To re-engage youth who are disconnected from school, CPS launched Back to Our Future (B2OF), the first state-funded, district-led, evidence-informed effort to re-engage disconnected students at elevated risk for gun violence involvement. In May 2022, Governor Pritzker, alongside the Mayor’s Office, announced an $18 million investment to Chicago Public Schools in support of the B2OF pilot program and to re-engage 1,000 disconnected young people in school. CPS partners with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Breakthrough, UCAN, and Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. to implement B2OF, which offers youth trauma-informed cognitive behavioral interventions, employment and educational opportunities, and connections to social services.
B2OF focuses on youth ages 14-21 in 15 community areas on the South and West Sides of Chicago who have been disconnected from school and are at potentially higher risk of being involved with gun violence. Eligible participants are identified through one of four pathways: (1) partner referrals from community organizations, (2) institutional referrals from city agencies and other partner institutions, (3) community-based organization reverse referrals from internal staff, and (4) data-driven referrals that leverage administrative data to identify youth who may be likely to engage in gun violence and be inactive in school.
Once referred, participants receive 12 months of programming beginning with a twelve-week period of paid, intensive services—including soft skills training, community building, evidence-based cognitive behavioral intervention, mentorship and family supports, and academic credit recovery. As part of the twelve weeks of programming, youth create an individualized service plan to return to an education program that best meets their post-secondary goals and individualized needs. Pathways for education programs include enrolling in CPS, enrolling in a CPS Options school, enrolling in a CPS B2OF virtual high school (through Edmentum online learning programs), or enrolling in a GED program through Chicago City Colleges.
Once participants complete the twelve-week intensive programming, B2OF continues to provide individualized follow up services and mentorship to stabilize newly re-enrolled participants within their education completion pathway. After youth complete the 12 months of B2OF programming, they receive light-touch, ongoing support services and case management to guide them to high school graduation/completion and successfully transitioning into their chosen post-secondary pathway.
To support this ambitious effort, the Education Lab serves as CPS’s design, technical assistance, and data analysis partner, offering insights from our experience designing and evaluating high-quality programming for youth and adults at elevated risk of gun violence involvement. The Education Lab attends and supports regular monthly feedback sessions with the B2OF partners and provides real time reports summarizing key metrics including participant characteristics, prior arrests and victimizations, take-up, attendance, retention, and dosage of programming received. The Education Lab also monitors programs through regular check-ins with partner organizations to walk through monthly program reports and help CPS and the B2OF partners understand participants’ experience in B2OF and school.
2022 – present
Scaling Promising Practices in Youth Mentoring
This case study by Results for America highlights the Crime Lab and Education Lab’s role in the City of Chicago’s bold initiative to expand the evidence-based Becoming a Man group mentoring model to serve thousands of young men.
Randomized evaluation of a school-based, trauma-informed group intervention for young women in Chicago
Science Advances journal publication.
Working on Womanhood- Research Brief
Research brief for the Working on Womanhood project.
Seizing the Opportunity to Advance Education Equity
2021 Education Lab report on barriers to education faced by CPS students.