Nonprofit makes an “Impact”on schools

UChicago Impact’s programs have spread from the four U of C Charter Schools to states across the nation.

By Lauren Culbertson

When the 55 graduating seniors of the University of Chicago Charter School, Woodlawn campus (UCW) stood for commencement last spring, their crowning achievement was far more lofty than the caps they wore. For the first time, 100 percent of UCW’s graduating class was admitted to college, compared to 50 percent of all Chicago Public School students.

The educational program used at UCW, which stresses rigorous academic training and preparation for post-secondary education, is one of three offered by UChicago Impact, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve urban education.

Although the programs began exclusively in U of C Charter Schools in 2009, they have now expanded to 19 states and 33 cities. In his welcome letter to students this year, President Robert Zimmer noted that the program was continuing to expand.

6to16, the program used at UCW, is “designed to create a college-going culture,” said 6to16 program director Veronica Herrero. The program focuses specifically on college-readiness, consisting of curriculum that extends beyond the scope of textbooks.

Herero credited the program as partially responsible for UCW’s 96 percent rate of attendance to four-year universities among the school’s graduates. Some of these universities include Georgetown University, Pennsylvania State University, and the U of C, Herero said.

5Essentials, another UChicago Impact program, gauges a school’s effective leadership and encourages collaborative teaching, family involvement, a supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. Established by the University’s Urban Education Institute, the program was based on 20 years of research by the University’s Consortium on School Research.

UChicago Impact’s third program STEP, which stands for Strategic Teaching and Evaluating Progress, works primarily with students in grades K–3 to provide a solid foundation in reading and writing.

Even as UChicago Impact expands as far as California, there is still much use for UChicago Impact at the Charter Schools, said Shayne Evans, director of the University of Chicago Charter School. “We hope to continue to collaborate with UChicago Impact to improve our ability across our campuses to prepare our students for success in college,” he said.