Foundation invests $10.3 million to fix Chicago schools

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Catherine Guiles/Medill

Mayor Richard M. Daley acknowledges parents, students and others at the Sherman School of Excellence in Englewood on Thursday. Behind him from right are Sherman Principal Lionel Allen, 16th Ward Ald. JoAnn Thompson and parent Rickey Fields.

By Catherine Guiles
Jan 31, 2008

Since the Academy for Urban School Leadership began running his sons’ school in 2006, Rickey Fields said, the improvement has been drastic.

“I see [students] now look forward to coming to school,” Fields said Thursday at the Sherman School of Excellence in Englewood. “The teachers, their attitude is remarkable.”

Encouraged by Sherman, the nonprofit AUSL wants to expand. It got a financial boost Thursday from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which announced a $10.3 million donation for the AUSL high school plan and teacher residency program.

Under a Chicago Public Schools proposal, the academy would take over Orr High School and two feeder elementaries, Howe and Morton. The faculty and administration would be replaced, although staff could reapply for their jobs.

Two other high schools, yet to be determined, would also be changed under the grant.

“We’re going to challenge the streets,” AUSL founder and chairman Martin Koldyke said.

The Gates Foundation, founded by the Microsoft chairman and his wife, gave $1 million to the academy in 2006 to revamp Collins Academy High School.

“We find it very easy to come to Chicago bearing gifts” because of support from city and school officials, said Steve Seleznow, the foundation’s education program director.

AUSL trains would-be teachers for a year at five of its eight city schools. Participants earn master’s degrees from National-Louis University or the University of Illinois at Chicago, and get coaching after they complete the program. They are expected to teach in underperforming Chicago schools for five years.

City schools CEO Arne Duncan praised AUSL for “creating this great pipeline of talent” outside traditional teacher education.

Carrie Kamm, a mentor resident coach at AUSL’s National Teachers Academy, said the program provides valuable field support that teachers may not get elsewhere.

It emphasizes “the importance of developing relationships with students” and how to “unpack your own instruction” to see what works, Kamm said. “Our goal is to create cadres of highly effective urban teachers.”

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Catherine Guiles/Medill

The Sherman School of Excellence has won praise from parents.

©2001 – 2013 Medill Reports – Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.