The challenges of early ed, a Near South Side divide, Arne everywhere

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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The big story

A reminder that Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Ounce of Prevention
Ounce of Prevention’s Diana Rauner

“Sometimes the truth is a difficult thing.” That’s longtime advocate (and current Illinois First Lady) Diana Rauner, who understands more than most about the challenges facing early childhood education in the state.

Amidst big shifts in the preschool landscape, the Ounce of Prevention chief spoke this week with Chalkbeat Chicago Bureau Chief Cassie Walker Burke. The conversation spanned the opportunities and roadblocks in building a quality statewide program, the politics of pre-K, and a forthcoming trove of data that will provide a glimpse at kindergarten readiness. “Here we have always focused on third-grade test scores as evidence of the achievement gap, but we all know the achievement gap opens up much, much earlier. Being able to articulate that and identify that and document it — we hope it will change the conversation so we can talk about it at a much earlier level.” Read the interview in its entirety here.

The week in review

Near South Side divide: Plans for a new high school on the Near South Side has some neighbors divided, both over the school’s attendance boundaries and its very existence. Chalkbeat Chicago waded into the issue.

Summer struggles: There’s an abundance of creative summer programs targeting teens in Chicago. The trouble is, some organizers can’t get enough people through the door. Chalkbeat Chicago explored why.

Arne everywhere: Former Chicago schools’ CEO Arne Duncan has a new book out that provides a rarified look at education politics. Cassie reviewed “How Schools Work” for the Chicago Tribune. And Duncan sat down with CBS Chicago for a conversation about Chicago’s gun violence problem. Watch the interview here.

Sustaining schools: Twenty Chicago Public Schools will share a $10 million investment meant to pilot additional community-based services for students and families. It’s a partnership between the district and Chicago Teachers’ Union, and it kicks off contract negotiations with teachers. The Chicago Sun-Times has more.

Doctor’s advice: Transitioning to a new school can be tough — on students and parents. WBEZ Education tapped Dr. James Walsh, the heads the Psychology program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, for advice. Here are five pointers from the doctor.

How do you spell brouhaha? What happens when teachers’ ratings go public? The L.A. Times found out 10 years ago. Chalkbeat’s national desk looks at new research that examines the aftershocks.

Looking ahead

Hang out with Chalkbeat Chicago: We’re hosting two more events for our summer listening tour, in which we’re traveling around the city to hear from parents, students, and educators about their experiences in schools. On Aug. 14, we’re partnering with OneGoal to host a discussion with high school teachers. And on Aug. 23, we’re partnering with City Bureau to hold a public newsroom about education journalism. Join us!


Each week we spotlight a person or program deserving of some extra attention. Send in your ideas to and put #HighFive in the subject line. 

PHOTO: Anna Gelman/Goodman Theatre
Paris Richardson and ensemble in rehearsal for the final performance by Goodman Theatre’s PlayBuild Musical Intensive program.

Over the course of 11 years, more than 600 students have experienced PlayBuild, a Goodman Theatre-led program that trains them in the art of musical theater and performance. The seven-week curriculum culminates with free performances (they are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., at 170 N. Dearborn St.) This year’s theme is 1968, and student groups will perform parts of the musical “Hair” and their own storytelling. Tickets are free but reservations are required; call 312-443-3800.

Want to tell us about an outstanding person or group deserving of a #HighFive? Write us at