Our Continued Commitment to Justice, Equity, Inclusivity and Belonging

June 2023 Update

Our parents tell us that CJA is the school that they have been searching for: a school that will truly partner with them in their child’s education. We strive to walk with our families as they raise their sons and daughters by opening our doors at 7:30 for breakfast and staying open into the evening so that life can be a little easier for our working parents – especially our single parents who carry especially heavy loads. Across our nine-hour school day, our students receive three meals, personalized instruction, and access to social workers, a full-time nurse and learning specialists in addition to their teachers. They also have the opportunity to explore their diverse talents through our co-curricular programs where they can learn to cook in our Culinary Arts Club, play music in our Jazz Band, problem solve in our Robotics Club or compete on our Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, Lacrosse or Track teams – to name a few.

At the end of May, our students took their final i-Ready Mathematics and Reading assessments for the 2022-2023 school year. Our teachers already had a very good sense of how each student had grown, but these standardized assessments allowed us to compare our students’ achievement against national norms.

According to this year’s data, our median 3rd grader finished the school year scoring in the 25th percentile in Mathematics and the 25th percentile in Reading after their first year of studies at CJA. Their growth was more impressive. In Math, our median 3rd grader made 137% of the typical growth of the median 3rd grader nationally. In Reading, they made 144% of the typical growth of the median national 3rd grader.

Put another way, if you lined up all of our 3rd graders from our highest achieving students to our students who began their studies at CJA with the most academic struggles, the student in the middle of that line ended the 2022-2023 school year at CJA performing as well or better in Mathematics and Reading than 25% of students nationally. Our median 3rd grader also grew 37% more than the median 3rd grader nationally in Math and 44% more in Reading. If we imagine this growth as a distance with the median 3rd-grade student nationally running a mile during this past school year, then our median 3rd grader at CJA ran that mile plus an additional 0.37 of a mile in Math. In Reading, they ran an additional 0.44 of a mile this school year. But that’s only the start of the story of a student’s time at CJA.

By the end of 8th grade, our median student was scoring in the 61st percentile in Mathematics and the 59th percentile in Reading. That places our median 8th grader 11 percentile points ahead of the national median in Math and 9 percentile points ahead in Reading. While this is impressive, our students’ growth is even more impressive. Our median 8th grader made 259% of the typical growth achieved by the median student nationally in Math and 208% of the typical growth relative to the national median in Reading.

If we return to our miles-run analogy and again imagine the median national 8th grader covering a mile over the course of the past school year, then our median CJA 8th grader ran the equivalent of 2.59 miles in Math and 2.08 miles in Reading during the same school year. Even more impressively, half of our median student’s 8th-grade classmates grew at rates greater than our median student’s 2.59x and 2.08x multiples.

Here’s the full picture:
Mathematics (2022-2023 School Year)

Grade Performance Relative to
National Norm (Percentile)
Median % Typical
Growth Achieved
Grade 3 25th 137% Low performance/High growth
Grade 4 43rd 135% Low performance/High growth
Grade 5 32nd 126% Low performance/High growth
Grade 6 57th 211% High performance/High growth
Grade 7 69th 231% High performance/High growth
Grade 8 61st 259% High performance/High growth

Reading (2022-2023 School Year)

Grade Performance Relative to
National Norm (Percentile)
Median % Typical
Growth Achieved
Grade 3 25th 144% Low performance/High growth
Grade 4 64th 196% High performance/High growth
Grade 5 49th 198% Low performance/High growth
Grade 6 65th 271% High performance/High growth
Grade 7 63rd 319% High performance/High growth
Grade 8 59th 208% High performance/High growth

In our students’ first three years at CJA, the data show high levels of growth across the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades even though our median students in each of those grades began their time at CJA at relatively low performance levels. Across all grades, the 2022-2023 data show our median students are growing at rates that are 1.26x, 1.98x, 2.71x and – in our most extreme example – 3.19x the growth rates of their median peers nationally. By 6th, 7th and 8th grade, the median student in each of those grades has progressed to high performance levels in Math and Reading while also growing at rates that are literally off the graphs.

We’re so proud of our students for earning these scores. It’s a testament to their commitment to their studies and their hard work as well as the dedication of their parents and our faculty and staff. We also celebrate that our 2022-2023 testing data mirrors the achievement levels and growth rates that we have seen from past CJA students since our founding in 2005. While our median 3rd-grade student might finish their first year of studies at CJA scoring only in the 25th percentile, they are on a trajectory to grow to score in the 59th and 61st percentiles in Reading and Math respectively by the time of their 8th-grade graduation. In five years, they will have leaped ahead of 34-36% of their national peers and moved well ahead of the national median.

Our students’ impressive growth and achievements beg some important questions.

If CJA is not an academically selective school and if our students’ growth and achievement are therefore possible for most students throughout Chicago, then why aren’t we as a city investing more resources in children with backgrounds similar to our CJA students? Moreover, why aren’t we being better stewards of the resources that already exist throughout Chicago?

If we want to provide all children with access to an excellent education, if we believe every child is a unique gift to this world, and if we know each child is most likely to thrive in a school where they are known, loved and challenged, then aren’t we called to build more diverse, equitable, inclusive schools?

Aren’t we also called to ask hard questions about why the talented, strong and gifted young people whom we graduate from CJA each year too often begin their time at CJA far behind where they could be?

The data clearly show that it’s not because they don’t work hard. The data also show that they have no shortage talent. Instead, success was elusive before CJA for too many of our students because so few other schools have the extensive resources to offer longer school days, longer school years and personalized attention in a loving learning environment that holds in balance the competing goods of compassion, grace, rigor and urgency.

Why are so few schools able to be this?

People of good conscience will offer different answers. Some say it’s the lack of political will to offer broad school choice through vouchers or tax-credit scholarship programs. Others will say it’s a lack of political will to appropriately fund all public schools. Still others point to the brokenness of the public-school bureaucracy; the devaluing of teaching as a profession; systemic racism; the squandering of precious education dollars on administrative structures that are far away from the students and the schools themselves; the CTU; historical disinvestment in Chicago’s West Side of Chicago… the list goes on.

I hear all these responses within our board and among our parents, faculty and staff. Across these diverse perspectives, I have also seen good people who hold opposing views stand side by side and work together to help CJA and our students thrive. Through our work at CJA, I have come to know that no group is a monolith in their thinking, and that is a very good thing. At CJA, we believe diverse opinions, robust debate and a whole lot of hard work are essential to keeping CJA a strong, rigorous and loving school community for all our students, alumni and families. By valuing diverse opinions, we also model for our students and alumni the critical thinking that they will be called to do throughout their life.

Unfortunately, in this hyper-politicized era, I have seen how the very words we use to talk about all of this can become obstacles to the important work we need to do each day with our students and alumni.

* * *

More than two decades ago, when we were just beginning to dream about the idea of Chicago Jesuit Academy, I enrolled in an MBA program because I lacked the business background I needed to help start CJA. My first weeks in business school felt like a dizzying parade of acronyms and finance terms. On the first day of orientation, I kept hearing classmates and professors talk about “I-banking.” I had no idea what that meant. When I quietly asked a member of my study group, he whispered, “investment banking,” and gave me an incredulous look.

It was clear I had a long night of reading in front of me.

Those first weeks of business school made me question if I belonged in the MBA program. However, when we dug into the ideas behind the terms and acronyms, I quickly found that the substance of business school was fairly straightforward and – for the most part – made good common sense. I was also fortunate to meet some very good friends who welcomed me into the fold and patiently helped me find my way.

I share this story because I think the substance of what we try to say can sometimes be obscured by the vocabulary we use. Words that mean one thing to us might mean something entirely different or nothing at all to someone else when heard through the filter of their lived experience. At our best, we all strive to hear the true meaning behind someone else’s words in the hope of knowing them well, finding common understanding and shared purpose. It is in this spirit that we share CJA’s annual update about our progress toward building a more diverse, equitable and just school community.

For us at CJA, this work has always been about strengthening and caring well for our community. Unfortunately, across the past three years, I have seen how – in some settings – the vocabulary of diversity, equity and inclusion work can become laden with political ideology or be used to exclude those who think or speak differently. As a result, words like “diversity, equity and inclusion” no longer carry simple denotative meanings. Instead, these words now carry connotations that pull them far from the meanings they originally had – and the meanings they continue to have – for us at CJA.

So, what do we mean when we talk about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion at CJA?

First and most importantly, we mean that we strive to do all that we can to see the uniqueness of each human person. As we come to know one another across lines of difference, we receive a more full and complete glimpse of who God is. If we believe that every person is made in the image and likeness of God, then coming to know one another across lines of difference not only brings us together as human beings, it also draws us closer to God. In the Catholic tradition, this idea of imago Dei points us toward a belief that “the mystery of humanity cannot be grasped apart from the mystery of God.”

At CJA, this belief is meant to animate all that we do. It is at the heart of who we are as a Jesuit Catholic school for if we believe every child entrusted to our care is made in the image and likeness of God, then we have a sacred obligation to come to know and care well for each child’s unique gifts and needs. We must do all that we can to provide each child with an excellent education because school is the most important place – other than family – where a child comes to know, develop and refine their God-given gifts. We must do this work in close partnership with parents if we hope to help each student know they are loved by God and called to use their unique gifts in service to others throughout their lives.

That’s a tall order.

For all of us – for parents, for teachers, for students, for anyone who is trying to be a little better today than we were the day before – we often struggle to see the fullness of another person’s life. It can be tough for us to approach differences with curiosity or to ascribe charitable intentions to another’s actions when we don’t otherwise know someone’s motivations. We often miss the mark and fail to look upon one another with compassion. In the Catholic tradition, we call this missing of the mark “sin.” Sin keeps us from knowing one another and consequently keeps us from knowing God. We also know that sin isn’t just personal. It can have social, institutional and structural dimensions too. When we sin, we fail to see the full humanity of the person against whom we sin. Instead, we see that person as a means to an end or as someone set apart from ourselves or our group. We make them “the other” – the child who isn’t part of a circle of friends because they don’t wear the right clothes, didn’t make the right team, or don’t live in the right neighborhood. In our fear and ignorance, we also “other” whole groups because of a particular characteristic – whether it’s their gender, their race, their resources or some other attribute.

In 2001, Francis Cardinal George authored a pastoral letter called Dwell in My Love. His letter sought to address the specific sin of racism in Chicago. He published the letter on April 4th – the 33rd anniversary of the martyring of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – and his letter was written in response to a group of three white teenagers nearly beating Lenard Clark, a 13-year-old Black child, to death.

Cardinal George wrote, “One form of human division, conflict and fragmentation is racism: personal, social, institutional and structural. Racism mars our identity as a people, as the human race made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27).” He would later add, “Among our many moral concerns, racism continues to furnish a long-lasting substratum. It is the original sin of American society, enshrined as race slavery in our very Constitution for almost ninety years.” Less than twenty years later, the murder of George Floyd prompted CJA to commit to publishing an annual public review of our efforts to combat the sin of racism and live out our belief that every person is made in the image and likeness of God.

Last summer, a friend and long-time supporter of CJA was kind enough to spend time in conversation with me about all of this work. She encouraged me to try to write this year’s update in a way that acknowledges these challenges while also providing more context for our way of proceeding at CJA. With this year’s update, I consequently hope to clearly express not just what we do, but why we do it.

Ultimately, I hope our work at CJA will be judged not by our words but by our deeds as we strive to remain always mindful of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s rejoinder that “Love ought to show itself more in deeds than words.”

* * *

On 9 June 2020, CJA published a statement honoring Black lives in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In that statement, we promised to review our diversity, equity and inclusion practices and share an annual update about our efforts to be a diverse, equitable and inclusive community each June. This work has included the following commitments:

  • As a work of the Catholic Church, we remain committed to walking in solidarity with our students, alumni, families and colleagues as we strive to repair the social sin of racism. We commit to engaging in respectful dialogue and anti-bias, anti-racist training that recognizes and affirms our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion as essential elements of our mission as a Jesuit Catholic institution.

    There are many secular notions about what diversity, equity and inclusion work ought to look like. Some of these secular perspectives implicitly or explicitly champion a political ideology. We do not believe that is what we are called to do at CJA. Instead, we believe we are called to lean into our Jesuit Catholic mission and identity. Catholic social teaching – summarized well in this article by Rev. William Byron, S.J. – is our guide.

    The Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (the Midwest Province) is responsible for guaranteeing the Jesuit Catholic mission and identity of Chicago Jesuit Academy. Every six to seven years, the Midwest Province works with each of their Jesuit schools to complete a sponsorship review. In the 2022-2023 school year, CJA underwent our sponsorship review with the Midwest Province. This included a formal visitation by representatives from our fellow Jesuit schools as well as a delegate from the Midwest Province. The delegation assessed our work using the Jesuit Schools Network’s (JSN’s) Our Way of Proceeding: Standards and Benchmarks for Jesuit Schools in the 21st Century and JSN’s revised Domain 5, “Faith That Lives Justice”, which includes diversity, equity and inclusion work as essential components of the mission and identity of all Jesuit schools. These JSN documents establish the following standards and expectations for all Jesuit pre-secondary and secondary schools:

    • Today our prime educational objective must be to form men [and women] for others; men [and women] who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ – for the God-human who lived and died for all the world; men [and women] who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men [and women] completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. (Pedro Arrupe, Valencia, Spain, 1973)

    • A Jesuit school community understands and develops a core Ignatian worldview that presupposes the goodness in all people and recognizes the Catholic principle that every person is charged with the Divine, created in the image and likeness of God…

    • 13.2 The school program includes anti-racism/anti-bias training for board, faculty and staff, and students. All school personnel work to eradicate barriers between and among people such as misogyny, homophobia, and gender and socio-economic stereotyping and discrimination.

The visiting team for the Midwest Province found that: “Chicago Jesuit Academy is an exemplar of care and love for students. [CJA] students can articulate their experience of being cared for as individuals by the school personnel. Moreover, students can articulate their experience of caring for others as individuals. This is truly a community that articulates, fosters, and lives the mission as a loving, academically rigorous school deeply rooted in servant leadership… The faculty of CJA are models for other Jesuit apostolates with their active, dedicated participation in learning teams where best practices are shared, new teachers are mentored, and academic instruction is reviewed to ensure all students receive the learning experience they need and deserve.” The visiting team “recommend[ed] to the Provincial that he reaffirm Chicago Jesuit Academy as an apostolate of the Society of Jesus.”

  • We continue to strive to live our mission statement, which we updated in partnership with our alumni, parents, faculty, staff and board in 2020-2021. In 2022-2023, we changed “intellectual competence” to “seeking intellectual excellence” in the final sentence to better articulate our commitment to academic rigor. Our current mission statement follows below:

    • Mission: Chicago Jesuit Academy is a loving and academically rigorous tuition-free Catholic elementary school for students and families from resilient communities impacted by historical disinvestment. We accompany our students and alumni from enrollment through the start of their careers as they develop their gifts and grow as men and women for others.

    • Means: Located in Austin on Chicago’s West Side, CJA admits students to all grades in our lower and middle school without regard for their race, ethnicity or religion, and CJA enrolls 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students without regard for their past levels of academic achievement. We use small class sizes, extended school days and an 11-month school year to give personal care to our students and help them develop as whole persons. We accompany our alumni on their unique paths to meaningful employment and support them throughout high school, their post-secondary education and the start of their careers, always welcoming them back as leaders at CJA and in the broader community. CJA students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, volunteers and benefactors listen to and learn from one another and make disciplined sacrifices to accomplish our shared mission. We partner with other schools and the broader community to create access to better educational resources, confront systemic racism and remove obstacles to educational equity. We call one another to find God in all things and be men and women for others who are open to growth, loving, religious, seeking intellectual excellence and committed to doing justice.

  • We remain committed to making significant additional investments in our community so that CJA will be of greater service to children and families in our community. We remain committed to adding more Black and Hispanic voices to CJA’s board of directors, committees and executive team. We are spending more time, dollars and other institutional resources to make greater progress toward these goals.

    • A West Side minister who was a mentor to me often reminded me that, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” He stressed the importance of giving our students and alumni the opportunity to meet people from various professional backgrounds who look like them and come from neighborhoods like Austin, Garfield Park and North Lawndale. I hope we are always mindful of his guidance, and we strive to give it special consideration at our graduation ceremonies and through our selection processes for our board of directors, committees, executive team, faculty and staff.

    • At each of our fifteen graduation ceremonies since 2009, the commencement address has served as the “last lesson” that our students receive before they become alumni of CJA. Each of our commencement speakers has been an incredibly accomplished person who has also been a Black or Hispanic man or woman whose life story is resonant with our students in powerful ways. In the hallway to our gymnasium, there is a framed picture of each commencement speaker with their bio so that everyone who comes to CJA can see them and be inspired by their stories.

    • More broadly, we are very fortunate to know an extraordinarily talented group of people who give generously of their time to volunteer or work at CJA. Within our board of directors, this includes doctors, engineers, finance experts, veterans, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, Jesuit priests, talented school and nonprofit leaders, lawyers, former teachers and other professionals.

    • At the height of the pandemic, this meant that we could turn to the two doctors on our board who have exceptional credentials and receive critically important strategic guidance and medical advice from them. It also meant those two doctors – who are Black women who know Chicago’s West Side well – were uniquely positioned to speak with our parent community about how they could protect their loved ones at a time when Black people were dying at disproportionate rates from COVID. I owe Dr. Lauren Smith and Dr. Muriel Jean-Jacques a debt I can never repay for their selflessness, courage and dedication to our CJA community throughout the pandemic.

    • When we host meetings of our board of directors or committees at CJA, our students see those adults and know they play an important role in caring for our school. It is critically important for our students to see in our directors and committee members images of who they might become. All of the members of our board of directors and committees give generously of their time and expertise. Many build deep and long-lasting relationships with our students, alumni and families, and there is a special resonance and perspective that the Black and Hispanic directors and committee members bring to those relationships that is uniquely impactful. Our students and alumni see in them their own stories, and that helps them dream big dreams for the future and know that they are strong, gifted and talented young people who can overcome the obstacles in their way.

    • Across the last four years, we have increased Black and Hispanic representation on our board of directors from 18% to 37%. That time period coincides with significant revenue growth in support of our students and alumni; the construction of a 50,000-sq.-ft. addition; the launch of our girls’ program this past school year, which was one year ahead of schedule; and, the expansion of our
      High School Bridge program to ten public and private elementary schools in disinvested communities throughout Chicago.

    • By the 2026-2027 school year, we will enroll 368 students – 184 boys and 184 girls – at CJA on full-tuition scholarships. By 2028-2029, we will reach enrollment capacity for our campus at 408 students with 204 boys and 204 girls enrolled. Across the same time period, our High School Bridge program will scale beyond CJA to serve 1,400 students annually at eighteen elementary schools throughout the Chicagoland area.

    • We do not have specific racial quotas or other demographic targets at CJA, but we do actively seek candidates for our board of directors, committees, executive team, faculty and staff whose lived experiences mirror those of our students, alumni and families.

    • Racial and Gender Demographic Data for CJA’s Board of Directors

      White Other Total
      2020-2021 12% 6% 82% NA 100%
      2021-2022 20% 10% 70% NA 100%
      2022-2023 26.3% 10.5% 57.9% 5.3% 100%
      2023-2024 26.3% 10.5% 57.9% 5.3% 100%
    • Across these four years, the female/male gender balance of the board of directors has essentially remained unchanged at 37%/63% for voting members of the board.

    • Racial and Gender Demographic Data for CJA’s Executive Team

      White Multiracial Total
      2020-2021 14% 0% 71% 14% 100%
      2021-2022 14% 0% 57% 29% 100%
      2022-2023 0% 0% 67% 33% 100%
      2023-2024 0% 0% 71% 29% 100%

      Across these four years, the female/male gender balance of the executive team has changed from 57%/43% (2020-2022) to 50%/50% for the 2022-2023 school year and back to 57%/43% for the 2023-2024 school year.

    • In 2022, we created a new full-time “Director of Talent” position to recruit, develop and retain the talent we will need as we grow, and we promoted Ravae Duhaney to that role. At a time when the labor market for high-quality teaching talent is incredibly tight, Ravae has done excellent work in collaboration with our Executive Team to recruit the teachers and staff we need as we grow while also caring for and developing the incredibly talented team already working at CJA.

    • We have also created the Ryan Teaching Fellowship to help career changers and other talented professionals who do not yet have their undergraduate degree or teaching credentials become teachers. The Ryan Teaching Fellowship is a three-year teacher training program that forms excellent educators out of hardworking, talented and good-hearted people who see teaching as their vocation. The Ryan Teaching Fellowship will allow CJA to intentionally form and grow our faculty to meet the needs of our students as we more than double our enrollment across the next five years. Ideally, Fellows will continue to teach at CJA for many years, but our long-term goal is to create a cadre of lifelong educators, even if their career paths eventually lead them away from CJA.

    • Racial and Gender Demographic Data for CJA’s Faculty & Staff

      White AAPI/Asian-

      Multiracial Other Total
      2014-2015 10.8% 2.7% 83.8% 0.0% 2.7% 0.0% 100%
      2019-2020 19.7% 3.0% 69.7% 0.0% 4.6% 3.0% 100%
      2023-2024 35.6% 12.3% 46.6% 2.7% 2.7% 0.0% 100%

      The female/male gender balance of the faculty and staff for the 2023-2024 school year will be 64.4%/35.6%.

  • We remain committed to sharing the stories of our students, alumni and families in ways that emphasize their strength, resilience and courage. For an example, please see our 2022 Annual Report. We remain committed to setting the need for CJA’s existence and the scope and breadth of CJA’s mission within the broader context of our country’s history of systemic racism and the past 70 years of disinvestment on the West Side of Chicago. For example, a joint research project by Duke University, Loyola University Chicago, Roosevelt University and University of Illinois Chicago found that:

    • Economic expansion in the United States after World War II has often been credited with giving birth to a mass middle class. The G.I. Bill helped millions of veterans returning from war to secure higher education, jobs and healthcare, and a government-backed, low-interest, low-payment home financing system set vast numbers of Americans on a path to the financial security that came with owning a home.

    • From 1940 to 1960, the proportion of households that owned the home they lived in grew from 43 percent to 62 percent. [While] white Americans had a government-assisted path to that dream of home ownership, black Americans had a different experience. Federal policy and banking practices pushed black Americans into a secondary, unregulated market known as “contract selling” that often left them stripped of any wealth they had accumulated—or hoped to accumulate—through home ownership.

    • Between 75 percent and 95 percent of the homes sold to black families during the 1950s and 60s were sold on contract. On average, the price markup on homes sold on contract was 84 percent.

    • We found that African Americans purchasing on contract paid, on average, an additional $587 (in April 2019 dollars) more each month than they would have had they paid the fair price for their home and had a conventional or Federal Housing Authority (FHA) backed mortgage. The average black buyer also paid several points more in interest on their contract loan than the average white buyer paid on a conventional or an FHA backed mortgage.

    • “Over the two decades studied, the amount of wealth land sales contracts expropriated from Chicago’s black community was between 3.2 and 4.0 billion dollars.

    This history and the resultant structures – specifically, inequitable access to well-resourced and well-run schools – continue to be significant causes of the need for CJA’s existence.

  • We commit to listening to and learning from one another. This work continues to include creating space and time for affinity groups to meet and support one another in our shared work at CJA. We continue to carefully review our curriculum and all our work to ensure that we are providing every child we serve with an excellent education. With this goal always in mind, we work to build broad cultural competency across our entire faculty and staff so that our work always takes each child’s unique context as our focus and starting point.

  • In April 2022, CJA adopted the Danielson Teaching Framework as our reference for excellent classroom instruction because Danielson also takes as its starting point the critical importance of teachers seeking “knowledge of students’ levels of development and their backgrounds, cultures, skills, language proficiency, interests, and special needs from a variety of sources.”

    The Danielson Framework replaced our prior Excellent Ignatian Educator evaluation rubric. It is the most widely used coaching, mentoring and evaluation tool in the field of education, having been developed in 1996 by Charlotte Danielson – an internationally recognized expert in teacher effectiveness. Kelly Tyson – CJA’s Head of School – has worked with the framework for the past twenty-five years as both a teacher and administrator. She has found it to be an excellent reference for teachers as it clearly outlines what great instruction entails with specific examples that are applicable across grade levels and subject areas. The Danielson Framework is also an excellent tool for administrators as it clearly defines how to objectively evaluate and support teachers in developing the art and science of their teaching.

    At CJA, we have multiple people providing formal and informal evaluative feedback and coaching to teachers and school-side staff, which can sometimes cause confusion as each person comes to the table with their own experience or understanding of good teaching. This can result in inconsistent scoring or messaging. In order to strengthen this work, our coaches and administrators received in-depth training in how to use the Danielson rubric. This training allowed for more effective, fair and objective evaluations and observation feedback in 2022-2023.

    As part of the transition to the Danielson Framework, we also adopted two new systems. The first was Frontline, which is the online place where we now capture all feedback, documents, and data to support teacher growth. Within Frontline, coaches, evaluators and instructors are able to share evidence and resources by storing the information in a shared place, which eliminates the need for a paper portfolio. The second system is Educational Impact. Through the EI system, our teachers can now take online courses to support their individual growth and our school-wide growth. These courses are like a Master Class experience for educators.

    By adopting these systems and the Danielson Framework, we strive to continuously engage in professional growth with a common understanding of our school-wide vision and values; differentiate support for the individual by targeting each instructor’s needs and allowing flexibility in how, where and when someone engages in professional growth; and capture evidence and data over time to assess whether adult PD is resulting in student growth.

    All coaching, observations and evaluations are grounded in improving within the shared practices of Responsive Classroom as these practices are the foundation for excellent teaching. Responsive Classroom has helped us refine and improve how we care for, challenge and support students, and it has also ensured that all faculty and staff have a common language and understanding for the components of excellent teaching so we can support each other in being the best we can be for our students and families.

    In addition to these practices, our parent partnership team meets monthly with parents from each of our grade levels to build community, share resources and learn from our parents.

    Our College & Career Persistence (CP) and High School Bridge (HSB) teams also remain committed to empowering students and alumni with the tools and resources they need to remove obstacles on their path to meaningful employment by connecting them with high-quality high schools, certificate programs, and post-secondary degree programs. As our CP and HSB counselors accompany our students and alumni as well as their families along these unique paths, our counselors offer high-quality information about the affordability and outcomes of various secondary and post-secondary schools and programs so our students, alumni and families have the information they need to make informed choices about best-fit programs while also building their own self-advocacy skills.

  • We remain committed to having a transparent process by which CJA parents, employees and other members of our community can share feedback about the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department (CCSPD) officers with whom CJA has contracted to help ensure the blocks around CJA are safe.

    CJA does not employ a school resource officer, and the CCSPD officers do not serve as school resource officers inside CJA. They have never been involved in student discipline at CJA, and we commit to maintaining this policy. In addition to being present most school days for the last eight hours of each day, the CCSPD officers help our students dismiss safely each day by being present at traffic intersections that might otherwise be unsafe.

    We continue to invite our families, faculty and staff to share feedback about our CCSPD officers with CJA via an anonymous online form. CJA’s Parent Safety Committee is invited to meet quarterly and give input on the CCSPD presence on campus. Each CCSPD officer is greeted and checked in daily by a member of our campus safety team, and we remain grateful for these officers and their dedicated service to our school community.

  • We remain committed to supporting our Alumni Board, which several alumni created in summer 2020, while also strengthening and broadening our relationships with our neighbors and the surrounding community by sustaining partnerships with local organizations and hosting neighborhood athletic leagues.

    In the past two years, these neighborhood partnerships have included hosting food distribution for not only our CJA families but also the surrounding community throughout the pandemic. We also host two recently revitalized neighborhood block clubs for their regular community meetings and partner with them for community clean-up days of service. As we complete our campus expansion, we want CJA to be a community resource.

    We remain committed to building relationships with other community-based organizations and sharing those resources with our community. In addition to using our resource bank as a standard part of our case management, our College & Career Persistence team sends a weekly newsletter to our alumni and their families to share information about opportunities, events and programs in the community and deepen our relationships with other community-based organizations.

Our work is far from done, and we continue to root all these commitments within our mission as a Jesuit Catholic institution. We are animated by our belief in the Resurrection, knowing the cross is not the summary statement for our human condition. We acknowledge that we are a people who regularly miss the mark, but we also believe we are loved, capable of repentance and redemption, and worthy of God’s mercy. In all that we do, we strive to model for our students and alumni our values by seeking intellectual excellence and being open to growth, loving, religious and committed to doing justice in the service of others.

In gratitude,

Matthew Lynch