The To&Through Project

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By Jenny Nagaoka, Jasmin Lee, Alexandra Usher, and Alex Seeskin

The text below is adapted from Navigating the Maze: Understanding CPS Graduates’ Paths Through College, a report from the To&Through Project and the UChicago Consortium on School Research.

The metaphors used to talk about students’ journeys through college have changed as the understanding of those journeys, and the post-secondary landscape they take place in, have evolved. A pipeline, a road, a maze: each suggests a trajectory through college of varying directness and characterizes students’ experiences very differently.

As we document in our new report, Navigating the Maze: Understanding Chicago Public…


By Alex Seeskin

This past Friday, thousands of CPS eighth graders from across the city applied for access to selective enrollment high schools. Many of the schools, which accept only a small percentage of applicants, are rated in the nation’s top 100 schools and send graduates to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

However, access to these schools won’t be equitably distributed across Chicago. In a district that is predominantly Black, Latinx, and low-income, these competitive enrollment schools are disproportionately white and wealthy. …


Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

In 2020, the To&Through Project and UChicago Consortium on School Research released a report that, for the first time, looked at indicators and outcomes of sophomore year success for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. The report revealed that sophomore year is a time of both significant opportunity and risk for students:

Among the students we studied who finished freshman year off-track…

  • students who got back on track as sophomores graduated from high school at a rate of 73%,
  • whereas students remained off-track as sophomores graduated at a rate of 21%.

Among the students we studied who finished freshman year on-track…

  • students who remained on-track sophomore year graduated from high school at a rate of 93%,
  • whereas students who fell off…

By Ashley N. Leonard and Jennifer Ciok

As we prepare to welcome all students back to school this fall, it is vital that we learn more about how the last year-and-a-half has affected them. In April, the six schools in the To&Through Middle Grades Network gave their middle grade students an assignment that asked them: “How have you changed and grown since the beginning of the pandemic?” Students’ responses took several different forms: poetry, drawings, playlists, or written reflections to describe their experience.

During our quarterly network session on May 5, educators from the schools came together to share examples…


Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

By Jenny Nagaoka, Shelby Mahaffie, Alexandra Usher, and Alex Seeskin

The text below is taken from College During the Pandemic: Immediate Enrollment and Retention of CPS Graduates in Fall 2020, a report from the To&Through Project and the UChicago Consortium on School Research.

In a relatively normal year, spring is a complicated time for CPS seniors, many of whom depend on their counselors, teachers, and other adults for support with financial aid packages and complex college decisions. In conversations with peers and adults, they grapple with how different post-secondary choices will affect their identities, relationships, and future.

For the CPS…


By Jenny Nagaoka, Shelby Mahaffie, Alexandra Usher, and Alex Seeskin

At the To&Through Project and the UChicago Consortium, we have done a lot of critical reflection over the past year about the ways we show up as individuals and as an organization, the limitations of descriptive research and data, and the importance of framing our findings around equity. The introduction to our annual report on the Educational Attainment of Chicago Public School Students is a step in this direction, and we have excerpted it below. …


By Dominique McKoy, Associate Director of the To&Through Project

For more than a decade, the concept of increasing “grit” — perseverance in the face of challenges — has served as a driving theory behind improving the college graduation rates of first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students of color. This prevailing belief argues that educators can teach grit to FGLI students, who in turn will better navigate the systemic challenges they face on white-dominant college campuses. However, for FGLI students from Chicago and across the country, 2020 has stretched the limits of “grit” to its breaking point.

We know that low income students…


By Ashley N. Leonard and Jennifer Ciok

What do you remember about being in middle school? Was there a teacher or mentor who inspired you to do better? Were you navigating new friendships or shifting social cliques? Or was your middle school experience fraught with loneliness? Were you awkward and unsure of who you were? Did you lack the confidence to seek support when things got tough?

No matter what your experience, middle school is all about relationships. The relationships students have with their peers, teachers, and families are incredibly influential during this period. It is also a time of…


Authors
Alex Seeskin, Director, The To&Through Project
Shelby Maffie, Research Analyst II, UChicago Consortium on School Research
Alexandra Usher, Associate Director for Data Research, The To&Through Project; Senior Research Analyst, UChicago Consortium on School Research

In Chicago and many districts around the country, sophomore year is a forgotten year, a time sandwiched in between high school’s more momentous milestones: freshman year is focused on ensuring a smooth transition to high school; junior year on preparing for post-secondary entrance exams; and senior year on applying to college. …

The To&Through Project

The To&Through Project aims to increase high school & post-secondary completion for under-resourced students of color in Chicago & around the country.

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