About Designs for Change
Designs for Change (DFC) seeks to improve the nation’s 50 largest urban public school systems, beginning in Chicago. DFC applies world-class research and policy analysis to develop reforms which address the most difficult problems facing urban schools.
Since its founding in 1977, Designs for Change has conducted a number of studies analyzing urban educational reforms. Specifically, DFC has focused its attention on: 1) how a broad range of reforms were implemented, and 2) their impact.
DFC conducted multi-city research studies to identify:
- the best practices of effective urban schools,
- effective ways to provide on-site assistance to help schools improve, and
- how best to advocate for educational policy changes.
These studies were funded through grants from The Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Spencer Foundation.
From 1982 through 1988, DFC carried out a program of training, research, organization, and advocacy aimed at restructuring the Chicago Public School system with a broad coalition of parents, community and business groups.
The watershed event for this effort occurred in December 1988, when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Chicago School Reform Act. This sweeping law gave parents, principals, teachers, and community residents direct power over their neighborhood schools by creating Local School Councils (LSCs).
LSCs were given the authority to hire and fire principals, sign contracts, and approve annual budgets and school improvement plans. Historian Michael Katz has called it the most extensive restructuring of an urban school system in the last 100 years.
Since then, DFC has worked in support of further school reform, helping LSCs to continue improving educational quality and student achievement. DFC’s ongoing priorities have been:
- to ensure that reform initiatives translate into improved student achievement,
- to have literacy become the catalyst for school-wide improvement, and
- to make certain that students with disabilities are taught a challenging instructional program in the regular classroom as often as possible.
DFC’s work has resulted in vastly improved educational experiences across the Chicago Public School system. DFC will continue supporting LSCs, principals, teachers, parents, and community leaders who are on the front lines of building effective, high-achieving urban schools.
Donald R. Moore, Ed.D., Executive Director
Dr. Moore has headed Designs for Change since its founding in 1977 and has had over 30 years of experience studying urban school reform and directing urban education reform advocacy and school assistance efforts (Ed.D., Human Development, Harvard University Graduate School of Education). He is responsible for the overall development and direction of DFC’s program (founded DFC in 1977).
Valencia Rias-Winstead, Senior Leadership Development Associate
Ms. Rias-Winstead is an active parent who has served on three Local School Councils. She has primary responsibility for carrying out the direct organizing activities of the Policy Reform Program (joined DFC in 1999).
Elena Rios, Leadership Development Associate
Ms. Rios is an active bilingual parent with past experience as an effective Local School Council member. She has extensive familiarity with predominantly Latino neighborhoods on the South Side. She leads workshops and provides related assistance to LSCs across the South Side (joined DFC in 2006).