A new school board, a new start

At its first meeting, Chicago’s new school board, named by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, made some important, controversial decisions and took steps toward the transparency that she promised. It rolled out seven changes,  including holding more discussions in public and fewer behind closed doors, offering translation at its meetings, holding periodic board meetings in the community outside the Loop, and convening later in the day to engage more community members.

On their first big vote — changing Chicago’s controversial school rating scale —  board members initially looked skeptically at the district’s proposals for rating schools for their quality,  via a formula that still heavily relies on test scores and attendance. But after an initial split vote, they approved the administration's proposal.

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, Yana Kunichoff and intern Catherine Henderson, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way:

Week in review

Ratings shift: The Chicago Board of Education approved changing its controversial school rating scale despite concerns from board members. Chalkbeat explains the shift. 

Gifted gap: After a year-long delay, Chicago’s school board approved a plan to allow early admittance to kindergarten for children who turn 5 before Dec. 31. Here’s an outline of the initial proposal. 

Drug discipline: Chicago schools have downgraded alcohol and drugs use in schools from serious misconduct to infractions. So student violators will no longer face possible. expulsion. Chalkbeat Chicago has the scoop. 

Social supports: A program called Communities in Schools brings social workers to students in schools where they are sorely needed, but the district budget doesn’t provide them. WBEZ reports. 

Stress test: Group mental health sessions at a federally funded Head Start preschool program in Detroit are helping teachers not absorb the trauma of their students who face abuse, violence and fear at home. Read more from Chalkbeat Detroit. 

Census block: Schools breathed a sigh of relief after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census — for now. Adding the question could have scared away many immigrants from answering, and costs schools students and funding. Chalkbeat has the latest. 

Looking ahead

School’s out, which means families across the city are turning to parks, pools and playgrounds for summer fun. But it also may create complications for child care and meals. Here are a few places that Chicago schools, and other institutions, are helping out:

  • Chicago Public Schools will run a summer meal program offering free lunch for any young people from 1 to 18 at nearly 100 community sites around the city. 
  • The Noble charter network will provide free breakfast and lunch at 13 of its schools. 
  • The Chicago Park District runs reduced-fee summer day camps, some of which have same-day registration. 
  • The YMCA also runs summer day camps, and families can apply for financial assistance to cover the cost.


The artwork of a student from Kelly High School now hangs in the U.S. Capitol after she won the Congressional District Art Competition for Illinois’ 4th District. Congrats to Wendolyn Reyes, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the award.