The College of Education and Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline™ were recently awarded a “Grow Your Own” planning grant through Illinois State Board of Education.

The Grow Your Own Consortium is designed to provide Little Village, Kenwood and Oakland community members and educational paraprofessionals from high needs Chicago public schools in those communities with an opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with applicable endorsements in Bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL). It should be noted that the endorsements are in addition to the Type 03 Elementary Education Certificate, and as such would be offered to those interested. The proposed planning grant consortium, Grow Your Own Teacher Education Initiative, builds upon a preexisting partnership between Illinois State University, Chicago Public Schools District 299 and Little Village Community Development Corporation. This partnership expands its collaboration with the addition of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, thus creating a pipeline of both African American and Latino teachers that will teach within high needs communities.

The proposed project will recruit three cohort groups consisting of approximately 60 students; 30 students per community organization. The purpose of this project is to meet this demand and develop effective pathways for nontraditional teacher candidates (e.g., parents, community members, paraprofessionals) with an opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education with applicable certification. In doing so, the challenge to provide high quality teachers for all students in hard to staff schools, especially in areas serving a substantial percentage of low-income students (including a high percentage of English Language Learners in the Little Village community) can be realized. We anticipate three cohorts of applicants to the Grow Your Own Consortium, which are:

Community members with interest and aspiration to pursue teacher education who have some exposure to community schools through volunteer work and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent;

Community members with interest and aspiration to pursue teacher education who have extensive exposure to community schools through paid-work, possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, and have started general education coursework through an accredited community college program; and

Paraprofessionals working in paid positions within community schools and have obtained the equivalent of a college associate’s degree, or an approved 60 semester hours of university general education, and passing scores on the Illinois Advanced Basic Skills Examination.


Each of the three cohort models will consist of college coursework, one full school year of supervised internship, and a full semester of student teaching. Upon completion of the grant project, students will earn a Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) degree and some may earn additional qualifications for Bilingual and/or ESL approval from the State of Illinois. At the completion of the teaching internship, students will qualify for a regular, Type 03, elementary school teacher certificate with the appropriate endorsement from the State of Illinois. In effect, this program will enable the participating high needs schools to “Grow their Own” teachers to meet the specific needs of students in their respective communities.

This project complies with the Grow Your Own Teacher Education Act [110 ILCS 48] and is authorized by Section 90 of the Act [110 ILCS 48/90]. The goals of the program are based on the two goals set forth by the Act, which include the creation of opportunities for certain individuals to become certified teachers; and to place the graduates of the program in schools that have difficulty attracting or retaining highly qualified teachers as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act. The need for such a program can be realized from the information gathered in determining both community and Chicago Public Schools’ needs, and as a result the partners for this Grow Your Own consortium have been assembled in creation of this partnership.

The partnership of Illinois State University with the Chicago Public Schools District 299, Little Village Community Development Corporation and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization forms a consortium of interested and vested partners in the development of highly qualified teachers for hard to staff schools/communities serving substantial percentages of low-income students. A Governance Steering Committee including representatives from each of the partners will serve as a guiding body for activities and direction of this program.

This Grow Your Own consortium will support the program with facilities for clinical experiences; experienced teachers for mentoring and application of content pedagogy; supervision of clinical experiences and student teaching by securing placement of graduates in schools within their home communities. Illinois State University representatives will work with each partner organization in the recruitment and in-service training of candidates to meet the requirements for the transition from school volunteer, community member, and/or paraprofessionals to highly qualified teacher. The consortium is committed to and will offer equal opportunity to participants from each community.