$1 billion for buildings, DACA teachers, bye-bye textbooks

Hi! We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, and intern Elaine Chen, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way:

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement at Cardenas Elementary.

Chicago Public Schools wants to plunge $1 billion into campus investments, a plan that includes two new West Side schools and two new classical schools. And it will expand classical programs at McDade (near Chatham), Poe (in the Pullman neighborhood), and Decatur (in West Ridge) by adding seventh and eighth grades.

Parents with children in overcrowded classical programs cheered the draft plan at a press conference last Friday to announce the investments. But some community organizers were left scratching their heads. Where will the new schools be located? How will they impact existing schools? And how will the district pay for this ambitious plan? The public has one shot to weigh in on July 19 at one of three meeting sites, Chalkbeat Chicago explains. 


Teaching under DACA: Chicago teacher Juan Espinoza has been instrumental in helping many of his undocumented students. Why? He’s motivated in part by his own status as a DACA recipient. As the national debate over immigration continues, Chalkbeat Chicago examined how one teacher is staving off his own fears while helping students.

Early math boost: Berwyn North School District 98 — a high-poverty, mostly Hispanic school district about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago  — saw its early grade math scores nearly double in the past two years. The Hechinger Report for Chalkbeat Chicago studied the gains.

Undoing Obama: Last week, Betsy DeVos withdrew an Obama-era document that provided guidance to school districts on racially integrating their schools. Chalkbeat’s national desk explained the implications.

All else equal, suspensions harm: New research on New York City schools found that, after controlling for factors outside of school that could lead to negative academic outcomes, suspensions led to higher drop-out rates and other academic problems. Chalkbeat New York reported.

More teachers of color: If more black men were teaching in Chicago’s classrooms, black children certainly would see the benefits. WBEZ’s Morning Shift dives into the issue of diversity in teaching. 

A better deal: CPS got a positive nudge on the credit ratings front from Moody’s, which affects the cost of borrowing, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live- tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen.


The view from my school: In spring, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative gifted Leap Innovations and Chicago Public Schools a cool $14 million to expand personalized learning. As parents question the use of data and how the district safeguards student privacy, one South Side principal explains how technology has reignited a love for learning at her school. “The difference is night and day,” writes Lisa Epstein in this first-person piece for Chalkbeat Chicago.  

No time to waste: There are many ways to kickstart the conversation about modernizing the teaching profession. After all, the trajectory of our most vulnerable students depends on excellent educators, writes Stephanie Banchero, educator director of the Joyce Foundation, in this Chicago Tribune op-ed.


As we’ve been talking to people about Chalkbeat Chicago, we’ve heard a lot about the need for balanced, critical reporting. But you’ve told us you also want to read about the good stuff, too. So we sign off each Friday newsletter with a High Five. Want to pitch us? Send a photo, with caption information, to include #HighFive in the subject line.

Communities support schools—but what can it look like when schools support communities? This summer, rising high school seniors from the Avondale and Belmont Cragin neighborhoods are finding out. They are partnering with the Ravenswood Community Council to gain professional digital media professional experience by creating a social media campaign, #WeAreRavenswood, around Ravenswood businesses. Through the digital media Career Technical Education program offered through Schurz High School, the students are creating short videos of metalsmith studios, hair salons, and everything in-between. Caitlin Stich, a Schurz digital media teacher running the internships, says the field work offers an experience way beyond the classroom. “I can teach them a lot in the classroom, but that can’t compare to getting them out in the field and really communicate with adults in a professional setting. I can already see how much more confident they are talking with adults.”

The #WeareRavenswood campaign at Schurz High.