July 5, 2018


Lesson Plan: After Decades of Reform, Has Chicago Finally Learned How to Fix Education?  J. BRIAN CHARLES | JULY 2018, Governing)

The phone call Janice Jackson had been waiting for came in early December. She was going to be named interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). A protégé of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she would be taking over the third largest school district in the nation. She was also getting the job she had predicted for herself since her days as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A month after her appointment, the city closed the deal by dropping the word "interim" from her title.

Jackson has joined a long list of Chicago schools CEOs who have attracted national attention for their role in the city's seemingly endless series of reform efforts. One of them, Arne Duncan, went on to become U.S. education secretary in the Obama administration. Another, Paul Vallas, narrowly missed in a bid for governor of Illinois in 2002 and is currently campaigning to succeed Emanuel in city hall. 

But Jackson, who is 41 years old, has also taken over an institution that has never been able to divorce itself from Chicago's reputation for political controversy and corruption. Her rise to CEO was hastened by the resignation of Forrest Claypool, a former county commissioner and head of the Chicago Transit Authority, who was the target of an ethics investigation during his short tenure running the city schools. Before Claypool, Barbara Byrd-Bennett ran CPS until she was indicted and later sentenced to prison for steering contracts to a former employer and accepting kickbacks as compensation. 

Jackson is managing a district that has lost more than 50,000 students since 2000, triggering the closure of nearly 50 elementary schools and breeding resentment in much of the city. School administrators have been caught falsifying attendance and graduation rates. And recently the district has come under fire for not doing enough to stop rampant sexual abuse of students by staff. 

Still, good news landed on Jackson's desk just before she took the reins at CPS. New research from Stanford University showed that Chicago schoolchildren between the third and eighth grades were improving their performance at a faster rate than those in 96 percent of the school districts in the country. A significant number of Chicago pupils who came into third grade far behind their peers nationally were said to be attaining six years of academic growth in five school years. 

Posted by at July 5, 2018 3:42 AM