If you applied the medical-residency model to urban schools, you'd have the AUSL's teacher-training program: mentoring, grad school, 49 weeks shadowing a veteran teacher, and four years teaching in Chicago's neediest classrooms. "Many teachers aren't prepared for an urban setting, so they drop out," says executive director Don Feinstein. "Our graduates come out with real practical experience." Since 2005, the number of students meeting state benchmarks has soared 66% in schools run by AUSL. The good news for kids nationwide: The NewSchools Venture Fund just gave AUSL $2.5 million to grow, and the program is expanding. Barack Obama has called for 200 such training academies to be established.
A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.