Footnote Credit: illustration by Kurt Mitchell


| In Short


Feb. 1996: Action plan

Some eight months after gaining control of Chicago schools, Mayor Daley’s new management team, headed by Paul Vallas and Gery Chico, unveils a ‘back to basics’ blueprint for raising achievement. The plan includes a 60-minute longer school day (the day was extended by about 10 minutes in the 2003 union contract, in exchange for a shorter school year), use of scripted Direct Instruction to teach reading (schools were later told to drop the program if their reading scores weren’t improving) and freshman academies for struggling 9th-graders (now scrapped).

Aug. 2001: New team

New CEO Arne Duncan selects his management team, which includes a number of holdovers from the Vallas administration. Duncan soon scraps intervention, imposed on five low-performing high schools a year earlier with no success. He also introduces the Reading Initiative, which sends over 100 reading specialists into low-scoring schools; in 2005, a report from Designs for Change found that scores at those schools had only inched up. However, schools on probation are now required to hire reading specialists.

Apr. 2004: LSC trouble

Another round of elections for local school councils, intended to be the backbone of school reform, are held. It takes last-minute recruiting to find enough candidates, but almost 6,900 parents and community members vie for 5,698 seats. The number has declined every election and is the lowest ever. A quarter of schools will not have contested elections, and two schools do not have enough candidates to make a quorum. The board has since created more charter, contract and specialty schools, which are not required to have LSCs.

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“Because of what you are doing, the city that works now has a school system on the move.”

President Bill Clinton, praising Chicago’s school reform initiatives launched under Mayor Daley, during an October 1997 visit to Oscar Mayer Elementary on the North Side.

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