Announcing the Chicago Equity-Centered Innovation Forum

Education Systems Center at NIU is pleased to announce the launch of the Chicago Equity-Centered Innovation Forum (CEIF). In collaboration with leaders of Chicago Public Schools, competency-based education (CBE) pilot schools, and other interested stakeholders, EdSystems will support the implementation of innovative instructional models as strategies for dismantling systemic inequities in traditional educational approaches. The shortcomings of remote instruction, the disparate impact of the pandemic, and the civil unrest sparked by police brutality have shone a spotlight on deeply embedded injustices in our schools. To tackle them, we need to learn from models that are doing more than “tinkering at the edges” of structures that have underserved students for decades. 

The Chicago Equity-Centered Innovation Forum will promote models of student-centered personalized instruction, competency-based approaches, performance assessments, project-based learning, and other emerging innovations. It will identify, support, and amplify models for addressing systemic inequities that are unlikely to emerge from schools making more incremental changes. The Forum will provide space for innovators in Chicago high schools to share best practices and strategize toward solutions, gain support and guidance from national experts, and investigate implementation models from other Illinois districts and other states.

Damarr Smith, Chicago Public Schools Senior Program Manager for Competency-Based Education, says, “This partnership with EdSystems enables our schools to share creative practices that they have leveraged to address challenges of equity, access, and exposure. We welcome this opportunity to continue to learn from each other and schools in and outside of our district to build more equitable experiences for students.” Innovative work is underway in Chicago CBE schools in many areas, including using mastery to respond to learning disruptions from the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to work in partnership with CPS to lift up the truly innovative work happening in schools and to support the continuing implementation of models aimed at maximizing education for equity,” says Ginger M. Reynolds, PhD, Senior Fellow at EdSystems.

­­Jonathan Furr, EdSystems Executive Director, adds: “The volatility introduced by Covid-19 and the growing awareness of inequities in our systems to Illinois students, families, and educators has forced us to rethink what’s truly important in education. Clearly, using innovative strategies to ensure students master essential competencies and are prepared for college and future careers can and should take precedence over seat time and other outdated practices. Now is the time for us to ensure that the lessons learned during this difficult season are not lost but built upon to ensure we are helping every student succeed. CEIF will play an important role in helping educators do just that.”

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