We have created a model that drives sustained improvements—local and systemwide—to create a more equitable, healthy, and inclusive public education system.
Together with these stakeholders, we have supported several new strategic initiatives aimed at improving access and equity within Chicago’s public education system. Districtwide key initiatives include:
- ANNUAL REGIONAL ANALYSIS (ARA): K1C designed a new universal fact base on all PK-12 students in all public schools. Since its launch, ARA data has supported $58 million in new equity-based program investments districtwide.
- CHICAGO CONNECTED (Digital Equity): Starting in 2020, K1C led a public-private coalition of partners to bridge the digital divide for 100,000+ students and their households, providing free, in-home internet services and best-in-class digital learning resources. Chicago Connected has become the national model for closing the digital divide, spurring similar initiatives across the country.
- ACCOUNTABILITY REDESIGN: K1C served as CPS’s stakeholder engagement partner to redesign the School Quality Rating Policy, the framework used to measure school quality for all schools. Through this initiative, K1C engaged 20,000+ stakeholders and created a roadmap for inclusive engagement and more durable policy and system design.
- GoCPS: K1C supported the launch of a new universal enrollment platform, which streamlines school access and enrollment for 25,000+ 8th graders each year.
Putting parent voices at the center of our work has become a manifesto for how our organization approaches education policy.
In neighborhoods across the city, our parent champions have had critical education wins for their kids and their communities. A few highlights:
Our Students, Our School Board: In spring of 2023, K1C parent champions from across Black and Latine communities came together in solidarity to call on Illinois legislators to draw new electoral maps that prioritize the racial diversity of CPS families, ensuring the board is representative and accessible.
A New Library for Back of the Yards: K1C parent champions fought for a standalone library in the Back of the Yards community for years, securing a $15 million award from the state of Illinois to build a new library site.
Education “Firsts” for West Side Families: In 2018 and 2019, K1C parent champions successfully advocated for Michele Clark High School in Austin to become the West Side’s first high school IB (international baccalaureate) program and Morton Elementary in East Garfield Park to become the first regional gifted program.
At Kids First Chicago, we have been at the forefront of public education innovation and improvement since 2004. Operating initially as the Renaissance Schools Fund/New Schools for Chicago, we helped to create 100 new district and charter schools citywide. We contributed to an era of dramatic improvement, when high school graduation rates across the city rose to 80% in just 19 years.
In reflecting and noticing the need for fair access and opportunity for parent voices to shape education policy, we re-opened in 2015 as Kids First Chicago, with a focus on partnering with parents to amplify their power to ensure kids in all neighborhoods in Chicago can access a high-quality education.
In 2015, responding to the clear need to overcome barriers to quality public education and the recognition that parent voice must be incorporated in shaping education policy, we dramatically shifted our mission and became Kids First Chicago.