Lorraine Forte promoted to editor in chief of Catalyst Chicago

As publisher of Catalyst Chicago, I am very pleased to announce that on July 1, Lorraine Forte will step up to the position of editor in chief of Catalyst Chicago. Lorraine has been our deputy editor for the last five years.

She will succeed Veronica Anderson, who after eight years as editor, has been named a Knight Fellow at Stanford University, one of journalism’s most prestigious honors and opportunities. She is one of a dozen members of the Knight Class of 2010.

What nonprofits should do to help students graduate

Nonprofits can do good things for kids, but if they’re not paying attention to what kids are doing in school, they’re not helping them graduate.

That was one of several admonitions delivered at a forum aimed at helping CPS and its external partners boost Chicago’s graduation rate, which ranges from an appalling 38 percent for African-American boys to 71 percent for white girls.

“There are a lot of really good programs out there,” said Elaine Allensworth, a co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research. “But if the people who work with kids don’t know how they are doing in class, they’re working blind.”  

What’s the charter strategy?

If Chicago’s charter, Fresh Start and other school innovations are part
of a grand design to improve all the city’s schools, the folks on the
ground don’t know it.

That was one of the conclusions that a recent visitor from England
made after visiting one charter school (Perspectives, Joslin campus),
two Fresh Start schools (Hamline Elementary and Wells High) and one
turn-around school (Harper High).

Community organizing heats up

For the 14 years of Mayor Daley’s reign over the school system, community organizations have picked their battles, mainly protesting something the School Board wanted to do to the schools in their own communities. 

Now they’re trying to get together to present an ongoing united front on major issues.

Over the past 10 days, almost 700 parents, teachers, students and community activists turned out for events aimed at creating citywide movements to right what they believe is wrong with the Chicago Public Schools. One event was organized by the vocal and sometimes strident critics of the school system; the other by a generally more diplomatic group.

Catalyst Chicago is changing

We at Catalyst have spent much
of the past year exploring ways to serve you and, therefore, our city’s
children better. Our new vision is an expansive one that is based on
what more than 200 people told us in interviews, focus groups and
surveys. As we plunge into a new future, we ask you to help us out.
Please share your ideas and your reactions to our efforts.

Taking it to the streets

What the Chicago Public Schools needs is a strike—not against it by the teachers union, but for it by everyone who cares about the city’s children and understands the importance of their education to the city’s future.

A conversation with Fred Hess

The late G. Alfred Hess Jr. studied Chicago schools for more than 25 years, first as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern University, then as executive director of the Chicago Panel on Public School Policy and Finance and, for the last 10 years, as director of Northwestern’s Center on Urban School Policy. Before his death on Jan. 27, he shared his insights on school reform under Mayor Richard M. Daley with Catalyst Publisher Linda Lenz.

The picture outside Chicago

Outside Chicago, only three to four seats are filled in each school board election, and, typically, there are contested races for only one or two of those seats, according to Gerald Glaub, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Highlights of a decade: 1995

In the fall of 1994, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s bid to control the city’s schools was blessed with a Republican take-over of state government. With the GOP in charge of the Senate, House and governor’s mansion, Daley not only got control of the school system some seven months later, but also got its finances untangled and its unions hobbled.

The legacy of a unique union leader

Associate Editor Maureen Kelleher’s brief history of Teachers for Chicago, a program that ushers career-changers into Chicago classrooms, sent me riffling through back issues of Catalyst. The impetus for the program, TFC’s Fred Chesek told Kelleher, was John Kotsakis of the Chicago Teachers Union. John’s death from a massive heart attack, at age 55, stunned the school reform community. As Catalyst wrote at the time, he “was more than the CTU’s voice of reform. He also was its arms and legs, ceaselessly making the rounds among school, union and foundation offices, as well as reform groups, to promote a new agenda for the union, including Teachers for Chicago, the CTU’s Quest Center and the New Standards Project.” He also was on the ground floor pushing for the “re-engineering” of central office and for small schools. He did all this as the CTU president’s special assistant for educational issues.