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How Chicago Created ‘Community College’ for Special Ed Students

Southside Occupational Academy was about a month out from the end of the school year and its 268 students were preparing for the school’s first farmers market. They fidgeted restlessly, eager to get to work, ringing up cash registers, serving food they cooked themselves in the school’s kitchen, showing off pieces of art and screen-printed garments made in its studios.

This is not a regular vocational school. It’s an experiment in transitional education in an economically distressed part of town that offers few advantages for kids who graduate high school, much less ones who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.