Tomorrow morning, 400,000 students – roughly 5,000 buses full of children – will make their way to public school classrooms in Chicago. Of them, 86% come from low-income families and just 60% can expect to make it to high school graduation. For too many students in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, our public schools are not delivering on their promise.
Despite this crisis, every day, students in our region prove what’s possible. In the schools and classrooms where they do it, we find much in common: high academic expectations, kids and educators working with purpose, communities leaning in, parents engaged and empowered to demand excellence. Without a doubt, poverty makes this harder; schools serving low-income students simply must do more to meet their needs. But, through partnership, it can be done. Across neighborhood, grade level or school type, we see in these exemplars a true sense of possibility – a refusal to accept what is and a determination to prove what can be.
Now, we have to do more, faster to ensure that today’s standouts become tomorrow’s standard. Together, we can follow our students’ lead and imagine something extraordinary. This will require us to act on the lessons of our strongest schools and educators and push beyond the confines of our historical approach.
Teach For America supports this effort by recruiting and developing educators to be a part of this work. As principals look to build excellent schools, our corps members are a critical source of diverse talent for them to draw on. As alumni, they are advocating for change both inside the system and out – challenging the educational, racial and economic status quo with tough questions and innovative solutions to meet the needs of thousands of children who simply cannot wait.
Along with 850 veteran teachers and over 60 local principals, Teach For America alumni work as activists, healthcare providers, early childhood education center directors and parent advocates. In all they do, they operate with an unwavering belief in the potential of all kids.
While studies affirm the effectiveness of our program, each day, we listen, learn and strive to improve. Together with tens of thousands of local kids, parents, educators and community, we commit to this because we believe in what’s possible – for public schools, for Chicago and Northwest Indiana, through the promise of opportunity for all.