Chiefs for Change Board Chair | CEO, Chicago Public Schools
Pedro Martinez is chair of the Chiefs for Change Board of Directors and CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS). CPS is the nation’s third-largest district, with more than 340,000 students, 45,000 employees, and an annual budget of approximately $7 billion.
Before CPS, Martinez was superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) in Texas. SAISD was an F-rated system when Martinez arrived in 2016. Under his leadership, the district improved to a B-rated system in just three years, becoming the fastest-improving large district in the state. During Martinez’s tenure, the number of SAISD students attending low-performing schools fell by roughly 80 percent. Graduation rates increased and dropout rates decreased, and SAISD saw more students than ever before attending colleges and universities. High school seniors earned a record $130 million in college scholarships, and the district created innovative partnerships to cover tuition and fees for SAISD graduates who otherwise might not have been able to continue their education.
In addition, under Martinez, SAISD increased the number of students in dual-enrollment programs, allowing them to get college credit while still in high school. The district opened career-themed academies and expanded opportunities for students to earn industry recognized credentials in high-growth, in-demand fields. SAISD also received national attention for its dual-language program, which expanded from two schools to 61 campuses–more than half of all district schools.
One of the most significant accomplishments under Martinez was the development of a nuanced way of tracking poverty, a method that has helped to improve student achievement, stem the tide of declining enrollment, and attract more families to the district. It takes into account several socioeconomic indicators for each student, including their family’s income and level of educational attainment, whether the family owns their home, and whether the child lives in a single-parent household. Using that information, the district calculates a ranking for each Census block in the city, maps the level of poverty in each neighborhood, and pinpoints the areas with the greatest need. SAISD then reserves space for children from the poorest neighborhoods at its highest-performing schools. The district also adjusted the way it allocates resources to ensure that children with the greatest needs get appropriate levels of support. Texas adopted SAISD’s socioeconomic block system in what has been called “perhaps the biggest change in the way the state funds schools.”
Another noteworthy program created under Martinez is a master teacher initiative that pairs the most effective teachers with the students who need the most support. Master teachers in SAISD can now earn more than $100,000 per year, compared to the statewide average of $60,000 for teachers with 10 or more years of experience.
Before joining SAISD, Martinez was superintendent in residence for the Nevada Department of Education, where he was responsible for advising the governor’s office and the superintendent of public instruction on education policy decisions. Prior to that, he was superintendent of the 64,000-student Washoe County School District, which serves Reno, Nev., and the surrounding area. While in Washoe County, Martinez improved graduation rates and increased the percentage of students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams. Previously, he was chief financial officer at Chicago Public Schools under the leadership of Arne Duncan, who later served as U.S. secretary of education.
Martinez has more than 20 years of experience in the private, nonprofit, and public education sectors. He holds an MBA from DePaul University, a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.