Our Vision

We envision one city united in support of our neighborhood public high schools

Chicago is a city divided. It is divided by income. It is divided by race and ethnicity. It is divided by access to opportunity. Those divisions keep individuals, communities and the city itself from reaching their full potential.

But we have a vision for a city united. A city in which every neighborhood is bound together by strong social ties and brimming with economic vitality. A city in which every resident and every community contributes to and benefits from a shared and growing prosperity. A city in which all students graduate and are prepared to become engaged, educated and capable adults.

The key to realizing that vision is revitalizing Chicago’s neighborhood public high schools.

Why Neighborhood Public Schools Matter

Neighborhood public high schools drive student success and community vitality

Almost 50 percent of Chicago public high school students attend neighborhood high schools, and neighborhood public high schools are the only ones open to all students living within their attendance boundaries. Yet an outdated, inequitable system of managing and funding schools has left many neighborhood public schools woefully under-resourced, and this leaves many students—regardless of their ability or their work ethic—unprepared for our complex and rapidly changing world.

Strengthening neighborhood public high schools can disrupt these disparities by providing high-quality learning opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom, grounding them in their communities and connecting them to the wider world. By supporting the educational and professional success of every student, we help guarantee the ongoing economic and social vitality of the city.

It’s time for a sustained, coordinated, citywide effort to give all of our young people the chance to reach their potential and to contribute their skills and talents to the life of our city.

See why neighborhood public high schools matter

Our city’s future prosperity depends on the quality of the education all our young people receive today.

Only Chicago’s neighborhood public high schools are open to all students living within their attendance boundaries, and the only way to guarantee that every young person has access to a top-quality education is to ensure that every neighborhood public high school is able to provide one.

Neighborhood public high schools play an essential role as “anchor institutions.”

They often provide continuing education, health services, social services and recreation for young and old. In the process, they foster the social cohesion and trust that research shows can lower crime rates.

Strong neighborhood public high schools can also be powerful catalysts for community development, attracting families and businesses and raising the economic prosperity of a neighborhood.

Providing strong neighborhood public schools is a matter of fairness.

Many families do not—or cannot—apply to selective enrollment or charter high schools because of eligibility, distance, cost or safety concerns. Neighborhood public high schools are often the only schools completely open to students facing severe poverty and other special needs.

Support is growing for neighborhood public high schools.

In a number of communities throughout the city, families are partnering with teachers and principals, community organizers, elected officials and local business leaders to support and strengthen their neighborhood public high schools and to gain the support of the wider community.

The city’s efforts to improve high schools must include all of our students.

We must shift our collective focus from expanding school options to strengthening the high schools that are open to all. Living anywhere in the city of Chicago should guarantee that a student can attend a high-quality public high school. The quality of a student’s high school should not be determined by ZIP code.

Who We Are

We’ve harnessed the wisdom and energy of stakeholders throughout the city to realize our vision

Generation All was founded as a partnership of The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, with generous support from the Ford Foundation.

Our mission—to unite Chicagoans in revitalizing neighborhood public high schools—is guided by a diverse steering committee that includes students, parents, educators, administrators, researchers, city officials and community leaders from across Chicago. We have harnessed their shared wisdom, experience and commitment to develop a plan that will ensure that every student has access to an excellent neighborhood public high school.

See Guiding Principles

Generation All’s guiding principles are based on research in education and adolescent development and supported by the experience of experts in the field.

Community vitality and school success go hand in hand.

High-quality neighborhood public high schools are essential to a vibrant city and generate more productive and enriching communities. Students, families, neighborhood residents and organizations are essential partners in building strong, healthy school communities. All of Chicago will benefit when we can guarantee that every student has access to an excellent neighborhood public high school.

Equitable, adequate and sustained investment is essential to the success of our neighborhood public high schools.

Schools are required to serve students regardless of the challenges that come from inconsistent funding and deep budget cuts. As in any organization or business, predictable sufficient funding is necessary for effective planning and programming. And policymakers benefit from actively seeking the perspectives of students, educators and others when making decisions about resource allocation.

Young people thrive when they feel they are part of a safe and supportive community.

Students reach their potential when they experience shared goals and expectations, and full support from their families, communities and schools. When they feel physically and emotionally safe and intellectually challenged and supported, students are free to be fully engaged learners, thinkers and creators. The holistic development of youth is at the heart of education.

Students benefit from learning environments that welcome everyone.

Students in every ZIP code should enjoy the wealth of cultural and socioeconomic diversity in Chicago. Environments that are more diverse can lead to increased empathy and less prejudice, and can expand informal networks that build social capital. Young people enjoy interacting with people from contexts different from their own. If that cannot happen inside the school building, then students should have robust opportunities, through external partnerships, to interact with students from their own and other neighborhoods and backgrounds.

Learning takes place anytime, anywhere.

Learning happens both inside and outside classrooms when students’ knowledge, understanding and skills are challenged by new experiences. Young people especially need opportunities to connect their learning with the larger world and to see themselves in that world. Students need deep and broad learning to enable them to apply knowledge obtained in one context to another, giving them lasting skills for life and work.

Educational improvement efforts must be grounded in research and practice.

We know what quality education looks like and how to support teaching and learning that benefit all students. Much is also known about adolescent learners and how to support their academic, intrapersonal and interpersonal development in the 21st century. The shifts we undertake in this effort must be based on this knowledge as well as on what is known about how to organize and support highly effective institutions across an entire system of schools.

Our Action Plan

We’ve compiled our ideas into an Action Plan for revitalizing the system of neighborhood public high schools

Generation All has developed an Action Plan that envisions neighborhood public high schools as charging stations that power up our young people and communities, setting them up for success. The plan’s solutions—which address practice, policy and public engagement—are informed by the latest research on what works in classrooms and education systems worldwide. The city, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have committed to work with us as we pursue the implementation of the plan.

Solution 1: Practice

Practice Solutions: Make neighborhood public high schools safe, supportive and exciting places to learn

High-quality neighborhood public high schools offer supportive, exciting learning environments buzzing with skilled teachers and engaged, enthusiastic students. From broad and deep learning experiences to resources for teachers and principals, the Practice section of the Action Plan recommends specific actions that will make neighborhood public high schools more vibrant, innovative and effective places of learning where all students graduate prepared for the future.

See specific practice solutions

1a. Strengthen teaching and learning by making instruction challenging, student-centered and connected to young people’s lives and communities.

What could this look like?

  • Organizations with expertise in technology or online learning provide hardware, software and advanced professional development to neighborhood high school teachers on the resources available for classroom use, after-school activities and independent student learning.
  • The CPS central office works with school, community, volunteer and civic organizations to coordinate internships for students during the school year, as well as in the summer.
  • Online learning providers, such as Chicago City of Learning and the LRNG platform, work directly with neighborhood public high school teachers and students to help the students access learning experiences on content ranging from coding to financial literacy and architecture to fashion design.
  • Nonprofit organizations with expertise in youth development and civic engagement, such as the Mikva Challenge, collaborate with students and staff to make sure that curricula and school policies reflect the concerns of the students.
  • Librarians from the Chicago Public Library experienced in working with teens partner with high schools to provide workshops on Internet research skills and media literacy.
  • Museum and cultural institutions that provide youth and school programming consider neighborhood public high school students first when recruiting participants.
  • Teachers develop at least one unit in every discipline that culminates in a learning activity with an out-of-school partner.
  • Youth development and technology organizations create a central information source about learning opportunities throughout the city.
  • Parents, students and other community residents lead tours of their neighborhood for school staff to learn the culture, history and assets of the community. For example, the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce leads trainings for adults and students to organize these types of tours at their own schools.
  • The CTA provides transit cards or shuttle service for students in neighborhood schools so they can participate in activities outside their neighborhoods.

1b. Invest in teachers and principals, prioritizing time for them to learn, plan and collaborate.

What could this look like?

  • Principals and programmers who create class schedules at each neighborhood public high school ensure that teachers who teach the same course share a common preparation period so that they can plan lessons together and reflect on how to improve their practice.
  • Universities partner with neighborhood public high schools to provide expertise in academic content areas and pedagogy to guide teachers’ professional learning.
  • Neighborhood public high school principals participate in leadership development groups to share successes and collaboratively solve problems that arise as they work to improve instruction.
  • All neighborhood public high schools offer seminar periods that shorten the formal school day for students, enabling them to participate in different types of learning, and allow time for teachers to learn and plan together. These “seminar days” are common at many selective enrollment high schools.
  • Teachers regularly seek feedback from students on classroom activities. They use that feedback to inform their professional development, perhaps involving students in its design or delivery.
  • CPS central office and network chiefs collaborate with teachers and principals make time for professional development to meet school-based goals.

1c. Make neighborhood public high schools centers of their community.

What could this look like?

  • Private and public funding expands community school partnerships. Corporations adopt a school and provide funding for a resource coordinator to manage community school programs. Tax increment financing (TIF) funds could be used to help pay for new school health centers or renovations necessary to locate city services in under-enrolled schools.
  • School and community leaders work together to recruit partners and create programs that best meet the needs of both the neighborhood and the school.
  • Health care providers initiate partnerships with schools to provide physical and mental health services on site to students and their families on-site.
  • Organizations serving teens coordinate out-of-school-time activities—such as sports, music or academic clubs—across a geographic region, so that students have opportunities to participate, even if their own school does not offer them.
  • The Chicago Park District ensures that neighborhood public high schools have priority access to nearby parks, fields and other facilities at little or no cost.

1d. Offer comprehensive college and career advising for students at all neighborhood public high schools.

What could this look like?

  • CPS tracks all post-secondary advising programs provided by both in-house and external providers and adds the CPS senior seminar in neighborhood public high schools that do not have it. The seminar guides students through applying to college and navigating other post-secondary pathways.
  • City Colleges and CPS expand dual-enrollment courses in neighborhood public high schools for students to earn college credit and to introduce them to a city college experience.
  • Chicago chapters of university alumni groups raise funds to sponsor and coordinate college visits and summer programs for neighborhood public high school students.
  • Local funders and businesses offer “progressive pathways,” a program that allows young people to combine formal education, job training and employment to build toward college or career success. For example, businesses could hire students as apprentices, provide other on-the-job training or offer a work-to-college track.

1e. Strengthen restorative practices to make schools safe and supportive for students and adults.

What could this look like?

  • Every neighborhood high school offers a “peace room” with a full-time trained staff member who helps students resolve conflicts with peers or teachers and figure out ways to manage conflict more successfully in the future. Students could also be trained as peer mediators.
  • Each CPS network organizes training for all neighborhood public high school staff, including principals and security guards, on restorative practices and how to identify and help students whose behavior is caused by trauma.
  • School-based health centers host regular evening events at which outside practitioners run workshops on methods for dealing with stress, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and similar relaxation techniques, for students, school staff, parents and community members.
  • Community organizations partner with youth leadership groups, faith-based institutions, schools and local elected officials to implement violence-prevention efforts in their neighborhoods.
  • School administrators collaborate with student-led groups advocating for restorative practices that conform with Illinois Public Act 99-0456, an amendment to the Illinois School Code that makes the use of suspensions a measure of last resort.

Solution 2: Policy

Policy Solutions: Provide neighborhood public high schools with dedicated financial resources and thoughtful, long-term planning

High-quality neighborhood public high schools need equitable, consistent funding; transparent planning; and collaborative evaluation and problem-solving. The Policy section of the Action Plan focuses on fair, democratic strategies for school funding and planning that don’t force schools into competition with one another for students, teachers and resources.

See specific policy solutions

2a. Put a hold on the opening and closing of public high schools until there is an open, inclusive, citywide planning process that considers neighborhood needs.

What could this look like?

  • Generation All, in partnership with the mayor’s office and CPS, convenes students, parents and educators, along with community development organizations and city planners, to determine where to locate public high schools around the city in a way that aligns with community needs and benefits all students.
  • The mayor’s office creates a collaborative network of department heads from city agencies and community-based organizations that supports schools through more strategic and equitable coordination of city services.
  • Chicago Neighborhoods Now partners with CPS and community planning groups to include neighborhood public high schools in each of the 16 city planning areas when considering capital improvements, facilities planning, streetscapes and other investments, such as locating community services in neighborhood public high schools.

2b. Make school evaluation less punitive and more focused on problem-solving and growth.

What could this look like?

  • CPS redesigns its school rating policy to include improvement in student standardized test scores relative to other schools serving similar students and to reduce the weight test scores have on a school’s overall rating.
  • CPS, in collaboration with staff at neighborhood public high schools, develops more measures that recognize school success, such as reductions in school suspensions or high student participation in extracurricular activities.
  • CPS uses its accountability system to help schools develop long-term strategies to improve students’ chances of graduation and college and career success rather than focusing on short-term fixes designed to raise standardized test scores.
  • CPS publishes not only the average standardized test scores of the district and each school, but also the variance in scores between schools and within each school. This will allow the district to track equity of outcomes over time, with the goal of making sure that all students and schools improve.

2c. Adopt a more equitable funding formula for public schools in Chicago that better accounts for differences in student and neighborhood needs and resources.

What could this look like?

  • Chicago Public Schools works with an objective third party to conduct and distribute an annual school equity report that assesses disparities in measures of student success, including standardized test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment and persistence, and identifies gaps in school resources in order to make equitable funding decisions.
  • CPS, with community participation, develops a new funding formula that considers a fuller range of student and neighborhood characteristics such as median family income, violence rates and unemployment.
  • CPS creates base funding for all schools that guarantees essential teacher and staff positions regardless of student enrollment.
  • The city reforms tax increment financing (TIF) funding to more easily invest in updating facilities at neighborhood public high schools in lower-income neighborhoods.

Solution 3: Public Engagement

Public Engagement Solutions: Generate public and political support for neighborhood high schools

The news media often overlook the successes of neighborhood public high schools. Parents and neighbors, as well as the city at large, need more opportunities to learn about all that is happening at their neighborhood high schools and how they can help to make those schools even better.

The Public Engagement portion of the Action Plan focuses on initiatives that encourage families, elected officials, local business leaders and other community stakeholders to connect with and advocate for neighborhood schools. Ideas include attending CPS board meetings, joining community organizing groups and building strong “Friends of“ groups.

See specific public engagement solutions

3a. Create opportunities to learn about neighborhood public high schools directly from staff, students and families.

What could this look like?

  • Aldermen and other elected officials build local support for neighborhood public high schools by organizing school visits for residents, sponsoring school fundraisers and hosting town hall meetings that include presentations and performances by school administrators, teachers and students.
  • Schools host regular open houses. Community groups help them publicize and recruit participants so that residents can learn about the school firsthand. The CPS central office coordinates a citywide calendar of school open houses so that they don’t conflict with one another.
  • Students at each neighborhood public high school form clubs to tutor, mentor or engage seventh- and eighth-graders at their local feeder schools in projects, such as community service, to build relationships and get them interested in attending their neighborhood public high school.
  • Middle school counselors, principals and parents of seventh- and eighth-graders arrange to visit their neighborhood public high schools to fully understand the opportunities offered there.
  • High schools host events for students from nearby elementary schools to attend, such as plays or haunted houses. Proceeds could be shared by all schools to fund the next year’s events.

3b. Raise the profile of neighborhood public high schools.

What could this look like?

  • Generation All and its partners fund a citywide multimedia communications campaign in support of neighborhood public high schools.
  • Each neighborhood public high school organizes an outreach team comprising administrators, teachers, students and parents to share the school’s accomplishments through social media.
  • Aldermen and other elected officials highlight school events and success stories in their newsletters and through social media.
  • Communications firms provide pro bono marketing support and resources for individual neighborhood public high schools.
  • Generation All and its partners disseminate research and other data about neighborhood public high schools.

3c. Design innovative and practical ways for community groups, businesses and residents to partner with and support neighborhood public high schools.

What could this look like?

  • Corporate and other private funders invest in neighborhood public high schools by funding school-based partnership coordinators who recruit and manage nonprofit and business partners and volunteers.
  • Businesses and nonprofit organizations provide student internships, technical training or part-time jobs using a coordinated approach that links work opportunities with in-school learning.
  • A central volunteer-match website links Chicagoans with opportunities to provide specific skills like graphic design, website development, branding and marketing, coaching sports or tutoring to schools.
  • Neighborhood residents organize “Friends of       ” groups to raise funds and build support for their neighborhood public high schools.
  • Neighborhood public high schools create sister-school relationships with neighborhood public high schools in other parts of the city. Sister-school activities could include student exchanges where students have the opportunity to “live a day in the life of…” other students, participate in joint fundraising efforts and share unique facilities or equipment.
  • A corporation or small businesses adopts all the neighborhood schools within each of the district’s 13 networks and contributes funding, in-kind resources and volunteers. This would make sharing resources or programs among schools easier and more equitable.

For Teachers, Principals and Administrators

We invite teachers, principals and administrators to join us.

We stand with public high school educators. Your knowledge and skills, your judgment and your participation are essential to revitalizing our neighborhood public high schools and to the future of our city. You understand the vital role neighborhood public high schools play in our communities, as well as the difficult challenges they face. As such, we need you at the table.

See how you can participate

Be our partner.

As we move forward, we will collaborate with teachers, principals, the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS administrators as we seek to implement the ideas in the Action Plan. We will call on you to help us shape new ideas, and to share with us what works and what doesn’t. We ask that you rally your peers around this vision and help hold all of us responsible for making our system of neighborhood public high schools great.

For Parents, Families and Community Members

We invite parents, families and community members to join us.

Good neighborhood public high schools benefit the whole community. To function at their best, they need the participation of the whole community.

See how you can participate

Get involved, and encourage others to get involved.

Visit your neighborhood school. Attend school board and local school council meetings. Talk with principals and teachers about which policies make their work easier and which get in the way. Speak up when issues affecting your neighborhood high school are in the news. Collaborate with others advocating for neighborhood schools. We’re all in this together and everyone has a role to play.

Choose your neighborhood public high school.

Not only may the overall experience be as good as that of other options, but by attending a high school closer to home, students have more time for enrichment activities that are critical to their development, like athletics, leadership programs, music or even after-school employment. They’ll also be closer to family and neighbors who can serve as mentors and protectors.

For Elected Officials

We invite elected officials to join us.

Neighborhood public high schools connect, energize and stabilize the whole community. When schools are engaged with their neighborhoods, they create opportunities and momentum for social and economic development community-wide. As elected officials, you have an important responsibility in ensuring that the city’s neighborhoods—and especially the city’s neighborhood schools—have the resources and support they need to thrive.

See how you can participate

Use your leadership.

The Action Plan puts forth many proven ideas for revitalizing neighborhood public high schools. The most effective catalyst for that revitalization would be the mayor’s office, members of the City Council and other civic leaders loudly and publicly proclaiming that neighborhood public high schools are central to vibrant healthy neighborhoods and will therefore be an important policy priority.

Bring people to the table and break down silos.

The challenges faced by neighborhood public schools aren’t just educational. They are inextricably linked to economic development, public safety and other issues that all neighborhoods wrestle with. The mayor’s office and other civic leaders must use their convening power to engage the public in creating comprehensive solutions to the challenges that are holding back our schools and neighborhoods.

For Business Leaders and Donors

We invite business leaders and donors to join us.

The state of neighborhood schools has a ripple effect on critical issues facing our region today, from public safety to employment and economic development. To ensure that all students have access to a top-quality neighborhood public high school, our schools need equitable and adequate resources to support a deep and broad array of learning opportunities in and out of the classroom.

See how you can participate

Get to know and support Chicago’s neighborhood schools.

The investment, expertise and advocacy of business, philanthropic and community leaders are essential to achieving the Action Plan’s goals. Visit your neighborhood school. Learn about the policies that make their work more effective. Look for opportunities to lend your expertise to advance policies that strengthen Chicago’s education system across the city. Stay attuned to proposals and decisions that affect the city’s high schools. Join the conversation, and invite your colleagues to share their voices.

Partner with Generation All.

We can help you maximize your investment and achieve real impact. Our ability to bring diverse stakeholders to the table puts us in a unique position to develop the integrative solutions our neighborhood public high schools need. Businesses, philanthropic organizations and private and corporate donors have a real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Chicago students and their communities by sponsoring neighborhood public high schools and the community organizations that support them.

Get Involved

Join Generation All!

To make this Action Plan a reality, Generation All is working on creating the conditions necessary to revitalize our system of neighborhood public high schools. We continue to bring new partners to the table, add and refine the research-based strategies and innovative ideas in our Action Plan, and work to implement them with a diverse group of partners.

We know that we cannot make this change happen without the participation of many Chicagoans—from students and educators to policymakers and funders. Join us!

Visit our website to tell us what you are already doing to support neighborhood public high schools and what more you or your organization can do.

Join a Generation All working group to bring your expertise and influence to the work moving forward.

Join us on social media and share the Action Plan with colleagues and friends using #GenAllPlan. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.