UEI is dedicated to creating knowledge to produce reliably excellent schooling for children growing up in urban America. UEI addresses this in four ways: by undertaking rigorous applied research lead by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research; developing urban teachers and leaders through the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program; operating and supporting the four campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School; and designing scalable tools and ideas to improve teaching, learning and leadership, primarily through UChicago Impact.
Prior to coming to Chicago, Knowles served as deputy superintendent for Teaching and Learning at the Boston Public Schools. While in Boston he created two organizations devoted to building the pipeline of high quality teachers and school leaders for Boston Public Schools and served as co-director of the Boston Annenberg Challenge, a nationally recognized effort to improve literacy instruction.
Prior to his work in Boston he founded and directed a full-service K-8 school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City. He also served as the founding director of Teach for America in New York City, and a teacher of African History in Botswana.
He has written and spoken extensively on the topics of school leadership, teacher quality, school reform, and accountability in public schools.
He received his B.A. in anthropology and African history from Oberlin College and an M.A. and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.