Preschool seats go begging in poor black communities

In a new, state-of-the-art community center near 69th and Sangamon in Englewood, slots for early childhood programs are going begging. Meanwhile, a few miles north at the El Hogar Del Nino child care center in Little Village, slots are at a premium. The bottom line is the same in both communities: Needy children are going without the benefits of early education.

Rubber stamp or glue?

When a vote to authorize a worker’s compensation settlement came before Mayor Richard Daley’s handpicked School Board back in April, the trustees did something unique—they split their vote. The 5-2 decision marked the third time in 12 years that the Board’s members disagreed on the record. Some say the Board’s stability has helped reform.

Doing good over the long haul

When one approaches school reform you can stay at the wading pool level or dive into the deep end. Either way you’re engaged. But the deeper you go, the closer you come to the intractable problems in the neighborhoods, where for generations schools have been failing and kids drowning.

You’re experts, too: What do you think?

If you’re reading Catalyst, you’re involved in school improvement and, therefore, have useful things to say about what’s needed. Help yourself and your colleagues across this city by sharing your professional judgment on what would propel schools to the next level.

Too few cooks in school reform

I have been working in and with Chicago’s public high schools and Chicago’s small schools movement for the past 20 years. It is ironic that since the start of Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, no one connected with the School Board, CPS leadership or education foundations has asked my opinion about small schools or anything else.

Comings and Goings

MORE SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFF Following dramatic cuts last year, schools may get between 300 and 400 additional special education teachers and aides this fall, says Gretchen Brumley, CPS director of finance for specialized services. Brumley says the additional staff are needed because of changes to students’ Individual Education Plans and the rising percentage of severely disabled students, who require extra help.

Reading, writing … and relationships

Chicago Public Schools leaders and those on the front line should be commended for progress they have made so far in a number of areas. Yet historically and now, reform efforts have a scattered or a single-minded focus rather than a systemic approach. High-stakes testing, teacher retention, school leadership, the achievement gap, violence prevention, truancy and a host of revamped instructional programs are all targeted reforms that have made improvements but were not pulled together to ensure all efforts were aimed at common goals.

Directives from the front lines

Solving problems such as making schools safer and cutting the dropout rate will take input from those on the front lines in schools—parents, teachers and community activists. Here’s what parents, a veteran teacher and a leader from one of the city’s most vocal community groups told Catalyst Chicago about the direction CPS needs to take in the coming years.

‘We have a chance … to be the best school system in America’

A major focus for the district’s two top leaders, CEO Arne Duncan and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, is to provide training and support for principals and teachers. Duncan and Eason-Watkins talked about their vision for CPS on the August 12 edition of “City Voices,” the monthly radio show broadcast on WNUA, 95.5 FM. Following is an edited version of the transcript.

Streamline accountability at the top, end annual beg fest

School Board President Rufus Williams says it’s just “not efficient” to expect Chicago Public Schools, year after year, to travel to Springfield and lobby for basic funding. That time would be much better spent, he argues, getting principals, teachers, parents and community leaders on the same page toward providing high-quality education to every child in the city. In an interview with Editor-in-Chief Veronica Anderson, Williams lays out his priorities.

Aiming for the top

Editor-in-Chief Veronica Anderson interviews Mayor Richard M. Daley.

With Chicago Public Schools now in its 12th year under mayoral control and the district’s signature Renaissance 2010 initiative at the halfway mark, the time seemed ripe for Catalyst Chicago to take stock and ask the big questions: Where is the district headed? How can the district motivate key players and lead schools to the next level of achievement? What needs to be done to solve problems such as school violence?


A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.

Q&A with Timothy Daly

Chicago’s teacher hiring and transfer policies, which allow principals to fill their own vacancies and teachers to choose where they want to work, are the envy of other urban districts, but CPS needs a big-picture strategy to hire and keep the cream of the teaching crop.

Taking it to the streets

What the Chicago Public Schools needs is a strike—not against it by the teachers union, but for it by everyone who cares about the city’s children and understands the importance of their education to the city’s future.

Maria Guzman: Parent, activist

Maria Guzman says isolation and lack of communication between schools has been her biggest challenge in trying to get the best education for her children. “If schools aren’t giving information about getting from elementary to high school, or from high school to college, you don’t know your options,” she says.

Vanessa Johnson: High school English teacher

Johnson, who is involved with the High School Transformation Project at Carver Military Academy, says CPS needs to focus its energy on creating good middle schools with stronger curricula because incoming freshman are not academically prepared for high school.