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CPS To Set New Graduation Requirement: Acceptance Letter

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Under a new plan to prepare them for life after high school, Chicago Public Schools students would have to show an acceptance letter to a university, community college, apprenticeship, trade school, internship, or the armed services.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new graduation requirements are something he has been considering since he was first elected in 2011. He said he wants to make sure CPS students don't treat high school graduation as the end goal.

The mayor spoke briefly about the plan at a town hall meeting downtown on Tuesday, and formally announced the new requirement Wednesday morning at Malcolm X College. He said part of being successful in life is having continued education after high school.

Starting with the current freshman class, in order to receive their high school diploma, all CPS students would have to show an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school or apprenticeship, an internship, or a branch of the armed services.

"We already have around 62 percent of our kids are already either accepted into college or accepted into community college, and our goal is to make sure nobody spikes the ball at 12th grade. We want to make 14th grade universal. That's the new goal line," Emanuel told CBS This Morning on Wednesday.

CPS Chief Education Officer said the new requirement does not need approval from the Illinois State Board of Education.

"As long as we meet the state's minimum graduation requirements, the district, the Board of Education does have the authority to have requirements on top of that, and as Mayor Emanuel just pointed out, we have several that go above and beyond the state of Illinois' requirements," she said.

The mayor said the need for some kind of postsecondary education or training is simply a reality for the current job market.

"The workplace today has that requirement. All we're doing, as a school system, is catching up to the requirements of the workplace," he said.

Chicago would be the first city to implement such a requirement, although Emanuel said it's an idea he borrowed from charter schools.

"We need, at the public side, to help all our kids – regardless of their zip code, regardless of their background, regardless of what their family situation is – that expectation and support is provided to help kids go post-high school," he said Tuesday evening.

Emanuel also said CPS would work with students to make sure they're aware of available scholarships and other resources to help them after high school.

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