Founded as a nonprofit in 1984 by Lincoln citizen Dr. Sam
Redding, the Academic Development Instituteís mission has been to
ďassist families, schools, and communities with childrenís academic
and personal development.Ē
ADI began this work simply with a summer program for middle school
students and parent education programs for schools. Since that time,
ADI has expanded its reach to include every level of the education
In 1983, Sam was a dean at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.
Attracted by the name Lincoln and the collegeís reputation for
serving underprepared students (polishing the ďdiamond in the
roughĒ), and enabled by new financial aid programs, minority
students enrolled in ever larger numbers through the 1970s and early
Ď80s. By 1983, more than a third of the collegeís students were
African American, mostly from Chicago. These students were typically
the first in their families to go to college, and the college built
strong student support programs to enhance their opportunity for
success. Still, many did not succeed.
Concerned about students who arrived at college full of hope but not
prepared for the challenges, Dr. Redding formed ADI as a non-profit.
In that same year, the Joyce Foundation provided ADI with a $27,000
grant to develop a family engagement program in three Chicago
elementary schools. The emphasis on family engagement stemmed from
Dr. Reddingís observation that many underprivileged students arrived
at college without the academic background and personal competencies
that college requires and that engaging families early was one
strategy that was underutilized.
ADI formed a research council that included eminent Chicagoans
Herbert J. Walberg, Benjamin Bloom, Ralph Tyler, and James Coleman
to guide its work.
Over the next decade, 30 foundations and corporations contributed to
ADIís work, and its family engagement programs expanded to 200
Chicago schools. The MacArthur Foundation funded the Alliance for
Achievement, an ADI initiative to build strong school communities
focused on student learning.
The Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University adopted
Alliance for Achievement and made it part of a comprehensive school
reform program implemented in schools in 13 states. Through this
adoption, ADI moved into the universe of school improvement.
In 1991, ADI began publishing the School Community Journal, still
the premier, international, peer-reviewed journal on school
In 1999, ADI opened an office in East St. Louis, Illinois, to serve
the stateís region with the highest concentration of poverty. ADI
maintains that office today and also administers the Lincoln
Parentsí Center here in town, assisting families with children from
birth to age five in Logan County.
In 2007, in partnership with the Woods Foundation, ADI created
Liftoff, a youth development program. Liftoff guides and supports
students from eighth grade through college graduation.
to 2006, ADI served as the Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC)
for Illinois, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
This support allowed ADI to exercise national leadership in the
realm of parent and family engagement in support of student school
learning. During this time, ADI created its first generation of
tools to more easily and effectively bring together schools with
parents; the next generation of these tools are now used within
ADIís School Community Network and are used across the country and
put actionable research into the hands of parents and educators.
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In 2005, ADI was awarded one of five national grants from the U.S.
Department of Education to establish content centers to assist state
education agencies. ADIís Center on Innovation & Improvement (CII)
published seminal work on state systems of support, restructuring,
and school turnaround. Three of CIIís publications earned awards
from the American Educational Research Association. CII staff
provided on-site consultation and training for state education
agencies in 43 states.
In 2012, ADI formed the Indistar Network of 26 states that adopted
ADIís web-based Indistar system for school improvement, a system
that has now guided school improvement by school-based teams in more
than 11,000 schools across the nation. Indistar makes the research
consensus of effective school practice actionable, with research
briefs and videos of effective practices to stimulate thought and
high expectations of professional practice, as well as facilitating
input of Ďcritical friendsí from the district and state. The
platform is unique in education and harnesses performance management
methodology to the unique needs of schools and families.
In 2012, ADI was a partner in three successful grant applications to
create new content centers funded by the U.S. Department of
Education. With its longtime partner, Temple University, ADI formed
the Center on Innovations in Learning. With WestED (located in San
Francisco, CA), ADI established a Center on School Turnaround, and
with Edvance Research (owned by Westat in Rockville, MD) it launched
the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center. Also in 2012,
ADI was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Education to work
with the State of Idaho and the Nez Perce tribe; this project was
based on ADIís several years of work with the Bureau of Indian
Education and its schools in 23 states. This storm of focused work
continues to flourish, and ADIís network of collaborators and
ADIís emerging and ongoing work focuses on three areas of research
and practice: (1) the school as a community, including family
engagement; (2) personal competencies that propel student learning;
and (3) the dynamics of change. In each of these topical realms, ADI
takes a systems approach, integrating parts to create highly
functioning wholes, and puts its considerable ingenuity at the
service of its clients.
ADI has a small local staff of professionals drawing from the
Lincoln area, but a larger network of hundreds of partners and
contributors in the fifty states. The casual visitor to Lincoln
might not discover close to the Courthouse the small doorway on
Kickapoo that leads to the ADIís offices, but the residents of
Lincoln should know how a small team in their community serve the
needs of students, teachers, and parents around the nation (and run
a superb gift shop, Prairie Years, too).