on Use of Instructional Materials
Changes in Professional Development Coordination
In the decentralized Chicago Public Schools system, professional development, particularly on changes in instructional materials, was a school-level endeavor. As part of the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act, schools were charged with developing annual school improvement plans. These plans included providing for the professional development and growth of teachers. However, the success of a school’s professional development program depended upon school leadership and its ability to ensure effective professional development, per the core attributes described above.
To supplement the professional development capacity of individual schools, various external partners began working with CPS schools to provide professional development to teachers. In 1990, the MacArthur Foundation and other organizations in Chicago made grants available to external groups to work with schools.
Part of the push to connect with external partners came from within the district. In 1994, recognizing that some schools were not able to readily improve on their own, district superintendent Argie Johnson named those schools with the most needs as “probation” schools. As such, these schools were inundated with mandates and resources to facilitate gains in student test scores.
In the early 1990s, Ambassador Walter Annenberg announced a $500 million challenge grant to improve public education in the United States. A small group of school reformers, known as the Annenberg Working Group, drafted a plan to bring some of these resources to Chicago. In 1995, the Annenberg Working Group was awarded $49.2 million to improve Chicago schools. As part of the grant agreement, schools were to form networks with at least two other schools and one external partner. These partners often played the role of providing schools with professional development in line with their school improvement plan (Newmann & Sconzert, 2000; Smylie, et al., 2001).
However by 2000, it was clear that the external partners lacked the capacity to lead schools in their improvement plans (Newmann & Sconzert, 2000; Smylie & Wenzel, 2003), particularly at scale.
The relationships that began with external partners (universities, foundations) during the Annenberg project were strengthened by the OMS and became critical to the success of the CMSI.