Our future is dependent upon how we educate our kids

Why we’re involved

We know that a strong public-school system is a hallmark of a world class city—where people want to live, work, and build futures.

Unfortunately, student outcomes in Chicago lagged behind national standards for decades and the Civic Committee recognized that a comprehensive effort would need to be made in order to strengthen outcomes for kids and our city.

In the late 90’s and leading into the early 2000’s, most of Chicago’s students dropped out or failed to achieve college-readiness – and student achievement was at a standstill. In the city’s neighborhood schools, few students had the tools they needed to succeed in college.

What we’ve done

To bolster student achievement, and significantly improve the Chicago Public School system, the Civic Committee was at the forefront of charter school legislation in 1996. As the reform movement grew, in 2004, we created Kids First Chicago (K1C), formerly New Schools for Chicago and Renaissance Schools Fund, whose goal was to catalyze dramatic academic improvement within the Chicago Public Schools which had languished for decades with dismal academic outcomes for kids.

Supported with over $20 million in seed funding, Kids First Chicago drove the collaborative public-private partnership that catalyzed new school creation and functioned as the accountability partner to CPS in the school selection process. The initiative contributed to systemic change in CPS through greater choice for families and autonomy for schools and provided many underserved communities with high-quality educational options.

The Civic Committee has always been focused on broad systemic change, ensuring a healthy and efficient educational ecosystem for all children.  Supporting the creation of a robust charter sector was Kids First Chicago’s initial and primary vehicle for transforming the district’s overall performance.  It was built on a series of educational reform efforts beginning in 1988 and was always meant to be one in a series of strategies towards the same goal—improving outcomes for all children in Chicago.

Now, Kids First Chicago works to ensure that all Chicago families and students have access to a high-quality public education. Specifically, Kids First Chicago empowers communities and families to identify, navigate, and advocate for high-quality public schools for their kids—with clear and transparent information. In addition, they work with parents and the district to shape education policy and systems to better support families and students. 

In addition to K1C’s focus on education, one of our affiliated organizations, The Civic Consulting Alliance,  restructured the City Colleges of Chicago to improve the quality of education and provide students with the necessary skills for finishing college and finding gainful employment.

The Civic Committee itself has released numerous reports evaluating student learning, the importance of a strong state educational funding system, and emphasizing the importance of quality teachers.

What we’ve learned

As a thought leader on education, we have produced the following reports:

Still Left Behind (2009)
Left Behind (2003)
Improving Results: Transforming the Teaching Profession in Illinois

And that’s not all 

Our commitment to education is not new.  Over the last two decades, we have worked on school reform, school quality, school funding and teacher and principal quality at the state level.