50th B-day Wishes to Harper College from Superintendent Cates & D211

D211 Post: Foundation Taps District 211, Harper College, NIU for Bachelor’s Degree Grant

High School District 211, Harper College, and Northern Illinois University have been selected to participate in a one-year “design challenge” that aims to dramatically move the needle on bachelor’s degree completion for community college students.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is funding the nonprofit Education Design Lab to lead the Seamless Transfer Pathway Design Challenge. Harper, NIU and District 211 are among just four groups of two- and four-year institutions chosen nationwide for the grant.  

“We know that through our partnerships, we are able to achieve more together than we ever could individually,” Harper College President Dr. Ken Ender said. “If we are going to increase baccalaureate completion in a transformational way, we must begin to think of the high school, community college and university as a single network.”

Research shows about 80 percent of students who enroll in a community college intend to complete a bachelor’s degree. Yet, according to the Education Design Lab, only 25 percent make the leap to a four-year school within five years, and just 17 percent complete a four-year degree within six years of transferring.

The design challenge will bring together partners to break down transfer barriers.

Harper, NIU and District 211’s proposal aims to reduce the time and cost of earning a bachelor’s degree with a goal of a 30 percent increase in the number of Harper students who go on to graduate from NIU within six years. Several initiatives will make this possible including:

  • Power of 15: Based on research showing students who enter college with 15 credits are twice as likely to graduate with a four-year degree, the Power of 15 program increases opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school.
  • Reducing remediation: Opportunities will be expanded for students to take developmental English and math courses during their senior year of high school so they enter Harper automatically eligible for college-level courses.
  • Reduction in “wasted” credits: Continued alignment of pathways will ensure students take courses they need to successfully complete their desired program.
  • Early college credit: Students will take college credit courses while in high school at a sharply reduced cost.
  • Promise Scholarship: Students can earn up to two years of free tuition at Harper by meeting benchmarks in the areas of attendance, rigor, quality, persistence and community service.
  • Unified transition advising: Students will be advised through a coordinated, case management effort that will serve them from high school to completing their bachelor’s degree at NIU.
  • Guaranteed enrollment: If students stay on their pathway and meet minimum requirements, they will not need to apply for admission to NIU after completing Harper.

Beginning this fall, the design challenge will provide partners with coaches, access to experts in transfer pathways and reimbursement for national cohort meetings and design sessions. Pilot programs developed over the next year will be launched in fall 2018 and results tracked for six years.

“Our partnership with Harper College has made the pursuit of a college degree a real possibility for many of our students,” District 211 Superintendent Dr. Daniel Cates said. “For years, we have envisioned how we might connect more of our high school students with a four-year college program at Northern Illinois University, and we are excited to partner with Harper College and NIU to make this dream a true possibility for our students.”

“We are excited to partner with Harper College and Township High School District 211 on an innovative pathway to increase the number of students earning a four-year degree,” said Ron Smith, NIU Director, Community College Partnerships. “Our collective efforts will better prepare students for success throughout their college and career endeavors.”

For more information on the design challenge, visit eddesignlab.org.


(Release courtesy of Harper College Media Relations Office)

Upcoming ‘The Future Begins Today’ Event, Harper College Informational Meeting to Help Special Education Families Transition

Township High School District 211’s Transition Services Department has upcoming events that will help families transition between high school and post-secondary life.

Harper College will host an informational meeting for parents and students about services and accommodations for students with disabilities on a 504 Plan or IEP. The event will take place on April 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Harper College, Building J, Room 143.

Additionally, the District will host “The Future Begins Today – Transition Resource Fair” for parents and guardians of individuals with disabilities. The event will take place on April 25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at Palatine High School, 1111 N. Rohlwing Rd.

Attendees will have access to more than 40 adult service agencies that can provide information to families on the services they offer. They will also hear the keynote address titled “Transition: Putting the Pieces Together,” presented by Barb Tobias, Sandy Ricketts, and Linda Hall from Connect to Community. The Transition Resource Fair will include resources for job skill training, post-secondary education options, financial planning, self-advocacy, and more.

For more information, please contact Diane Pfister at (847) 755-1851/dpfister@d211.org or Patrick Abraham at (847) 755-1848/pabraham@d211.org.  

District 211 Students Attend 2016 Harper College Latino Summit


During the opening ceremony, a flag presentation was displayed that showcased all the different countries Latino and Latina students represent.

District 211 students from Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Schaumburg High Schools recently joined several students from area school districts for the 2016 Latino Summit. There, students had opportunities to hear from Latino professionals, explore college opportunities, and listen to a keynote speaker.

The 2016 Latino Summit was held on Nov. 18 at William Rainey Harper College and more than 500 Latino freshmen and sophomores from 17 area schools attended. Presentations were held in both English and Spanish.

PHS students Briana Solano, Jahela Suarez, Eunice Juarez, and Oscar Cuevas attended the Latino Summit at Harper College.

PHS students Briana Solano, Jahela Suarez, Eunice Juarez, and Oscar Cuevas attended the Latino Summit at Harper College.

The keynote speaker this year was Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz. The summit helps students develop leadership skills, network, and meet peers from other schools with similar aspirations. Each year, the Latino Summit is a self-supported event, and funds must be found to finance the event and scholarships for deserving seniors.

This year, the following 10 District 211 students earned scholarships:


Scholarship recipients

Scholarship recipients




Marilyn Medina-Perez Scholarship recipients:

Emilio Balderas – Palatine High School

Christian Salinas – Palatine High School

Daniel Pacheco – Palatine High School

Katherine Perez – Palatine High School

Samantha Ortiz – Palatine High School


Latino Summit Scholarship recipients:

Jorg Morales – Hoffman Estates High School

Lizbeth Morales – Palatine High School

Jennifer Perez – Schaumburg High School


District 211 Partnership Receives Joyce Foundation Grant for Career Pathway Programs

Danielle Hauser, District 211 director of instructional improvement, presents District 211, District 214, and Harper College’s history with career pathways at the Great Lakes Grant Summit on March 28.

Danielle Hauser, District 211 director of instructional improvement, presents District 211, District 214, and Harper College’s history with career pathways at a summit on March 28.

As part of a local partnership, Township High School District 211 is receiving a grant to help fulfill its vision of ensuring each and every student is college and career ready by the time they graduate.

The Joyce Foundation will provide Township High School District 211 and High School District 214 a $400,000 grant over two years as part of a new regional partnership aimed at expanding high-quality college and career pathways.  Harper College also plays a key role in the career pathways partnership with Districts 211 and 214.

“Districts 211 and 214 are working in conjunction with Harper College to increase opportunities for our students’ explorations of college majors and career explorations during high school,” said Dr. Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction. “There are many choices for post-high school options for our graduates in the northwest suburbs.”

Districts 211, 214, and Harper College will use the grant and partnership to design comprehensive and high-quality college major and career pathway design and implementation. It will help develop and support regional systems to support a continuum of work-based learning, as well as continuous improvement for teaching and learning throughout all components of college major and career opportunities.

“This opportunity over the next two years will allow D211 to seek out better ways to communicate post-high school options to our students and parents, enhance our internship structure, develop all aspects of the Interactive and Information Technology and Health Sciences Clusters, and increase dual credit options for high school students,” Small said.

Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction, works on a activity during the summit.

Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction, works on a activity during the summit.

In addition to Districts 211, 214, and Harper College, the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership communities also includes the Central Ohio/Greater Columbus area, Madison, Wis., and Rockford, Ill.

The overall Joyce Foundation investment includes $1.4 million in grants to three national leaders in pathways programs, which will support the individual communities and the Partnership. They are: ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, in Berkeley; Jobs for the Future, based in Boston; and Chicago-based Education Systems Center of Northern Illinois University.

Communities in the Great Lakes College and Career Pathway Partnership will share experiences and insights as they work to advance their respective pathways systems. Their progress also will help inform similar efforts across the country

The Joyce Foundation works with grantee partners to research, develop, and advance policy solutions to improve quality of life, promote community vitality, and achieve a fair society. Overall, the foundation will invest $3 million and hands-on technical support from national leaders in the field in four communities that belong to the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership.

All recipients were chosen for demonstrating committed leadership and strong partnerships across K-12 and postsecondary systems to support college and career readiness. Other criteria included their vision for expanding and improving college and career pathways systems, the needs of their student populations, and supportive, engaged local employers.

For more information, please visit The Joyce Foundation website.

“Power of 15” Highlights Benefits of AP, Dual-Credit Courses

Students spend four years in high school planning and preparing for their college experience. Research indicates that students who engage in college-level coursework while still in the supportive high school environment have an increased likelihood of being successful in college and graduating from college in four years. High School District 211 students can enroll in rigorous, college-level coursework through both Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses.

The Northwest Educational Council for Student Success (NECSS) partnership of Districts 211, 214, 220, and Harper College offers high school students a variety of Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses to encourage all students to earn the equivalent of 15 college credit hours – typically the equivalent of five college classes – prior to high school graduation.

Both Advanced Placement and Dual Credit coursework offers the opportunity for high school students to earn college credit prior to high school graduation. The financial incentive for students and their families, combined with the confidence a student gains from engaging in rigorous coursework prior to entering college, makes for a winning combination.

(Originally published in the Instructional Vision edition of the Superintendent’s Newsletter, January 2015)


Harper College’s Promise Program Panel Discussion Includes PHS Freshman, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan

Ivette Castanon (center), a Palatine High School freshman, participated in a panel discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left) at Harper College on Sept. 9.

Ivette Castanon (right), a Palatine High School freshman, participated in a panel discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left) at Harper College on Sept. 9.

As Harper College’s Promise Scholarship Program becomes available for freshmen this year, families are learning about the positive impact the program can have once students graduate high school.

Freshman students at Palatine High School had the opportunity to meet U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at Harper College as he recognized the Harper College’s Promise Scholarship Program and partnerships with Districts 211, 214, and 220 on Sept. 9.

At the event, Palatine High School freshman Ivette Castanon participated in a panel discussion hosted at Harper College. Secretary Duncan was a participant, along with educators, a community parent, and a local businessman. Ivette, who is one of the first students accepted into the program, described what the Harper Promise opportunity can allow her to accomplish.

“My mom told me about the program first, and I thought it was so great that they have something like this,” she said. “A lot of people decide to not go to college after high school and I really want to go to college. I want to be a doctor and I have this plan that after high school I would maybe try to go to Oxford University.”

Palatine High School students attended the Harper College event and posed with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (top right).

Palatine High School students attended the Harper College event and posed with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (top right).

Under Harper College’s Promise Scholarship Program, every student in the district can earn up to two years of tuition if they’re willing to do the things in high school that will make them successful in college and in the workplace – maintain solid grades, have good attendance, do not repeat classes, and provide service to their community. The program aims to promote life skills and habits that will help students succeed in college and their careers.

This year’s freshman students are the first class eligible for the program and students must maintain the program’s criteria throughout all four years of high school.

Secretary Duncan commended Harper College, Districts 211, 214, and 220, as well as surrounding communities, for efforts to make sure each student is college and career ready.

“What we are trying to do is to take to scale what you are doing at Harper,” Secretary Duncan said at the event. “Everyone here knows that a high school diploma is critical. You have to get one but it’s insufficient. If you stop going to school right after graduation, there are very few jobs out there. The goal is to make community college free.”

Ivette Castanon (center), a Palatine High School freshman, participated in a panel discussion with Arne Duncan (left) at Harper College on Sept. 9.

Ivette Castanon (center), a Palatine High School freshman, participated in a panel discussion with Arne Duncan (left) at Harper College on Sept. 9.

Secretary Duncan also explained how the importance of programs like Harper College’s Promise have a national influence on education.

“We can make this the norm rather than the exception, and that will transform lives,” he said.

Other students from Palatine High School attended the event with Ivette. These freshman students have started their high school careers in the right direction:

Keyla Bustamante (Class of 2019) – Keyla plans to study Physical Therapy in college.  She is also interested in nursing and plans to take the Medical Terminology class at PHS. She plans to play high school soccer and also be involved in Palatine’s Promise, Principal’s Advisory Board, badminton, and other leadership opportunities.  She plays violin in the Orchestra.

Esmeralda Serna (Class of 2019) – Esmeralda is first-generation to this country from Mexico. She is currently in the Orchestra at Palatine High School and is also a talented soccer player who will be trying out for the varsity soccer team as a freshman. Esmeralda will also be joining the Principal’s Advisory Board, Computer Club, and Art Club. Esmeralda also contributes to her community through a youth mentor program called I-Compete.

Russel Wagner (Class of 2019) – Russel is the first of 6 siblings who will attend Palatine High School. He plans to study Medicine in college with a focus on working with children and giving back to his community. Russel currently is on the Cross Country Team and also plans to join the Lacrosse team in the spring. Russel is looking to get involved in school activities such as the Film Club and the Principal’s Advisory Board.

Jahjarie Brown (Class of 2019) – Jahjarie has a passion for music and is currently enrolled in the music program at Palatine High School. Jahjarie is a talented percussionist and looks to be a leader in the Band at Palatine High School. Jahjarie also plans to play basketball and run track & field as well as joining the Principal’s Advisory Board during his first year of high school.

Aleena Qazi (Class of 2019) – Aleena plans to pursue a college degree in the medical field.  She is considering pharmacy or nursing as possible degrees. At PHS, she will take the Medical Terminology and CNA classes. She is also interested in leadership opportunities and public speaking.  She plans to participate in debate and the track team.

Kianna Graves (Class of 2019) – Kianna plans to pursue a degree in elementary education.  She is excited about taking Early Childhood Studies at PHS and working with preschoolers.  She will also participate in Palatine’s Promise (leadership club that promotes positive school culture), debate, yearbook, Principal’s Advisory Board, student council, and volleyball.

Natalia Medina (Class of 2019) – Natalia will pursue a degree in English with plans to be a novelist.  She is going to take all of the writing related courses at PHS such as journalism, creative writing, and expository composition.  She will participate in Palatine’s Promise, Yearbook, debate and the orchesis team.

Also in attendance were Rogelio Anguino (Class of 2019), and Tyler Williams-Smith (Class of 2019)

Interested freshmen can sign up for Harper’s Promise Oct. 15 through Dec. 15, 2015. For more information, please visit the website here.