Center for Success in High-Need Schools


Special thanks to:

state farm sponsorship
For its generous sponsorship

Center for Success in High-Need Schools puts collaborating institutions at the cutting edge of school reform.

Overview: The Center for Success in High-Need Schools convenes colleges and universities to prepare talented and diverse teachers and leaders for Pre-K-12 schools and classrooms, especially those serving Illinois low-income and minority students. The Center believes that providing these schools with excellent teachers and leaders can help close the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

Since it was established in 2004, The Center for Success in High-Need Schools has attracted more than $17 million in public and private funding to Illinois teacher preparation. These funds helped Center colleges and universities transform teacher and leader preparation curricula and launch creative new preparation programs that respond to changing demographics and emerging reform policies affecting K-12 schools. Over time, Center colleges and universities have established authentic partnerships with more than high-need Illinois school districts and high-poverty Pre-K-12 schools. These partnerships have engaged candidates, teachers, school leaders, and faculty and touched the lives of thousands of children.

Current Agenda: Today, Center for Success in High-Need Schools continues to convene colleges and universities to advance critical education reforms that can be accomplished by convening teacher and leader preparation programs and partnering them with Pre-K-12 schools. The Center’s current agenda advances:

  • Higher standards for teacher and leader preparation and licensure
  • Selective recruitment and retention of diverse candidates for teacher and leader preparation programs
  • Rigorous clinical preparation (classroom experience) for teacher and leader candidates
  • Increased accountability of teacher and leader preparation programs for the quality of the candidates they prepare
  • Increased Professional Educator Voice to advocate for evidence-based practices, access and opportunity

Projects in Progress:

  • Center Education Council: A distinguished group representing business, community, and education meet quarterly with member deans and directors of education to review the Center’s work and discuss challenges and prospective solutions in preparing teachers and leaders.
  • Center Partnership Meetings: Monthly webinars convening more than 40 deans, directors, and faculty of education programs, as well as Pk-12 administrators and faculty and other interested partners to explore key issues in preparation and practice. Topics range from redesigning teacher and leader preparation and assessing their performance to integrating new standards into preparation, identifying high-leverage practices, and building these practices into preparation.
  • Principal and Teacher Leader Preparation: Developing and sustaining programs that map rigorous paths to school leadership for professional educators that respond to state rules, legislation, policy and procedures.
  • Special Education Teacher Preparation:  Exploring national and state initiatives in the preparation of teachers for special education classrooms.  This initiative examines recruitment, preparation and retention issues and solutions and will recommend proposals to revise and add to rules and legislation.
  • Professional Development Network (PDN): Promoting teacher retention in high-need schools by providing teachers and leaders with a network of colleagues and resources. PDN offers six strands of learning through webinars hosted online and in person by Center colleges and universities.  The PDN is open to all teachers and leaders especially those serving in high-need schools. PDN sessions introduce teachers to Center institutions and faculty and address a variety of topics, including personalized learning and differentiated instruction, technology, social and emotional learning, culturally relevant/ sustaining pedagogy, teacher leadership and education policy and meeting the needs of Illinois’ increasingly diverse student body.  PDN concludes each academic year with a full-day Summer Institute for Educators featuring national and state education leaders. For more information or to register for or lead a session in the Professional Development Network, including the Summer Institute, write to
  • Diversity at the Blackboard: Identifying best practices to recruit and support a more diverse pool of teacher candidates. To accomplish this critical goal we launched a statewide initiative: Project LEAD: Leaders in Education Advocating for Diversity that is developing an infrastructure and toolbox.
  • Program Assessment, Accountability, Accreditation and Policy: Promoting understanding of, implementation, and sharing of best practices and resources associated with new commission reports, federal initiatives like the Every Student Succeeds Act, measures of accountability, CAEP standards and Accreditation,  and  adopted policies including the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, which evaluates teacher candidates for state licensure. This task force provides a voice to advocate for the profession, evidence-based practices and national and state initiatives. Sub-Committees of this task force develop recommendations to address critical challenges in education-currently there is a focus on recommendations to address issues associated with teacher shortage particularly in urban and rural communities.
  • Rigorous Clinical Preparation Task Force: Studying factors influencing clinical preparation (hands-on classroom experience for teacher candidates) and exploring the connection of these factors, especially edTPA, to evaluation of practicing teachers.
  • Success in High-Need Schools Journal: Showcasing the work of faculty at member institution and nationwide by publishing articles addressing research, clinical practice, and policy matters associated with Pre-K-12 education in under-resourced communities and providing professional development for practicing teachers, leaders and teacher educators.  Click here to see the current journal issue and explore past issues:

To learn more about Center for Success in High-Need Schools, contact Jan Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., Center Director, (630) 637-5359 or