U. of C. receives $10M gift to improve public schools

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) received a $10 million gift to help it continue its work in enhancing the state of urban schools in Chicago and nationwide.

Chicago philanthropists Paula and James Crown committed the large monetary gift to the program to support UEI’s student achievement, teaching and school leadership initiatives.

“We are deeply grateful for this gift, which will yield immediate benefits for students in Chicago and help establish a model for how an institution of higher education can bring its intellectual resources to bear to address one of society’s most critical challenges,” said University President Robert J. Zimmer, who said Paula and James Crown have been consistent supporters of education reform.

James Crown, a U. of C. trustee and past chairman of the Board of Trustees, is president of Henry Crown and Company. He also serves as lead director of General Dynamics Corporation and is a director of JPMorgan Chase. Among his numerous civic leadership positions, he serves as a trustee of the U. of C. and the University of Chicago Medicine, the Aspen Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Paula Crown is a professional artist and a principal at Henry Crown and Company. She serves as a trustee of Duke University, the Museum of Modern Art and the Latin School of Chicago, and is a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Part of the gift will be allocated to resources for UEI’s Arts and Education Partnership. The school-based work will include the creation of an innovative arts and education program that will include artist and entrepreneur Theaster Gates, UEI and leading Chicago arts institutions.

Remaining funds will also go to support the institute’s development of College Success Reports, a school improvement measuring tool that will make sure students are taking the right courses, staying on track, and entering, persisting and graduating from college.

“The reports will provide educators and parents with fine-grained, actionable evidence about the trajectory of students through high school and into college,” said Timothy Knowles, director of UEI. “Most people recognize that America’s singular focus on annual standardized test scores is insufficient. The College Success Reports will focus Chicago and the nation on metrics we know matter most.”

“The College Success Reports will be crucial to monitoring the progress of students in high school,” said Knowles. “Most people recognize that America’s singular focus on annual standardized test scores is insufficient. The College Success Reports will focus Chicago and the nation on metrics we know matter most.”

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and more than 5,000 other schools across the nation currently use school improvement tools developed by UEI. Most notably, Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., is one of several CPS schools that use the institute’s “on track” indicator — a metric that predicts which ninth-grade students will graduate from high school. Since adopting the indicator, the percentage of CPS students on track to graduate from high school has risen from 55 to 75 percent.

d.philips@hpherald.com