Charter schools present the most controversial and divisive issue I’ve encountered in 36 years of education reporting. Supporters passionately defend charters, and opponents fiercely attack them, leaving little room for rational consideration of their merits and shortcomings, and what role they might best play in a school district’s game plan. In this issue, we hope to bring some measure of clarity to the debate by illuminating the issues through the experiences of one charter network and school communities that have rallied to compete against charters.
I’m often asked — by friends, television hosts, people I’ve just met — whether Chicago’s public schools have gotten any better after decades of reform. I know they’d like a simple yes or no, but I find neither satisfying. Rather, it’s been more like yes and no, or two steps forward, one step back.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Chicago Public Schools would build another selective enrollment school on the Near North Side, he argued it would serve the whole city, not just the gentrifying communities around it. The reason: It would be “accessible from two rail lines and four bus lines.” But enrollment demographics at the city’s other test-in high schools on the North Side suggest it will take more than good transportation to get a geographic, racial and socio-economic mix at the Barack Obama Preparatory High School.
Stephanie Banchero, lead education reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been named senior program officer for education at the Joyce Foundation. Before joining the Journal, she was an education reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 13 years. Banchero’s reporting has garnered many honors including a first place award from the national Education Writers Association. She is a past president of that organization.l
Evanston School District 65, the elementary district in that suburb, has tapped Paul Goren for superintendent. Goren currently is senior vice president for program at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. He also has held leadership positions at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Spencer Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also was a deputy superintendent in the Minneapolis MN school district.
In reporting for her insightful and engaging account of the birth of local school councils, Mary O’Connell asked her interviewees whom they thought was most responsible for the historic legislation that created them. Don Moore and Designs for Change, the research and advocacy organization he founded in 1977, easily took first place.
It is a common misconception that the Chicago mayor acquired the authority to appoint the School Board in 1995. In fact, in Chicago, the mayor has always appointed the School Board, at least during the lifetime of anyone now living.
This issue has come up recently as activists and some aldermen have started to push for an elected school board.