SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 10, 2008 – NewSchools Venture Fund today announced an investment of up to $2.5 million in the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a nonprofit organization committed to preparing new high-quality teachers and transforming public schools in Chicago. Over the past few years, through a strong and unique partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), AUSL has taken on the management of underperforming schools in order to quickly and dramatically boost student achievement. AUSL will use the funds to develop its organizational infrastructure and help it increase the number of students it serves. Today, AUSL serves 6,500 students across 11 schools; by 2012, AUSL plans to operate 25 schools, including 20 schools serving grades K-8 and 5 high schools.
The number of schools in need of federal- or state-mandated restructuring has grown dramatically over the last several years, creating an acute need for organizations that can partner with districts to turn around these underperforming public schools. In response, NewSchools Venture Fund has sought to identify and support strong entrepreneurial organizations that are equipped to take on this enormous challenge.
AUSL’s innovative teacher residency model has created a robust foundation for its school turnaround work. AUSL identifies and hires aspiring teachers to serve in an AUSL-operated school and participate in a full-year of classroom-based training that includes intensive mentorship by established teachers. “By training and supporting effective teachers and implementing a culture of high expectations, AUSL has begun to build a strong model for turning around chronically underperforming public schools in Chicago,” said Jordan Meranus, a Partner at NewSchools who has joined the board of AUSL. “We look forward to working closely with the AUSL team as they continue to improve student outcomes, scale their efforts, and inform emerging turnaround efforts throughout the city and across the country.”
“This investment from NewSchools Venture Fund will dramatically increase our ability to prepare hundreds of new teachers who will in turn reach thousands of Chicago public schoolchildren,” said Dr. Donald Feinstein, Executive Director of AUSL. “With their strategic guidance and belief in our mission, this partnership with NewSchools will help AUSL transform public schools here in Chicago, and create a model for other schools and districts across the country. We are grateful for their support.”
AUSL is the most experienced turnaround school operator in Chicago, having opened Chicago’s first turnaround school, the Sherman School of Excellence serving grades preK-8, in fall 2006. It has since added another four such schools to its network, in addition to six teacher training academies. AUSL’s turnaround schools serve some of Chicago’s neediest students – about 92% of students are low-income – and early indications of student achievement are encouraging. At AUSL’s first turnaround school, Sherman, the percent of students scoring proficient or above on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) composite score increased from 24% in 2004-05 (pre-AUSL) to 35% in 2006-07. Based on AUSL’s experience, these results continue to improve with time. After years of chronic underperformance, Chicago’s Dodge Renaissance Academy was closed in 2002, re-opening in fall 2003 as an AUSL teacher training academy with new leadership and staff. The percent of students scoring proficient or above on the ISAT at Dodge has risen 43 percentage points, up to 65% in 2006-2007 from just 22% in 2001-2002.
AUSL (www.ausl-chicago.org) was founded in 2001 by Martin J. Koldyke, venture capitalist and founder of The Golden Apple Foundation. He inspired and engaged a group of educators, business and community leaders to design a program that would significantly advance and reform the teaching profession. AUSL’s mission is to improve student achievement in Chicago’s high-poverty, chronically failing schools through its disciplined transformation process, built on a foundation of specially trained teachers.
About NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund (www.newschools.org) is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that has been working since 1998 to transform public education for underserved children by supporting education entrepreneurs who create nonprofit and for-profit organizations that have the power to catalyze system-wide change. Its investments are designed to make a significant systemic impact in some of the nation’s most challenged urban communities, including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.
Julie Petersen, NewSchools Venture Fund
Phone: (415) 615-6863
Shane Caterino, Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL)
Phone: (773) 534-0142