MacArthur has announced a $5 million endowment grant to the University of Chicago's Center for Urban School Improvement to support its work in strengthening urban schools.

The mission of the Center for Urban School Improvement is to transform urban schools into strong learning communities for both children and adults. The goal is to show that all children can achieve a high level of learning no matter their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

The center currently operates the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School and plans over the next few years to open four other charter schools on Chicago's South Side, including Donoghue Charter School for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, which will open this fall. The five schools will have an eventual enrollment of more than 2,500 students. No other research university in the country has made such a comprehensive commitment to creating new public schools.

Based on the model of the teaching hospital, which brings together outstanding patient care, professional training and applied research, the Center for Urban School Improvement's charter schools will be sites of excellent education for students, training centers for teachers and school leadership and as laboratories for testing innovative and promising methods to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

The foundation's education grantmaking is designed to support reform both in Chicago and nationally. Grants are made to improve student learning through better instruction and by sharing information about school and system practices with multiple audiences, including policymakers, practitioners and other funders. MacArthur's new grant to the Center for Urban School Improvement is part of its support for comprehensive community revitalization on Chicago's South side where it also is investing in affordable housing and community and economic development.

"We are pleased to be able to support the University of Chicago's innovative programs to improve the quality of public education in the nation's inner-city schools," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. "The Center for Urban School Improvement's work in neighborhoods on Chicago's South side is aligned with the goals of MacArthur's New Communities Program, which aims to revitalize many of the same neighborhoods. The center's leadership will be important for not only improving the future of many of city's children, but will also help to anchor revitalization in Chicago's neighborhoods."

Timothy Knowles, Director of the Center for Urban School Improvement, said, "This is a remarkable opportunity to create incontrovertible evidence that children on the South Side of Chicago can learn at high levels. We will create a portfolio of schools dedicated to three things: rigorous teaching and learning for all children; creating a pipeline of well trained, well supported educators; and undertaking research and development designed to improve instruction and deepen student learning."

The schools will provide students with rigorous college-preparation programs, serve as sites of professional development for Chicago Public Schools teachers and instructional leaders, and play a vital role in community building in the neighborhoods where they are located.

The University of Chicago-sponsored schools will be at the heart of a network of new public schools on Chicago's South Side that will be part of the Chicago Public Schools Renaissance 2010 plan, an initiative designed to improve teaching and learning by creating new, small schools across the city of Chicago.

The University of Chicago has made improving public education in Chicago a key institutional priority and has named the Center for Urban School Improvement-with its proven track record of effective engagement with the Chicago Public Schools-as a leader of this broad imperative. The mission of the center is to create excellent new schools and develop the people and tools that support the dissemination of effective practices within and across Chicago's schools. The center began providing sustained professional development programs to teachers, student support staff and school leaders in 1988.

The center's approach to professional development combines onsite coaching, demonstration classes, institutes and helpful school walkthroughs. Its technology-based tools are designed to ensure that all school personnel have timely access to student information so that instructional decisions are based on sound data.

The center conceived and administers the new University of Chicago teacher preparation program, the Urban Teacher Education Program, now in the second year. It also runs the New Teachers Network, a two-year induction program serving approximately 200 newly certified CPS teachers annually with regularly scheduled working meetings, coaching and online support. USI's partnership with CPS Area 15 in the mid-south area is now in its third year. This initiative is providing professional development and coaching to more than 100 principals and teacher-leaders in 22 schools and has resulted in increased student achievement.

Chicago, Education