We are a College truly embedded in its community. The research and expertise of our faculty informs our efforts in Chicago schools, and the results from these efforts inform the day-to-day learning of our teacher candidates.
We are not a voice for the voiceless; we empower students and practitioners in the field to use their own voice and control their own futures. We believe our work is an evolutionary process, molding student and community leaders to affect change on a larger level.
As a College, our community impact prepares practitioners who can work directly inside of their communities to implement strategies and reforms to improve educational outcomes.
Building Writing Skills, Editing Futures
“The United States has become a nation in which too many young people surrender their life chances before they get to know their life choices,” says Alfred Tatum, PhD, interim Dean of the College. For African American youth struggling to negotiate their passage to adulthood in communities marked by violence and economic upheaval, Tatum says many of these teens are trapped in a cycle of failure.
Each summer, Tatum works with 15 African American male adolescents through the UIC Reading Clinic’s African American Male Adolescent Summer Literacy Institute to prepare young men with the literacy skills needed to advocate for themselves as adults. During a six-week workshop, teens from around Chicago gather to read historical texts relevant to their lives written by Black writers such as W.E.B. DuBois and Ralph Ellison, craft poetry and short stories and to put pen to paper the stories of their lives.
“The voices of young men have been silent, and the nation has been defining who they are, especially the vulnerable,” Tatum said. “This institute gives these young men a chance to define themselves and create a new national imagination about who young African American males are.”
“You have the power to change your city for the best because there is nothing we cannot do,” wrote one Brother Author. “The only way people will know that you exist is to tell them, and the best way to tell them is to write.”
Watch a video of the writing workshop in action.
Ensuring Equal Outcomes for Children with Disabilities
Early childhood education represents a critical window of opportunity to begin lifelong cognitive development. The College’s Child and Family Development Center is ensuring all parents, regardless of their own levels of education, are equipped with the tools to foster academic success in their children, particularly for children with disabilities.
The Center works primarily with parents of children from birth to age 3, providing therapy services to the child while working concurrently with the child's caregivers or childcare workers in an early intervention approach that teaches parents, caregivers and early education staff how to promote the child's growth and development using learning opportunities that occur naturally in childcare, home, and community settings. The Center is currently engaged in leading research on the effectiveness of family-based practices in these early interventions and in preschool settings.
Learn more about the College's Child and Family Development Center.
Leading the Wave Against Autism's Rising Tide
One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism in the United States. In cities like Chicago with large minority populations, the need for autism spectrum disorder resources in the city is particularly acute: children of minority parents are more likely to be diagnosed later, experience symptoms longer without treatment and face greater barriers to learning and developmental resources.
The College’s Resource Center for Autism and Developmental Delays, developed by the Center for Literacy, is a leading partner of the City of Chicago in providing resources, referral information, education, and training for parents and teachers of children with developmental disorders. With two resource centers in the city, the Center is empowering teachers, caregivers and parents with the skills needed to improve educational, social and adult transition outcomes for children with autism and developmental delays.
Learn more about the Resource Center for Autism and Developmental Delays.
The College's outreach activities focus on informing practitioners who work directly in communities on best practices and strategies for their implementation.
Advocating for Students
Pushing Policymakers for Proper Data
Massive urban education policy decisions such as the closing of 50 CPS schools are often debated at the macro level. The College of Education focuses on how large-scale decisions affect each individual student.
The College’s Josh Radinsky, PhD, and Federico Waitoller, PhD launched their own examination of data released by CPS pertaining to proposed school closures. Their research concluded that CPS underestimated the number of students impacted by more than 50 percent. Examining the impact on individual students, Radinsky and Waitoller found that 15 percent of all the students affected are students with disabilities and a disproportionate 81 percent of all students affected are African American.
Such evidence caused Radinsky to directly state to the Chicago Board of Education before the final vote, “In other words, this is primarily a policy for Black Chicago, specifically in Westside and South side neighborhoods.”
“The issue of having timely data is crucial,” Waitoller said. “Policy makers move at a faster pace than present research, so if we can produce maps or tools that are timely, updated year-by-year, to inform practice, that will be a great benefit to CPS.”
Advocating for Schools
Crafting a New Vision of School Leadership
The College is producing teacher leaders who can transform classrooms. The College’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, meanwhile, is pushing for principal preparation that can transform entire schools.
The College’s Doctor of Education program provides a unique preparation model for principal candidates focused on core competencies critical to success in Chicago Public Schools, with classes taught by both faculty and practitioners in the field, and with long-term coaching support for candidates as they graduate from the program and begin working as principals.
The Center believes this model is the single most cost-effective way to improve student learning in high needs schools, at scale. The Center’s leadership team works with local, state and national policymakers to codify these data-driven best practices into education standards. The State of Illinois has reconfigured all principal preparation programs, partly based on the UIC model. Faculty from the Center have worked with Congressional officials to include a substantial focus on school leaders in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. New national principal assessment standards have been created with guidance from the Center.
“After 12 years of focusing on our work on a single problem, we have made substantial progress toward establishing the cost-effectiveness of principals as key levers for improving the culture, climate, and learning outcomes in neighborhood schools,” said Steve Tozer, PhD, director of the Center for Urban Education Leadership.
Advocating for National Reform
A Guide for Policymakers of On-the-Ground Realities in Schools
The 2012-13 school year was a raucous one for urban education in Chicago. From the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike to the wave of CPS closings in 2013, the disconnect between parents, teachers, city leadership and district decision-makers is stark.
The College’s Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative (RUEPI) is a leading source for policy analysis seeking to guide these fractured discussions from politicization towards reliance on research-based recommendations. RUEPI’s work is based on three guiding principles: education policy should be coherent and strategic, directly engaged with what happens in schools and classrooms, and should account for local context.
RUEPI’s policy briefs have examined how students with disabilities face inadequate transition services as they leave urban school systems, algebra skills as a barrier of access to high school mathematics, and the growing need to integrate early childhood education in the decision-making process surrounding K-12 education policy.
“RUEPI was created in response to one of the most pressing problems in education policy – the lack of dialogue grounded in what we actually know about educational problems,” said Ben Superfine, PhD, director of RUEPI and associate professor of educational policy studies. “RUEPI offers policymakers, media, and the public a clear look at the state of the evidence about pressing education policy issues, and offers concrete recommendations about how these issues can be addressed.”