CICS Begins a New School Year

“We are one family and one network for common reasons…we believe families in Chicago deserve a choice in their child’s education…we believe that that every child deserves excellence every day. We must reimagine school!” – Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Chicago International Charter Schools

On Thursday, August 16th, 2018, Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS)  celebrated the beginning of a new school year at the UIC Pavillion. On that day, staff of fourteen unique CICS campuses and one microlab came together, united by a shared mission: to create a hub of innovation where every student will flourish, every school will meet the unique needs of its community, and every success will improve our city and our world.

CEO Elizabeth Shaw kicked off the event with vulnerability and inspiration by sharing her story of privilege and choice in Chicago. Growing up, Elizabeth’s parents saw that there were limited public school options when it came to school for their daughter. Using their financial privilege, her parents were able to ensure that Elizabeth got an excellent education in private schools through college.

Now, as a mother herself, Elizabeth struggled to find the right school for her young daughter, whose traditional public school choices were limited. Her financial privilege again allowed her find and choose an excellent school. Elizabeth, as a woman of privilege, exercised her right to choose a school that best suited her daughter. But that privilege is not afforded to everyone. CICS is here to change that.

The spotlight then shone on various innovative models that each CICS campus uses to ensure they provide an excellent educational option for Chicago’s children. LeeAndra Khan, the CEO of Civitas Education Partners, introduced the Harkness Method used at CICS Northtown. This is a method of teaching that centers on student discussion and inquiry. Students then came out on stage to discuss how impactful it’s been on their education and developing identities.

The next spotlight fell on personalized learning that is taking place through the Summit Learning Platform at CICS Bucktown. Distinctive Schools President Scott Frauenheim introduced this method with 8th graders from CICS Bucktown, who shared how much they loved the ownership that this approach gives them to their own learnings.

There was then an Innovation Panel, in which the Chief of Innovation, Eric Lavin, discussed the entrepreneurial efforts of Stephanie Crosier, the CEO of Chicago Rise and Dr. Richard Glass, the Founder and Lead Instructor of CICS Boy’s Lab, both participants in the first cohort of CICS’ Education Entrepreneur Fellowship program. Mike Bower, the Chief of Schools and Student Success, then came to the stage to announce the schools with the highest achievements last year throughout the network.

Elizabeth Shaw closed out the event with inspiring words to propel CICS teachers into the new year. Teaching certainly isn’t easy. But, with a team of energetic, game-changing innovators to work with, it’s a whole lot more fun.