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Penny Bender Sebring, founding co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, addressed over 800 policymakers, school administrators and educators at the 2011 ESEA/NCLB Conference on February 10.

This year’s annual conference was titled “Beyond Slogans: Working Together for Real Change” and focused on proven school improvement strategies.  

Sebring’s session was based on the findings of the book she and her colleagues wrote–Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, published in 2010. The book provides a detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a seven-year period and students in another 100 schools were not, based on five essential supports.

Sebring explained, "Schools that were strong in all the essential supports—leadership, professional capacity, parent-community ties, learning climate and instruction—were ten times more likely to improve in reading and math than schools weak in most supports.”

Following  Sebring’s presentation was a breakout session, which comprised a panel of educators working on Chicago school turnarounds. In their discussion, panel members referred to the importance of all five essential supports, stressing the need for trust within schools and between the Office of School Improvement and schools.