SAN FRANCISCO, CA– December 16, 2008 – Ted Mitchell, CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund and president of the California Board of Education, praised the appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, saying Duncan is an advocate for bold, entrepreneurial efforts to improve education for low-income students.
President-Elect Barack Obama is expected to announce the choice today at the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a member of the NewSchools portfolio. NewSchools is a nonprofit venture philanthropy that provides funding and management support to entrepreneurs working to improve public education in low-income communities.
Mitchell noted that Duncan, CEO of the Chicago schools, had earned the respect of disparate groups as he led the school system to unprecedented levels of performance. Duncan, whose first task in Chicago was creating an office of new schools, won the support of local and national teachers unions while enlisting education entrepreneurs in the reform effort.
“Arne Duncan will bridge a divided education world nationally as he has in Chicago,” Mitchell said. “He’s demonstrated that he understands the urgency of the educational challenge, and that he can move enormous systems to bring that change about.”
The US has fallen from first in the world in college attendance to tenth, and nearly half the children in major cities drop out of high school. Mitchell said economic recovery would depend on changing that situation. “Our country stands for something better,” Mitchell said. “Arne Duncan understands that. He’s the right person to lead the change.”
Obama’s choice of setting for the announcement—the Dodge Renaissance Academy, one of AUSL’s 11 schools —was a testament to Duncan’s support for entrepreneurial solutions. AUSL has demonstrated national leadership in improving education for low-income students through a unique combination of activities: training new teachers in an innovative residency training program and turning around failing public schools. Future AUSL teachers, called “residents,” receive a full year of intensive training in the classroom prior to their certification, preparing them for the difficult work of teaching in a “turnaround” school. Obama has singled out AUSL’s visionary program as an example of the kind of “residency” teacher training he plans to expand. The term “residency” is drawn from the intensive on-site training in medical schools.
As with all its ventures, NewSchools Venture Fund has provided management assistance and funding to help AUSL grow to successful scale. NewSchools has invested $2.5 million in AUSL. Mitchell said it made sense for Obama to use AUSL as the backdrop for his press conference. “AUSL is helping us rethink the way we train teachers in this country, and the way we run schools,” said Mitchell, who also serves as the president of the California Board of Education. “We’re delighted that the President-Elect has recognized that promise. It fits with his vision of positive change.”
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. 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. Of the planned 25, 19 will be “turnaround” 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 master teachers.
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 over 40% % in 2007-08. 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 over 50 percentage points, up to over 72% in 2007-2008 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 has since become the leading operator of turnaround schools in Chicago, using its pipeline of high-quality teachers to transform underperforming
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.