Chicago Data Stories: Dirrick Butler

Here at the To&Through Project, we work to make data accessible with an aim to inspire action. As a result, we’ve often had the honor of being privy to our colleagues’ personal reflections on the data we share, and their varying perspectives shape the way we think about this work.

Below, we share Dirrick Butler’s reflections on one of our Data Insights — which summarize years of research from the UChicago Consortium and To&Through Project — and his pushes for thinking about how students’ voices can inform our collective work to improve the system.

This Data Insight makes me think about the systemic reasons that Black and Brown boys in particular fall so far behind during their freshman year. Are there structures or policies that exist within elementary schools that high schools could adopt to ensure a smoother on-ramp for students? Must academic and social rigor be conflated with less supportive structures and programming?

What I know for sure is that this data is not representative of Black boys’ academic ability — it’s the reason that Project OneTen exists. We partner with Chicago Public Schools to provide programming that supports Black and Brown boys in achieving academic success when transitioning from eighth grade to high school through mentorship, academic coaching, and workshops that focus on cognitive skill development, social and emotional learning, and self awareness.

I think it’s important to consider the structural changes that take place in high school, and how to best support students in adjusting to those changes. Are students receiving holistic supports to address not only their academic needs, but also the essential non-cognitive development needed to truly be successful in high school? My hope is that schools will adapt their current models to the needs of their students, and center their voices in the design. To aid in this process, I think more qualitative data from students would paint a better picture, helping educators build structures of support during this eighth to ninth grade transition.

—Dirrick Butler, Founder and Executive Director of Project OneTen

Check out more of the To&Through Project’s Data Insights and tell us about your own reflections.



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The To&Through Project

The To&Through Project


The To&Through Project aims to increase high school & post-secondary completion for under-resourced students of color in Chicago & around the country.