Chicago: “So Much Pride”

Just a few days after the Illinois State Charter School Conference, I was back in Chicago as the guest of Distinctive Schools, which manages five charter schools in Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.  Distinctive Schools emphasizes one overarching goal:  All students will be on track to be college and career ready by 8th grade graduation.   

Chicago International Charter School West Belden

I loved this poster at Chicago International Charter School West Belden:  Oh, So Much Pride.  The students declare who they are within PRIDE:  Positive, Ready, Inspired, Dedicated, or Engaged, are examples.   These kindergartners showed me their pride first-hand!

 This high-performing K-8 charter school includes 500 students, 94% Latino and 94% free and reduced lunch.  The community has embraced this school—most students come from just 6-8 blocks away.

What I loved most about this school is the Shared Leadership Team Perspective.  Teachers are given great freedom and authority to bring new ideas and strategies to their teaching.  The best teachers in the school become team leaders and mentors who work with other teachers every day.  Teacher evaluation is welcomed because it is about learning and improving.  The teachers use data every day from their reading and other software technology.

Minnesota Early Learning Academy to Open in 2014

I’m  a fan of Distinctive Schools and their co-founders, Dr. Joseph Wise (Chief Education Officer) and Mary Stafford (Chief Operating Officer). That’s why I’m particularly pleased they will open an innovative school with two campuses in the Minneapolis northwest suburbs in 2014!  The founding board members of the Minnesota Early Learning Academy are an amazing group of individuals with deep expertise in chartering and extensive skills in management.  Authorized by Innovative Quality Schools (IQS), this school will be a groundbreaking Age 3 through Grade 3 School with a focus on literacy.  This combination of preschoolers and early graders is new to Minnesota and to most of the nation.  I am looking forward to supporting their efforts over coming months as they open their new Minnesota charter schools!