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Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Announce New Initiative to Increase Diversity of CPS Teachers

13 October 2020

“Teach Chicago Tomorrow” to Provide Hands-On Support to CPS Students Interested in Teaching Careers Through a Structured Pathway; Initiative Seeks to Triple the Number of CPS Graduates Hired as Teachers Each Year and Create a Pipeline of Homegrown, Talented and Diverse Teachers

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced Teach Chicago Tomorrow, an innovative plan to build a new pipeline of talented, diverse teachers by creating a structured pathway with intensive supports for CPS graduates who want to be educators. CPS hires approximately 140 CPS graduates as teachers per year, and through Teach Chicago Tomorrow the district is setting a long-term goal to triple the number of CPS grads hired annually to more than 500. Based on current trends, most of those new homegrown teachers will be African American or Latinx.  

“Teach Chicago Tomorrow will build a new network of teachers who look like Chicago kids, come from Chicago communities, and are invested in Chicago neighborhoods,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This is a top priority for our schools and underscores our deep commitment to equity across the district. Although CPS has been working diligently to boost the number of African American and Latinx teachers, there is still a wide gap between the race and ethnicity of students and teachers, as existing recruitment pathways simply aren’t producing enough high-quality teachers of color. We must build our own pathways through smart strategies that tap into an already-interested and invested talent pool.”

According to surveys, approximately ten percent of CPS high school students indicate they are interested in working in education, but far fewer go on to become educators. Teach Chicago Tomorrow creates a clear pathway to become a teacher along with structured supports to help students achieve their goals.  

“As a district serving primarily students of color, one of the best ways we can work toward a more diverse workforce is providing CPS students who aspire to be a teacher with the structured support they need to realize that dream,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Hiring a more diverse workforce is a critical goal in the District’s Five Year Vision and numerous research studies have found that a diverse teacher workforce leads to positive student outcomes. As a CPS grad who became a teacher, I am thrilled to launch this critical initiative as we work to inspire the next generation of teachers.” 

A major component of this strategy includes partnering with colleges and universities to support students on their pathway. The inaugural Teach Chicago Tomorrow Pathways Partnership is a new student-centered partnership between CPS, City Colleges of Chicago, and Illinois State University in which students can successfully complete college, earn their teaching credentials and begin their CPS career. 

Students are being recruited now at CPS high schools for the first cohort of the Teach Chicago Tomorrow Pathways Partnership, which will begin with an anticipated class of 100 CPS graduates. They will first earn an associate degree at City Colleges of Chicago by successfully completing general education coursework requirements and then earn their bachelor’s degree by completing the second two years of college as an Illinois State University student. After undertaking a year-long student teaching experience within CPS schools and earning their Illinois teaching license, students will have priority for job placement at CPS schools.

Building a Teacher Pipeline for the Future

Over the past couple of years, the district has prioritized the recruitment of diverse talent through its Teach Chicago initiative, which is working to attract and retain highly-qualified, diverse teachers, particularly for the hardest-to-staff schools and high-needs positions. These efforts include the Opportunity Schools program which is bringing individualized recruitment and retention for schools with staffing needs, the Teacher Residency program for those who would like to get into teaching after starting in other careers, partnerships with educator preparation programs to help new teachers get ready for day one in the classroom, and expanding teacher leadership opportunities. 

Still, approximately 50 percent of the teacher workforce is white while more than 80 percent of students are African American and Latinx. In order to accomplish the goal of hiring a more representative teacher workforce, shorter-term recruitment efforts and longer-term efforts to build the teacher pipeline, like Teach Chicago Tomorrow, are needed. 

Illinois has seen a significant decline in African American and Latinx students earning education degrees, despite more African American and Latinx students graduating college than ever before. According to a CPS analysis of data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education over the past decade in Illinois, there’s been a 54 percent decline in African American students earning education degrees and 28 percent decline in Latinx students earning education degrees. 

“In order to make a real impact on teacher diversity, we must take a two-pronged approach that focuses on short-term and long-term solutions,” said Matt Lyons, CPS Chief Talent Officer. “Teach Chicago Tomorrow is building a strong pathway which reaches the students who have already expressed an interest in teaching and creating a support structure to help them achieve their goals.”

Supporting Students Interested in Teaching 

Teach Chicago Tomorrow seeks to empower and support the ten percent of students who indicate an interest in a teaching career based on surveys. To recruit the first cohort, CPS counselors and recruiters will follow up directly with students who indicated an interest in teaching on the career survey, and engage them in conversations about various supports that can help them navigate the path from CPS to college and back to CPS again as a teacher. Those include academic support, social support, financial support, and career support.

Through Teach Chicago Tomorrow’s Pathways Partnership, students begin by earning an associate degree through City Colleges and then earn their bachelor’s degree by completing the second two years of college as an Illinois State University student. Throughout the program, intensive support will be provided to help them successfully navigate the pathway to becoming a teacher. 

“Teach Chicago Tomorrow recognizes the tremendous talent that exists among Chicago’s young people. CPS schools are filled with emerging leaders, eager to educate and inspire generations of Chicago leaders to come. Through our transfer partnerships and strong student supports, City Colleges will ensure future educators have a clear path to earn their degree, return to the classroom, and make a difference in their community,” said City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado.

While CPS envisions partnering with additional higher education institutions in coming years, it chose ISU for this initial program given the sharp focus on urban schools in its quality education degree program.

"This program will build on our existing partnership with Chicago Public Schools,” said Illinois State University President Larry Dietz. “Our Teacher Education Pipeline program, known as STEP-UP, recently celebrated 10 years of collaboration with Chicago schools, and work continues in Little Village, Auburn Gresham, Albany Park, and East Garfield Park. The National Center for Urban Education, housed at Illinois State University, continues to find innovative ways to connect students to Chicago Public Schools. My thanks to ISU’s College of Education Dean Dr. Jim Wolfinger and the National Center for Urban Education Executive Director Dr. Maria Luisa Zamudio for their leadership."

The program is designed to integrate research-based student support throughout, especially at transition points between institutions, to ensure high persistence and completion rates. Specific supports include:

  • Financial planning and counseling

  • Paid CPS work opportunities during the third year of the program

  • Student teaching stipends

  • Dedicated academic advising

  • College readiness support in high school

  • A summer program before freshman year of college

  • Career counseling

  • Career placement

  • Among others

CPS students interested in teaching who do not participate in the City Colleges-ISU partnership may choose to follow a different Teach Chicago Tomorrow pathway, such as enrolling in a four-year college after graduating from high school. These alternate pathways are supported by informational toolkits and guidance from the CPS Teach Chicago Tomorrow team and made available online.

Students and families interested in Teach Chicago Tomorrow and/or the Pathways Partnership with City Colleges of Chicago and Illinois State University can learn more at

Teach Chicago Tomorrow and the Pathways Partnership are supported by Crown Family Philanthropies and the Joyce Foundation. 

Teach Chicago Tomorrow is a core component of Teach Chicago, CPS’ initiative to attract and retain highly qualified, diverse teachers for every classroom in the city. More information about Teach Chicago can be found at Key supporters of Teach Chicago include Crown Family Philanthropies and the Joyce Foundation. Additional support is provided by the US Department of Education. 

Chicago Public Schools serves 355,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.

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