Adding preschool slots has been one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s main education initiatives. His plan to offer "universal" access to preschool is, in actuality, just for low-income families in Chicago. [Photo by Emily Jan]

When ‘universal preschool’ is not universal

Politicians and advocates alike have seized on research that says early childhood education offers lasting dividends — as well as on the political expediency of promising a benefit to every voter. As they have, the meaning of “universal” preschool has become, well, not so universal.

Photo by Grace Donnelly

From classroom to City Council?

More than a half-dozen educators are running for aldermanic seats in next year’s city elections. It’s a sign of the times: the Chicago Teachers Union now considers itself a “social movement” union concerned with equity and economic justice throughout communities, not just in schools.

Children's development of early literacy skills will be one of the measures of success for the social impact bond program that will pay for 2,600 more slots in Chicago's well-regarded Child-Parent Centers.

For the Record: Paying for preschool with social impact bonds

Those who are skeptical of social impact bonds have said that the escrow payments and administrative costs to government make them tough to justify on economic terms. At the end of the day, governments are simply “kicking the can down the road” instead of paying to provide services up front.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former President Bill Clinton reading to children in June 2014 at the Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center that serves the Englewood and Back of the Yards neighborhoods. LeVern Danley/courtesy of Metropolitan Family Services

Jury still out on Emanuel preschool expansion plans

More than three years into the mayor’s tenure, advocates for the city’s youngest children say that they’re glad Emanuel has brought increased public attention to the need for expansion of early childhood programs -- but say it's not enough.

Jamie Cordes, a ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher at Noble Street College Prep, talks

Conversations with teachers: Budgets

Teachers, even the one from Noble Street, say they are still dealing with not having enough for basics, such as gym, art and needed supplies. They also say they don't blame their principals for the shortfall, but rather the way schools are funded in Illinois.

Kris Himebaugh, a 10th-grade English teacher and union delegate at Orr High School, says the social worker and the psychologist were laid off at her school.

Conversations with teachers: Discipline

Teachers say they have gotten the message that suspension should only be used as a last resort. They say they generally agree with that, but that they also need support from social workers, counselors and deans of discipline.

Pritzker Elementary School teacher Amy Rosenwasser speaks with other CPS educators during a recent roundtable discussion organized by Catalyst Chicago on August 19, 2014.

Conversations with teachers: Evaluations

Teachers are anxious about how their evaluations will go under the new CPS system based on observations and student growth. For the second part in our series, Conversations with Teachers, Catalyst asked how the new evaluation system is being rolled out.

Teachers Jamie Cordes (Noble Street College Prep) and Kris Himebaugh (Orr High School) talk about testing during a roundtable discussion hosted by Catalyst Chicago on August 19, 2014.

Conversations with teachers: Testing

Teachers tell Catalyst Chicago they're tired of giving out so many tests. During a recent roundtable discussion, CPS educators shared their concerns about assessments, debated the usefulness of computer-based individualized learning programs and asked what the best yardstick is for measuring student growth.