ExtraOrdinary Districts: Live!

A Discussion on District Improvement

To kick off Season 2 of ExtraOrdinary Districts, we brought together an all-star panel to discuss school district improvement. Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Harvard University’s Ronald F. Ferguson, and University of Michigan’s Nell Duke.

The panel, moderated by ExtraOrdinary District creator Karin Chenoweth, had a wide-ranging discussion that went from the need for carefully designed early reading instruction to the moral imperative of equity. Jackson described the need to be “relentless” in giving students the opportunity to learn rather than trying to “fix” students.

Chenoweth situated the ExtraOrdinary Districts podcast in the research tradition of Ronald Edmonds and asked panel members to react to observations made in districts profiled in both seasons of ExtraOrdinary Districts. Duke talked about the need to begin providing opportunity to very young children and what we know gives children the best opportunities for success. Ferguson talked about how educators grope their way along to improvement, making mistakes and discoveries along the way.

The event was held before a live audience at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and was co-hosted by Ed Trust and The Education Trust and UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership and its Ed.D program in Urban Education Leadership.

Shelby Cosner, director of University of Illinois-Chicago’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, introduces panel moderator (From Left to Right) Karin Chenoweth, Janice Jackson, Ronald Ferguson, and Nell Duke.

Janice Jackson is the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Jackson is a Chicago Public School person all the way, beginning in Head Start and continuing through her doctorate at the Urban Leadership Development program of the University of Illinois-Chicago. She began her career teaching in South High School and started a small school that was the first in Chicago to improve attendance, freshman-on-track, and graduation rates in a school serving students living in poverty. At the request of then-CEO Arne Duncan she then opened the much larger Westinghouse High School. After serving as the Chief Education Officer for the city she became the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools in December 2017.

Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who is on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and is faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. He co-founded Tripod Education Partners, and he has been working with groups in a number of cities, including some in Illinois, to help inform parents of babies and toddlers about how they can support the academic achievement of their children. He and journalist Tatsha Robertson co-authored the book The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Raising Highly Successful Children.

Nell Duke, a professor of language, literacy, and culture at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty. Her specific areas of expertise include development of informational reading and writing in young children, comprehension development and instruction in early schooling, and issues of equity in literacy education. She has authored, co-authored, and edited many books about literacy including Best Practices in Literacy Instruction and a series of books on what schools should stop doing, such as No More Taking Away Recess.