"We had that conversation with parents explaining to them that this is a technology high school, and the goal is to make their son or daughter leaders in the field of technology," she said.
Howerton has high hopes for what CAAT can do for area youth and noted that students might enter the school at different levels of academic achievement.
"The public school education that they have received today has failed them, and so we've developed an instruction method and curriculum that we think can accelerate the learning process for those kids who are several grade levels behind," Howerton said.
Even though the academy is a contract school, it still falls within the Chicago Public Schools jurisdiction, so it's automatically received about $7,400 per student from public funding. More money was needed to finance programs like the mentorships and the acquisition of some instructional technology. Hancock said as of August 2009, the academy had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside financing from various donors, including many of the sponsor organizations that belong to the Illinois Technology Association. This money has been enough to support instruction for the first-year freshman class, but more fundraising will be needed to support successive school years, the summer program and mentor programs. The academy's Web site still lists requests for donations.
"What we think we're doing has an opportunity for real systemic change, not only in the instruction methods, which are, in and of themselves, unique not only in the way we organize and the curriculum we're presenting, but also in the general concept of increasing the number of stakeholders in public education," Howerton said. "Giving private-sector leaders an opportunity to give back and play a role in public school education is a fundamental opportunity for systemic change."