Since 2000, Teach For America's local network of 3,400 leaders has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with families and students to expand educational opportunity in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
Dear Friends of Teach For America,
As I write this, there is still tremendous uncertainty around this new school year. But one thing is sadly certain: the disruptions to the education system wrought by the pandemic are going to leave Black and Latinx students even further behind their peers.
That is not because of any failing on the part of students and teachers. In fact, you'll see below examples of the remarkable resilience and innovation we saw in the wake of the pandemic and continued racial injustice.
But the fact is, the education system was not working for far too many of our students even before the pandemic. If we are going to come out stronger on the other side of this challenge, we need to invent a new system of teaching and learning that creates the access to educational opportunity that students and families here want and deserve.
The challenges ahead of us are daunting. And yet, I am hopeful. In times of crisis, true leadership matters.
Over the past 20 years, Teach For America has been part of a growing community of passionate educators who are ready to meet this moment. We are working shoulder to shoulder with students, parents, educators, community leaders and philanthropists.
Read our Back to School Update below to learn more. Together, we can come out of this pandemic with a stronger, more equitable system than we had before.
Let's get to work.
Executive Director, Teach For America Chicago-Northwest Indiana
Our Scale and Impact
We Are 1000+ Teachers
of principals working with TFA corps members say they make a positive difference
years of academic progress per school year for students taught by TFA teachers
A First-Year Corps Member Encourages Students to Bear Witness
When school went virtual back in March, first-year corps member Lawrenzo Howell tasked his history students with keeping a journal to help them process their experiences with the coronavirus pandemic and bear witness to history.
The students, attending Steel City Academy in Gary, Indiana, asked questions we are all asking now: “When will this be over?” “How is it possible people are still dying from police violence in the middle of a pandemic?”
Even after the school year at Steel City Academy, Lawrenzo kept holding virtual spaces for his students in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protest movement against racism and injustice.
As Lawrenzo shares in the video below, “When I was growing up, I didn’t have any black teachers that looked like me, that would empower me or give me a platform to utilize my voice.” Now he’s helping his students learn the power of their voices.
We Are 290 School Leaders
Chicago high schools with the largest SAT growth are led by TFA alumni
of TFA alumni principals lead Level 1+ schools, compared to 21% of principals who are not alumni
A Principal’s Perspective: We’re All in This Together
A Chicago native, Elizabeth Jamison Dunn is the principal of Catalyst Circle Rock on Chicago’s West Side, where she has taught and led since joining the school as a 2007 Chicago-Northwest Indiana corps member.
“Growing up in Englewood, it would anger me that children had to leave their neighborhoods in order to get a good education,” Elizabeth wrote in a column in Education Post after becoming principal. “As a school leader, I will do everything in my power to make sure my scholars have access to a world-class education regardless of their zip code.”
This past spring, Elizabeth and her team sprang into action to ensure that 100 percent of their students have access to the internet and a device when schools first closed due to the pandemic.
“We are all in this together,” Elizabeth shares in the video below. “As a school community, we are doing everything that we can to show our parents that they have our full support as we battle this together.”
We Are 580 Non-Profit and Private Sector Leaders
After their time in the corps, TFA alum go on to lead many organizations. Here are some organizations led by TFA Chicago-Northwest Indiana alums:
- Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
- Chicago Public Education Fund
- Chicago United for Equity
- CPS Network 5
- Educators for Excellence
- Equality Illinois
- Illinois Network of Charter Schools
- KIPP Chicago
- Teachers Supporting Teachers
- UChicago Impact
How 2 Alumni Support Students Beyond High School
Melissa Connelly, CEO of OneGoal, and Aimée Eubanks Davis, founder and CEO of Braven, both began their professional careers as Teach For America corps members and served as longtime members of our staff.
During our One Week for One Day celebration, Melissa and Aimée joined a conversation with Liz Thompson, president of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education, on postsecondary education and the workforce as the final steps in the Pre-K through career attainment journey. Melissa and Aimée’s Teach For America experience changed their lives.
“It changed who I am as an educator, who I am as a mother, and who I am as a citizen trying to make a better world,” Melissa shares in the video below.
Chicago’s education system is not preparing each of our students to be economically mobile. This was true even before the pandemic. Take a look at some of these metrics, which show the students are not prepared for college or careers.
- 49% graduation rate, flat for 10 years
- 40 to 60% of students need remedial English or math classes
- 22.9% three-year community college graduation rate
- 60% persistence rate in 2020 (down from 66% in 2010)
Long-standing inequities have been exacerbated by the unequal impact of COVID-19 and racial trauma in Black and Latinx communities. Black and Latinx students may experience 9+ months of learning loss compared to 6 months for their white peers.
Average months of learning lost by race:
- 6.8 overall
- 6 for white students
- 10.3 for Black students
- 9.2 for Hispanic students
We asked our community: What would a good future be?
“My family wants me to do my best in school, to have a steady job and a better future than they have.” – Intrinsic Schools student
“I want to have a job that I enjoy, a job that is meaningful, and allows me to be good financially.” – Intrinsic Schools student
“Most important I just hope [my daughter] learns to do exactly what she wants to do.” – Richard T. Crane Medical Prep parent
“Sueño que [mi hija] tenga un mejor futuro… mejor que yo.” "I dream that [my daughter] has a better future than me." – Chavez Multicultural Academic Center parent
Grow Our Network
Today, we are a network of 3,400 leaders working at all levels of the education system in Chicago. By 2030, our network will be 5,400 members strong.
Our 2020 Corps:
new corps members
teaching high-need subjects
identifying with the background of students
Stepping Up in the Face of Uncertainty
In June, more than 2,900 new Teach For America corps members attended our Virtual Summer Teacher Training, including 114 who will be teaching students in Chicago and Northwest Indiana this fall.
In a time of tremendous uncertainty, these new corps members made a choice to commit to providing students here with an excellent education, regardless of the circumstances.
Among them is Edgar Flores, who was born and raised in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. He will be teaching this fall at Acero Garcia High School in nearby Archer Heights.
“Our students now are stepping into something that is literally unprecedented,” Edgar shares in our video spotlight. “I think the one question I need to ask them is: ‘What do you need from me?’”
Reimagine Teaching and Learning
TFA Chicago-Northwest Indiana will support new teachers to teach in an uncertain environment and meet the social-emotional and academic needs of their students. And, we will pilot new opportunities for our school and school system leaders to reimagine teaching and learning at the school and/or school system level and share what they learn across our network.
Adapting to a Virtual World
Veronica Ellis recently completed her first year as a corps member teaching sixth grade science at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village.
With the Chicago Public Schools-wide pivot to remote learning in the spring of 2020, Veronica realized she would have to come up with new ways to keep her students engaged and, just as importantly, to make sure they were all staying safe and healthy.
Her solution—an ongoing series of YouTube videos—was shared widely within the Saucedo community.
Corps member leadership Prepare corps members to have a life-long impact by deepening their understanding of educational equity and the roles they can play
School leadership Grow the pipeline of extraordinary new neighborhood school principals
Nonprofit and public leadership Develop the next generation of dynamic non-profit and public-sector executive organizational leaders
The Power of Collective Leadership
With leaders operating at their full potential, we can see change happening at the level of a school and community.
As part of our One Week for One Day celebration, Teach For America alumni school leaders Barton Dassinger, principal of Chavez Multicultural Academic Center, and Fareeda Shabazz, principal of Richard T. Crane Medical Prep, welcomed us into their schools.
Alongside students, parents, and fellow Teach For America alumni educators, we saw the power of their collective efforts.
As Barton shares, “This work is all about helping kids reach their potential— helping kids reach their dreams,” and for Fareeda, her dreams come true when her students’ dreams come true.
Partner With the Community
We’ll do this through:
Neighborhood clustering: Cluster corps members in a focused group of schools and neighborhoods in order to take a community-driven approach to corps member placement
Community coaching: Develop community and neighborhood approaches to teacher development in Gary, North Chicago, and Chicago neighborhoods
Centering student and family voices: Support our network to elevate the voices of their students and their families to inform and advocate for changes to policies and practices
“Our Parents Are Our Heroes Right Now”
Forging partnerships with families has always been essential for our teachers. Their aspirations and hopes should be central to any educator’s work.
“Our parents are our heroes right now,” Brandon Sherrod shared this spring while teaching first grade at Steel City Academy.
As a parent of two himself, Brandon knows how difficult it can be to support remote learners at home while managing work and other personal responsibilities. He worked to support parents any way he could, whether by keeping his students on a Hangout call for an extra 15 minutes so parents could take a break or by taking a 9pm call to talk through a complicated lesson.
Brandon saw the perseverance of families and children in the face of incredible challenges provide a lesson for his students. “That resilience in itself,” Brandon says, “teaches the children that they can’t give up.”
A Different Way to Donate
When people imagine the role of a philanthropist, they typically think of someone who donates money. Emily Kos, a board member of Teach For America Chicago-Northwest Indiana, is working to expand that.
“I started out with a very simplistic view of giving back,” Emily says. “Either go work full time in a nonprofit or write a check. A lot of people think too much in that binary.”
As a managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Emily is using her professional time and resources to offer Teach For America the sort of guidance the firm provides to corporate clients. She hopes more donors will supplement their financial support with this type of investment.
“By helping to build the internal strategic and operational effectiveness of TFA, we help make every dollar donated work harder for the students we serve,” Emily says.
She knows that a strong education system is the responsibility of every citizen, and hopes more individuals in the private sector begin to feel empowered by the role they can play.
“Education has had a really profound impact on my life,” she says. “We as a country have underinvested in education and the profession of teaching, and I want us all to play a part in changing that.”
We are deeply grateful for all our supporters, including those who gave to our One Week for One Day celebration in honor of our twenty years of impact in Chicago.