“Success Starts Here,” With Chicago’s Help

By | Updates

Chicago Public Schools’ new Five-Year Vision was crafted with input from partners across the city.

On Tuesday, March 26, Chicago Public Schools announced its Five-Year Vision for 2019–2024. Officially titled Success Starts Here, the vision provides a roadmap of priorities and initiatives our district will tackle over the next five years to continue building on the extraordinary progress Chicago Public Schools has made.

After the public release of Success Starts Here, The Children First Fund invited many of the district’s closest partners—businesses, philanthropic organizations, hospitals, cultural and higher-education institutions—to hear directly from CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson about how their continued partnership will help us execute on the tenets of Success Starts Here.

CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson outlined “Success Starts Here” at the event.

 

While the event itself featured a number of surprises, including CPS alumni speakers, graphic artists capturing the evening’s message in real time, and musical performances by CPS students, the Vision document itself, introduced and detailed by Dr. Jackson, was more than a little familiar to the majority of attendees.

A visual artist interpreted the event’s themes in real time.

 

Indeed, most of our partners played a substantial role in shaping Success Starts Here. Back in December 2018, the Children First Fund hosted a partner forum, part of a nearly year-long listening tour, to ask CPS’s most-engaged supporters what priorities they wanted to see in the CPS Five-Year Vision.

CPS partners provided input for the Five-Year Vision at a CFF partner forum in December.

 

We received a wealth of valuable, actionable feedback from that event as well as from hundreds of principals and thousands of parents, teachers, students, and community members. But two themes in particular stuck out:

  1. Our partners want a more clearly defined role in their capacity to support CPS.
  2. Our partners want a better understanding of what CPS means by equity and how they can support it.

Success Starts Here addresses both of those issues directly. Throughout the Vision document, a number of initiatives are flagged with the CFF logo, indicating where partner support will play a crucial role in helping CPS reach its goals. Similarly, equity strategies are clarified in blue text throughout the document, demonstrating specifically how we will promote equity at every level throughout the district.

Throughout the Vision document, the CFF logo indicates opportunities for partner engagement.

 

The business and philanthropic communities have long played a crucial role in supporting Chicago Public Schools, sponsoring and spearheading initiatives that have provided some of the most successful programs in our district. Our partners have helped CPS introduce rigorous computer-science courses, allowing it to become the first district in the nation to have a computer-science graduation requirement. They have helped expand arts-education programs and access to social and emotional learning. They have created no-cut afterschool sports programs, work-readiness opportunities, STEM-learning field trips, and countless other vital programs that shape the CPS student experience.

Those programs are deeply meaningful to the students and schools who reap the benefits every day, but historically, the work our partners have done for CPS has not always been visible to the city, or even to the district at large. CPS had not done everything possible to identify and celebrate the contributions of our partners, and it had not provided a framework to ensure that all partnerships are aligned with our priorities for maximum impact.

That changes with Success Starts Here. The new district agenda has been developed with explicit input from our partners, and it is designed to encourage engagement from new partners of all kinds, from individuals to businesses and foundations and everything in between.

CPS listened to students, educators, parents, and community members to build the Five-Year Vision.

 

By providing our partners with unprecedented insight into our goals and planning, we will maximize the impact of our partners’ support and ensure a seamless experience for our partners.

And Success Starts Here is just the beginning. We welcome our partners to continue engaging with CPS leadership through a new event series called Visionary Voices, in which we will provide policy and initiative deep-dives and hear from partners directly about how we might collaborate to achieve our vision for students.

For these efforts and all partner-engagement, the Children First Fund will be a hub for information about CPS. We will help our partners understand exactly what CPS’s priorities are and where support is needed most.

Chicago is one of the most diverse, vibrant, and innovative cities in the world, and with your support and the support of our partners across the city, we’re unlocking all of its resources to support our students and schools. Thank you!

Case Study: Will Reed and the Fund for Teachers Fellowship

By | Updates

The Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy science teacher is developing a unique climate-literacy program.

When Chicago Public Schools and the Children First Fund celebrate our most successful partner-supported programs, we often focus on the big picture—how many schools adopted the program, how many scholarships were awarded, dollar-value of resources contributed, etc. While those statistics are important, they don’t always show the personal impact of the investments. CFF Case Studies provide a more intimate look at how a partnership or program affects CPS students and teachers.

This Case Study, looking at a recipient of the Fund for Teachers fellowship, was provided by our partners at the Chicago Foundation for Education, who awarded more than 500 grants and fellowships to CPS teachers in 2018 alone.

Fund for Teachers (FFT), one of the nation’s largest investors in teacher learning and leadership, offers PreK–12th-grade teachers from across the country the opportunity for self-designed fellowships to support student success, enrich their practice, and strengthen their schools and communities.

For Will Reed, a science teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy on Chicago’s far south side, the FFT Fellowship experience was a game changer.

“I feel more committed than ever to teaching young people; implementing innovative ways to help my students learn to love science, analysis, and design; and imparting a global perspective.” Explained Mr. Reed after returning from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands this summer. “I also feel much closer to the excitement-filled learning experience that I hope to give my students than I have in years, and am more confident in my skill set and knowledge base.”

Mr. Reed was awarded an FFT Fellowship to research strategies for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change in Northern Europe in order to develop a problem-based learning unit that facilitates climate literacy and empowers students to understand and solve global problems through a local context.

With the program Mr. Reed developed, his students present their designs for a less greenhouse-gas-emitting, more resilient Chicago at a public showcase competition at their school. Community judges give honors to the best projects and acknowledgments to all participating students.

While abroad, Mr. Reed says he gained a deeper understanding of climate change science, activism, politics, and education, both internationally and in terms of climate-related work happening in Chicago. He better understands the history of global energy use and its relation to climate change. Furthermore, he says his fellowship afforded him much more familiarity with the ever-growing set of media and educational resources related to climate change.

CPS Partners Weigh in on District’s Five-Year Vision

By | Updates

In December, the Children First Fund hosted CPS’s first-ever partner forum to help shape the future of Chicago’s public school system.

On December 17, 2018, representatives from businesses, philanthropic organizations, health-care providers, colleges and universities, cultural institutions, and a host of other local and national organizations gathered at 1871, a technology and entrepreneurship center in River North, to discuss the future of Chicago Public Schools.

The CPS 5-Year Vision Donor and Partner Engagement Event was not the first time the district had looked to its community partners for guidance—the majority of attendees were invited because of their existing relationships with and previous contributions to CPS—but it was the first event hosted by the newly re-launched Children First Fund, which is inviting more direct participation from CPS’s external partners into the district’s planning and programming.

The Children First Fund is the Chicago Public Schools’ charitable foundation, and it has spent much of the past year restructuring in an effort to maximize the impact of CPS’s partnerships. That effort has included the consolidation of previously disparate partner-facing teams within CPS, a new digital strategy (including this blog), and a listening tour that engaged more than 100 CPS partners and culminated in December’s event.

After hearing about recent CPS accomplishments and upcoming priorities from CPS leaders and academic chiefs, including CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson, event attendees broke out into small groups for two feedback sessions focused on the district’s overarching framework for the next five years as well as specific priorities, including Equity, Early Education, STEM, Arts Education, Health and Wellness, Parent and Community Engagement, Social Emotional Learning, Career and Technical Education, and a number of other areas of focus for CPS.

In February, the Children First Fund published a summary report of the engagement event, and there is no shortage of feedback to inform the 5-Year Vision. For each district priority, CPS’s partners identified actionable goals for improvement based on their experiences working with the district.

For Teacher Talent and Development, the report notes, “Partners can help CPS develop teacher pipelines through PreK–12 programs and supporting practicums.” For Parent and Community Engagement, “Bring parents into contact with counselors and other supports to help prepare them for all the steps involved in getting their children into and through college.” And for STEM, “Offering partners more information about what STEM programs and activities exist at various locations would help them better align efforts, reduce redundancies, and attract new efforts.”

That guidance, as well as feedback from students, parents, CPS staff, and Chicago community members, will act as a roadmap for the CPS 5-Year Vision, which itself will guide a range of district growth efforts.

December’s event will not be the last opportunity for community members—public and private organizations as well as individuals—to help shape and support the district’s priorities and programming. The Children First Fund is already preparing a follow-up engagement event in March to preview the 5-Year Vision, and it is encouraging new and existing partners to contact the Children First Fund to help support or initiate programs that align with CPS’s mission.

Through the Children First Fund, Chicago Public Schools is asking everyone in Chicago to lend a hand in supporting our city’s students. And if the results of December’s events are any indication, Chicagoans are more than up to the task.

For more information on how you or your business can help support CPS, contact Ben Warren at bpwarren@cps.edu or (773) 553-2109.