Perspectives Calumet marks first graduation in Catalyst Chicago

Perspectives Calumet marks first graduation
Posted By Sarah Karp On Friday, May 28, 2010
In New Schools

The ceremony at Perspective Calumet Charter School on Thursday was more like a victory celebration than a graduation. Amid cheers and applause, the outgoing seniors were reminded several times that they are special as the first graduating class.

"It is a great day for you, a great day for Auburn Gresham and a great day for Chicago,” boomed Rev. Michael Pfleger, the priest at St. Sabina Church, who kicked off the ceremony.  St. Sabina is located in Auburn Gresham.

Much has been made about the fact that standardized test scores of charter schools are not markedly better than regular Chicago Public Schools. This is the case of Perspectives Calumet Charter, which includes a smaller high school named CalTech, where the average ACT score is about 15.

Still, Perspectives Calumet executive director Rhonda Hopps says the school has a lot to celebrate with this inaugural graduation. The principals and staff have done a much better job of keeping students in school and getting them to college than at the old Calumet High School, she says.

More than 70 percent of the original freshmen walked across the stage Thursday and more than 90 percent of the students are headed to college, according to Hopps. Official drop out and graduation data won’t be released for another year as CPS tracks a five-year cohort of students.

The old Calumet High School only graduated about a third of their students and sent only a third of their graduates to college.

Members of the community advisory committee that decided to bring Perspectives to Calumet over other charter providers stood behind the podium like proud parents. They said that many told them Calumet was a lost cause. Perspectives success at graduating students proves everyone wrong, they said.

While the students seemed to take note of the larger significance of their graduation, they were mostly consumed with the emotions that most graduates face as they prepare for one of life’s big transitions. Through tears, valedictorian Sade Johnson congratulated her peers on surviving the past four years. “Through it all we stayed together and we grew to know each other,” she said. “Laughing, crying and having fun.”