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Brooks College Prep To Open Academic Center For 7th and 8th Graders in 2016

By Alex Nitkin | September 29, 2015 4:55pm
 Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, a selective-enrollment high school in Roseland, will be adding an academic center for seventh and eighth graders next year.
Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, a selective-enrollment high school in Roseland, will be adding an academic center for seventh and eighth graders next year.
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DNAinfo/ Mark Konkol

ROSELAND — Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy will open a selective-enrollment academic center for seventh and eighth-graders next year, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Tuesday. 

In its decision to open the new program at the Roseland school district officials cited the need to boost capacity in middle school-level selective-enrollment schools. Last year 2,145 seventh-graders competed for 800 seats in academic center programs citywide, according to CPS.

CPS alos announced it will be closing the academic center at Harlan Community Academy High School, 9652 S. Michigan Ave., Roseland's other selective-enrollment middle school program. Harlan was home of the city's lowest-performing academic center with its lowest number of applications, according to a CPS news release.

Brooks, city leaders feel, will be a better site to accommodate advanced seventh and eighth-graders.

“Brooks College Prep is one of several CPS schools that rank among the state’s best, and by expanding access to one of our top schools, we are increasing opportunities for our students to attain a world-class education,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The curriculum will include high school-level classes and college-credit courses, aimed at giving students a leg up as they head toward higher education. Crucially, every student admitted into the program will have a guaranteed spot at one of the city's 11 selective-enrollment schools, which includes Brooks.

"What we're really working on is backwards-mapping from 12th grade on the kinds of AP and college-credit classes students can take before they graduate," said Brooks Principal De'Andre Weaver. "The ultimate goal is for students to have enough credit to immediately enroll as sophomores once they get to college, giving them a head start and the opportunity to save some money."

The academic center will also be one of 12 schools in the state to pilot a new College Board capstone research program, which invites students to embark on a two-year research project on a topic that interests them.

"We've been having conversations about what how to go beyond core content mastery and start thinking about things like getting students to develop specific interests," Weaver said. "We're looking at how to develop personalized learning for seventh and eighth-graders ... and that means developing a model where students are working for over a year to do authentic research."

Weaver said Brooks, whose enrollment this year is 790 students, won't have to make any structural changes to accommodate the extra students. The principal said his staff identified some "sparsely used" classrooms that will be repurposed for full-time use by the academic center.

Between capital improvements and new staff hires, the expansion will cost CPS about $1 million in "classroom investments," according to a news release.

The center will only accept seventh-graders in its first year, according to CPS. The school will aim to accommodate about 100 seventh and eighth-graders by the 2017-18 school year.

The application process for the Academic Center at Brooks will "follow the same eligibility criteria as all other academic centers in the district, with enrollment open to students across the city," a news release said.

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