Gunshots to Google: Chicago’s Startup High School Comes into its Own

Matt Hancock

Have you seen the latest Forbes piece on Chicago’s startup high school, ChiTech? 

JJ Colao, the Forbes reporter who spent two days hanging out with us, really captured the magic happening in and outside of the classroom at ChiTech. 

The article, while a major milestone for the school, is really a testament to what Chicago’s tech community can do when it puts its mind to something. 

In just two years, ChiTech has outperformed 96% and 89% of Chicago highschools--in terms of the percentage of students making expected gains--in reading and math, respectively. Many of our students are making 2 - 5 times the gains of the average Chicago high school student. These results would not be possible without our fantastic team of teachers and awesome instructional leadership.

Academics are just the beginning. Swing by ChiTech on any given day, and you’ll see students developing websites in HTML and CSS, others will be practicing their pitches in our NFTE/Future Founders Entrepreneurship classes; you might see our 10th graders experimenting with Javascript; and you’ll see our 11th graders programming mobile apps, or re-designing Twitter from the ground up. (We even have one student writing code as a freelancer for a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO).)

Pop your head into a classroom, and you’re likely to see one of Chicago’s tech executives, entrepreneurs or professionals presenting, working on a ChiTech Labs project with a team of students, or figuring out how to use technology to solve serious social issues in the city.

Hang around after-school and you might see students meeting with their mentors. Through Generation Tech mentoring, we’ve matched more than 50 of our students with tech entrepreneurs, executives and professionals from around Chicago. Together, they’re tackling tech challenges, providing advice about college and careers, helping out with a sticky situation, or just hanging out and having fun. By the time they graduate, all our students will be matched up with a mentor. 

You’ll also pick up on the professional environment, where you’ll see a collaborative, team-based environment, and super-flat organizational structure. While you’ll feel at home in this tech-startup environment, it is unlike the type of high school culture you or I probably experienced. The principal’s office has been converted to “conference room A,” and the reserved parking spots have been replaced by “rock star” parking spots--set aside for staff members recognized, by their peers, for excellence. 

At the end of the day, it’s this culture that we’re building, as a community, that has made ChiTech such a great school. It’s this culture that has allowed us to attract such a talented staff, to tap into the team’s creativity, and that has allowed such exciting partnerships between the school and Chicago’s tech community to take hold. 

None of this would have been possible without you: the members of Built in Chicago and Chicago’s larger tech community. ChiTech is your startup high school because of the countless hours you’ve spent mentoring members of the school’s leadership team and staff, providing input into the curricula, class projects and field experiences, and rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in the lives of these young people. 

Through your inspiration, example and connections our students are learning to turn their big dreams into big things that can change the world.

Please, check out the Forbes article, “Gunshots to Google: Teaching Entrepreneurship To Chicago's Inner City.” I know you’ll be proud. (And if you Tweet about it, use “#gunshotstogoogle”.)

Oh, and we can always use more help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to talk about opportunities to connect with our kids and support ChiTech, Chicago’s startup high school. 

mhancock@chicagotechacademy.org

@mwhancock

chitech.org

@ChiTechAcademy

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