SFER-UChicago Spring Retreat

Thanks to everyone who came out for our spring retreat last Saturday! We made an incredible amount of progress in defining our chapter goals and missions, as well as shaping our chapter identity. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a short summary of things we discussed and plans we made!

1. Introduction: What Does Education Mean to You?

As individual members, we realize that we all have different stories and reasons for pursuing education reform. For the first hour, we discussed our diverse experiences and strove to incorporate our voices in a definition of what education means to us as a chapter. For our members, education means:

  • Opportunity for the future – “the great equalizer”
  • Academic enrichment
  • Personal empowerment – self-advocacy, navigating social situations

We realize that in the current education climate, schools can be forced to choose between these important facets. At times, it seems like these individual beliefs in education can conflict with those reflected in policies – we want to strive to eliminate this conflict and make sure our voices are heard.

2. Our Mission, Goals, and Vision

In order to accomplish this, we set out to redefine a chapter mission, goals, and vision to reflect our definition of education. While our chapter has been doing well at discussions and self-education, our members want to further strive towards measurable impact, expanding our influence, and affecting policy.

SFER-UChicago seeks to:

  • Educate ourselves about the current education climate through critical discussions of different viewpoints, performing research, connecting with experts in the field, and attending community events.
  • Engage with campus, the local community, and the national network through individual involvement in neighborhood schools, partnerships with local organizations, and connections with important allies in the community.
  • Influence local policymakers and legislators through our community engagement, self-education, and research efforts.

3. Our Structure and Member Responsibilities

To support our mission and goals, we wanted to more clearly define our executive board positions and member responsibilities. We defined each position as follows:

  • Chapter Leader – leads meetings, keeps chapter on track with our goals and mission, act as liaison between other chapters and SFER National
  • Vice President – supports the EBoard as well as the CL, focuses on local responsibilities, builds membership
  • Financial Chair – tracks group expenditures and reimbursements, lead fundraising efforts if necessary
  • Programming Chair – designs a curriculum for the discussion series, arranges speakers and trips to supplement topics
  • Advocacy – reaches out to potential partners on campus and in the community to promote SFER, leads community engagement efforts
  • Secretary – takes meeting notes and manages the listhost, organizes documents and proposals
  • Social Media Chair – acts as online presence, engages with education world via social media, publicizes SFER events on campus

4. The Next Steps to Policy

As a chapter, we strove to draft a policy plan tailored to our chapter mission, vision, and goals, as well as the context of Chicago. While we didn’t have enough time to come up with a comprehensive agenda, we developed a rough framework that will continue to change and expand with our chapter. We want to promote policies that support:

  • Healthy community environments and social support – these include policies that influence community violence, homelessness, poverty, health, and other important non-cognitive factors
  • Responsible leadership and responsibility in general
  • Professionalizing teaching – in order to change the “blame” culture, support teachers with adequate training, and regain respect as a profession
  • Holistic evaluation of schools and students

In the future, we will continue to debate these complex topics and shape our opinions to consider opposing viewpoints, reflect current research, and advocate for policies that support successful schools.

5. Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?

After making significant progress in forming our chapter identity, we reviewed the planned events for Spring Quarter and discussed the exciting future for SFER UChicago!

  • Discussion Series: Gifted education policy in Chicago – with guest moderator Dr. Rosina Gallagher, President of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. This Thursday from 6-7 PM in Harper 130!
  • Future speakers include Darren Reisberg, former deputy superintendent of education at the Illinois State Board of Education and current executive director at IOP, and Charles Payne, current professor at SSA and affiliate of UEI.
  • Research project with the Urban Education Institute
  • A possible education conference on campus with speakers
  • Keep an eye out for emails with times for school meetings, future SFER meeting times, discussions, and school visits!
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