In 2003, alongside its partners, Illinois State University was granted federally earmarked funds to develop the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP). The project was initially supported by then-Illinois State President Al Bowman, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Arne Duncan, and various elected state and city of Chicago representatives.

They heralded the Pipeline project as an effective strategy that could provide the Chicago area with a continuous “pipeline” of well-trained culturally-responsive teachers for their public schools. Research suggests that many teachers often return home to teach; therefore, CTEP implemented a strategy that simultaneously supported and leveraged resources to recruit, train, and mentor quality future urban educators.

For the past 13 years, CTEP has been building bridges and forming relationships that foster space for collaboration in supporting and serving urban youth traditionally less able to access higher education.

Chicago admissions event 2016

Marlon Snipes, ISU admissions, answering questions at Simeon High School.

This past spring, Illinois State’s assistant director of Admissions, Nancy Vasquez, who specializes in supporting underrepresented students in the Chicago area has engaged with CTEP in assisting CPS students from our partner schools who were in their final stages of the admission process. Preliminary research gathered from high school counselors, families, and university staff by the Little Village Education Collaborative revealed that high school students benefit significantly from transitional support in these final stages of the university admissions process.

Through a coordinated effort to revitalize our initial vision of a “teacher pipeline” from Chicago for CPS, CTEP partnered with Vasquez and our community liaison teams to mobilize high school counselors and facilitate transitional support sessions with recently admitted students and their families. These events spanned the city in all of our partner communities (Albany Park, Auburn Gresham, East Garfield Park, Little Village, and Pilsen) and ranged from whole group student/family presentations to one-on-one counseling sessions. Our efforts put us in contact with over 250 newly admitted CPS students.

Grounded in our mission to “cultivate and sustain innovative, resilient and effective educators …,” our work continued this summer with Illinois State’s Office of Admissions participating in an immersion visit to Chicago. Similar to our model of immersing faculty members into urban schools and communities as they redesign their courses, Vasquez met with community stakeholders, student teachers, and STEP-UP fellows. She not only visited two community spaces, La Casa in Pilsen, and Breakthroughs’ Family Plex in East Garfield Park, but she dialogued with key practitioners that have been working on higher education recruitment and family education initiatives for Chicago youth.

We came together and began seeding strategies for resource sharing and informed best practices in recruitment and engagement of CPS students. This university-community-district/school engagement model further demonstrates the critical role of CTEP’s work. In real time, we are responding to the various complexities of cultivating educators that are grounded in our communities and will work toward achieving social justice.