This article originally appeared on better.com.
For two decades, LEARN Charter School Network has transformed the lives of young people in some of Chicago’s most vulnerable communities.
Across their 10 Chicago and Lake County campuses (and one D.C. campus!) spanning pre-K to eighth grade, teachers and school leaders work tirelessly to serve 4,200 scholars and their families and give them an exceptional learning experience. LEARN’s Excel campus was ranked #3 among the top charter elementary schools in Illinois, demonstrating that their methods are successful. They have helped scholars achieve by combining academic rigor with social-emotional support.
The communities that LEARN serves have also been the ones disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the educational challenges that the pandemic has created, LEARN schools continue to thrive because their staff and communities are resilient.
Their alumni earn bachelor’s degrees at a rate nearly three times their peers from a similar demographic; a rate dramatically higher than the national average. Of the network’s 4,200 scholars, 98% identify as a minority and 85% identify as low-income. This means that LEARN is closing the achievement gap by helping an exceptionally high percentage of historically underserved scholars succeed. As LEARN celebrates and reflects on two decades of success, they will continue to set high expectations for their scholars and teammates.
LEARN has set a groundbreaking goal of 50% college completion as part of its 2020 Strategic Plan. To help meet this goal, the network has launched a $20 million 20th Anniversary Fund to help their alumni graduate from four-year universities. LEARN is committed to strengthening every facet of the organization so that scholars are fully prepared – academically, emotionally and physically – to achieve this goal.
LEARN’s 20th Anniversary Fund will enhance the breadth and depth of its academic program in a time when all scholars need extra support. Math specialists will be on-site to provide aid for scholars who need help, as well as for those seeking advanced coursework. Schools will provide algebra for all so scholars can earn the prerequisites to enroll in more rigorous high school math and science courses. A rigorous science curriculum will be implemented across all grades, with upgraded science labs, dedicated science teachers and the addition of a network science lead. There will be an executive functioning curriculum for all grades in direct response to alumni feedback, and personalized learning strategies to enable scholars to learn at their own pace. Lastly, LEARN will expand its high-quality preschool program to ensure that children are kindergarten-ready. They’re already seeing kindergartners succeed!
LEARN intentionally opens schools in communities with high rates of poverty, violence, homelessness and drug addiction. As a result, many scholars experience toxic levels of stress. The network invests three times as much in social-emotional learning as neighboring schools, giving scholars the tools to manage their stress and focus on their learning. They provide a dedicated social worker at every campus to ensure essential therapeutic services for the community, as well as resources such as school psychologists and professional development for the LEARN team. This is all enhanced by small group support and one-on-one counseling.
Additional focuses will be scholar retention, alumni support, optimizing staff talent, data management and general operating support.
LEARN is led by Greg White, an inspiring president and CEO who was honored as one of Crain’s 2021 Notable Black Leaders and Executives. Learn more about LEARN and support the great work they do to bring education equity to Chicago, Lake County and Washington, D.C. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes full community support to provide children with a premier educational experience. With help from those who believe in LEARN’s mission, the schools’ scholars will find success and pursue not just higher education, but a full range of fulfilling careers. LEARN scholars are proving that there is no limit to what they can achieve given equitable access to a high-quality education.