About Staff Photo


That all children will be excellent lifelong learners and achieve their maximum potential in schools in which we work.


Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) supports communities of learners using research-based, high performance strategies, emphasizing shared leadership, professional development and family engagement to improve the education of children.


Strategic Learning Initiatives values include creating a culture of collaboration, trust, open communication, integrity, respect, continuous improvement and stakeholder empowerment.

Strategic Learning Initiatives is a Chicago nonprofit dedicated to accelerating student, adult and organizational learning. We work with schools with the lowest income families in Chicago, across Illinois and in Los Angeles.

SLI’s vision and strategies are grounded in the best systemic research over forty years in education, organizational behavior and continuous quality improvement. SLI leaders, board and staff, have each had decades of experience in leading systemic change in their own schools and corporations. Over the past twenty years, we have worked in more than sixty-five Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

SLI is engaged in research and policy development. An example is the recent book by SLI President John Simmons, Breaking Through: Transforming Urban School Districts Teachers College Press Columbia University. SLI was the lead witness for the Hearing on Turnaround Schools held by the US House Committee on Education and Labor, May, 2010. Our work has been featured on Education Week’s front page, January 6, 2010.

We focus on the continuous improvement of the model to accelerate its impact on student and adult learning, by reducing the cost, and shortening the time needed to complete the turnaround and transformation process. In our most recently completed neighborhood network of eight “failed” CPS elementary schools that were to be closed or reconstituted, three turned around their scores and culture in one year, three more the second year and two the third year. Several network schools have nearly closed the achievement gap, ie having 90 percent of their students at or above proficiency. We are working on the design to scale the results across districts with 50 to 100 schools with students that are below 90 percent proficiency in 7 years.

School Outcomes

The outcomes we strive to deliver in an accelerated fashion are as follows:

  1. Improved Student Performance — the core methodology has quickly produced impressive and significant improvements in student performance across grade levels and within core subject matter, validated through independent analysis, testing and research.
  2. A Self Sustaining System — by teaching, training, modeling, coaching and guiding existing staff, there is a transfer of learning in the application of best practice skills and transformation principles. This creates a world-class teaching and learning system within a school and a sustainable and scalable model that enables all schools in a district to take full responsibility for their performance.
  3. Increased Leadership Supply — by engaging principles, teachers and leadership teams in the transformation process, everyone learns how to create the core values of a high performance culture, and everyone becomes more capable of providing leadership throughout the school system in the future.
  4. Reduced Teacher Turnover — SLI’s transformation model creates a culture of inclusion, collaboration, consistency and continuous improvement. Teachers that contribute to the transformation of a school using this model experience both a skill and motivation increase as they see the results they are able to create and sustain. Few teachers leave such a school.
  5. Expanded Family Involvement — families become an extension of the teaching staff, expanding capacity and engaging the community
  6. Increased Excellence in Teaching — deep instruction and standards based assessments provide a comprehensive model for planning and delivering world-class teaching. It quickly upgrades the skill and capability of all teachers, resulting in improved student performance in the first three – six months.
  7. A Second Generation Transformation Model — the transformation model does not require the removal of the staff, as the first generation model does.
  8. Economical Solutions — cost per school is far less than first generation models that do not offer comparable benefits in sustainability or in improving leadership supply. Approximately four schools can be supported through the SLI model for the cost of one school using the first generation models.

Financial support for SLI has come from the Chicago Board of Education, individual CPS schools, the CPS Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois State Board of Education (Federal Recovery Act Funding), plus the generous commitment of foundations, corporations and individual supporters. They have included: The Chicago Community Trust, Cisco Foundation Ford Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Woods Fund of Chicago, Boeing Company, McCormick Foundation, The Prince Charitable Trusts, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Motorola Foundation, Steans Family Foundation, plus anonymous foundations and individuals.