Success in life requires more than academic skills. Young people must learn to work with others, resolve conflicts
and pursue goals. These kind of “social-emotional skills” can be taught in school to improve learning. What’s
more, they are valuable in the workforce. Over the last three decades, jobs requiring social and emotional acumen
have grown much faster than others
A holistic education must also provide opportunities for students to grow through the arts, world language, physical
education, extracurricular options and self-directed projects.
Basic skills are essential but no longer enough. In today’s global economy, young people need more than a high school
diploma to thrive. All students must have access to a rigorous curriculum that prepares them for college or technical
training. The curriculum must be carefully sequenced from Pre-K through high school so that all students are
able to master the Common Core Standards, which include the 21st Century skills needed for success in today’s
workplace: analytic thinking, creative problem-solving, effective teamwork and clear communication.
Many of our students come to school with challenges brought about by poverty, language barriers, a disability, a
lack of family support or neighborhood violence. All children, regardless of background, can learn well with
the right academic and social-emotional support, and schools must be organized to provide it.
The diversity and cultural richness of our city, which is reflected in our classrooms, is an enormous asset to learning.
Embracing diverse viewpoints and experiences can equip our students with the flexibility and creativity to adapt
to a changing world. Whether by continuing to provide safe spaces for those facing discrimination, or by creating
active dialogue among our students, families and staff about their values and backgrounds; celebrating diversity
is an essential part of everything we do.
One of the district’s strengths is the variety of schools and programs we offer; including math and science academies,
fine arts academies, military academies, charter schools, career and technical education programs and schools
with specialty programs such as International Baccalaureate and the “STEM” subjects (science, technology, engineering
and mathematics). Providing a range of options lets families choose the programs and schools that best meet their
children’s needs and interests. At the same time, we must also invest in improving instruction in every school
and classroom in every neighborhood so that all families have access to desirable options.
All children deserve access to high quality curriculum, skilled teachers and outstanding college-preparatory classes;
including programs like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. We must improve instruction and teacher
recruitment and expand access to advanced coursework citywide. Providing more engaging and challenging classes
in math, science and technology—from elementary school through high school—can open doors to careers for all
of our students, but particularly in fields in which women and people of color have been historically underrepresented.
In recent years, the injustices caused by racial bias and inequity have once again come into sharp focus in our nation
and our city. As a district, we must examine all of our policies and programs to see where racial inequality
exists—whether in suspension rates, special education placement, graduation rates or access to high quality programs—and
take steps to eliminate it. We must train all of our school and district leaders, teachers and staff to recognize
and challenge bias against students; whether based on ethnicity, gender, economic status, sexual orientation,
gender identity or race.
The prosperity of our city tomorrow depends on how well we respect, nurture and educate our children today. We need
young people who are skilled, ambitious, creative, caring and collaborative and devoted to the wellbeing of their
communities. We have in our care the next generation of thinkers, innovators and leaders of Chicago.