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School Practices

Curriculum & Instruction:

Audio: John Hancock College Preparatory High School

This audio profile shares how at John Hancock College Preparatory High School, educators engage students in rigorous academics and provide strong social-emotional support with the aim of helping them prepare for life after high school. This includes offering two Career and Technical Education options: pre-law, and pre-engineering. The programs give students a taste of what careers as lawyers or engineers might feel like, as well as developing skills that will serve them well in any career path. As Sarah Jane Simons, a pre-law educator, puts it, “you don’t have to be interested in a legal profession post high school to get value out of our program as a pre-law student. What it is really giving students is the opportunity to get more practice with real-world problem solving skills, with critical thinking skills, with reasoning, with analysis, with writing, with continued exposure to complex texts.”

For other schools looking to target achievement gaps, Principal Puentes shared that “Two of the things that we really worked on was that we revised our approach to grading. We became a standards-based grading school, really thinking about the opportunities that students have for re-takes, thinking about the alignment of our assessments to standards so that students are getting feedback that really moves them towards the growth that we want them to achieve.

In additional conversations with National Blue Ribbon School Program staff, John Hancock Principal Vanessa Puentes reflected on practices that supported their efforts to close achievement gaps, as well as what outsiders might find surprising about their enrollment model.

“And then another thing was that our instructional leadership team really wanted to define what critical thinking looked like at Hancock. We really had to examine our practices, and think about our curriculum and our alignment vertically but also horizontally. And thinking about what it is that students need in order to really exhibit that.”

Principal Puentes also emphasized that although John Hancock changed from a neighborhood to a selective enrollment model several years ago, the school still has much in common with its neighborhood school counterparts.

“There may be a group of people who think, ‘Well, you’re selective, you should be successful’. What people don’t know about us is that most of our students come from our surrounding community. Most of our parents are bilingual. Our students are about 78% low income, and so although students are coming in through an admissions process, our students are very much reflective of a neighborhood student. And so, it’s important for us to really balance both social-emotional well-being, and a challenging and rigorous academic program.”

Read a transcript of the John Hancock College Preparatory High School audio profile.

Read John Hancock College Preparatory High School’s 2020 National Blue Ribbon School application.

School Information

John Hancock College Preparatory High School

Ms. Vanessa Puentes Hernandez

Principal at time of Nomination

4034 West 56th Street
Chicago, IL 60629-4442
(773) 535-2413
Student Demographics 2020
Number of students 9-121008
Students eligible for subsidized meals86%
Students receiving special ed services2%
African American students2%
White students3%
Hispanic or Latino students93%
American Indian or Alaska Native1%
Student mobility rate4%

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