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For Immediate Release
December 6, 2006

ISBE, educators and communities share ‘Grow Your Own’ ideas
Attendees focus on getting teachers into hard-to-staff schools thru the Illinois initiative

Springfield, Ill. – A statewide group of community organizers, higher education representatives, school district leaders, and Grow Your Own teacher candidates will gather Thursday in Chicago, Illinois, to learn from each other and from experts about successful strategies for supporting non-traditional candidates to become teachers for Illinois’ low-income schools.

The meeting will focus on building strong partnerships among the community and higher education partners and the strategies they are using to support the teacher candidates so they will succeed in college. This is the fifth in a continuing series of sessions to support those who are implementing Grow Your Own initiatives in Illinois. It has been spearheaded by Illinois ACORN to address issues of high rates of teacher turnover in low income schools.

Who: Grow Your Own Illinois, a coalition of six community organizations working under contract and in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education.
What: Grow Your Own Teacher Initiative’s Statewide Learning Network meeting
Where: Chicago Teachers Center, Northeastern Illinois University, 770 North Halsted, Chicago, Illinois
When: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

In 2004, the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rod Blagojevich created the Grow Your Own Teachers Act. To date, $4.5 million has been appropriated to implement the program statewide. Ten consortia — or partnerships of community organizations, four-year higher education institutions, schools or school districts, and community colleges — have received support from the Illinois State Board of Education to launch Grow Your Own Teachers initiatives.

Grow Your Own Illinois has four distinct goals — to reduce teacher turnover in low income schools; to increase the numbers of teachers of color; to prepare teachers for hard-to-fill positions; and to increase the cultural competence and community of teachers. The initiative is spearheaded by Illinois ACORN.

Five of the consortia are in Chicago and one each is in the South Suburbs, Springfield, East St. Louis, Quad Cities, and Rockford. Together, these consortia have recruited 395 non-traditional candidates — active parents, community members, and paraprofessionals — who live and work in low-income neighborhoods and who want to become teachers. Eighty-eight percent of the candidates are people of color. The program will provide forgivable loans and supports to help the candidates become highly qualified teachers who will teach in the low-income schools where they live.

For more information visit the Web site of Grow Your Own Illinois, a project of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Chicago Learning Campaign, at

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Illinois State Board of Education
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Springfield, IL 62777