Why We Focus on Education

Every Chicago student deserves access to high-quality schools and the opportunity to succeed. Chicago Public Schools has made encouraging progress toward this vision with notable academic gains in recent years. Yet racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps persist, and we know there is much more that must be done to ensure all our students are prepared for success in college, in their careers and in life.

Our Approach

Polk Bros. Foundation is working to increase the number of Chicago public schools that have strategic and collaborative principals, effective and engaging teachers, high-quality instructional guidance and materials, positive relationships with parents and community members, and safe, supportive environments that foster students’ learning and motivation.

Research has shown that these are the most important elements to effectively prepare students for college and careers. What’s more, students and parents are well aware that when even one of these elements is weak in a school, student learning becomes more challenging and the hurdles to graduation and long-term success become that much higher.

What We Support

To ensure all Chicago Public School students are prepared for success in college, in their careers, and in life, Polk Bros. Foundation invests in school improvement and student academic success.

School Improvement
Energized leadership in schools and classrooms can transform the school environment into a thriving academic center for student achievement. Through our School Improvement program area, we support high-quality programs focused on:

  • Principal leadership, including recruitment and training for new and current principals to address the complex and varied elements of the principal’s role, opportunities for peer networking and coaching, and emphasis on ambitious goals and high expectations for student achievement.
  • Teacher effectiveness, including in-depth professional learning and strategies directly relevant to the teachers’ own classrooms, especially programs that provide ongoing, meaningful feedback and engage multiple teachers from the same school in peer networks.
  • Parent engagement and community schools, in which schools partner with nonprofit organizations to reduce students’ barriers to learning and increase parent and community engagement in supporting students’ learning at school and at home.
  • Learning climate for students, including interventions and training that enables schools to create and sustain safe, nurturing environments and to build the social emotional skills of students.
  • Systems improvement and innovation, by implementing action plans that advance evidence-based structural reforms to increase resources, improve policies and service delivery, and lead to better student outcomes system-wide.

    Explore our School Improvement Program Area Guide
Student Academic Success
Through our Student Academic Success program area, we support high-quality programs focused on:

  • Building skills in core academic subjects, including activities connected to grade-level benchmarks, standards and the school-day curriculum and designed to address students’ individual needs, with sustained student participation over an extended period of time.
  • College readiness, access and completion, including workshops, tutoring, and college visits as preparation for college, and peer support once in college.

    Explore our Student Academic Success Program Area Guide

Learn How to Apply

Explore our Current Grantmaking