Alain Locke Charter School Models Excellence for Charter Schools Nationwide

Alain Locke Charter School, located in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, is one of America’s most successful charter schools.

“In ten years, we’ve moved students from 12 percent to 91 percent on state testing,” says Vice President Eileen Mullin-Gasteier of the Alain Locke Initiative, which comprises the school, Inner-City Teaching Corps and The Ryan Fellowship. All are the brainchild of Pat Ryan, Jr. of Chicago.

The school is considered by U.S. Department of Education to be one of the seven best schools in closing the achievement gap. It’s so successful that it’s being used as a sort of “teaching hospital” to train other school leadership teams, according to Mullin-Gasteier.

How did the school succeed, and so quickly?

“The key is leadership,” Mullin-Gasteier says. “You can’t run a great business without a great CEO. You can’t run a school without a stellar principal at the helm. The principal must hire a phenomenal teaching staff, drive instruction and build a culture of excellence.”

A lottery system determines who can enroll. The school serves 570 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, 94 % of whom are low income and 99 % of whom are African American, and has plenty of support on the North Shore, where associate board member John Toniolo resides.

Career day was one way that Toniolo, a partner at FGH Architects, a residential architecture firm based in Northbrook, gets involved. As an architect, he brings a drafting table to the school and helps kids get to work.

“The drafting table was more interesting to them than the computers,” said Toniolo. “Who knew?”

The Associate Board and the Alumni Steering Committee will host a Evening of Food, Fun and Philanthropy at 6 p.m. on June 21 at Galleria Marchetti, 825 W. Erie St. The venue will be transformed into a commencement-themed party — “things accomplished and things yet to come,” according to Mullin-Gasteier. Entertainment will be provided by DJ Moppy, with silent and live auctions and dancing. Tickets are available at for $125 for VIP tickets and $75 for general tickets. Funds raised will benefit the recruitment and support of the school’s teachers and principals.

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