Illinois State University is part of a new program to help Chicago Public Schools develop more homegrown teachers.
Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), introduced "Teach Chicago Tomorrow" at a news conference on Tuesday. The effort aims to put 500 CPS graduates back into their classrooms annually by 2025. That’s about three times the number of CPS grads the system currently hires each year.
Students would take classes in Chicago to get their degree at ISU. Upon completion, they would be placed on a priority hiring list.
“It’s really designed for students who need to stay in Chicago,” said Kelli Appel, director of enrollment and transition in ISU’s College of Education. “There’s going to be lower costs in that they can still live at home.”
Students in the program could earn an associate degree at City Colleges of Chicago, then get their teaching degree at ISU while taking classes at the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) offices in Chicago, or online.
ISU President Larry Dietz said the program can build on ISU's existing teacher pipeline.
“We at ISU look forward to working with our partners to create an innovative teacher education program that prepares quality teachers for the city of Chicago, teachers who reflect the population of one of the most wonderfully diverse cities in the entire United States,” Dietz said.
Dietz noted ISU’s Step-Up program has been collaborating with Chicago Public Schools for 10 years. The university also offers a summer program through the NCUE that helps prepare aspiring teachers with certification, job applications and mentoring.
Teach Chicago Tomorrow also will work to boost the number of Black and Latinx teachers, particularly among men, to better reflect the student population.
Jackson noted nearly 90% of Chicago Public Schools students are children of color, while nearly half of its teachers are white.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it makes an “enormous difference” when teachers “look like our kids” and are invested in the same communities because it provides a higher level of understanding and empathy.
“In my educational career, starting in kindergarten and going through the 12th grade, I never had a classroom in which there was a teacher of color. Not once,” recalled Lightfoot, a native of Massillon, Ohio. “That is a sad reality of where I grew up, but that cannot be the reality for a city like Chicago.”
ISU graduate Daniel Jackson returned to his native South Side where he teaches second graders at Dixon Elementary. He wants more CPS grads to follow in his footsteps.
“Teach Chicago Tomorrow will normalize seeing more teachers of color in our classroom, especially 'brothers,' men of color,” Jackson said.
ISU produces 1 in 6 teachers in Illinois and graduates more teachers than any other school in the Midwest, Dietz noted.
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