STEP-UP set to expand

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STEP-UP is an offshoot of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline, which began in the Latino community of Little Village in fall 2004. As of spring 2010, nearly 140 teacher candidates had completed student teaching in the Pipeline’s partner schools.

In fall 2010, STEP-UP expanded to include Auburn Gresham, a predominantly African-American neighborhood on the South Side. Robert Lee of Illinois State University, the director of Chicago programs and partnerships for the Pipeline, says ISU is still working with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, Westcott Elementary, and Simeon High School to shape the Pipeline’s work in that community. Another neighborhood will join by fall 2012; Lee says he’s looking for one with a strong community-based organization that has ties to local schools.

The Pipeline received a three-year federal teacher quality grant in 2005, then won another five-year federal grant in fall 2009 that so far has provided $3.4 million and could reap up to $8.2 million over the next three years (depending on federal budget appropriations). At Catalyst press time, federal funds were in jeopardy for 2011.

STEP-UP participants were initially promised a three-year teaching contract with CPS once they obtained their teaching license. They had to commit to staying in the district for all three years. But the contract idea fell through because of the district’s budget problems, and graduates will be able to work wherever they can find a job.

Lee says he doesn’t expect this to hamper recruiting. Last year, the program drew nearly 40 applicants; by late January 2011, 32 students had already applied, with more expected. (Lee is a member of the Catalyst Chicago editorial board.)