The School That Will Get You a Job

A new kind of education shows why four years of high school isn't enough

Photograph by Grant Cornett for TIME

Sarah E. Goode is the name of one of the first African-American women ever to be granted a U.S. patent, in 1885, for a foldout bed that converted into a desk--a prescient object that would fit right into a modern-day Ikea catalog. It's also the name of a new high school on Chicago's South Side that is redefining what it means to be educated in the 21st century.

Kids at the school, which launched a year and a half ago, aren't called students but "innovators." They receive a hardcore focus on STEM skills (that's science, technology, engineering and math). And they take six years to graduate instead of the traditional four; the extra two years means they walk away with an associate's degree on top of their high school diploma.

There's one more thing they take with them: a job. Every student at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy graduates with a promise of a $40,000-plus opportunity at IBM, the school's corporate partner and a key developer of the curriculum. A place in this school, which rises gleaming and new in a neighborhood littered with dingy bail-bond shops, check-cashing places and fast-food joints, is very likely a ticket to the middle class. If successful, this kind of school could help power the sort of great national leap forward that hasn't happened since the post-World War II period, when state governments decided that high school, previously optional, should be mandatory.

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