One of the most impressive products of the era of school reform in Chicago which began in 1989 was the creation of Catalyst Magazine. Its founder Linda Lenz, with a long history of covering the city’s education scene, saw the need for a watchdog to monitor the reform efforts. For the next several decades, Chicago was unique among cities in having investigative journalists tracking its every move, not with a gotcha attitude, but with an eye to improving the work.
I was proud to serve on Catalyst’s advisory board for several years and when Linda announced her retirement after several decades, I was invited to join the committee overseeing the search for her replacement. Near the end of that process, the search was called off and it was announced that Catalyst was ceasing operations and was being absorbed by The Chicago Reporter, another publication of its parent organization, The Community Renewal Society.
I’m not privy to the inside story of this decision. I’m sure it was partly a matter of economics, but it was also the case that the news had just broken that an education reporting group called Chalkbeat, already operating in several other cities, was planning on coming to Chicago. I was upset at the idea of a non-local group with unknown sources of funding would dare to try to replace the sacred Catalyst.
I’ve changed my views over the last decade. Chalkbeat is different. It’s providing almost daily coverage of CPS rather than the more in-depth long-term examinations that were Catalyst’s trademark. For example, today’s posting is about the just released CPS enrollment numbers for this school year which show no change from last year, after ten years of steady decline. It’s good to have a steady eye on our local schools, albeit with a slightly different focus and mission.
This is a longwinded introduction to the core of today’s posting, which is a recent Chalkbeat article which contains surprising and somewhat troubling news about the gentrification of the CPS population. Some schools, especially those on the North Side, have transformed from schools serving low-income populations to schools housing more middle class populations, while those on the West and South Sides continue to have even more entrenched low-income Black populations.
What are the implications of this current distribution of students? When similar patterns emerged in Washington DC, the district took credit for rising test scores, though they were nothing more than a measure of its changing clientele. We have to be wary of similar claims in Chicago. How do we allocate our shrinking resources to reflect these demographic changes? Are we witnessing the emergence of an even more segregated system?
I’ve included the entire text of the Chalkbeat article. Read as much of it as you find useful. I thank Chalkbeat for its liberal policies in allowing sites like mine to republish their work. I’m glad they’re here.
It looks like WordPress is not allowing me to embed the link to the article. So, I suggest that you go to the Chalkbeat website and call up the September 6th article entitled “Chicago Public Schools is becoming less low-income. Here’s why that matters” by Reema Amin and Thomas Wilburn. It’s worth the effort.