The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.
Caught in a web
When CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett narrowed down the initial list of schools targeted for possible closure, she put out this challenge to communities: Explain why your schools are underutilized and low-achieving. Byrd-Bennett said she wanted to hear about issues of school leadership, teacher turnover and professional development. “I want to know, how do they expect to address these issues?” she said in February. “I do not want to be interpreted as saying they are at fault. I just want them to explain their current situation.”
Catalyst Chicago and its sister publication, The Chicago Reporter, analyzed social and economic indicators in the areas within the attendance boundaries of the 54 schools recommended for closure. The analysis reveals that these schools faced far greater challenges than other district schools. In fact, much of the public money spent in these neighborhoods pays for services that are damaging, such as incarceration, rather than education.