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April 19, 2021

What a Visit to Chicago Taught me About America’s Schools

I recently visited a set of schools in Chicago that are part of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) network. AUSL is an amazing school-turnaround organization in Chicago Public Schools. They produce over 150 new teachers in a top-notch residency program, preparing future teachers to work in urban schools.

The incredible thing about these schools is that when you walk in the front door, you can immediately feel that the adults in each building take their work really seriously. The schools are immaculate, light and joyful, filled with student work and inspirational acknowledgments of students’ accomplishments. When I visited classrooms, they were purposeful, engaging places where kids are doing important work. When I visited with teachers, they were mulling over what they need to do to ensure that their kids succeed, and they have an excellent handle on student performance data. When I look at their work on our collaboration platform, I see teachers and coaches working together to hone their skills, to give each other feedback, and to help each other grow as professionals. When I talked with administrators, they were enthusiastically working with teachers to strengthen their learning so that the teachers can in turn lift student learning.

As I flew back to California and looked down at the country zooming by, I imagined all of the classrooms, both urban and rural, all across our country. I imagined them full of students who are doing good work under the direction of thoughtful, committed teachers – just like the great group I saw earlier that day in Chicago –  and I felt hopeful. I believe that as long as American teachers reach out to one another to help each other get better year in and year out, the kids in this country can’t help but get smarter and smarter as they grow up to be productive, healthy citizens. Great work, Teachers. Thank you for all you do!


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