Steans To Run New Statewide Organization

A June 5 email from Advance Illinois, the statewide education organization that's been forming over the past year, announced some new details about the organization's shape and membership, along with its first executive director, Robin Steans.

Steans has been a presence in school reform circles for many years, mostly through the Steans Foundation, which she helped run. She's also been a teacher, LSC member, and founder of several organizations, according to this email.

As head of Advance Illinois, she'll head what's intended to be an objective, independent advocacy organization working on statewide education issues. What that means, exactly, or how AE will coordinate with existing state reform organizations, remain to be seen. But this is a Gates-funded initiative, so you can guess that high school reform and workforce readiness will be a big part of the agenda.

Thanks to a reader for passing this along. Feel free to forward emails, memos, and announcements of interest to district299 at gmail dot com. I won't use your name without permission.

------ Forwarded Message

From: Advance Illinois <>

Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2008 18:29:57 -0500

To: <>

Conversation: Advance Illinois

Subject: Advance Illinois

Dear Colleagues:

We are writing to you as a leader who cares deeply about how prepared

Illinois' children are for the future, and who has worked with us in

efforts to improve the quality of public schools across the state. We

want to share with you some advance news about a new nonprofit

education policy organization we will launch this fall called Advance Illinois and to thank those of you who have helped us think things through over the past year.

Advance Illinois will be an independent, objective voice to

promote a public education system in Illinois that prepares all

students to be ready for work, college, and democratic citizenship.

Advance Illinois intends to provide objective research and data about

the state of education in Illinois, work in a bipartisan way to develop

a multi-issue policy agenda for change, partner with other groups and

leaders to build public support for key policy changes, and keep

student needs always at the center of its work.

Why a new education organization? Illinois is a cultural and economic

leader, but statewide education performance is, at best, mediocre. We

lag on nearly every important indicator of education quality,

achievement and attainment that matters – for example, elementary

school reading, high school mathematics and science, high school

graduation rates and college entrance and completion rates. In

addition, the achievement gaps between Illinois' highest and lowest

income students and between its majority and minority populations are

among the worst in the nation. At the same time, the state must

develop highly skilled workers across a broad range of fields. If

Illinois wants to bring in better, higher-paying jobs, it must turn out

better graduates. The state needs to raise its expectations and

strengthen its policies. This will create opportunity for all young

people and enhance the long-term well-being of Illlinois' civic life

and economy. Alongside existing organizations that address particular

educational issues or regions, Advance Illinois is committed to

addressing the comprehensive array of issues affecting students across

the state, and will do so by helping to drive change at the state


In advance of the organization's fall launch, Advance Illinois is

pleased to announce that the organization has hired Robin M. Steans to

serve as its Executive Director.

Robin has significant experience in public school reform, and has led

efforts designed to develop and retain high quality teachers, support

intensive school-based instructional strategies, bring additional

social supports to students in at-risk neighborhoods, and increase

college-readiness and access. She has worked as a public school

teacher in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco; served as a board member

of education policy organizations; and founded several start-up

organizations. We believe Robin's skills and track record - her

ability to unite individuals for common cause, her knowledge of

education policy and how it plays out at the school level, her

experience as a public school parent, teacher, Local School Council

member and activist, and her relentless passion for improving education

for all children - make her an outstanding captain of our team.

We hope to engage you in the coming months as we work to refine our

agenda and strategy. Robin will be spending her first few months on

the job ramping up for our fall launch, and would welcome your input

and an opportunity to tell you more about our work. Please look for

more information in coming months, and don't hesitate to get in touch

with Robin or us in the meantime. Robin can be reached at or at (312) 235-4545. We look forward to

partnering with you on this critical issue.


The Advance Illinois Board of Directors

Lewis Collens

Professor of Law and President Emeritus, Illinois Institute of Technology

William M. Daley

Chairman of the Midwest Region, JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Clerk Miguel del Valle

City Clerk of Chicago and former Chair of Illinois Senate Education Committee

Governor Jim Edgar

Former Governor of Illinois

Joseph Fatheree

2006-2007 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Effingham High School

Honorable J. Dennis Hastert

Former Speaker of the House, US House of Representatives

Dr. Timothy Knowles

Lewis-Sebring Director, Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago

Sylvia Puente

Director, Center for Metropolitan Chicago Initiatives, University of Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies

Charles P. Rose

Founding Partner, Franczek Sullivan, P.C.

Edward B. Rust Jr.

Chairman and CEO, State Farm Insurance Companies

Patricia Watkins

Executive Director, TARGET Area Community Development Corporation

Filed under: Foundation Follies

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