The Illinois State Board of Education has teamed up with one of Chicago’s external partners, the Small Schools Workshop at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to train educators in the delicate art of intervention in failing schools.

“We had a mutual need,” says Sheryl Poggi, a division administrator at the state board. “Small Schools Workshop needed to formalize its external partner preparation program, and we needed to prepare coaches to facilitate change in troubled schools.”

Called the School Change Institute, the joint endeavor is aimed at helping schools get off the state’s academic warning list. Chicago currently has 58 schools on the list, down from 93 last year. The rest of the state has 13 on the list, down from 29 last year. Schools with especially low scores on the state’s battery of achievement tests are put on the list.

The state board first approached the workshop with the intent of having it serve as the external partners with such schools, but “we realized one group can’t put a dent in these schools, so we suggested the School Change Institute,” says Michael Klonsky, the workshop’s co-director.

A board-appointed committee selects applicants based on experience and expertise in school settings, and a willingness to work in schools, according to Poggi.

Training includes four intensive two- and three-day workshops, larger meetings where research is shared, an ongoing mentorship with an existing external partner and networking opportunities on the Internet. Workshop topics include strategies for whole-school change, the role of the external partner, professional development, assessment and accountability, and leadership training for principals. The workshop and other external partners lead the training sessions.

Twenty-five educators are now in training. For more information, call Gabe Lyon at (312) 413-8066.

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