Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Early Education Takes the Red Carpet

Here is an update from the last Insights Newsletter highlighting the recent premiere of the documentary “No Small Matter”.


Years in the making, the documentary No Small Matter premiered in Chicago June 20 to a sold out crowd of statewide early childhood leaders and educators at the Gene Siskel Film Center. No Small Matter aims to engage broader audiences in the effort to strengthen both access to and quality within our early childhood system in order to better prepare young children for school success.



The McCormick Foundation, along with other foundations locally and nationally, have supported the development, completion, dissemination and engagement strategy in the wake of the film’s release. The feature-length documentary features humorous cameos by Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, agonizing scenes of parents struggling to find quality care for their infant that they could afford, and the heart-wrenching decision of a beloved preschool teacher to leave the classroom for a more self-sustaining job as a bartender.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker kicked off the premier with remarks that reaffirmed his own commitment to bolstering Illinois’ early childhood system in the coming years. “I believe to my core that every child should get quality child care and quality education, no matter the color of their skin, no matter the income level of their parents, no matter what zip code they live in,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I want Illinois to lead the nation in early childhood education and childcare and I won't stop until we get there.”


Cornelia Grumman, Director of the Foundation’s Education Program, moderated a panel discussion following the film with Deputy Governor for Education Jesse Ruiz, Co-Director Greg Jacobs and former Preschool Teacher Rachel Gianni, featured in the film but now working at the Chicago Children’s Museum.


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a proclamation declaring June 20 “No Small Matter Day” in Chicago.


Film producers created accompanying tools to help make parenting easier, action steps to use the film to champion early learning, and encouragements that providers, houses of worship, community centers, agencies, advocates, educators and others host their own screenings.


No Small Matter was co-produced by Kindling Group and Siskel/Jacobs Productions.

Careers for South Side Residents

Guest blog by Becky Raymond, Career Pathways' Executive Director


The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (CCLC) has had strong roots on the South Side of Chicago. Many founding coalition members were South Side providers. In 2010, when CCLC did a landscape scan of literacy providers in Chicago, there were 12 providers on the South Side.


Since the 2010 scan, there has been a steady decline of adult education programming available on Chicago’s South Side. Particularly during the State Budget Impasse of 2016 and 2017, there was a steep decrease in programming and services among our base members south and west of the city. Although the need is still high — roughly 250,000 individuals that would benefit from adult education — the lack of services continues to decrease.



To address this decline in services and serve the persistent need, CCLC has launched the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative. They have identified assets, engaged community voices (both program participants and providers), built a common agenda and connected programs to each other to create a coordinated career pathway system for South Side residents. Based on this extensive community input, in the fall of 2019, CCLC will staff a Career Pathways Navigator on the South Side to help residents connect to social services and find programs. This Navigator will also connect programs to each other, with a goal of helping providers build their capacity. The overarching goal of the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative is to expand the work of the providers and increase the number of individuals receiving services on the South Side.

USO Launches New Veterans Program

Guest blog by Justin Miller, Pathfinder's Program Manager


Transitioning from military to civilian life is a distinct challenge faced by our nation’s service members and their families. While there are many impressive organizations that provide services for transitioning military, two-thirds of service members are not effectively connecting with these resources. In 2017, USO launched the USO Pathfinder Program nationally to help service members and their families navigate the challenges of transitioning over a 24-month period.



The hallmark of the USO Pathfinder Program is a comprehensive support network that includes access to a Pathfinder Scout, a trained case manager who works directly with the transitioning families and connects them to the services and support they need. The USO Pathfinder Program focuses on connecting them to eight key areas of service, including employment, education, financial readiness, housing and family strength and wellness. In addition, participants have access to the USO Mobile App, which provides resources and access to a Scout in real time. The App allows program participants to view their customized selection of services and resources 24/7 and create their own transition roadmap all on their smart phone.


In Illinois, the USO Pathfinder Program is unique due to the large population of National Guard and Reserve service members and their spouses who are in a constant state of transition. More than 70% of military deployed since 9/11 are National Guard and Reserve, and USO of Illinois is working to ensure Guard, Reserve and their families have access to the Pathfinder Program throughout the state. This month will mark the largest deployment from Illinois in a decade with more than 350 Guard members called up to be deployed.


“The USO is a trusted presence for our military, supporting them from boot camp to deployment to separation for nearly 80 years,” said Justin Miller, USO Transition Program Manager. “USO Pathfinder works to reduce the friction of transitioning and help streamline the process of reintegrating into civilian life.”



Service members and their families can learn about the USO Pathfinder Program online, at any USO Center or Program throughout Illinois. Service members and their spouses can also access services by calling 312-777-3333 or going to www.uso.org/pathfinder.

New Restorative Justice Court in North Lawndale


Opened in August 2017 in the North Lawndale community, the first ever Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) is an innovative collaboration between community-based service providers and the Circuit Court of Cook County. It aims to address the vicious cycle of mutually reinforcing problems: mass incarceration, crime and community violence, mistrust between the community and the criminal justice system, and the mismatch between the adult justice system and the developmental capacities and needs of emerging adults. Research has shown that this population is less future oriented, more susceptible to peer influence and risk-taking and more volatile in emotionally charged settings especially if they suffered childhood trauma. The Court takes this distinct stage of life into account by applying restorative practices to address root causes of behavior while also focusing on accountability for wrong doing through open dialogue between the victim, perpetrator and the community through peace circles and harm repair agreements. The RJCC relies heavily on its community-based partners to provide the necessary wrap around services to carry out the model effectively. The Court’s intention is to offer participants an off ramp out of the system that ultimately influences their life trajectory away from further criminal justice involvement.


Eligible participants are between the ages of 18-26, who reside in the North Lawndale community, and have plead guilty to nonviolent felonies charges. At their bond hearing, the defendant must be recommended by the presiding judge, prosecutor and the defense attorney for diversion to the RJCC instead of the traditional justice system. In its first year, the court saw 73 individuals, 45 of whom currently have active cases. Twelve participants have completed the court and 16 were either rearrested, transferred back for noncompliance or transferred for administrative reasons. The McCormick Foundation is in its second year of supporting the evaluation of the RJCC being conducted by Adler University. This is critical to understanding if the court is having an impact on stopping the cycle of young adults in and out of the system and if the model can be replicated in other neighborhoods in Chicago and across the country. As is the case with any pilot, there have been many challenges and lessons learned in the first year of operations, most notably those arising from the difficult but necessary trust building that is taking place between the community of North Lawndale and the criminal justice system to create a functional court that meets the expectations of each.


Krewasky Salter leads First Division at Cantigny Park


The Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny Park recently named Krewasky A. Salter, Ph.D., executive director of the First Division Museum in Wheaton.


Salter, a U.S. Army Colonel (retired), brings more than 34 years of experience to the museum, with 25 years gained in active military duty. He served as a senior staff officer at the Pentagon before retiring from the military in 2010.



Most recently, Salter was a guest curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). He curated the museum’s inaugural exhibition, Double Victory: The African American Military Experience. The exhibit opened in late 2016. He is also serving as curator of an upcoming exhibition, We Return Fighting: The African American Experience in World War I, scheduled to open in December 2019 at the NMAAHC.


“Krewasky’s experience as an Army officer, teacher and scholar of military history and museum curator, made him an ideal choice for this leadership role,” said David Hiller, McCormick Foundation president and CEO. “We’re delighted to have him on our team at Cantigny.”


Salter succeeds Paul Herbert, who retired in December. His appointment comes less than two years after the First Division Museum completed a comprehensive renovation. The update, part of the park’s ongoing Project New Leaf, enables visitors to experience the proud history of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division — the “Big Red One” — in exciting new ways through cutting-edge exhibits and storytelling technology.


A Florida native, Salter earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida where he was a Distinguished Military Graduate, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Florida State University. He also holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air War University. He taught Military History at the United States Military Academy, West Point; Military Strategy at the Command and General Staff College, Leavenworth; Military Leadership at Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and African American History at several other institutions as an adjunct professor.


Salter was a contributing author and advisor to three publications of the National Museum of African American History and Culture: Dream A World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America, Volume #5 Double Exposure: Fighting for Freedom and Many Lenses: The Buffalo Robe. He also wrote The Story of Black Military Officers, 1861–1948, and served as associate producer and senior historian for the Army-sponsored PBS documentary, Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots. Salter has appeared on “CBS This Morning” and is featured in the Netflix documentary, Medal of Honor. He serves on the Army Historical Foundation Executive Board of Directors.

Illinois General Assembly Advances #CivicsInTheMiddle with Bipartisan Supermajorities


This spring, legislation to require a semester of civics within grades 6, 7, or 8 (House Bill 2265), passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan supermajorities in both chambers. It moves next to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval.


Four years earlier, lawmakers required a semester of civics in high school for the graduating class of 2020 and beyond. House Bill (HB) 2265 drives the same high-quality civic learning practices down to the middle grades, with parallel language infusing instruction on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes into the new course beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.


Keys to the successful “CivicsInTheMiddle" legislative campaign included:

  • Our statewide network of educators and their students making their voices heard in the General Assembly, filing nearly 900 electronic witness slips for the bill in committee and reaching out directly to their Representatives and Senators as it moved to the floors of the respective chambers.
  • Strong organizational support for HB 2265 from the private, nonprofit, and civic sectors, rallied by McCormick Foundation President and CEO David Hiller.
  • Favorable media coverage, including strategically-placed letters to the editor and timely endorsements from The Rock Island Dispatch Argus and the Rockford Register Star.
  • A proven track record of implementing the high school requirement, with more than 1,100 hours of professional development provided to 8,200-plus teachers since October 2015.
  • A promise to make middle school civics a funded mandate through a three-year, privately-funded $3 million plan ($1 million annually) to support middle school teachers, schools, and districts to incorporate a civics course in grades 6, 7, or 8.


As HB 2265 moves to Governor Pritzker’s desk by June 22, you can voice your support for the legislation by contacting him via both e/mail and phone. Upon arrival, the Governor has sixty days to sign or veto HB 2265, so please act today.


Governor Pritzker’s Contact Information

Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

Phone: 217-782-6830 or 217-782-6831

Email contact form



Turning to presumptive implementation of middle school civics, we currently have a survey in the field to assess the needs of Illinois middle school social studies teachers and administrators. The results, combined with our high school experience and evaluation results, will further shape our initial plans.


Current highlights include:

  • Ongoing teacher professional development opportunities, both in person and online, will be offered in partnership with civic education nonprofits and institutional partners, including universities and regional offices of education.
  • We are especially excited about a new partnership with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to develop high-production learning modules for teachers centered on proven civic learning practices. Participating teachers will earn microcredentials in each practice. We anticipate the first module, focused on discussion of current and controversial issues, to launch this fall.
  • Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors have been central to our high school course implementation efforts, and we intend to continue the program with modifications to account for lessons learned and the unique needs of middle schools.
  • As was true of our high school efforts, we will partner with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to evaluate the impact of our teacher professional development offerings and, reciprocally, the fidelity of middle school course implementation. At the end of the implementation period, we will also assess the impact the course has on students’ civic development, measuring growth in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Supporting Youth Civic Development

This article is written by Program Officer, Sonia Mathew, and introduces the Democracy Program’s work in youth civic learning.


In my three years at the Foundation, I have had the privilege of working with the Democracy Schools Initiative, which has strengthened schoolwide civic learning and engagement throughout Illinois. Illinois Democracy Schools are high schools recognized for consciously promoting civic engagement by all students, focusing intentionally on fostering participatory citizenship and placing an emphasis on helping students understand how the fundamental ideals and principles of our democratic society relate to important current problems, opportunities and controversies. Since 2006, 74 high schools have been recognized throughout the state.


Our work to “Engage Youth Civically” builds upon the important foundation that Democracy Schools have created to ensure that our young people are informed, actively participate in their communities, and have healthy civic dispositions. It is our goal for schools to support youth in their civic development through the equity and quality of civic learning experiences and organizational supports that sustain democratic practices in schools. Over the past year, we have worked to redefine Democracy Schools indicators and created a new assessment rubric that will be launched statewide in August. This strategic redesign of the Democracy Schools Initiative is shaping the integration of our grantmaking with key elements of Democracy Schools, where grant partners will be able to support the needs identified from Democracy Schools.



Our first strategy supports teachers to strengthen the proven practices of civic learning (Foundational Civic Knowledge, Discussion of Current and Controversial Issues, Simulations of Democratic Processes, Service Learning/Informed Action, and Extracurricular Activities) that connect with the lived experiences and identities of students. Teachers also need support to better integrate media literacy skills with these proven practices of civic learning. This support for teachers can occur both through external providers as well as through the Democracy Schools Network. This strategy is one that directly addresses inequities that exist with the quantity and quality of civic learning experiences in school, as teacher professional development ensures that our educators can help cultivate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that our students need to be effective and engaged citizens.


Our second strategy supports school leadership to advance a commitment to the civic mission of schools, dedicating resources to sustain the vision and ensure all students have equitable access to civic learning. The McCormick Foundation has developed an Administrator Academy to support K-12 administrators implementing the new Illinois social science standards and civics course requirements, and the Democracy Schools Network has convened administrators for intentional professional development. As public schools were created with the purpose of promoting civic ideals, this important work with administrators supports schools to restore their civic mission, which has unfortunately been deprioritized. Supporting school leadership ultimately leads to schools being transformed into democratic spaces.


Our third strategy is to promote student voice in schools both through representation and student media programs. One current partner in this work is Loyola University, who has partnered with Senn and Sullivan High Schools on Chicago’s north side (both Democracy Schools) to operate a storefront news bureau called the RogersEdge Reporter, where high school and college students report hyper-local news in Rogers Park and Edgewater. With less than 1% of CPS high school students enrolled in a journalism class, partnerships like this provide an invaluable resource for schools to strengthen scholastic journalism and promote student voice. Additionally, when there are multiple avenues for student representation in schools, students have further opportunities to develop their civic dispositions. Students are truly practicing democracy in these environments and this positions them to continue these practices into adulthood.


Our fourth strategy is to create partnerships to build democratic school climates and implement Illinois’ school discipline law, Senate Bill (SB) 100. Promoting a positive school climate is very much connected with academic achievement and correlates with building the civic capacities of our students. It also addresses many of the opportunity gaps that exist in schools. SB100 was passed in 2015 with the purpose of reducing racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions, emphasizing restorative practices instead. Our work in this area directly meets the implementation needs of this important law by supporting teachers, administrators, and student leadership.


Our final strategy supports national and statewide field-building efforts to strengthen youth civic learning and engagement. On a national level, the CivXNow coalition has developed a national nonpartisan strategy that establishes civic education as a priority in preserving American democracy and supports the implementation of effective policies and practices to ensure that students engage in high quality civic education for generations to come. At the state level, the McCormick Foundation has been advocating for the passage of a Middle School Civics bill and plans to mobilize support for professional development for educators to meet the demands of this bill.


These investments in school-based civic learning opportunities will promote equitable access and stronger civic engagement outcomes for students, connect educators with the lived experiences and identities of students, and transform schools to be more democratic spaces. If you work supports these strategies in the Chicagoland area, we invite you to participate in an open application process for grants over $50,000 to engage youth civically with a deadline of October 1st.