Past Event

Our Reforms - what works, how do we know

How do we know what education reforms work?

Last July Illinois did away with the highly touted PARCC exam for high school students after teachers, parents, and students from across the state boycotted it. How should communities respond to new educational initiatives like the PARCC exam? How can good reforms be distinguished from bad ones?

Join Frederick Hess (AEI), Charles Payne (University of Chicago), Charles Tocci (Loyola University), and Mariela Estrada (Brighton Park Neighborhood Council) for a conversation on how communities can put public education reforms to the test.

After a short talk by Frederick Hess, participants will break out into small groups to get a chance to talk about how their experiences in Chicago resonate with others’ across the state and country. Then we’ll end the evening by coming back together for a closing assembly – moderated by Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun-Times. The evening will also feature a performance of poetry by UChicago Charter middle-school students.

About our Participants

Frederick M. Hess is director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. An educator, political scientist, and author, he studies K-12 and higher education issues. His notable books include The Cage-Busting Teacher, The Same Thing Over and Over, and Spinning Wheels. He pens the popular Education Week blog, “Rick Hess Straight Up.” Rick’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and National Affairs. Rick serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review board for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught in numerous universities’ graduate school programs. He is the author of forthcoming book Letters to a Young Education Reformer (April 2017, Harvard Education Press).

Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. He is the author of Getting What We Ask For: The Ambiguity of Success and Failure In Urban Education (1984) and I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1995). He is a co-author of Debating the Civil Rights Movement (1999) and co-editor of Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism, 1850-1950 (2003).His So Much Reform, So Little Change (Harvard Education Publishing Group) is concerned with what we have learned about the persistence of failure in urban districts.

Charles Tocci is an assistant professor of social studies education at the Loyola University Chicago School of Education.  Charlie started his career in education as a social studies teacher at South Shore Community Academy before joining the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, & Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University.  He returned to Chicago in 2010 to join the education faculty at National Louis University.  From 2012-2016, Charlie served as Loyola’s liaison to Senn High School to help establish and coordinate their unique school-university partnership.  He has also been a community representative on the Coonley Elementary School LSC and currently sits on the 49th Ward’s “Committee for Rogers Park Schools.”

Mariela Estrada is the Director of Organizing for BPNC. In this capacity, she manages all of BPNC’s health and wellness initiatives in the Brighton Park community and in seven different public schools in Brighton Park. Mariela initially began working with the BPNC in 2010 by being involved with the foreclosure prevention initiatives in Brighton Park and the 2010 Census on the south west side. She now organizes community health fairs, monthly parent health and wellness workshops at each school, fundraisers for BPNC’s health initiatives, school gardens, public benefit enrollment, and coordinates healthy cooking/nutrition education workshops in the community. Mariela also works with each school to manage other school-related activities such as volunteer parent safety patrols and community-building events.  Mariela has a B.A in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, minor in Latin American and Latino Studies, and is a trained Spanish/English interpreter through DuPage Language Access Center. She was selected to be a part of the Latino Policy forum’s fifth leadership academy class and graduated in May of 2014. In addition, she is involved in different coalitions in the city focused on the increase in minimum wage, early childhood education and voter engagement. She is an active local school council member and volunteers at schools on the south west side of Chicago.

More on Continuing Ed.

Continuing Ed. is a yearlong, statewide series working with parents, schools, and communities across the state – in Chicago, Decatur, Elgin, and Jackson County to move the conversation about public education back to parents. All Chicago events will be moderated by Laura Washington (Chicago Sun-Times). For the complete schedule and more information, see

If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, please call (312) 422-5580.