March 28, 2000

New Chicago Public Education Fund Acts Like a Venture Capital Fund for Education

CHICAGO—For the first time, Chicago’s corporate and civic leadership have banded together in a venture designed to drive the continuing improvement of the Chicago Public Schools through the investment of dollars, perspective, and time.

The Chicago Public Education Fund was unveiled today, announcing over $1.5 million of investments in programs related to improving principal and teacher leadership. The Fund acts like a venture capital fund for public education, raising money and investing in programs that can improve student achievement. The Fund has been able to quietly raise nearly $4 million of an initial $10 million goal and will begin expanding this strong initial base of support. The Fund has the full support of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago Public Schools Board President Gery Chico, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.

“The Fund will invest in exceptional programs that can improve student achievement through recruiting, developing, and retaining effective principals and teachers,” said Janet M. Knupp, The Fund’s president. She added that The Fund does more than award grants, however. “Like a venture capital fund, we will invest significant dollars in exceptional programs, form active partnerships, and achieve great results,” Knupp said.

The Fund’s board of directors and leadership council includes leaders from 35 prominent private and public organizations. The board, which reviews and approves all investments, is chaired by Scott Smith, president and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. “We are initially focusing on principal and teacher leadership, because like business, the ability to recruit and retain bright, informed, and creative leaders is essential to success in public education,” Smith said.

Knupp said the first initiatives will significantly impact how the Chicago Public Schools develop and place new principals with excellent management and school leadership skills, promote professionalism and high standards for Chicago’s most accomplished teachers, and expand alternative routes to teacher certification to attract talented professionals into public education. The Chicago Public Schools is a major partner across many of these initiatives, contributing both dollars and staff resources.

The three initiatives and the organizations leading them are:

• The LAUNCH program, which will develop the management and leadership skills of principals through a rigorous program including summer sessions at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. This program will be led by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

• National Board Certification, which provides a rigorous and consistent standard for assessing and rewarding experienced and accomplished teachers. The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union will both work to increase the number of Chicago’s teachers obtaining this certification. The Fund will also create a “Give-Back Incentive” that will financially reward teachers who successfully achieve national certification and mentor other teachers through this rigorous process. The incentive will also reward schools that successfully support groups of teachers through certification.

• Alternative Certification, which will attract talented individuals in math, science, and other fields into public education. The Golden Apple Foundation’s GATE program brings mid-career math and science professionals into the classroom. Two other organizations receiving investments related to attracting talented professionals into education are Teach For America, which recruits academically talented college graduates into some of the neediest schools, and the Financial Research Advisory Committee’s Teacher Recruitment Initiative, which will assess the quality of new teachers recruited into the system.

“To improve the schools and provide Chicago area employers with a well-educated work force, we must start with principals and teachers,” Smith said. “Because better schools are everybody’s business, The Fund provides a critical, new way to engage corporate and civic leaders in understanding and then supporting the improvement of our schools.” The Fund was launched with lead support from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and The Annenberg Foundation. Other generous donors include Chicago Tribune Charities, The Polk Bros. Foundation, The Pritzker Foundation, Nuveen Investments and numerous individuals and family foundations. With its public launch, The Fund is looking to expand this initial strong base of support with contributions from corporations, individuals, families and foundations


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