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June 16, 2022 (CHICAGO)— The Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC) at the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has been awarded a total of $275,000 in funding from three organizations — CME Group Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Crown Family Philanthropies —  that will expand IWERC’s research on Illinois education issues.

“We are thrilled to be able to tackle the most pressing and persistent education issues in the state—including understanding trajectories through early childhood programs and from high school to work,” said Bill Jackson, executive director at DPI. “These issues have been of key interest to state stakeholders for many years, and now DPI and IWERC have access to the funding and data systems to make progress on these questions.”

The funding from CME Group Foundation supports IWERC in researching students’ journeys through Illinois early childhood programs and services. This project has three components: (1) identifying early childhood outcomes valued by caregivers in diverse communities across the state, (2) examining the relationship between school readiness as measured by the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) and other school success indicators, and (3) investigating the relationships between participation in a select subset of early childhood services, KIDS scores, and latent school outcomes (through Grade 3).

“We will examine statewide school readiness and understand how different caregivers and communities think about what makes effective early childhood programming,” said Sarah Cashdollar, Associate Director of IWERC. “We are committed to looking at the effectiveness of different combinations of programs in early childhood — not just evaluating single programs in a vacuum. We hope to impact our state’s understanding of how children experience education from ages zero to eight.” 

The financial contributions from the Joyce Foundation will allow IWERC to explore data around teacher training at postsecondary institutions in Illinois. IWERC will examine data in the state’s Illinois Educator Preparation Profiles system, which evaluates teacher preparation programs at colleges across the state. This research can inform the state in improving the Profiles system and identify effective programs and practices to support collaboration and learning amongst teacher preparation programs. 

“Recruiting and retaining a diverse, highly effective teacher workforce is a key goal in the state. Teacher preparation programs have a key role — though not the only role — to play in meeting that goal,” said Meg Bates,  Director of IWERC. “We are hopeful our research into the Illinois Educator Preparation Profiles system can help identify strengths and effective practices of teacher preparation programs across the state.”

Finally, funding from Crown Family Philanthropies allows IWERC to expand its general operations and complete core research projects more quickly. In particular, the funding supports research efforts on high schools that support postsecondary and workforce success, as well as research on early childhood education and retention of a high-quality, diverse teacher workforce in the state.

About DPI

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.


The Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC) produces actionable research to improve Illinois education and workforce outcomes. Its mission is to work with community partners across the state to research and co-construct solutions to the most pressing issues in the cradle-to-career, education-to-workforce pipeline. IWERC has developed a portfolio of research projects across four key areas: early childhood, K-12, postsecondary, and workforce development. The projects in each area are targeted at the most urgent and impactful issues in the state. More on IWERC can be found at the following link:


Media Contact:
Lauryn Scott
(312) 585-9168