What’s hanging on your Civic Refrigerator?

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

How many of us remember having our artwork and report cards hanging on the refrigerator? You know, the pictures of the yellow sun, curly-q clouds and blades of green grass reaching up to the sky? And how about the report cards held on by magnets for Attendance, Gym, and Reading and Math?

Well, our refrigerators—and the evaluation of our children’s progress in education—have come a long way, both literally and figuratively. In Chicago, we should all be checking our “Civic Refrigerators”—every day, like we used to when we were young. Except this time, we are checking for our progress and contributions as adults who can impact the future of education, for our city and collective community.

What’s hanging on your Civic Refrigerator? Thrive Chicago logo

On January 8th, I had the great pleasure to attend Thrive Chicago’s 2015 kick-off event, at which Mayor Emanuel delivered our “Civic Report Card” and his forward-looking Education Platform. Microsoft has been supporting and partnering with Thrive Chicago since its inception, and I have the honor to be a board member of Thrive Chicago. In September 2014, we highlighted Thrive Chicago in a blog written by Arnie Rivera and Brian Fabes. Here’s what they said:

“Bending the curve” on a young person’s trajectory often requires multiple organizations to work together, in an act we refer to as collective impact, and in Chicago collective impact strategies are now organized under the banner of Thrive Chicago. Thrive was launched last year in the Mayor’s Office, with the goal of improving improve outcomes for youth through collective impact. Bringing together city agencies, non-profits, community-based organizations, philanthropy, and corporations, many of Thrive Chicago’s initiatives are focused on the goal of preparing youth, starting in pre-K and supporting them all the way through college, for the attractive jobs offered in STEM fields.”

Thrive is now an independent entity, hosted by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, focusing on collective impact and collaboration, with a laser-like focus on youth and education. Thrive Chicago is helping to keep the focus on our Civic Refrigerator doors, with the Report Cards front and center for each of us to see, reflect and act. For example, one of the key Thrive Chicago initiatives is helping to increase the number of off track and drop-out students who graduate from high school, and move them forward to either college or careers. Through Thrive Chicago,  Chicago Public Schools and eight other organizations are piloting an effort to share data between schools and youth-serving organizations. These organizations will receive daily updates on student attendance, grades, and other information, allowing them to positively intervene in students’ lives. Just like a Report Card that measures progress, Thrive Chicago is focusing on data and collaboration to improve our collective education results.

With Thrive Chicago as his backdrop, the Mayor laid out his ambitious plan on January 8th and  set clear expectations and measurements to increase the caliber of our students, especially in STEM skills and STEM fields. “From cradle to career, we are working to ensure our children have the quality education they deserve,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Through this support and collaborative efforts like Thrive Chicago, Chicago students will remain on the track to college, career, and a successful future.”

Examples of the Mayor’s Civic Report Card include:

  • Early College STEM Schools, such as Microsoft’s partnership with Lake View High School;
  • A goal to triple the number of students that receive STEM credentials by the year 2018;
  • Enhancing great leadership in education through a process and program to ensure an effective, high quality principal in every school;
  • Building upon our growing dual credit/dual enrollment program, which provides students with opportunities to earn City Colleges credit while still in high school.

As a student, I always performed better when I knew what was expected of me, and I performed especially well when I received feedback and praise for a job well done. I am excited to see the same approach citywide with our focus on education, STEM and setting high standards. We should eagerly be looking forward to posting our Report Cards on our Civic Refrigerator and take pride in measuring our progress to truly making Chicago the City of Learning.

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