Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (foreground right) has made attracting software and technology firms a high priority for the city. Chicago sought and won a Smarter Cities Challenge Grant in 2011 to help the city align public school math and science education with economic development goals. "With the curriculum that IBM will be developing with Chicago Public Schools, we'll be giving students a better chance at a future in the most promising area of employment, and that's in technology and computer sciences," Emanuel said during a 2011 press conference.
IBM has since worked with the city to develop a long-range plan and short-term strategies to connect public school programs and the city's community college system to the city's economic agenda. "There were disconnects between the courses being taught, the success rates of students in key subjects and the economic development strategy," Stanley Litow, IBM's VP of corporate citizenship & corporate affairs (foreground, left), told InformationWeek at the November 15 Smarter Cities Challenge Summit in Palisades, N.Y.
The city's new plan is to develop, track and analyze data on graduation rates by subject area, courses taught in community colleges, credentials of schools and instructors by subject area, and skills gaps in Chicago's available workforce. "If there's a disconnect between the data and the economic development strategy, you either have to change your strategy or change your approach to student preparation," Litow concluded.