  • “33% of high schools with high black and Latino student enrollment* offer calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with low black and Latino student enrollment.”
  • “only 48% of high schools with high black and Latino student enrollment* offer physics, compared to 67% of high schools with low black and Latino student enrollment.”

*"High Black and Latino enrollment" was defined as schools with > 75% Black and Latino student enrollment.  "Low Black and Latino enrollment" was defined as schools with < 25% Black and Latino student enrollment.

When you consider these findings, the fact that Chicago is going to expose ALL of its children to Biology, Chemistry and Physics seems to bode well for these students in a 21st-century job market.

According to the Chicago Public Schools', "CPS Stats and Facts", the racial breakdown of its students is as follows for the 2016 - 2017 school year:

  • 46.5% Hispanic
  • 37.7% African American
  • 9.9% White
  • 3.9% Asian

New Financial Education Requirement

Chicago Public Schools will also now make financial education a part of its graduation requirements.  The focus will be the topics of credit, investment, money management and other areas.  I would hope that buying a house and paying for college, etc. might also be included in the coursework.

College campus.

College campus.

The most debated aspect of these new requirements is the issue of post-graduation plans.

Plans for Graduation

The other requirement that the school system's Board of Education voted on was the "Learn, Plan, Succeed" initiative.  This new effort requires ALL students seeking graduation to have a post-secondary plan which must be submitted to their schools.

In order to graduate, students must present their schools with:

  • an acceptance letter from a college,
  • a military enlistment,
  • proof of acceptance into a jobs, apprenticeship or gap-year program or 
  • a current job offer.

Some critics say that this will require more guidance counselors to meet the needs of the program.  Some have also said that the school system should not be focusing on plans, but rather on the high dropout rates in Chicago.

One thing I've noticed throughout the years is that parents who have the means tend to spend money on preparation for their children for college (on tests, camps, tutors, etc.).  I bet none of the politicians who are criticizing these new plans will have their children graduate from high school without a solid plan for college, or some other means of educational advancement, after high school.

This "Learn, Plan Succeed" will make Chicago the first city in the country to require such a plan from its graduates.  If it encourages children to think, more realistically, about what they will need to do after high school, it's a step in the right direction (in my opinion!).

What's your opinion?


Red and Black Ink, LLC, 2017.


Chicago Public Schools.  Inside CPS:  New Strategy to Help Students Prepare for Life After Graduation.  Accessed July 2017.

"Persistent Disparities Found Through Comprehensive Civil Rights Survey Underscore Need for Continued Focus on Equity, King Says."  U.S. Department of Education.  Press release, June 7, 2016.


Danita Smith