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Laura Margaret Burbach

2020 Summer Fellow at Chicago Public Schools

What I did before EP:
After undergrad, I joined the Teach For America Corps and taught high school math in Charlotte, North Carolina. During those summers, I participated in the Urban Leaders Fellowship with Atlanta Public Schools and Pro Georgia, and the Leaders for Educational Equity Policy & Advocacy Fellowship with the National Council on Teacher Quality.

After that, I joined the Georgia Office of Summer Achievement as a policy and research analyst, managing statewide accountability audits. I learned about Education Pioneers as a graduate student pursuing my M.S. in Computational Analysis and Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

What I did during the Fellowship:
My project with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) aimed to address inequitable access to eighth grade algebra coursework. Students who were ready for algebra, but at a school without an algebra teacher, were unable to pursue this accelerated pathway; this was more common at schools in lower-income communities. Since we were starting this program in Fall of 2020, we designed remote algebra classes that met before or after school with an algebra-endorsed teacher, combining students from multiple schools to make a full class.

I continued supporting this program part-time while I finished my masters, and then it became my full time job! This program is beginning its fourth year this fall, serving over 1,000 students from 121 schools. Our model has also been duplicated by other subjects—Advanced Placement, dual credit, and foreign language classes—to expand access throughout the city.

What I learned from the Fellowship:
Professionally, my Education Pioneers Fellowship project led directly to my current role with CPS. My manager was intentional about connecting me with others working within the district for coffee chats to learn more about the organization’s structure, vision, and technical approaches.

Beyond my placement, I gained a lot from the conversations and learning I received from EP’s professional development sessions. I loved diving deep into the history and root causes of current issues in education. Speakers and Fellows were from different cities, highlighting the unique educational landscapes while underscoring common universal themes. The other Fellows all came from such different backgrounds and skill sets—the conversations I had with them truly expanded my understanding and capacity to take action.

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