Undocumented, yet undeterred | Chalkbeat CHI’s first birthday

Chalkbeat Chicago reporter Yana Kunichoff met Itzayanna on an important day in the high school senior’s life: The aspiring pediatric nurse was giving a final presentation in a health sciences class, and Yana went to school to watch. During the presentation, Itzayanna was intensely focused — a trait she has had to embrace as one of many undocumented students in Chicago Public Schools.

Itzayanna has worked hard to gain acceptance to college, and educators at her school have worked to eliminate obstacles she might face because of her immigration status (Chalkbeat withheld her last name at her family’s request). With graduation imminent, Chalkbeat examined path, her obstacles, and what supports helped her overcome them. Read the story here.

This is milestone season — the time when seniors like Itzayanna are celebrating graduation.

It’s also a milestone moment for us at Chalkbeat Chicago. Exactly one year ago today, we unofficially officially launched Chalkbeat Chicago, and 400 stories later, we’re still deeply invested in telling the story of public education in our city.

You can help. Share our newsletter sign-up link with a friend, like us on social media (@chalkbeatCHI), reach out with tips and story suggestions. Our most impactful stories have come from educators and parents we’ve met along our journey as we’ve built the bureau our first year. We look forward to many more conversations and many more stories.

— Cassie Walker Burke, Chicago bureau chief


The week in review

City Council looks toward schools: The new chair of the Chicago City Council’s education committee, Michael Scott Jr., told Chalkbeat this week he wants the committee to take a more active role in district oversight. Here’s what he said about his plans.

Pushing back on the pipeline: After studying a program in Philadelphia, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office is proposing a diversion program for Chicago students intended to cut down on in-school arrests. Chalkbeat had the details.

The preschool expulsion problem: Despite passage of an Illinois law designed to curb expulsions, the practice continues, with 1 in 5 providers contacted for a new study unaware that such a law even existed, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Chalkbeat examined the findings.

The view from a longtime education advocate: Sylvia Puente of the Latino Policy Forum writes in a first-person essay for Chalkbeat that she’s optimistic about changes promised for Chicago schools under the leadership of a new mayor, but pragmatic about the challenges ahead. Read it here.

Changes ahead for teachers: Amid the rush of bills that flooded the Illinois legislature in an effort to solve the state’s dire teacher shortage, a few key pieces of legislation made it through both chambers and are awaiting the governor’s signature. Chalkbeat looked at four changes that could be on the way.

More protections for bullied students: Lawyers for families of children who have reported extreme cases of bullying at schools are calling on the city’s new leadership to conduct a criminal investigation. The Chicago Sun-Times had more. 

Farewell to a beloved teacher: For decades, Carol Bright has made up songs and shared her love of gardening with preschoolers at her Englewood school. Upon her retirement, ABC-7 paid her classroom a visit.

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.

Looking ahead

The last day of the school year for many Chicago Public Schools students is Thursday, June 20.

The Illinois State Board of Education meets Wednesday, June 19. Here’s what the new state schools chief told Chalkbeat recently about her plan to revamp student assessments. 

The Chicago Board of Education meets Wednesday, June 26. It’s the first meeting of the city’s new school board. Meet the new members here. 


Praising “strong and ambitious leadership” at the helm of many city schools, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools, and the non-profit Chicago Fund for Public Education announced this week the recipients of the Cahn Fellows Program and the Chicago Principals Program. The two prestigious leadership fellowships help train and support principals to lead sustainable improvement projects at their schools. Find the full list of the 2019 recipients here.