Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

In the News: ISBE could end school buses

The yellow school bus may become history. The Illinois State Board of Education is considering drafting legislation to eliminate the mandate that school districts provide student transportation by the 2013-14 school year. (Rockford Register Star)

CPS' longer school day debate gets national coverage on NPR, in a story focusing on on the mayor's push and those who oppose it and want more details before proceeding.

Ogden School to address controversial rooftop playground that some say almost looks like a prison yard. (Tribune)

Bus Tracker lets students in high-crime areas feel safer about after-school programs knowing that they didn’t have to wait at the bus stop for a long time. (Sun-Times)

A history teacher at KIPP San Franciso Bay Academy charter school has taken his classroom entirely paperless. The use donated Chromebooks, simple laptops developed by Google to run Web-based applications, read their lessons on the class website, and use Google software to turn in homework, create presentations, take quizzes and collaborate with each other on projects. (San Francisco Examiner)

If the Buffalo Public School District loses millions in state grants because its teachers union fails to ratify a proposed evaluation system, an influential state lawmaker says New York State should take over the district. (Buffalo News)

Another $60 million in grants for the Promise Neighborhoods program will be made available by the U.S. Department of Education, both for existing grantees and for a new round of grants, the department announced Friday. (Education Week)

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced last week that the city would open 54 new schools in the fall, many of them in spaces vacated by schools being closed. (NYT)


Anonymous wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Recess? With shootings?

When the warm weather comes, most people think of walks in the park and the pleasures of spring. I think of multiple shootings in the parks and the dangers my students will face navigating their neighborhoods.

This year has been a particularly brutal one for the small children in my after-school program. Those few weeks of unseasonably warm weather in March brought shootings in the park across the street from one of my schools. Sadly, the return of cool weather and some police presence didn't end the gunfire. Last week we were on "lockdown" yet again in response to shots being fired near the school.

The first couple of times it was just a few shots. Then one day it was a series. One of my kindergartners was near a window and called out that he saw someone with a gun. He and his classmates dissolved in fear as the teachers pulled them away from the windows. The adults closed the classroom door in response to the school's public address warnings and gathered the children around them. They spent a lot of time calming the children down and listening to their fears.

That day we were teaching "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney, a lovely book about families and travel and a woman who follows her grandfather's directive to "do something to make the world more beautiful." We ask our students to draw pictures and write about the ways they would make the world a better, more beautiful place. It was the ideal lesson for the day and we had a robust discussion about how they could change their worlds for the better.

But for these kids, dangerous challenges lurk just outside the school entrance.

It is not easy for them. At one school, Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy at 67th Street and Champlain Avenue, we have to hire a bus to take our students 51/2 blocks to visit the local library. It isn't safe to walk there.

On March 22, I escorted a group of children from Till's Cool Classics! program to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago to enjoy the Egyptian galleries.

Blocks away, Cool Classics! students at the William C. Reavis Math & Science Specialty Elementary School, on 50th and Drexel, heard gunfire right outside their window. At the end of the day, despite our best efforts, we couldn't stop the children from picking up the shells from the shots that were fired in the street in front of their school.

Nor could we object the day a principal decided to cancel after-school programs following a shooting in which a woman was injured. We spent the rest of the day calling parents to collect their terrified children, and that week reaching out to Chicago police and politicians for protection for our students and to University of Chicago officials for protection for our student-teachers who come from neighboring communities.

We feel pity for small children in war-ravaged countries. But we need not travel that far. The truth is that my students are living in an urban battlefield and the tragedy is that these children become targets even though they're not the enemy.

We've heard the theories, seen the finger-pointing and found the stereotypes wanting. Most of the parents of our students are caring, able and engaged, and the administrators and teachers with whom we work are the same. So what is lacking?

Many of my colleagues, family members and friends have made suggestions ranging from filling our parks with enough people to crowd out the criminals to more community policing. It seems to me that any real change must come from a collective effort to knit together everyone in all our communities and to employ an arsenal of social services to attack and resolve these problems.

Spring used to be my favorite season, full of the promise of new life and summer pleasures. Not anymore. Now it is the season of fear and death.

I beg you to join me, my students and their parents, teachers and principals to make our world a more beautiful and better place.

Mara Tapp is a Chicago journalist and director of Cool Classics!

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Mara Tapp's powerful statement

Ms. Tapp's commentary was powerful but problematic, it discussed the shooters outside of the school as if they were aliens from another planet. In fact the "criminals" she discusses were more than likely CPS kindergartners themselves once upon a time not so long ago, as were many of the current prisoners in Cook County jail.

While an after school program can't address the larger ills of society, an experienced journalist like Ms. Tapp can and should. The reality of many urban youth in the community around Emmett Till and Reavis schools is one of unemployment and dependency on their extended families in many cases for survival. When you look at the census track data for the areas around these schools you realize that the family income in these areas can't possibly provide much if any cash to these unemployed young adults who have effectively zero legitimate income.

While decrying the reality of the situations for very young children at these schools we need to realize that it is very possible that some of the shooters terrorizing these children could be their cousins or even closer relatives that are part of their extended households. Clearly the solution can't be solving the crime problem, because how many young minority adults can we possibly fit into our over crowded prisons?

Rod Estvan

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more