Meet Javion. He’s 16 and struggling to read.


Meet Javion. He’s 16 and struggling to read.

We met his aunt, Katrina Falkner, this summer during a seven-stop Listening Tour where we met educators, community members, parents and guardians, and students. She spoke about the struggles of intergenerational poverty and how illiteracy had been a thread running through generations of her family. We listened, then reporter Adeshina Emmanuel followed up.

It took months to piece together how Falkner's soft-spoken nephew Javion had ended up in high school with barely a second grade reading level. Adeshina spent time with the family, scoured school evaluations, attended a team meeting at the teen's school, examined court records, talked to experts, and ultimately pieced together this examination of how illiteracy persists in a system and a city. With an estimated three adults out of 10 in Chicago lacking basic skills, it’s an important read. We hope you’ll take the time.


We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.  One more reminder: Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @yanazure.

The Week in Review

Up for debate: Despite grassroots calls, an elected school board isn’t a magic bullet. That was a point of debate at Chalkbeat’s “Education for All?” event Wednesday. Here are the highlights. 

Higher power? Thwarted from opening a second campus by Chicago’s school board, the operators of the Austin charter school Moving Everest plan to appeal to a state commission that is having its own political moment. Other operators plan to follow suit, Chalkbeat Chicago reported.

Closed but not forgotten: WBEZ wrapped up a series about school closings with a survey that asked mayoral candidates if they’d be willing to close under-performing schools. Spoiler alert: Most said no. 

Strike’s over. What’s next: Some 500 unionized teachers joined in the nation’s first charter strike last week, and succeeded in negotiating wage increases, smaller class sizes and a shorter school day. Their gains could foreshadow next year’s citywide contract negotiation, Chalkbeat Chicago reported.

Stress test: There’s new research about the impact of high-stakes testing on student anxiety in elementary and middle grades. Chalkbeat’s national team examined the findings.

Looking Ahead

December came fast: Applications are due today for Chicago’s universal application portal GoCPS. Chalkbeat Chicago assembled this cheat sheet for families.

Two community meetings left: Two workshops remain for the public a chance to comment on a controversial report about enrollment, academic options and quality at schools throughout Chicago. Here are the details. 


On Wednesday, Chalkbeat Chicago hosted the public forum “Education for All? Chicago’s next mayor and the future of public education.” Sponsored by AT&T’s economic development initiative Believe Chicago, the event featured a frank discussion with Chalkbeat Chicago bureau chief Cassie Walker Burke and panelists Daniel Anello, the CEO of the school choice group Kids First; Elizabeth Swanson, the vice president of strategy and programs at the Joyce Foundation and the former deputy chief of staff for education for outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel; community organizer Jitu Brown, who led the 2013 hunger strike that saved Dyett High School; and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a county commissioner and newly elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of the standout moments of the night: student performances from Jalen Kobayashi and Taisaun Levi of Young Chicago Authors. Above: Kobayashi performs an original piece called “The Zoo.” We’ll be posting it on our website in the next few days. We hope you check it out.