Welcome to an improved Catalyst

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Linda Lenz, publisher

Linda Lenz, publisher

For 14 years, Catalyst has given you insightful articles and data about school reform in Chicago. With this redesign, you will now get them in a format that makes them even more useful.

We know that you all are very busy people. So in several ways, we have made it easier for you to quickly grasp what our articles are about and why they are important.

A redesigned table of contents includes more content, and in the rest of the book, secondary headlines and small text boxes highlight essential information. Together, these at-a-glance features will give you a running start on the articles.

One hallmark of Catalyst is that its reporting is in depth—we take the time to gather relevant research, a variety of perspectives and the reality of what is happening in schools. We will continue to do that but will leaven the depth with a new section called Notebook. There you will find short items of importance, such as summaries of breaking news from the previous month, relevant news from other cities and “Ask Catalyst,” where we will answer questions about school reform from our readers. So start sending them in!

In the past couple years, we tried out several new departments, including UpClose, Research and Portraits. With the help of several dozen readers who participated in focus groups on our redesign, we have settled on three rotating departments: Research, which will explain timely findings; Neighborhoods, which will look at schools from a wider perspective; and UpClose, which will focus on a school, program or person. These departments will join the long-standing ones of From the Editor, Grants, Updates and Viewpoints, where we hope to print more letters from you, our readers.

In a bit of improved housekeeping, we have listed all of our services and contact information in an expanded masthead that now appears on the inside of the back cover.

Over all, our new look is more professional, continuing a trend that has evolved slowly since our early days of as a black-and-white newsletter. From our focus groups, we know that some long-time readers won’t like the new look—they see Catalyst as a close friend and don’t want to lose it in any sense. We very much appreciate that. However, we also believe it is important to reach beyond readers who eat, breathe and sleep school reform. The new graphic presentation will help us attract new readers in the broader community, giving them a better foundation for judgments and actions.

Catalyst was founded on the belief that in large cities, school improvement can and must emerge from different vantage points. No one group of people can see all the solutions, let alone put them into practice. That is why we strive to serve a broad-based audience, ranging from parents and teachers to civic leaders. We plan each issue with the goal of presenting a mix of articles that variously will appeal to different segments of our audience. Our hope is that readers will step into each other’s editorial territory and learn from each other’s ideas and experiences.

Along with our sister publication in Cleveland, Catalyst also is informing a national movement—as well it should. From mayoral control to school intervention, Chicago has been in the vanguard of reforms that are sweeping urban districts, and Catalyst, more than any other publication, has chronicled the good, the bad and the ugly impact of these policies on schools. Similarly, there are developments in Cleveland, including instructional coaching and school vouchers, that have national significance. To reinforce our standing as an authoritative resource for the country, both publications dropped their taglines, which sometimes were misunderstood. Now we are Catalyst Chicago and Catalyst Cleveland. And we are very excited about this new opportunity to serve you better.

Let us know what you think. Call us at (312) 673-3884 or e-mail us at editorial@catalyst-chicago.org. Of course, story ideas and news tips are always welcome.