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Citizen Schools, Spark and High Jump Represent Chicago In New National Initiative to Expand Middle School Education


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Emily Zaideman


Citizen Schools, Spark and High Jump Represent Chicago
In New National Initiative to Expand Middle School Education

National consortium pledges more than $600 million to boost middle school education

CHICAGO – November 10, 2015 – Citizen Schools, Spark and High Jump, three education organizations based in Chicago or with Chicago chapters, are part of a 20-member national coalition that in collaboration with the Afterschool Alliance will collectively invest more than $620 million over the next five years to create the new Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative. The Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative will enhance learning for more than 1.3 million 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

Steven M. Rothstein, CEO of Citizen Schools, is at the White House today to announce the funding for the new initiative during the Next Gen High School Summit, a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve 21st century high school students. Citizen Schools, Spark and High Jump each work in dynamic ways with middle school students to provide additional learning opportunities to prepare students for success in high school and beyond.

“The expanded learning model proves that middle school students enter high school with a greater chance of graduating and going to college, especially in low-income communities where there is a greater opportunity gap,” said Rothstein, whose organization incorporates apprenticeships and academic support by partnering with public schools to provide an expanded learning time (ELT) in Illinois and six other states. “Providing academic enrichment in subjects like STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) and access to mentors who are scientists, engineers and doctors gives students a chance to imagine themselves in those careers and motivates them to succeed in college and beyond.

Added Lee Hart, executive director of High Jump, a non-profit that provides academic enrichment and support to promising middle grade students of limited economic means: “Expanded learning opportunities in the middle grades expand horizons. To succeed in high school, students need to be challenged in the middle grades so they can develop the mindsets, behaviors and strong relationships that are the foundations of future success.”

Spark provides apprenticeships to middle school students in Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and Philadelphia: “When we tailor seventh and eighth grade learning to meet students’ developmental needs, they build the non-cognitive skills and social capital to transition well into high school highly prepared for the rigors ahead,” said Jason Cascarino, CEO of Spark.

Data shows middle school students who take part in expanded learning programs are more likely to reach their full potential:

  • Student participants show 2 ½ times more interest in STEM fields
  • 71 percent of students who participate graduate from high school on time, compared to 59 percent of their peers who do not participate
  • 61 percent of the students who participate enroll in college, compared to 41 percent of students who do not participate

The consortium’s financial investment is supported by corporate and philanthropic donations, including funding from foundations, individual supporters, and some existing public grants. The consortium said that to ensure all middle school children are fully prepared to participate in a true 21st century high school experience, public funding is necessary to scale evidence-based best practices and programs.

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About Citizen Schools: Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams. For more information, please visit

About Spark: Spark re-engages underserved seventh and eighth grade students, keeping them on track and ready for success in high school and beyond through workplace-based apprenticeships that uniquely combine mentoring, project-based learning, skill building and career exploration. By intervening early, Spark partners with schools to reach disengaged students at a critical inflection point in their education. Spark brings students out of the classroom and into the workplace for project-based mentoring coupled with an in-school Leadership Curriculum that emphasizes the importance of skills including teamwork, time management and goal setting to prepare students for a successful transition to high school. Supported by more than 80 hours of powerful, hands-on programming, 89% of Spark students enter ninth grade on track to graduate on time, compared to 70% of their peers. Spark serves students in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Learn more, mentor, partner and donate at

About High Jump: For more than a quarter century, High Jump has equalized access to education for middle school students who have exhibited academic ambition and potential and who are of limited economic means. High Jump provides free academic enrichment, counseling, and support to 7th and 8th grade students of diverse backgrounds, with the goals of sending our participants to superior college preparatory schools, ensuring their success while they are there, and enhancing their ability to gain admission to highly regarded four-year colleges and universities. High Jump’s three campuses are located at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the Latin School of Chicago and Francis W. Parker School. For more information about High Jump, please visit


High Jump • 59 W. North Blvd. Chicago, IL 60610 • 312.582.7700 • • Si tiene alguna pregunta o desea hablar con alguien en español, favor de llamar al 312.582.7700.