As in many urban
Schools (CPS) confronts
of dedicated, top-notch
teachers for its
Staffing requires triage
One remedy is the
Academy for Urban
School Leadership, which
prepares roughly fifty new teachers
a year expressly for the rigors and
rewards found in the city's most
deprived schools. The program,
loosely modeled after a medical
residency, gives novices two months
of courses followed by a full-year
immersion in one of the AUSL's four
teacher-training academies (three elementary
schools and a high school, all in
impoverished neighborhoods). There, the
teachers absorb best practices from mentoring
educators and work with students.
"It's like a guided apprenticeship," explains
executive director Donald Feinstein.
Residents earn a $32,000 stipend for their
Monday-through-Thursday classroom assistance.
On Fridays, they take courses in
curriculum development, lesson planning,
classroom management, cultural
competence, and more. They graduate
with a master's degree -- in
teaching from National-Louis
University or instructional
leadership from the
University of Illinois
at Chicago -- and
years in an
Support for these recruits
continues long past graduation.
For two years, the AUSL
provides graduates with field
coaches who help them improve
This type of nurturing sets the
AUSL apart from other teacher-training
academies and "links teacher
preparation to service in the most
disadvantaged schools," says Martin
J. Koldyke, a retired venture capitalist
who founded the nonprofit organization
in partnership with the CPS in 2001.
The school district and AUSL share the
program costs, raising money from corporations
and other donors.
At the AUSL's teacher-training academies,
where children are all at poverty level
and almost entirely of color, the report card
is promising: Students' reading, math, and
science scores are steadily rising.
Although the AUSL does recruit some
recent college graduates, most participants
are seasoned professionals making a career
change. They bring real-world experience in
accounting and other businesses, nonprofit
organizations, the military, and the legal profession.
They also bring maturity: The average
age among current residents is twenty-nine.
Perhaps most importantly, they bring a passion
for reform. "We have a pipeline of human
capital wanting to teach in schools with a fresh
start," Feinstein says.
Since its inception, the AUSL has produced
153 teachers. More than 90 percent of them
still work in the Chicago schools, some in the
two NCLB Turnaround Schools the AUSL
also runs. One such graduate is Andre
Cowling, who's completing the final year
of his contract as the new principal at the
Harvard School of Excellence, one of the
left a $130,000-a-year supervisory
job to fulfill his childhood dream of
leading a school. "If I'm working eight
to twelve hours a day, I want to be
happy," Cowling says. "If I can
make a difference in the life of
a child, that's it."
Degree conferred: Master's
Annual graduating class: 45-50
Time in the field: 1 year
Yearlong residency in dedicated training academies
$32,000 salary for residents
Postgraduate field coaching
Carol Guensburg is a freelance journalist and former founding director of the Journalism Fellowships in Child and Family Policy. She lives in Arlington, Virginia.