Park Forest, Schools

Southland College Prep Charter High School Awarded $ 150,000 Federal Grant to Share its College Ready Writing Program

Southland College Charter High School

Will share program with Matteson District 162 Elementary Students, Other Illinois and U.S, Districts

RICHTON PARK, ILL—(ENEWSPF)–July 11,2017—Southland College Prep Charter High School has been awarded a $150,000 federal grant to share its college ready writing program with Matteson District 162 elementary students and other Illinois and U.S. school districts.

One of only two Illinois charter schools to receive a Charter School Program award from the Illinois State Board of Education, the Southland grant is part of a $42 million federally funded charter school initiative deigned to expand the number of quality and educationally diverse charter schools and to evaluate their impact on student academic achievement, staff and families, according to an announcement by ISBE.

“Having the ability to compose and create compelling writing is the cornerstone of a student’s successful preparation for college. Southland’s ‘Writing Your Future’ project will assist elementary students express their thoughts succinctly and effectively and will carry them all through their college years,” Dr. Blondean Davis, Southland’s CEO and Superintendent of Matteson District 162, said.

“We are honored and pleased to partner with other schools and districts to provide them with the best practices which have contributed to Southland’s success to date. This is one of the primary purposes we identified when we first designed Southland College Prep nearly a decade ago,” Dr. Davis added.

Southland’s college persistence rate for its first three graduating classes, 2014-2016, is 75 percent, which is 10 percent above the national average for high school graduates who continue to remain in college.

More than two thirds of Southland students scored a 21 or above in the English content area of the ACT, and 84 percent of students consistently score 3 points or higher on the Advanced Placement English Composition exam.

All members of Southland College Prep Charter High School’s first four graduating classes were accepted to four-year colleges and universities, which include 38 of the top 50 U.S. News & World Report ranked schools, and offered more than $67 million in merit-based scholarships.

Southland, whose non-selective enrollment by public lottery is capped at 530 students by the Illinois State Charter School Commission, has a 97% retention rate.

Southland faculty under the leadership of Sherry Grutzius, Director, Instructional Support for English, Global Language, Humanities and Academic Advising, and Meghan Michals, Senior AP English teacher, will work with Matteson District 162 staff to develop and implement a new writing curriculum for students in the third through eighth grades based on core elements of Southland’s “Writing Your Future” program.

“This initiative will provide students from the third grade through senior year of high school with important foundational skills of sentence structure, writing perspective or voice and organizing one’s thoughts,” Grutzius explained.

Matteson District 162’s seven elementary schools and its Special Education program serves approximately 4,000 students who reside in portions of Matteson, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park and University Park.

The project, which includes a best practice video available on the ISBE web site at

is designed to assist other charter schools throughout the U.S. adopt new models for raising student achievement levels.

Background Southland College Prep Charter High School

Southland College Prep Charter High School, opened in August of 2010, is the only public charter secondary school to serve Chicago suburbs. Southland’s enrollment is capped at 530 students by the Illinois State Charter School Commission.

Admission to Southland is on a non-discriminatory basis with respect to race, ethnicity, disability and religious preference.

Enrollment is non-selective and students enter a well-publicized annual public Lottery to earn one of the 530 seats at Southland.

The only criteria for admission are successful completion of elementary school and residence in District 227’s four elementary school districts which include: Country Club Hills, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Matteson, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park and Tinley Park.

Southland College Prep Charter High School is focused on preparing all of its graduates to enter and to earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university.

Southland College Prep operates on a European-Asian school model nine-hour school day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. The college prep curriculum is rigorous with a strong emphasis on math, science, technology, language and fine arts. After school, extra-curricular activities include sports, speech and forensics, band, chorus, dance and service projects.

Students earn 32 credit hours; eight more than are typically required of traditional high school graduates.

Southland College Prep Charter High School’s Students Today

According to its charter, Southland College Prep is authorized to enroll a maximum of 530 students who must live within the boundaries of the Rich High School District.  In Southland’s first year of operation in the 2010-2011 school year a freshman class of 125 students was admitted as Southland’s inaugural student body.  Each year thereafter, Southland has enrolled a new freshman class, until it achieved full enrollment of approximately 530 students in grades 9 through 12.

Each year, because there are more students applying for enrollment then there is available space at Southland, a public lottery is held to determine which students will be admitted, as required by the Illinois Charter Schools Law.

Demographic information regarding Southland’s students is reflective of the communities in which the students live. Currently, 95% of Southland’s students are African American, 1% is Hispanic, less than 1% is Asian, 1% is White, and 2% are identified as “Other.”  Fifty percent of Southland’s students are economically disadvantaged as measured by the federal school lunch program.  Some 11% of Southland’s students receive special education services.

Southland College Prep Charter High School’s Record of Achievement

Southland is achieving its goals of ensuring that 100 percent of Southland’s graduates will be admitted to colleges and universities of their choice and that they will have the financial resources to make college attendance a reality.

In a recent comparative study by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Southland College Prep ranked number one for ACT performance, attendance and graduation rate among all Illinois non-selective enrollment high schools with a% or greater African-American student enrollment and a 50% or greater rate of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch.

The first four Southland College Prep graduating classes of 2014-17 were offered a total of $67.8 million in merit-based scholarships to many top U.S. colleges and universities where they are now enrolled.