March 2, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 11

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    Dell Foundation grant will aid network’s progress in building academic excellence

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Nicole Woodard-Iliev (far right), Principal of Donoghue School, an elementary Charter School operated by the University, talks with a mother and her son last summer, as parents were beginning the registration process for their children as the new school year approached. Donoghue School opened in the fall of 2005.

    The Center for Urban School Improvement has received a $2 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to support the work of its Urban School Improvement Network.

    The network partners with elementary and secondary schools established through Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, which is intended to develop new, high-performing schools in the city, and supports the University’s urban education initiative to improve urban schooling nationally as well as locally.

    The network supports the schools through professional development, coaching and consultation for leadership teams. It also provides customized support tailored to the needs of individual schools. Network schools support each other by sharing lessons learned and coordinating visits for educators in the network.

    Current members of the network, which was launched in September 2005, include two elementary campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School — North Kenwood/Oakland and Donoghue — and ACE Technical Charter High School. Four more schools opening in fall 2006 have recently joined the network, three high schools and one elementary school: the high school campus of the University Charter School, Urban Prep Charter Academy — Englewood campus, Perspectives Charter School — Calumet and Global Alliance Preparatory Charter School.

    Up to 15 performance, contract and charter schools are being invited to join the charter schools sponsored by the University and become part of the Urban School Improvement Network, said Timothy Knowles, Executive Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement.

    “The network represents a diverse portfolio of high performing urban schools. It is intended to create evidence that children, no matter who they are, can learn at high levels, at a scale that is persuasive,” he said. The network schools will have access to expertise and professional development that support both students and faculty learning.

    Although the schools that will be part of the network have individual mission statements, there will be consensus on a number of values, Knowles said.

    “We have found an eagerness among the schools to learn from each other,” said Linda Wing, Deputy Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement. “They are not bound together by rules, but work together because the schools all share the same values. We believe that we can accomplish together what no one school can do alone.”

    The schools will share a commitment to rigorous intellectual work, instruction based on distributed leadership and evidence-based decision-making, a strong professional community, integrated academic and social supports, partnerships with parents and communities, and a desire to provide high-quality education to all children, regardless of race, culture or class, she said.

    Sybil Madison-Boyd and Julie Burnett are responsible for the development of the network, in collaboration with Knowles and Wing.