Chicago Public Schools Welcomes U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten


Chicago Public Schools Welcomes U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten 

 Visit highlights included the District’s work to spur academic recovery, supports provided through community partnerships, and expansion of middle school algebra opportunities 

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez, along with District and school leaders, hosted U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten Thursday at two South side schools that have implemented comprehensive supports to drive post-pandemic academic recovery with the help of federal dollars and initiatives as well as public-private partnerships. Deputy Education Secretary Marten has served in a variety of education roles for more than 30 years before taking on her leadership position in 2021 at the U.S. Dept. of Education.

“Chicago Public Schools is raising the bar in education through its laser-like focus on making sure every student gets what they need to learn, when they need it, and in the ways they need it. Furthermore, it’s encouraging to see CPS joining with the National Partnership for Student Success, becoming part of a growing movement fostering national support for our students’ academic success and wellness,” said Deputy Secretary Marten. “I applaud CEO Martinez, the entire CPS team, and all of CPS’ youth-serving partners for striving to become a model of what excellent education looks like when local, state, and federal entities work together on behalf of students, no matter who or where they are.”

The visit began with a roundtable discussion at Morgan Park High School about the school’s participation in the National Partnerships for Student Success, followed by a classroom tour. The National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) is a nationwide effort that assembles experienced organizations to recruit, train and engage adults to work closely with parents, educators and others as they drive improved academic and social-emotional outcomes for students. 

Morgan Park’s partnerships have included high-dosage math tutoring with SAGA, work to cultivate an engaged student body and a close relationship with College Possible, a Chicago-based program that supports students from under-represented communities on their path to a college degree.

“Morgan Park High School values its partnerships at all levels of the organization,” said Principal Daniel Kuzma. “When school partners are aligned with the overall schoolwide goals, students, families, and staff all benefit.” 

An afternoon visit at Charles W. Earle STEM Academy also showcased the power of NPSS through their partnership with Communities in Schools, City Year, and an active parent network. The visit also highlighted an innovative program that is expanding access to middle school algebra for students at Earle and more than 100 other schools so CPS students are better prepared to succeed at higher-level math courses in high school.  


Over the next few weeks, the District will be highlighting strategies and practices that are contributing to students’ academic recovery. At Earle STEM Academy, U.S. Deputy Secretary Marten learned about the District’s Expanded Access Program that organizes students from several schools in an online learning classroom. The program is increasing access to middle school algebra and helping the District’s overall middle school algebra participation rate - and importantly, pass rate - continue to increase.

In the 2022-23 school year, 350 or 87.1 percent of all District-managed schools had at least one student taking an algebra exit exam, compared to 206 schools in School Year 2018. The District-wide middle school algebra exit exam pass rate has rebounded to pre-pandemic level at 57.9 percent in SY23, even while the District expanded access to the class and exam.  See link to related CPS graphics and tables.

The growth in access to middle school algebra has been intentional. 

For many years,  CPS has offered an algebra teacher certification program that recruits middle school math teachers and covers expenses for a year-long intensive at one of three university partner schools (University of Illinois Chicago, DePaul, and the University of Chicago). Teachers then pass an exam to become certified to teach algebra in the middle grades. The District supports about 90 participating teachers each year through the program to deepen their math understanding and pedagogy to have a larger impact on the elementary math experience at their school. The District also organizes a Professional Learning Community (PLC) dedicated to supporting those teachers in implementing the theory and strategy they learned. 

More recently, the District has leveraged some of the lessons learned during the pandemic to offer virtual - or online - middle school algebra courses - through the Expanded Access Program. Earle is in its second year of participating in the CPS Expanded Access Program for algebra.

“Through this initiative we’ve seen students' confidence increase in their ability to engage in the algebraic thinking process,” said Principal Regina Latimer-Lake. “Our algebra students serve as peer tutors in class due to being exposed to rigorous mathematical standards and tasks. Upon successful completion of the course and a passing score on the algebra exam, students are able to start high school in the next level math class (usually geometry) and continue on with more advanced classes like AP Calculus.”

Starting high school with an algebra class already completed also allows students to be better able to consider and prepare for college majors and/or careers in the fast-growing STEM industries, Latimer-Lake said. 

CPS piloted the Expanded Access Program for algebra during remote learning in 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, serving more than 500 students each year from about 80 schools. In School Year 2023, the District’s Virtual Academy took on oversight of the Expanded Access Program for algebra, as well as more than a dozen Dual Credit courses, including African American studies, criminal justice, math, Spanish and computer information systems, allowing more high school students to earn college credit. Under the Virtual Academy, access to middle school algebra expanded to 777 students at 121 schools and enrollment is expected to grow again this year with 141 schools participating in the Expanded Access Program. 

Earle STEM Academy also enjoys strong community partnerships that are generating change and helping the school serve as a robust community anchor that connects families to local services and resources and hosts classes, from typing to interpreting education data about their child’s academic journey. In addition to robust parenting classes and programming, the wide scope of partnerships at Earle include tutoring programs with City Year, another NPSS partner, social-emotional supports, and mentoring for 8th grade students to prepare them for the transition to high school, and a specific program that helps improve the communication and job skills of middle school girls as they consider their future careers. 

CPS has strategically invested federal ESSER dollars to support students’ academic gains and well being.  The District has hired nearly 500 more teachers and more than 700 education support staff – teachers assistants, special education classroom assistants, counselors, nurses, etc. – than last year at this time and the diversity of new hires remains strong. This year, 47 percent of new CPS teachers identify as Black or Latinx, up from 33 percent in 2017, and 58 percent of new CPS teachers identify as teachers of color, up from 38 percent in 2017.   

The District has worked with school communities to prioritize investments that provide schools with the tools and resources they need to help students learn, grow and thrive. The District’s budget for the 2023-24 school year totals $9.4 billion, which includes an increase of $243 million in school-based funding — for a total of more than $450 million in new funding for schools over the past two years. As a result, the average per-pupil spending at the school level has increased this year by more than $1,000 and the District has increased investments in key areas to support the District’s Diverse Learners and students with the greatest needs, from pre-K through high school.

“We are fortunate to share some of our work with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Marten and discuss how we can continue to move forward in partnership with parents, educators, and private and public sector leaders who recognize the urgency of strengthening access and opportunities for our children,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “The way forward must always include collaboration and today’s visit exemplified that work at all levels of our system.”

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