May 17, 2019 Blog, Fund Team Post

Equity, early childhood and talent: Making Chicago a ‘city that works’ for all students

Dear Chicago principals,

Educators know a lot about firsts. We help young people (and their families) navigate dozens of them in the years they are in our care. We also know a lot about transitions; most of our schools are built around daily, quarterly, and annual rituals that mark the passing of time and deepen our lived values.

Chicago is on the precipice of some big firsts and an even bigger transition. In three days, Chicago will inaugurate its first African-American woman and openly gay mayor. For many of our students, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s tenure will be a very personal signal that Chicago can be a “city that works” for each of them.

In times of times of change, The Fund has provided the kind of support that comes naturally to us as educators. For the mayoral transition, that meant serving as a pro-bono partner to the Education Transition Committee. As facilitators, we helped the co-chairs create the final transition report, merging ideas from 60 committee members and more than 120 memos submitted to the Mayor-Elect.

As we step back from the neutral facilitator role and return to our day jobs, we see real potential for more “firsts” in the year ahead. Where there is alignment between the transition plan, Success Starts Here, and what we hear from you, The Fund team is excited to dig in and do more. Three next steps we’re already taking:

  • Investing to advance equity: Janice Jackson recently launched Success Starts Here, which positions equity as a core value in Chicago Public Schools’ planning and practice. The transition committee agreed with CPS’ conclusions: As a city, we need to prioritize black and Latino young men, bilingual learners and special education students. We know those same groups of students are priorities for many of you; our principal-led Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have grappled with outcome and opportunity gaps throughout the 2018-19 school year. Beyond PLCs, we are focusing on equitable access to strong principals in the schools that serve Chicago’s highest-need students, which we call “priority schools.” Our first step in this area, the South Side Education Alliance (SSEA), is a multi-year pilot with eight schools and 12 organizations designed to support educators to achieve outstanding outcomes for students. You can read about the progress of one of our SSEA principals, Clyde King of Ashe Elementary, here. In 2019-20, we are expanding our support for priority schools citywide.
  • Supporting early childhood: Success Starts Here and the transition report call out the importance of successfully implementing universal preschool for all 4-year-olds. Many of you have already reached out to talk about the 2019-20 preschool expansion in your schools. We know you deeply believe in the importance of early childhood education, and that you want additional support for your youngest learners (and their teachers!). The Fund will continue to convene focus groups and you can expect to see opportunities for principals leading new preschool programs in our 2019-20 program offerings launching this June.
  • Recruiting diverse talent: Recruiting diverse educators is core to Success Starts Here, with CPS committing to expanding teacher residencies and teacher preparation partnerships to attract 3,000 new black and Latinx educators to the district by 2024. Fully in support of this priority, the transition committee highlighted additional strategies the district could try, such as incentives for diverse candidates with in-demand certifications and investing in supports for parent and community volunteers. Of course, The Fund was founded on the belief that educator talent is the key to school improvement. For us, the “talent priority” remains all about you – the principals leading in our schools every day. Our top goal remains meeting your needs and KEEPING YOU in our schools and our city.

We look forward to continuing to advance this work with new partners at City Hall and to furthering the goal of having school leaders who reflect the diverse experiences of our students and families. As educators, we believe that strong communication is most important in times of transition. As we head into this important era of “firsts” for our city, we are committed to staying in close touch with all of you. While we look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Jackson and Mayor-elect Lightfoot, we are clear that you are our most important partners in the work ahead. In the coming weeks, we will be in touch frequently – with our annual engagement survey and with announcements about our programs for the 2019-20 school year. We hope you’ll be in touch, too. Chicago is about to write a new chapter, and we’re excited to partner with all of you through this transition and beyond.

Sincerely,

The Fund Team