Distinctive Schools was founded in 2011 with a commitment to social justice and access to high-quality education in all communities. Over the past 8 years, Distinctive Schools has remained committed to the values that all children deserve a rigorous public education regardless of zip code; teachers know best what children need to thrive and grow and should have a strong voice in their school; and that communities can be transformed by the presence of an excellent school.
Click the video below to learn more about Distinctive Schools!
Our mission is to support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, a confident self-advocate, and a creative problem-solver by setting high expectations and nurturing a positive culture that honors diversity, collaboration, and optimism.
Last year, Distinctive Schools engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning process to guide our work and to position the organization for successful scaling and growth. A diverse stakeholder group contributed to the development of the plan, which frames our work and ensures that all members of our Distinctive Schools team are pointing in the same direction as we innovate and incubate creative ideas for a reimagined public school experience.
It's time for us to take the work that we've done in our first decade to scale. Read more about the Distinctive Schools Strategic Plan on our website. Follow along with us as we share stories, celebrations, and ways you can get involved to support Distinctive Schools.
This is our Distinctive Promise – look for more in the coming weeks!
Distinctive Schools was created to disrupt and transform public education, with a focus on innovation and choice. We're excited to share more about who we are in this #WeAreDistinctive introduction video!
Tomorrow we are sharing our vision for the future of Distinctive Schools! Check back to learn more about where we are going, and the way our teams are pointing in the same direction! #ALLin #WeAreDistinctive #TheDistinctivePromise
Create a Personalized Learning Plan Connected to Each of Your Students
At the recent 2018 Michigan Charter Schools Symposium, Distinctive Schools network leaders had the opportunity to attend and present at the annual conference, as well as connect with fellow charter educators.
During the session, “Create a Personalized Learning Plan Connected to Each of Your Students,” Jin-Soo Huh, Executive Director of Academic Innovation at Distinctive Schools, and Stephanie Cardella, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Distinctive Schools, shared their knowledge of personalized learning models and replicating it into an existing school culture. Personalized learning instruction offers pedagogy, curriculum, and learning environments to meet the individual student's needs. This tailored experience to learning preferences and specific interests of different students allows for a customized approach to teaching. For schools to truly adopt a personalized method of learning there has to be a design-thinking approach incorporated throughout the culture.
Huh and Cardella also shared lessons learned from implementing personalized learning at Distinctive Schools campuses. For example, Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden, managed by Distinctive Schools, served as the pilot school to make learning more personalized for students.
To begin their transformation, the CICS West Belden team used a design thinking approach to hear directly from students about their wants and needs and tried out different models to better equip students to learn in their preferred ways. This resulted in a school where students had more agency and deeper relationships with teachers. Academic learning also increased as students received more tailored instruction, including additional small group instruction with teachers, supplemented by just the right level practice from online programs. Ultimately, CICS West Belden had created a model where students were thriving.
CICS West Belden’s journey highlights several lessons for schools that are considering adopting personalized learning. These include:
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from Distinctive College Prep – Harper Woods.
This featured Trailblazer is a talented instructor, with an incredible strength for building positive relationships. She has embraced the Distinctive way, is committed to implementing new initiatives with fidelity, and her classroom feels like home for her students and visitors alike. This Trailblazer is leading the charge with the school-home-community connection at DCP - Harper woods; her students stay connected to real-world learning and experiences by maintaining their own online portfolio of work. This Trailblazer’s classroom is committed to completing their programs of study in Lexia and Benchmark ahead of schedule, and working together as a team. She holds her students to high expectations, while at the same time showering them with love.
The students and staff at DCP - Harper Woods are so fortunate to have this Trailblazer leading and teaching alongside them. Please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Melissa Ludeke!
Ms. Melissa Ludeke: Featured Trailblazer!
All of us at Distinctive Schools sincerely thank
NextGen Growth Partners for their support!
NextGen Growth Partners Supports Chicago Youth Through Donation to Distinctive Schools in Connection with Their Annual Gala
NextGen Growth Partners LLC (NGP), a Chicago-based private equity firm that acquires and builds businesses alongside entrepreneurial operators, made a donation to support the educational efforts of Distinctive Schools, a Chicago-based non-profit operator of public charter schools focused on social justice and the elevation of access to achievement in underserved communities. The donation aims to help, in a small way, close the opportunity gap by providing Distinctive Schools students access to innovative, engaging educational opportunities.
“What an amazing organization and mission,” commented Brian O’Connor, NextGen Growth Partners Founder and Managing Partner. “I’ve never met a group of people that are so passionate about what they do and care so much about the future of the children and families they serve.” O’Connor continued, “We see so many parallels in our models. In the same way that we believe that we can achieve new heights in great companies by surrounding them with operational talent, mentorship, processes and best practices, the Distinctive Schools team surrounds the students with the best educators, programming, educational tools and systems to make meaningful impact on the lives of children. We are absolutely thrilled to support the Distinctive Schools cause and children.”
"We are honored and deeply inspired by the generosity of NextGen Growth Partners,” stated Joseph Wise, CEO and Co-Founder of Distinctive Schools. “Major gifts, such as this, help to accelerate our work for children who need it most in our schools across Chicago and metro-Detroit, providing all students a rigorous and innovative educational experience.”
NextGen Growth Partners team members gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the depth and breadth of the work seen at Distinctive Schools at their annual gala, and got to experience what really sets the school network apart: kindness, optimism, growth, collaboration, and commitment to relationships, innovation and high quality rigorous personalized learning.
“With supporters like NextGen Growth Partners, we are excited about the opportunities we can provide to our students and continue the great work that we do,” added Scott Frauenheim, President of Distinctive Schools.
About NextGen Growth Partners
Headquartered in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, NextGen Growth Partners is a private equity firm that partners with the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent to acquire, operate and grow micro-middle-market businesses across a variety of industries. The team has a strong track record of creating value through growth and operational improvement in middle-market businesses. For more information, please visit www.nextgengp.com.
About Distinctive Schools
Distinctive Schools is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the work of charter schools serving kids from traditionally underserved backgrounds. The team includes passionate educators and determined leaders who innovate, trailblaze and collaboratively lead a public education transformation, as well as ensure that each and every one of Distinctive Schools students thrives in college, career and life. To learn more, please visit www.distinctiveschools.org.
Brian O’Connor, NGP Managing Partner
Giving Tuesday connects individuals, communities and organizations across the nation for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving (www.givingtuesday.org), and this November 27, Distinctive Schools will be participating in Giving Tuesday through #DistinctiveGiving.
The mission of Distinctive Schools is to support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, a confident self-advocate, and a creative problem-solver by setting high expectations and nurturing a positive culture that honors diversity, collaboration, and optimism.
Today, in partnership with Chicago International Charter School (CICS), Distinctive Schools currently manages four K-8 elementary schools in Chicago: CICS Bucktown, CICS Irving Park, CICS Prairie, and CICS West Belden. Additionally, Distinctive Schools proudly partnered with Central Michigan University in the opening of two schools in metro-Detroit: Distinctive College Prep – Harper Woods, a K-4 charter school, and Distinctive College Prep - Redford, a K-3 charter school, both schools adding grade levels each year through grade eight.
All said, Distinctive Schools is composed of passionate educators and determined leaders who are making an impact on the lives of their students every single day. Every #DistinctiveGiving gift will support programs and resources for Distinctive Schools classrooms, professional development opportunities for staff, and field trips to give students the hands-on learning experiences they deserve.
“All donations Distinctive Schools receives helps us continue to provide rich learning environments for students and teachers,” said Scott Frauenheim, President at Distinctive Schools. “We are incredibly grateful for all our supporters that have contributed to us over the years and helped positively impact our school communities.”
All #DistinctiveGiving gifts will support Distinctive Schools commitment to closing the opportunity gap in all of their schools, as well as help cultivate strong learning and working culture throughout the organization through embed cultural, linguistic, and social emotional learning supports throughout the instructional day.
Donations to #DistinctiveGiving can be made at Distinctive Schools - Giving Tuesday 2018.
About Distinctive Schools
Distinctive Schools is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the work of charter schools serving kids from historically marginalized backgrounds. We will innovate, trailblaze and collaboratively lead a public education transformation that positively impacts the greater education community and ensure that each and every one of our Distinctive Schools students thrives in college, career and life.
CICS Prairie Advances its Anytime, Anywhere Learning Initiative through Relativity's Wired to Learn Grant
Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Prairie, managed by Distinctive Schools, surprised its third and sixth grade students with the reveal of brand-new Google Chromebooks, thanks to a $250,000 Wired to Learn grant provided by local software company, Relativity.
The Wired to Learn grant, which is part of the company's larger Relativity Gives community outreach program, was created to help youth — especially those with limited resources— gain access to the technology, equipment and training that they need to be successful in today's world. Wired to Learn schools receive the $250,000 grant over three years to implement the solutions they know to be right for their students, such as Chromebooks for students at CICS Prairie.
“Relativity’s significant investment in CICS Prairie’s students will propel our intentional efforts to develop 21st century learners equipped with the skills, abilities and learning dispositions needed to thrive in a 21st century world,’ said Elizabeth Shaw, CEO at CICS. “Technology literacy enhances the learning process for our students, strengthening their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”
The introduction of the new computers to the third and sixth grade classrooms is part of CICS Prairie's Anytime, Anywhere technology initiative. Through Anytime, Anywhere, students will be able to bring their computers home during the school year, as well as over the summer break. With technology at their fingertips, students will be able to explore, inquire, and research topics of interest beyond what they experience in school, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
"With a focus on self-directed learning, our goal is to provide students with the opportunity to learn anytime and anywhere through this readily accessible technology," stated Dr. Jennifer Ferrari, Chief Schools Officer at Distinctive Schools. "The introduction of these Chromebooks levels the playing field for our children and provides them with access to rich learning opportunities to explore, inquire, experiment, develop expertise, and create."
CICS Prairie's student-centered learning model utilizes blended online and supplemental learning opportunities with traditional school-based instruction to accommodate students' diverse learning styles. Easy access to technology enables students to use curriculum programs as a tool to demonstrate deeper learning and to use technology as an integral part of their class work. The technology also provides teachers and staff access to current and real-time data, allowing them to quickly analyze and assess the current curriculum so that they can provide the most relevant instructions.
"We are excited to equip our students with new technology," said Jennifer Harth, School Director at CICS Prairie. "Students will be afforded year-long opportunities, otherwise unavailable, that will contribute to their development and growth in school, college, and career."
Relativity team members joined CICS Prairie classrooms during the reveal to educate students on internet and technology safety, and, in partnership with CICS Prairie, hope to increase the positive impact they make on students through the use of technology.
About Chicago International Charter School
Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago Charter schools which enables students to thrive every day, puts them on a path to success in college and life, and empowers entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation.
About Distinctive Schools
Distinctive Schools is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the work of charter schools serving kids from traditionally underserved backgrounds. We will innovate, trailblaze and collaboratively lead a public education transformation that positively impacts the greater education community and ensure that each and every one of our Distinctive Schools students thrives in college, career and life.
At Relativity, we make software to help users organize data, discover the truth, and act on it. Our e-discovery platform is used by thousands of organizations around the world to manage large volumes of data and quickly identify key issues during litigation, internal investigations, and compliance projects. Relativity has over 180,000 users in 40+ countries from organizations including the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 70 Fortune 100 companies, and 198 of the Am Law 200. RelativityOne offers all the functionality of Relativity in a secure and comprehensive SaaS product. Relativity has been named one of Chicago's Top Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune for seven consecutive years. Please contact Relativity at email@example.com or visit http://www.relativity.com for more information.
November 1st was an incredible evening of inspiration and giving at the Inaugural Distinctive Schools Gala. We celebrated our partnerships, our unfailing optimism, and hope for bright futures.
In May of 2011, we began our journey as Distinctive Schools, after receiving the opportunity to manage three K-8 public charter campuses with Chicago International Charter School (CICS). We wanted to make a difference in the lives of students, families, and school communities, and engage and motivate students through their unique needs and interests.
As a result, we embarked on our personalized learning journey, which was highlighted at the Gala. Classrooms went from traditional desks in rows to flexible learning environments. And, today, Distinctive Schools' students are active partners in their education, and teachers and staff design learning experiences that provide students with the right content, at the right time, in the right place, using the right mode of instruction.
Additionally, we expanded our network. Today, in partnership with CICS, Distinctive Schools currently manages four K-8 elementary schools in Chicago: CICS Bucktown, CICS Irving Park, CICS Prairie, and CICS West Belden. At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Distinctive Schools proudly partnered with Central Michigan University in the opening Distinctive College Prep – Harper Woods and opened Distinctive College Prep - Redford at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
Campus spotlights were shared at the Gala as well. These included empathy conversations at CICS Irving Park, as they explore how to include student voice in school design; collaborative culture at CICS Prairie, as they further engage with students, staff and families; continued growth of Bulldogs Belong at CICS West Belden, as they develop social-emotional learning trait focuses and community outreach; middle school mentoring at CICS Bucktown, so every middle school student has their own personal champion; and continued academic progress at Distinctive College Prep: Harper Woods and Redford, as they add grade levels each year to become K through 8 campuses.
However, we couldn't have done this work alone and are grateful for our advocates, supporters, and community members. Their generosity helps us positively impact countless lives, as well as close the opportunity gap and provide equity and access for all students
We are also incredibly grateful for our Distinctive Citizen Award honoree, Desirée Rogers, and Ron Huberman, Distinctive Citizen Committee Chair. Their dedication to Distinctive Schools is appreciated, and we are thankful for their leadership and sharing their limitless optimism across our network.
With that, we want to express our sincere appreciation to all our advocates, supporters, and community members. We couldn't do this great work without you!
We made unforgettable memories at the Inaugural Distinctive Schools Gala, and we look forward to creating many more in the years to come!
Corporate, civic, and education leaders attended the inaugural Distinctive Schools gala, held November 1 at Savage Smyth in Chicago, Illinois. The dollars raised will go to scaling personalized learning at all Distinctive Schools’ campuses, as well as curriculum and classroom needs for teachers.
“We are thrilled that so many members of our community, including partners in education such as Chicago Public Schools, Chicago International Charter School, LEAP Innovations, Summit Learning, Communities in Schools-Detroit, NWEA, and Golden Apple, came together to support Distinctive Schools,” stated Joseph Wise, Co-founder and CEO of Distinctive Schools. “The gala was a testament to what we can accomplish and the opportunities we can provide to our students and the work that we do.”
The positive impact of Distinctive Schools and the future of its work was on display throughout the evening. School teams and Distinctive Schools network leaders shared campus spotlights and flexible learning furniture, from 3 Oaks Resource Group International, was exhibited around the room. Additionally, during the gala, Ron Huberman, Distinctive Citizen Committee Chair, presented the inaugural Distinctive Citizen Award to the first honoree, Desirée Rogers.
Rogers serves on the cabinet of the Conquer Cancer Foundation. She is also the Chair of Choose Chicago, the tourism bureau of the City of Chicago and on the boards of World Business Chicago, Donors Choose, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. During Rogers’ remarks, she shared her family’s legacy as teachers and community leaders and emphasized the importance of education and giving back.
“We cannot forget that the best way to ensure a great future of our schools, students, and communities is to invest in the education of today’s children,” added Huberman.
The Chicago Children’s Choir, which featured students from CICS Irving Park, also delighted the room with a musical performance, and CICS Prairie’s school director, Jennifer Harth, and staff shared with the audience what Distinctive Schools means to them.
“For me, Distinctive Schools means opportunity. An opportunity for our urban youth to experience safe and loving learning communities that are responsive and personalized based on each child’s academic and social emotional needs,” stated Harth. “An opportunity to receive unconditional love, acceptance, understanding, and a fresh start every single day.”
Gala attendees gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the depth and breadth of the the work seen at Distinctive Schools and got to experience what really sets the school network apart: kindness, optimism, growth, collaboration, and commitment to relationships, innovation and high quality rigorous personalized learning
“Distinctive Schools is deeply grateful for all the support and for everyone who came to celebrate our inaugural gala with us,” said Wise. “Together, we can paint amazing futures for our kids from the minute they walk into the classroom and as they continue their journey in college, career, and in life.”
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from CICS West Belden.
This month's Trailblazer works tirelessly to understand the needs of her students, and personalize the experiences they have each day. She builds close relationships with all of her students and makes sure the experiences they have at school each day match their personal needs - both as a student and as a person. She is so in tune with what her students need, and is their strongest advocate, mentor, and cheerleader. She serves as an incredible thought-partner and pushes all teachers at CICS West Belden to be the very best they can be. She is absolutely amazing and is truly a Distinctive Trailblazer!
The students and staff at CICS West Belden are so fortunate to have this Trailblazer teaching alongside them. Please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Kasey Lewis!
Ms. Kasey Lewis: Featured Trailblazer!
DISTINCTIVE SCHOOLS TO CELEBRATE ITS INAUGURAL GALA AND HONOR DESIRÉE ROGERS WITH