Feb. 6, 2003
Vol. 22 No. 9

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    University establishes new Center for Urban Schools, names Knowles director

    By William Harms
    News Office

    In order to strengthen its involvement with the Chicago Public Schools, the University has established the Center for Urban Schools, Communities and Their Improvement and has named as its executive director Timothy Knowles, deputy superintendent of the Boston Public Schools.

    The new center emerges from the work of the Center for School Improvement and its North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School. Under Knowles’ leadership, the University seeks to both broaden the engagement of the campus community in this work and deepen the ties of the University and the Chicago Public Schools.

    “We are delighted that Tim Knowles will be joining us. He brings an outstanding background that will help the University increase its capacity to be an effective partner with the Chicago Public Schools,” said Richard Saller, University Provost. “We are proud of our relationship with the schools and look forward to the ways this new center will help us become even more engaged in that partnership.”

    Anthony Bryk, the Marshall Field IV Professor in Sociology and Director of the Center for School Improvement, said Knowles’ appointment will greatly enhance the University’s capacity for meaningful work with the Chicago Public Schools.

    “I am excited about having Tim as a new colleague and look forward to working closely with him as the University moves to enlarge its efforts to support school community development across the mid-South Side,” Bryk said. “This expanded center of work creates wonderful new opportunities, harnessing the many research and teaching resources of the University in the service of our most pressing social concern–improving the educational opportunities afforded our city’s students.”

    The Center for School Improvement, established in 1988, works directly with nine Chicago Public Schools to provide assistance for literacy programs, help for new teachers and teacher mentoring programs. It also is actively involved in professional education efforts in Area 15 on the South Side and for CPS leadership.

    The North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School opened in 1998, under the guidance of the CSI. It serves 300 children in grades prekindergarten through eighth and is committed to providing high-quality education by engaging students in challenging work and holding them to high standards. The charter school serves as a site for the CSI’s professional development work with teachers.

    “I am thrilled to be coming to the University and to have the opportunity to support the ambitious reforms underway in the Chicago Public Schools,” Knowles said. “In my view, improving teaching and learning for students in urban schools is the most important, rewarding work there is. Doing this work in a place with enormous intellectual capacity, a deep commitment to improving practice and interest in forging new directions for American public schooling makes the promise of this work powerful beyond measure.

    “I am terrifically excited about working with Tony Bryk–his commitment to urban education, bridging the gap between good research and effective practice, to rethinking the role of a research institution in school improvement–will make him a wonderful partner,” he added.

    Knowles has been deputy superintendent for teaching and learning at the Boston Public Schools since 1998. In that job, he has been responsible for school improvement and professional development, developing and sustaining community partnerships, and supervising principals and district staff.

    He was co-director of the Boston Annenberg Challenge, a $30 million effort to improve literacy instruction, and has served in a number of other administrative positions, including founding director of a full service kindergarten–eighth-grade school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City.

    He received a B.A. in anthropology and African history in 1988, from Oberlin College, and an M.Ed in 1996, and an Ed.D. in administration, planning and social policy in 2002, from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Knowles will begin his new duties Friday, Aug. 1.