East Village's LaSalle II part of new proposal for CPS Language Academy High School


East Village's LaSalle II School

LaSalle II Language Academy, 1148 N Honore St., is part of a group of Chicago Public School (CPS) parents and educators from the CPS Elementary Language Academies who have proposed a Chicago Language Academy High School (CLA). 

The CLA group, called the Chicago Language Academy High School Project, is working to develop an international language, cultural and business studies high school that would be centrally located in Chicago and run by CPS. This language academy would bring high-quality educational opportunities to a widely diverse student population and help them compete in a world economy. 

The proposed CLA, if approved, could be open as early as 2016. The Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy, which launches in CPS last week, is in its infancy and the CLA proposal will help to make its bi-literacy mission a reality.  

According to Michele Dreczynski, a CPS parent and one of the founders of the project, “The recognition by the State of Illinois that biliteracy is important in developing graduates that can compete in an increasingly global marketplace is a first step. But unlike many other world-class cities, Chicago lacks a leading language/culture/business studies high school. Moreover, there are a number of studies that have proven that learning a second language boosts academic performance in all disciplines. Our proposal would take this biliteracy mission into the classroom, and develop a Chicago Language Academy High School that trains graduates who will have a much deeper language proficiency and a broad cultural awareness.”  

The Chicago Language Academy High School Project proposes a centrally-located high school that provides advanced foreign language, cultural and business education with a language proficiency-based admission requirement, as described in the project’s presentation materials. The programs in this high school would benefit from the multitude of foreign consulates, cultural institutions, and corporations that have developed ties to Chicago. In addition to graduates of the CPS elementary-level Language Academies, admission would be open to other students from across the city who can demonstrate a proficiency in the core languages that would be taught at the school. The group has started a petition on Causes.com to garner support. 

Each of the CPS elementary-level Language Academies that would feed into this Chicago Language Academy High School – Murray, LaSalle, LaSalle II and Andrew Jackson – have helped prove that this foreign language learning model works for children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Murray, with a 97% minority student population, was an Illinois Spotlight School for 2012 and 2013, and educators from the school have won the Golden Apple Teaching Award and the Kia Educator of the Month award. Andrew Jackson, with a 76% minority student population, was Sun-Times’ list of top 15 elementary schools in Illinois, a Blue Ribbon Award, and the Japanese Consulate’s Speech Prize. LaSalle and LaSalle II, with their equally diverse student populations, have also won multiple awards, including 14 gold, 6 silver and 1 bronze medals in the Midwest Chinese Teachers’ Alliance Speech Contest alone. 


Students during dedication of outdoor classroom last November

According to Lauren Blair, an early graduate of LaSalle and now a parent of a student in LaSalle II, “The foreign language proficiency and academic skills taught at LaSalle helped prepare me for high school, college, graduate school and my career. This Chicago Language Academy High School would be the next step, giving students across Chicago an opportunity to develop even further, and compete in the world economy.  In contrast to selective enrollment high schools, this language academy would open up educational opportunities for a much more diverse student population.” 

The group has met with Arnie Rivera, Mayor Emanuel’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Education, and Todd Babitz, Kyle Westbrook and Jamila Johnson, directors and managers within CPS. They are arranging meetings with Dr. Byrd-Bennett and CPS Board Members to further discuss this proposal. 

A Chicago Language Academy High School is strongly supported by initiatives at the District, City and State levels.  Educational research addressed in the report by the CPS Bilingual Education and World Language Commission establishes the need for “strong, sustainable … rigorous sequential language education.”   

Within Chicago, this proposed expansion of international studies is supported by Chicago’s own 2012 Cultural Plan with its priority of “focus[ing] on global marketing [and] international exchanges” and the by the World Business Chicago and the Chicago Sister Cities program with their focus on “increas[ing] community engagement” in “developing international partnerships and networks.” 

Finally, the Illinois legislature has recently joined select other states, including New York, California and Florida, in establishing its new Seal of Biliteracy, recognizing the need for the type of advanced language curriculum that The Chicago Language Academy would achieve.

Photos by Elaine Coorens


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