Our history






Our organization was founded by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago with one clear goal: to improve outcomes for all public school students by addressing the broad needs of the education ecosystem.  

In 2004, as The Renaissance Schools Fund, we acted as the independent fundraising and strategic partner to Chicago Public Schools’ Renaissance 2010 (Ren10) effort. 

For decades, student outcomes had lagged far behind national averages and Chicago families demanded change. To meet the needs of students and parents, we invested $100 million to support 81 new, innovative public schools which spurred an era of dramatic improvement.

Over time, and to better reflect our work in supporting cutting-edge, high-quality school models our organization’s name shifted back to New Schools for Chicago (NSC), a name that would serve us through an era of unprecedented improvement brought upon by significant investments in new options for families. 

Since the introduction of choice, graduation rates in Chicago increased over 30 percentage points; ACT scores increased nearly two points; and reading and math scores in elementary schools improved at rates that rank in the top of urban districts nationally. 

While these remarkable student outcomes have begun to garner national attention, they still fall short in our low-income communities with predominantly African American and Latino families—an inequity that must be addressed. 


In early 2015 nearly 75,000 students remained in failing schools that were not preparing them for success in college, career and life. With this in mind, we set out to once again, transform NSC, recognizing that while our goal remained consistent, we needed new strategies to address challenges that choice alone could not solve. 

To achieve our vision—world-class education for every student in every neighborhood—we had to focus on changing the dynamic around education reform in Chicago and fully engage those closest to the challenges.

Today we, empower communities and families to identify, navigate, and advocate for high-quality public schools for their kids—with clear and transparent information. Then we work with parents and the district to shape education policy to better support families.

“Putting parent voices at the center of our work has become a manifesto for how our organization approaches education policy.”

– Daniel Anello, CEO, New Schools for Chicago

We believe that this design thinking approach allows us to forge meaningful and authentic relationships with parents, schools, and communities that will, in turn, transform Chicago’s educational ecosystem.

While we work to make Chicago’s public education system take another incredible leap forward as Kids First Chicago, a name that reflects our ongoing commitment to kids, and to Chicago's public education needs. 

Together, as Kids First Chicago, we will create a world-class system of schools.