Barton Dassinger began his teaching career in 1998, as a Teach For America (TFA) teacher in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. In 2000, he moved to Chicago and joined Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center’s faculty. A Level 2 school at the time, Chávez was already a relatively good neighborhood school serving a high-need population. Barton saw the potential for greatness.
Inspired by his vision for Chávez, Barton earned his Master’s Degree and Administrative Certification from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and graduated from LAUNCH, a Fund-seeded principal preparation program designed to develop aspiring principals for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Barton was named the principal at Chávez in 2010.
In 2011, Chávez was one of 15 schools in the Additional Learning Opportunities (ALO) pilot, which extended the school day by 90 minutes. With this extra time, students used technology to further advance math and reading skills. Fund staff worked closely with CPS officials to select schools, train program coordinators at each site and provide program management. Even in this small pilot, the results were encouraging; students’ math and reading gains exceeded those of comparable schools.
Since then, Chávez has slowly and deliberately increased the use of technology in its classrooms, with the constant input of its teachers and students. “We transitioned from just being an after school use of computers to in-school use mainly because the teachers saw effective it was, and teachers wanted to learn how to begin using this to improve their instruction,” Barton said. “More than coming from me, it came from the teachers themselves who saw the power of these programs and what technology can do to advance these students.”
Today, Chávez is a Level 1 school, among the best neighborhood schools in the city, and every one of its teachers uses technology to personalize learning.
Under Barton’s leadership, Chávez submitted a winning application to Breakthrough Schools: Chicago. With this investment, Chávez will continue to grow and expand how it uses technology as a tool to personalize learning; ultimately, serving as an example to other schools looking to transform instruction and accelerate learning for all students.