Pritzker Foundation gift to support the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

The work of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute will receive significant support, thanks to a $2.5 million commitment from the Pritzker Foundation. The donation comes from the Pritzker Education Innovation Fund, which the foundation has established to produce reliably excellent schooling for children growing up in Chicago and nationwide.

UEI prepares outstanding urban teachers and leaders through the Urban Teacher Education Program; undertakes rigorous research to improve policy and practice, anchored by the Consortium on Chicago School Research; operates four campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School, serving students across the South Side of Chicago; and provides tools, analytics and training to improve schools nationwide. 

UEI was established in 2008 by President Robert J. Zimmer and the University’s Board of Trustees. “The Urban Education Institute is engaged in the vital work of developing and promoting the Chicago model of evidence-based approaches to school education, bringing together leading researchers and practitioners to serve the children of Chicago and the nation,” said Zimmer. “This generous donation will help us to continue and expand our pursuit of this mission, and we are grateful for the commitment of the Pritzker Foundation.”

UEI’s daily engagement with children, families, teachers and school leaders, combined with the work to improve the quality of human capital and provide useable tools and knowledge to policymakers creates unusual opportunities to influence schooling in Chicago and more broadly, according to Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of UEI.

“The Pritzker family gift is a testament to their commitment, both to children growing up on the South Side of Chicago and the University’s commitment to influencing the quality of schooling nationwide,” said Knowles. “Margot Pritzker has been particularly instrumental to UEI — digging deeply into our daily work and providing wise counsel at every turn.

“The Pritzker gift will support UEI in building a scalable model of schooling for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade here in Chicago, and help the Urban Education Institute share evidence-based tools with school systems and states nationwide,” he added.

UEI has developed three tools that will be further developed, tested and distributed nationally as a result of the Pritzker gift:

The 5 Essentials (5E) Tool for Organizing Successful Schools is an evidence-based system designed to predict and drive improvement in schools nationwide. The system reliably measures changes in school organization, predicts school success, and provides individualized, actionable reports to schools, districts, parents and community partners. Schools will receive a set of individualized, web-based reports that offer a comprehensive picture of the school environment and provide a framework for understanding the hundred-plus survey questions. The survey is based on UEI’s Consortium on Chicago School Research’s work on the five essential supports — ambitious instruction, professional capacity, parent and community engagement, student-centered learning climate, and instructional leadership. CCSR research shows that schools strong on three or more of the supports are ten times more likely to make substantial improvement than schools that are weak on three or more supports.

The Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress (STEP) Literacy Tool is a developmental literacy assessment, instructional tool and data management system that dramatically improves literacy teaching and learning for prekindergarten through third grade. STEP tracks the progress of students as they learn to read using research-based milestones. STEP enables educators to implement a developmental approach to teaching reading, using evidence to inform instruction and introducing targeted interventions based on that evidence. STEP is used in schools throughout Chicago, in Baltimore City Pubic Schools and in some of the highest-performing urban public schools in Newark, N.J., New York and New Haven, Conn.

The 6to16 college readiness program takes students from sixth grade through college completion by providing them a college preparation curriculum, e-learning opportunities and an online social network. It is being piloted in 10 cities nationwide, including Chicago.

“UEI has amassed unambiguous, empirical evidence that demonstrates the extraordinary influence schooling can have on the lives of children growing up in urban America. By creating new knowledge, training exemplary teachers and leaders, creating transferable models of urban schooling and designing scalable tools, UEI is designed to improve the trajectory of children¹s lives in Chicago and nationwide,” Knowles said. “We are enormously appreciative of the Pritzker family’s confidence in this work.”