Thursday, November 14, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Prevention, Not Intervention: Early Care and Education a Key Factor in Preventing Crime Before it Happens
by Lindsay Cochrane, Education Program Officer
Illinois police officers would like to put themselves out of business. But not because they’re looking for an early retirement, they’d just prefer to see kids in a cap and gown than an orange jumpsuit. In September, nine representatives of the Illinois police force came together at the Cook County Jail to promote a seemingly unconventional crime fighting strategy: early childhood education.
These officers have teamed up with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, a Robert R. McCormick Foundation grantee, to help the public understand that the path to that orange jumpsuit starts at birth. The organization partners with law enforcement officials across the state of Illinois to prevent crime and educate the public on strategies and policies that can help keep kids in school and out of jails.
It was a powerful image to watch inmates mill about as Sherriff Tom Dart and police chiefs from Cook County and surrounding suburbs called upon Congress to implement a proposed state-federal partnership that would expand high-quality early learning opportunities for Illinois students. Their recently released report, “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” gives shocking statistics that show investment in these opportunities could save money, and more importantly, our children.
While crime prevention may seem like an unusual reason to support early care and education, it is critical to understanding the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of our youngest children through public and private high-quality early learning programs. We’re proud to support the efforts of Fight Crime Illinois and hope to see this state-federal partnership become a reality. It’s time to give access to early education to all children so we can improve lives, support our communities and support our dedicated law enforcement officers.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
by Lindsay Blauvelt, Communications Intern
I was 17 years old and nervously clutching to the recording device my high school journalism advisor had lent me. I was standing at the back of a press section as thousands of people listened intently to presidential candidate Barack Obama; he had yet to be elected. He stood before us promising change, reform, an end to the war and much more. To this day, I’m not sure if the campaign staff was aware that I was merely a high school journalism student, but I was there and I was inspired. I was inspired by Obama, democracy, the promise of change and most importantly, I was inspired by journalism.
A year later, I was on my way to Loyola University of Chicago to begin my major in journalism. In my three and a half years there, I had some amazing moments. I was writing as the School of Communication’s personal journalist, I covered Chicago City Council meetings while Alderman Sandi Jackson was in the hot seat for her husband’s misuse of campaign funds and I reported on Chicago radio waves when Obama won his second term in office. All of it was thrilling, but it was missing something.
When I chose to go into the journalism field, a fair share of warnings came my way… I knew very well that print journalism was suffering, but what I didn’t realize was that journalism as a whole was suffering too. All it takes is a quick look at the Pew Research website to see that the American people were losing faith in reporters, and as a former journalism student, I know that the reporters themselves are losing a little faith. True watchdog reporting has been replaced with fancy graphics and opinionated banter. A profession that prides itself on integrity, ethics and the common good has sacrificed its well-meaning origins for higher ratings. On air, the listeners would get 30 seconds of insight into the Arab Spring, 30 seconds allotted for a movement that would forever change the global environment and American foreign policy. I could go on forever lamenting, but the point is, I needed to get out. Graduation was coming at me fast and being a part of the profession I had paid thousands of dollars to learn about didn’t seem to be in the cards.
Most logical people probably would have taken some time to formulate a plan… I, on the other hand, moved to Stockholm. A job in Sweden with a think tank that focused on peace research was something that I knew I could stand behind. Five months later, you’ll find me here at my desk at the McCormick Foundation, working on press releases and social media. To be honest, I never saw myself behind a desk; but when I think about my seventeen-year-old self and my nervous hands gripping that recorder, I know I chose the right path.
The McCormick Foundation was founded by Robert R. McCormick, former owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. McCormick gave all of his belongings to create an organization that would be committed to sustaining a strong and free news media and enriching local communities and empower those whose voices couldn’t be heard. One way the Foundation is achieving this, and one of the reasons the Foundation appeared on my radar, is their work around news literacy. In a world of 24/7 news cycles and digital advances, the goal of news literacy is to educate and energize citizens—especially youth—about the value of news and assist them in developing a framework for assessing information. In a way, I never took off my journalism hat; I just changed the rest of my outfit. Every day, I’m proud to be a part of this organization and excited to see that through it, I can witness the change I always hoped to be a part of.
Monday, July 8, 2013
by Molly Baltman, Assistant Director/Grantmaking
|Foundation employees and other funders discuss strategy.|
As a launch to the Communities Program’s Unified Outcomes Project, over 70 people representing McCormick Foundation grantees, public funders, private foundations and McCormick Foundation staff gathered for an afternoon to discuss evaluation in the areas of child trauma and child abuse prevention. Led by evaluator, Dr. Tania Rempert, the meeting was the beginning of a series of grantee convenings to discuss what outcomes and indicators are most meaningful to practitioners and agencies, streamline evaluation, and provide a forum for agency representatives to talk about evaluation practices at their organizations. We are hoping that through the upcoming summer workgroups, grantees will learn and share different evaluation approaches and practices that will build on the high-quality services already provided. Through this work, we hope to find common indicators and outcomes the field can use when evaluating program impact (in context with other factors, such as: program models, staff credentials, financial stability, need, barriers, etc.), and provide the aggregated data back to grantees for benchmarking and continued learning/improvement.
During the June 17th meeting, funders posed three questions answered by grantees to help better understand struggles, needs and feedback around evaluation:
Question #1: What kind of support around data collection would you find helpful?
Grantees were interested in having computer generated versions of research outcome-based tools that provide responses and indicators, funding for data collection and reporting (including training for new staff), guidance on systems to help analyze the data, access to technical assistance, narrative-based evaluative questions to accompany measurement tools, and a universal database to align data collection. There was also an interest in funders aligning outcome reporting requirements.
- Question #2: What kinds of outcomes requested/required are NOT HELPFUL? What would you prefer?
Grantees wanted benchmarks targets that were based on research, clarity around the City’s questionnaire and correlation with reporting, the opportunity to choose what tools/outcomes are used, more awareness of the “ceiling effect” constraints on child reported outcomes, being able to report on a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data, less focus on outputs which are not as useful as outcomes, and less specific demographic breakdown requirements in reporting.
Question #3: What kind of support around evaluation would you find most helpful?
Grantees were interested in access to evaluators who could provide on-site technical assistance for creating systems to collect, aggregate, and verify data. Respondents wanted training on participatory evaluation methods and data collection, funding for statistical software and consulting on analyzing outcome data, a library of recommended evidence based tools by category, free evaluation tools, and the opportunity to participate in learning communities to compare and get new tools. From funders, they wanted clarity on minimum and desired expectations, grants to support continuing education in evaluation, training on best practices of administering evaluation tools, ideas for motivating staff to ensure more valid responses , and an easy to use report to pull together all of the data.
|Dr. Tonya Rempert works on evaluation with grantees|
Thursday, June 13, 2013
by Shawn Healy, Resident Scholar, Civics Program
Last August, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in partnership with the McCormick Foundation and the Spencer
Foundation, launched the Global Citizenship
Initiative (GCI) in 16 high schools. The GCI is designed to close a “civic achievement gap” as wide as those in reading and math, and to strengthen the civic mission of CPS high schools. Despite a tumultuous teacher strike, extensive principal turnover at GCI pilot schools, and a polarized debate about pending school closings, the GCI penetrated district high schools and prepared students for college, career, and civic life.
A senior year civics course debuted at the 16 GCI schools last fall. It was taught by 21 teachers and reached roughly 1,300 students. The course content emphasizes both elections and public policy, and the curriculum leverages proven civic learning practices like discussion and service-learning. Students responded positively to the course. One wrote, "I find my civics class very intriguing. I am learning how to become an active citizen and be a participant in the process of bettering my community."
Fourteen of the 16 GCI schools also created student voice committees, where students identify issues of concern in their schools, and work with administration to resolve them. For example, Steinmetz Academy’s student voice committee, led by History teacher David Gonzalez, demonstrated how a malfunctioning metal detector caused student tardiness, and ensured its repair along with a broader revamp of school security measures.
GCI teachers completed more than 45 hours of professional development last year, including a weeklong civic boot camp. Community partners, including the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Facing History and Ourselves, and the Mikva Challenge, supported both the curriculum development and these extensive professional development opportunities.
The vast majority of GCI pilot schools (14 of 16) remain committed for the second year of the initiative, and an additional 17 signed on for 2013-2014. The GCI constitutes a massive experiment in urban education to strengthen schools’ civic mission and close the civic achievement gap. Year one was an unqualified success on both counts, and the McCormick Foundation is proud to partner with CPS to insure that no citizen is left behind.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
by Paul Herbert, Executive Director, First Division Museum at Cantigny Park
|Photo by Ken Wickham, Cantigny in Focus Photo Contest Finalist|