New audio documentary explores a fight in Chicago and across the nation about how best to bridge the gap from high school to college
CHICAGO (February 13, 2020) – With a college degree often the likeliest path to the middle class and solid career prospects, the stakes for high school students in Chicago are high, especially for the large segment of the student population that arrives for college unprepared for college work.
A new 23-minute audio documentary from WBEZ Chicago, Starting College Behind, looks at how the City Colleges of Chicago are trying to bridge the gap between high school and college. The story focuses on an innovative “developmental” English program, a set of remedial classes designed for students who need extra help.
Yet at the same time, developmental education has become a focus for reform in the last decade. Local and national advocates are proposing to dump current models and try something new, moving students who are behind academically into college classes directly with extra support.
In Starting College behind, WBEZ Higher Education Reporter Kate McGee exposes Chicagoans to this critical, under-the-radar debate taking places at Chicago’s community colleges: How to significantly increase the odds that students who arrive on campus unprepared for college acquire the skills they need to make it through college.
“In a world where a high school diploma doesn’t cut it, many students never make it to college, much less college graduation,” said McGee. “At City Colleges’ seven campuses, there are professors dedicated to preserving the developmental education approach to support students who start college behind. On the other hand, advocates for reforming these models say it’s the remedial classes themselves that are holding students back.”
“This is a national story that’s playing out right here in Chicago at City Colleges of Chicago, the state’s largest community college system,” said Kate Grossman, WBEZ’s senior editor of education. “Kate’s documentary explores how Chicago should best prepare its most vulnerable students – and the city itself – for long-term success.”
This documentary was produced with support from the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program. WBEZ will air Starting College Behind on Saturday, February 15 in the 8 a.m. hour, as well Tuesday, February 18 at 6:30 pm. The documentary will also be available with an accompanying story online at wbez.org.
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Beyoncé, Making Obama and Making Oprah; an investigative podcast series, Motive; 16 Shots: A podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Sound Opinions. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.