Career and Technical Education

Case Study: 2012

On January 4th, 2010, Ron Huberman, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), announced a comprehensive re-structuring of Chicago's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program: 250 non-standardized career programs were to be reorganized into 80 "College and Career Academies" at 35 high schools over the next seven years. Thirty under-performing programs had already been closed, and 30 new college and career academies would open in the coming fall.

At the same time, through work with our partners and the Mayor’s Office, the first of four planned, standalone Academies, the Chicago Academy for Advanced Technology, had opened the previous fall, and the next, Institute Health Sciences Career Academy, was scheduled to open in the fall of the coming year. When fully implemented, more than 20,000 students, or about one quarter of Chicago's public high school students, will have access to 21st century CTE programs.

Research shows that students in model CTE programs graduate at higher rates from high school, are more likely to attend college, and in the long term obtain higher wages than students who don't. The restructuring of CPS’s CTE programs began in 2006, when Arne Duncan asked Civic Consulting to help in assessing the District’s “voc ed” programs. In collaboration with Booz & Company, Civic Consulting staff worked on a joint team that not only assessed the current programs, but also made recommendations for significant changes in the philosophy and approach to career education at the Chicago Public Schools. 

After the initial recommendations were made in August of 2006, CPS began to search for a new leader to implement the internal effort. At the same time, Civic Consulting, in collaboration with partner firms and the Mayor’s Office, developed the four new standalone Academies. When new leadership was brought on board in the summer of 2008, Civic Consulting and Deloitte worked in collaboration with District staff to develop a detailed internal restructuring plan, the results of which were announced on January 4. Building on this momentum, five Early College Stem Schools were added which McKinsey and Civic Consulting helped to plan and launch.

In the six years since we began working with CPS, five Civic Consulting staff consultants and dozens of volunteers from the partner firms listed below have invested more than $5 million in pro bono services to design and implement the new approach:

  • A.T. Kearney
  • Bain & Company
  • Booz & Company (now Strategy&)
  • Deloitte
  • Edelman
  • Leo Burnett
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Microsoft
  • Mayer Brown
  • Pepper Construction
  • Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill
  • Zorch International

Today, CPS is being recognized as on the cutting edge of a new philosophy and execution of career and technical education. The work started in 2006 has been noted by the US Department of Education, the Economist, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and many others.