Measuring school improvement under Mayor Richard M. Daley is matter of degree. A slew of initiatives have stretched resources thin, and it’s difficult to tell where reform will gain traction. If test scores are the bottom line, we’ve got a long way to go. Download the complete report [PDF]
In 1995, Mayor Daley was the first big-city mayor to take control of a public school system. Since then, mayors in New York, Cleveland and Detroit have followed suit, and the new mayor of Los Angeles is seeking control of his city’s schools. Daley talked with editors Lorraine Forte and Veronica Anderson about the past decade and his vision for the future.
RENAISSANCE WATCH Mayor Richard M. Daley’s signature effort to transform failing neighborhood schools advances with a second round of 13 new schools approved for opening later this year. Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter, approved last year, will also open this fall. Three additional schools were approved to start in 2007.
Chicago was the first big-city school system to come under the authority of the mayor in 1995. Since then, central office has handed down a host of directives, including ending social promotion and creating elite high schools. The experiences of three public school students show the progress and pitfalls of reform under Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The late G. Alfred Hess Jr. studied Chicago schools for more than 25 years, first as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern University, then as executive director of the Chicago Panel on Public School Policy and Finance and, for the last 10 years, as director of Northwestern’s Center on Urban School Policy. Before his death on Jan. 27, he shared his insights on school reform under Mayor Richard M. Daley with Catalyst Publisher Linda Lenz.
Saleemah Muñoz arrives for the first day of school last September looking polished and prepared, dressed in a blue jumper and white blouse, a new backpack slung over her shoulder and her hair neatly braided with rows of white beads. She looks a bit scared, though, and a little glum as she takes her seat in Judy Owens’ 3rd-grade class at Jordan Community School in East Rogers Park. Her guarded demeanor is understandable: This is Saleemah’s second time in 3rd grade.
On the surface, Jafet Melendez looks pretty much like any other 8th-grader at Pulaski Elementary in Bucktown. But in reality, he is still closely tied to the place he called home until 18 months ago: a neighborhood just outside Mexico City. Jafet’s experiences over the past 18 months illustrate some the challenges facing the 57,700 students in Chicago Public Schools whose native language is not English.
Alexandra Hunter chose King College Prep after hearing the school’s glowing spiel at an open house promising top-notch teachers, a challenging curriculum and a specialty program in performing and visual arts. The selective enrollment magnet, formerly a low-performing neighborhood school, seemed a perfect fit. But four years later, as she prepares to graduate, Alexandra says the school reneged on its promises.