NORWOOD PARK — The Chicago Public Schools are expanding their "wall-to-wall" International Baccalaureate programs to Taft and Lincoln Park high schools.
Responding to calls for better and more extensive choices for high schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett made the announcement Thursday at Taft, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
IB offers what CPS describes as "a challenging and academically advanced curriculum" for accomplished and highly motivated students.
Taft and Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St., join Senn, Clemente, Hyde Park and Back of the Yards in offering "wall-to-wall" IB programs in the fall.
That expands the number of IB seats at CPS from 3,900 to 6,800 citywide, with Schurz, Kennedy, Farragut, Bronzeville and Juarez also offering the IB option to students come fall.
"The IB program is an important innovation that will give more and more children and more and more families a choice to not only stay in Chicago, but a choice of great educational opportunities," Emanuel said. "We will have more choice, more high-quality choices, for our families. They will not have to go to the suburbs."
Expanding the IB program takes some of the pressure off the selective-enrollment high schools. Last year, more than 14,000 students applied for the 3,200 slots in the 10 top schools. Emanuel said he sympathized with parents.
"By the fifth or sixth grade, they start to get nervous. Will I have a high school for my child? Today we can say with absolute certainty you will have that," he said.
Byrd-Bennett called the "rigorous curriculum" of the IB program "a critical component of our overall strategy of increasing access to high-quality schools."
Taft senior Patrice Pirpiris introduced Emanuel at a news conference and said she had opted for the IB program at Taft, her neighborhood school, over offers to attend selective-enrollment schools.
"IB was always a backup to selective enrollment," Emanuel said. "Now it's a competitive choice to selective enrollment."
Taft Principal Mary Kay Cappitelli said no students will be displaced by expanding the program in neighborhood high schools. Instead, starting next fall, all freshmen in the "wall-to-wall" IB schools will be enrolled in the IB program, then, as sophomores, select from various levels of the program to continue on.
The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research found that CPS students in the IB program were 40 percent more likely to attend college. Cappitelli said all Taft IB students plan on going on to college.
CPS parents are reminded the deadline for applying for selective-enrollment and magnet schools is Friday.